Sunday, August 17, 2008

San Marino's House Sauce

My lasagna was merely a vehicle for San Marino's sauce

I won't even claim to have tried all of the Italian restaurants in Waterbury. I feel like that would require its own blog. But I have been to many, and I have to say that my overall favorite is San Marino's on Thomaston Ave. There are many reasons I love San Marino's, including price, authenticity of the food, and the interesting menu options (I love their rabbit special). But the reason that I always bring my mother to San Marino's is that we both share a love (obsession?) for their house sauce. I mean, this stuff is perfect. So while trying to plan a "welcome home" meal for my parents, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that San Marino's sells it's sauce by the container!

San Marino's sauce

The $6 price tag for a container of their house sauce is actually not bad considering that you can pay $5 for a smaller jar of lower quality sauce at the grocery store. Plus it's super thick, so you can always thin it out, which is what I did for the lasagna. Their ingredient list is long and includes whole tomatoes, tomato puree, onions, olive oil, basil, parsley, celery, carrots, sausage, bacon, butter, garlic, salt, bay leaf, sherry wine, white wine, sugar, and black pepper. They all come together like magic. My mother can't wait until her next dinner party, she says she's going to buy a few containers and tell everyone she made it from scratch.

George also loves San Marino's sauce. And lasagna.

So one day I will actually write a review on San Marino's restaurant, but I just wanted to briefly share how excited I am that I can buy their sauce! Go out and pick some up, I promise you'll be glad you did. :)

San Marino's Restaurant
111-23 Thomaston Ave
Waterbury, CT 06702
(203) 755-1148

Friday, August 15, 2008

Tomato Season

Stop & Shop Heirloom Tomato Tart

I am posting this because it came to my attention today that my MOTHER still thinks that we're not supposed to eat tomatoes because of the whole salmonella outbreak. Well, Mom, and others, the salmonella probably wasn't from tomatoes to begin with, and if you miss tomato season because you're afraid, well quite frankly, you're a baby.

I found these heirlooms at Super Stop & Shop on Wolcott St. (I know, right?), so there are plenty to be had, but your best bet is to hit up a local farmer's market. Enjoy!

Destined to become Renee & Scott's dinner...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sesame-Chile Chicken with Gingered Watermelon Salsa

I've decided since 1. Gas prices are killing me and preventing me from eating out, 2. Scott and I are saving up for our Ireland trip, and 3. I need to work on my food photography skills, I would once in a while post recipes that we've tried and thought were really tasty. Sure, it doesn't really have to do with Waterbury, except maybe that I bought all of the ingredients in Waterbury. But it's my blog and I can do what I want! :P

This recipe I first tried at one of my professor's houses, and found that she actually got the recipe from Cooking Light, one of my favorite food magazines. It is an absolutely spectacular summer dish that I like to serve with rice and sometimes with a little side salad. I love the watermelon salsa so much that I usually double the recipe so I have extra for pita chips. Yum yum yum.

Sesame-Chile Chicken with Gingered Watermelon Salsa
adapted from Cooking Light

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons chili sauce with garlic
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

2 cups diced seeded watermelon
1/4 cup diced yellow bell pepper
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

Remaining ingredients:
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
Cilantro sprigs (optional)
Lime wedges (optional)


To prepare chicken, combine first 3 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag; seal and marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour, turning bag occasionally.

Prepare grill.

To prepare salsa, combine watermelon and next 8 ingredients (through jalapeño); cover and chill until ready to serve.

Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place chicken on a grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from grill; let stand 5 minutes. Cut chicken diagonally across grain into thin slices; serve with salsa. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and serve with lime wedges, if desired.


4 servings (serving size: 1 chicken breast half and about 1/2 cup salsa)

Mario's Pizza

My parents had a brief "fling" with Mario's pizza a few years back. I think there was something about a "giant party-sized pizza" and a "white chicken pizza" that they really liked. What do I remember about Mario's pizza? THICK CRUST! Bleh. I'm a thin-crust girl, through and through. Needless to say, the affair was short-lived, and my parents soon went back to Vinnie's of Middlebury for their weekly pizza night. If pizza night ain't broke, don't try and fix it, I always say.

