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Harlan Publick

Mention SoNo and the first thing is people complain about parking. Complain no more. Harlan Publick is steps away from a public lot, and they validate parking. I dined there recently at the invitation of Max Ex, the restaurant marketing firm.  Harlan Publick is one of three Harlan restaurants in Fairfield County, CT, started by chef Stephen Lewandowski. Each is an expression of the new American theme, with seasonal menus. I wrote about Harlan Social in Harbor Point recently for Stamford Magazine. Harlan Haus, a beer hall in downtown Bridgeport, is calling my name, and I hope to get there soon. Harlan Publick has a courtyard with an outdoor fireplace and bar, which draws a buzzing crowd of young people who look like they just left the office. As the evening cooled, they moved inside, creating a lively bar scene. The dining room was quiet and emptier. Which presents an opportunity; chef Kamal Rose has introduced his fall menu and he’s not afraid of flavor. The meal began with one of the best salads I’ve …

Peach Pancakes

I’m not a big texter, so I surprised my husband Sunday morning when I sent him a text. “Pancakes prepped.” He appeared in the kitchen within minutes. “And they’re going to be peach pancakes,” I said. We’d never had peach pancakes before, but it’s an excellent idea. The pancake recipe came from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham. It’s a basic batter with lots of melted butter. I cooked them in a big cast iron pan. First, I followed the instructions to make four small pancakes at one time, but it was too hectic. Pouring one decent size pancake gives enough time to place pieces of peach as the bubbles form on the surface. And flip. Serve them up with maple syrup and bacon. Have seconds.

Plum Upside Down Cake

Plums call out for being cooked into something sweet. Last night it was an upside down cake for the yellow plums I bought at Sport Hill Farm Market in Easton, CT. First, cut the plums in half and remove the pits. Then let brown sugar and butter bubble in a 9-inch cast iron pan, until it becomes syrupy, and place halved plums in pan in one layer, round side down. Next, the light, buttery batter. Pour over plums. Put the skillet in the 350 F oven. Bake 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven. Let sit for 5 minutes, loosen edges of pan. Look for a large round flat cake platter and realize you don’t have one. No worries. Rectangular platter to the rescue.  Flip the cake onto the platter. The cake is light, rich, and the sweet layer of caramelized plums has a tart note. Even though I’m not a “dessert person,” I had two slices because how often do you have something this good?  This cake is dangerous.

What We Do Sundays

I’ve lived in many places, but I’ve always come back here to southern Connecticut. It’s a beautiful place, and a maddening place, filled with interesting people, and overlapping circles. One group of circles is people who care about food.­ Sunday, I drove from my house in Fairfield to Sport Hill Farm in Easton. As soon as I stepped out of my car, I saw my neighbors. Their four-year-old daughter was talking to the chickens, and their baby boy gave me a shy, lopsided smile from his perch in his father’s arms. “We just bought a loaf of Michael’s bread,” Kate said, referring to my husband’s Fairfield Bread Co. “We came back for more apricots because they were so good.” It’s a great year for apricots, and Sport Hill has “imported” lovely ones from Red Jacket Farm in New York State. Plump, golden and rosy, their flesh is sweet, skin tart, and consistency perfect, like a childhood memory of the way fruit used to be. Inside the barn, Michelle was behind the counter, and I hope that meant that farmer Patti Popp, the …

Bailey’s Backyard in Ridgefield

Never forget what’s in your own backyard. In Ridgefield, that’s Bailey’s Backyard, a cozy restaurant that’s been preparing farm to table for 20 years.  Bailey’s is the kind of place where you can get a sandwich (pickled peach and ham grilled cheese, pressed Caprese, or a classic New England tuna melt) or contemporary, sophisticated starters and main. Max Ex, the restaurant marketing group, recently invited me to join a group of food enthusiasts, instagrammers, bloggers, and magazine editors for lunch at Bailey’s Backyard. Farm Greens, with peas and favas, dressed in fermented grape vinaigrette, and topped with paper-thin, crisp apple rounds. I really liked the apple crisps, sweet, tart and appley. Starter of scallops in rich lemon cream and caper sauce with shitakes, topped with a ruffled crisp of prosciutto. I loved the thinly sliced, yet meaty mushrooms, and the rich sauce, with just the right amount of lemon.  Apparently there were sea beans in this dish too; executive chef Zachariah Campion was appropriately judicious. Spanish octopus served over a brush stroke of squid ink, with pickled onions, chorizo marmalade, daikon, and salsa verde. This …

Growing and Cooking Asparagus

There’s nothing like asparagus that has been picked within hours of cooking. They are so sweet and juicy. Asparagus is at its best right after picking, because the sugars start converting into starches, and the longer it sits around, it loses flavor and toughens. Which is why we started an asparagus patch years ago. Growing asparagus is a bit of an investment, in time (the plants start producing two years after planting) and space (the patch will be fallow from July to April). But so worth it.   I never know how many I’ll find. On a good day, a dozen, on an average day a few. The spears range from thick to thin, and I’ve observed no rhyme or reason why. I like the thicker ones because they are juicier and meatier. But the thin ones have their own concentrated flavor. The way I cook them is like this:  First, peel the bottom third of the stems.  I don’t snap or cut the ends off because the asparagus are so fresh and the stems …

The Search for Santa Barbara Strawberry Pie

In the spring in Santa Barbara, I’d put off riding back up the canyon after school, and pedal the much flatter streets to a bakery on State Street.  I’d never had anything as delicious as their strawberry pie, whole fresh strawberries suspended in a strawberry glaze, topped with whipped cream. For many years afterwards, Santa Barbara Strawberry Pie remained an elusive, happy memory. I never found a pie like that again. But strawberry season is here, so I tried to recreate this memory.  I used a recipe in the Fanny Farmer baking book (Marion Cunningham edition). First I made a crust. Making pie dough in the food processor is so easy. That’s coming from someone who made it by hand for years and years. The other thing about making pie crust is that the more you do it, the better you get. That’s coming from someone who taught herself how to make pie dough, and had a tough time figuring it out.  but look at this, I rolled out this dough in a circle in …