Brandon resting after a very filling meal

So I was a little surprised when my friend Brandon invited me to Mario's to celebrate my return to Connecticut. "But I don't remember liking their pizza," I told him, and he said, "They have tons of other stuff besides pizza. Plus, I'll pay." Deal.

Mario's dining area


Considering that I had never realized that Mario's had an actual restaurant component, I was very impressed with their facilities. There are two sides, a deli side and a restaurant side. We went restaurant side because I was immediately drawn to a sign for a gorgonzola/roasted red pepper/polenta appetizer. Yum. I guess I'll have to leave the deli review for another day.

The dining area, pictured above, is rustic Italian style, and a cool feature that is not in the picture is that you can actually sit at the bar and watch the cooks making pizza. I would imagine children would love that. We arrived at the end of lunch hour, and Mario's appears to be quite the popular lunchtime destination. And of course it is! The food is incredible and unbelievably well-priced! Oops...I'm jumping ahead of myself.

My delicious entree, which I couldn't eat because I filled up on the appetizer. :(


I was so thankful that Brandon made me retry Mario's. I found the food to be exceptional but also simple and homey. It actually reminded me a lot of my Italian grandmother's cooking. Brandon was excited to introduce me to the appetizer mussels in fra diavolo sauce, since mussels is the appetizer we always order, and is the basis upon which we generally judge a restaurant. Until now, the reigning champ had been Vasi's mussels right next door (Vasi's also wins for fried calamari, martinis, and several other things, I'll post on it soon...). But I have to admit, Mario's mussels have taken the crown. They were perfectly cooked in a delicately spicy tomato broth, and came with plenty of fresh bread to soak up the juices. Which I did, possibly too much, since I could barely finish the rest of my meal. Just writing about those mussels makes me want to go back tonight.

Anyway, looking over the rest of the menu I was impressed by the sheer number of items they offered, and also the price. This might be the best value for down-home Italian food in the area. I ordered an entree, whose name I have since forgotten, that came with shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels and calamari in a fra diavolo sauce over linguini for under $13!! How do they even do that? And Brandon's clams and linguini was even less expensive. Bravo, Mario's, really.

Brandon's clams and linguini in white sauce

1. The fra diavolo sauce
2. The price!
3. The ambiance, at once completely casual and elegant

Yes, hopefully soon. I've been raving about it to Scott since I went, and he is dying to try!

Mario's Pizza and Deli
1650 Watertown Ave.
Waterbury, CT 06708
(203) 575-0485

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Well, first off, let me say that I don't think Panera needs an actual review because it's PANERA and chains just don't need reviews.

Second off, I almost got the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich, because I thought, "That would photograph better for the blog..." But after almost a year with no Panera, I had to go with the Turkey Artichoke, which comes with smoked turkey, spinach artichoke spread, Asiago-Parmesan cheese, tomatoes and caramelized onions on fresh baked focaccia. Now THAT is a panini.

Third off, I just want to say that of all of the "new" food openings that I came home to this past year, I may have been most excited about Panera. Sure, it's a chain. I acknowledge it and I recognize that it goes against my character to support them. But when I walk in and see smart-looking Waterburians using their (free!) Wi-Fi, sipping on some fresh squeezed lemonade and munching on their soup/half sandwich combo, I almost feel transported back to the academic ambiance of Boston. Sitting outside on their patio, you almost forget you are on Wolcott Street, one of the noisiest and busiest roads in Waterbury, and among the scariest places to be behind the wheel. It becomes irrelevant that within walking distance there is a Wal-mart, TWO over-sized (and over-visited) "Chinese" buffets, and possibly the world's busiest Wendy's. This little yuppie oasis in Waterbury is the perfect place to get away for a few minutes and enjoy a delicious meal or pick up some freshly baked artisan bread. As long as in the process you don't forget about Waterbury's locally owned delis and sandwich shops, which I promise I will address soon.

Happy Eating!

Panera Bread
920 Wolcott Street
Waterbury, CT 06705
(203) 753-8344

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I'm Back! And...All You Can Eat Sushi!

I'm back!! After two months away from good 'ole Waterbury, I've returned. Puerto Rico was an interesting experience, I feel that I learned a lot about Puerto Rican history and culture, which was my goal in the first place. I was a little underwhelmed by Puerto Rican food, however. The cuisine itself is good, but very rich, and heavy on the deep-fry, starch, and meat. I think I will be able to go quite a while without seeing another plantain. And I didn't find too many restaurants in San Juan that really impressed me. Puerto Rican cuisine might be best when it's home-cooked.

Needless to say, I was very excited to get home. I told Scott that the first thing I wanted when I got back was Kumo's sushi. Kumo is a phenomenal gem of Waterbury cuisine, and far and away some of the best sushi I've ever had (including weekly sushi trips to Boston's Chinatown and Cambridge's Porter Exchange during college). Scott said, "Well, we can go to Kumo, but I may have found some place better..."

Friends, may I present you to Sushi Palace in Hamden, CT. Yes, it's true that Sushi Palace loses a few points for not being IN Waterbury, but this is certainly worth any Waterburian's 1/2 hour drive. From the outside it is entirely unassuming. We actually drove right past it the first time, expecting a much more fancy exterior for a restaurant owned by one of Chef Morimoto's protégés. I was only mildly excited, as I was expecting the equivalent of a Chinese buffet's "all you can eat sushi," which I generally skip altogether because of it's low quality and hideous texture. Although I also generally skip Chinese buffets, but that's a story for another blog. Anyway, at Sushi Palace, I was greeted by a sign that said "Order all you want, but eat all you order." Turns out, Sushi Palace is NOT a buffet, but an actual restaurant with a menu from which you place your order. Except you can order as much food as you want, assuming you can eat it all. Genius!! Why aren't their more restaurants like this?!

Sushi Palace offers a casual dining experience. The interior is not overly sophisticated or chic, which provides the perfect environment for stuffing one's face. There is a sushi bar and several tables, but the restaurant was not huge, which I assume may lead to wait times on busier days. We went on a Sunday afternoon, and it was not crowded at all. The decor is in the style of "traditional Japanese sushi restaurant," with nothing too exciting to report. Upon seating, we were provided with two different checklists for ordering. The first was a menu from the sushi bar, and the second was a menu from the kitchen, which included appetizers, tempura, teriyaki, and desserts. Our waitress was gracious and speedy. I recommend tipping the waitstaff based on restaurant (not buffet) tipping standards, since this is not a traditional buffet. The price for one person is $16-18, depending on the day of the week. Which is about half what Scott and I usually pay for our sushi gluttony.

I cannot believe that an "all you can eat sushi" place that offers amazing sushi actually exists in this world, especially in my area of Connecticut. But let me tell you, this sushi is worth the trip. For under twenty dollars, you get a large selection of not only sushi, but also traditional Japanese appetizers, soups, and even teriyaki for the raw-fish squeamish. Scott and I swore we would skip the appetizers and make the most out of our money by only ordering the sushi, but we have no willpower. We sampled Sushi Palace's Seaweed Salad, Gyoza, Shumai, and Agedashi Tofu, which were delicious but pretty standard. Sushi Palace is a great place to sample appetizers and soups you've never tried before, as they are representative of what you will find on most Japanese menus. For the sushi, we ordered several pieces each of sashimi and sushi, along with a few specialty rolls (pictured above), such as the Soft Shell Crab Roll, Dragon Roll, Summer Roll, and Crunchy Eel Roll. The selection of rolls and sushi is not as extensive as you will find in some more upscale Japanese restaurants, but then again, most upscale restaurants aren't "all you can eat." I was quite surprised at the quality of the sushi. It was freshly made, the ingredients were all fresh and high quality, and the flavors were delicious. I will say that I have only in my life have had better sushi at Kumo, and I have had A TON of sushi, so that's saying a lot. We finished up the meal with a scoop of Red Bean Ice Cream. I can't remember the last time I was that full and satisfied for under twenty bucks. Thanks, Sushi Palace, we'll be seeing you again very soon.

Oh, definitely.

1. Price!
2. Quality of Food, delicious!
3. The motto: "Order all you want, but eat all you order."

1. We wish it were a little closer to Waterbury
2. We wish they had a larger specialty roll selection

Sushi Palace
1473 Dixwell Ave
Hamden, CT 06514

Oh and by the way, we topped off the day with a trip to see Van Gogh's Starry Night, which is only showing at the Yale University Art Gallery until September 7th, so you should go!