Monday, October 7, 2013

A Whole Lot of Wonderful

 I have to confess to a fairly deep rooted fondness for brunch. There is a certain celebratory element to brunch that elevates and differentiates it from any other meal.  A festive indulgence that is most delightfully delicious. Brunch allows for a measure of decadence, a deviation from the otherwise healthy pursuits of conscious cooks. Brunch provides the perfect opportunity to indulge in something sweet, savory, salty and sublime, simultaneously presented on the same oversized plate. If you are a grazer, like me, then you deeply appreciate incorporating a multitude of flavors in one meal. The leisurely pace of brunch is ever so pleasing as well and is a splendid opportunity to enjoy a special occasion libation.

  As much as I love preparing brunch at home, I derive equal pleasure in being cooked for. Sundays are the supreme day for a scenic ride and discovering new dining destinations. Such was my luck that on a glorious September day, BK whisked me away in his sports car, destination; Stonington, CT.

  I keep a file of “wish restaurants”. Tips from waiters, bartenders, hair dressers and just plain strangers, have all been scribbled on scraps of paper,  and tucked away  to accumulate in in a manila enclave, accompanied by newspaper reviews touting the attributes of all kinds of restaurants. For over a year I had harbored an article about Noah’s, which co-incidentally is located in Stonington! Noah’s claim to fame is an obsession with “scratch cooking” and using basic, as well as local ingredients to prepare delectable food. I find it quite stimulating when chefs put true love into their cooking, and utilize superb ingredients. So you had me at scratch, Noah’s.

  As BK and I zipped along, wind in our hair and a rumble in our bellies, I called Noah’s to see if a reservation was necessary. When Lisa, the hostess, answered the phone, it was like talking with a girlfriend, the warm, kind, “come on over right now” kind of girlfriend. “12:30-12:45, that’s great”, she said.

  A half hour later we coasted off the highway and slipped into centuries old Stonington and instantly fell in love. This seaside hamlet is suffused with charm, a little Nantucket, a little Newport, a whole lot of wonderful. We parked at Whalen’s Wharf, and on this particularly iridescent day, the sun shimmered on the harbor, the sky gleamed sapphire blue and the whole vista seemed to glow. Boats bobbed happily in the harbor and seagulls greeted us from above with their piercing cries.

  We pulled ourselves away from this joyful sight and soon were stepping inside Noah’s.  Comfortably casual and full of personality, we felt so at home. I thought an enormous whisk anchored to one wall was a terribly clever detail. Oversized kitchen tools…very cool!

  Lisa came over to greet us and graciously accommodated our request to wait at the bar until a table by one of the windows was available. We perched ourselves at the big wooden bar and quickly ingratiated ourselves with Courtney, who pours a phenomenal brunch cocktail. She wowed me with her version of a screwdriver, a scintillating combination of Ketel One Oranje and freshly squeezed orange juice, with just a kiss of lime. Perfectly balanced with just a bit of bravado, it was like drinking in sunshine and the whole day just continued to sparkle. In fact, no drink has dazzled me quite so much since that superlative day. BK was enormously enlivened by his Bloody Mary and we both offered kudos to Courtney. Several times.

 Soon enough Lisa led us to sun drenched window seats and a table graced with a fat pink dahlia. We just couldn’t stop smiling, BK and I knew we had entered the perfection zone. Speaking of perfection, it takes skill and grace, good timing and a great sense of humor to be an amazing waitress. Our waitress Andy, parried with us on par, wielding witty repartee, never once missing a beat, while simultaneously coddling us with superb service.
  BK is an Eggs Benedict fanatic, so I knew there would be other entrée choice for him. But for me, this menu offered such diversity, I was momentarily stymied. I could have homemade chicken liver with brandy and pistachios, or French toast of the day, or perhaps I should consider offsetting my liquor intake with a Big Messy Dan Burger laden with avocado, bacon, chipotle mayo and cheese, or venture into heretofore unknown territory with Portuguese Baked Eggs, enlivened with linguica, peppers and onions. I was overthinking it all, when suddenly I saw oysters on the page and swiftly ordered a half dozen. Andy was most informative as to their origin, but my memory only retained the East Beach variety, small yet sassy, these saline soaked beauties slid down with much satisfaction. I tend to avoid  any accompanying sauce with raw oysters, preferring just a light shower of fresh lemon juice, but Noah’s mignonette was bright and vinegary, a tasty accompaniment.

  Time had come to order the mains, and true to form, BK had ordered the classic Eggs Benedict, but upped the ante with a side order of a single blueberry buttermilk pancake. Andy counseled that they are light and fluffy and their chef was a master of pancake production. As for me, my happy state of haziness brought on by Courtney’s cocktail inspired me to experiment with Lobster Eggs Benedict.

Not one for marring the lusciousness of lobster with the addition of eggs, I was encouraged by Andy to let go of any preconceived notions. I asked for only one modification, might I have the brioche, rather than the English muffin? There was discussion that the chef would be challenged by that request, but assurance was offered that my deviation would be dealt with.

  Lo and behold, a short while later, Andy came bearing gifts, a platter sized pancake, BK’s classic and there they were, 2 perfect white globes perched atop a plump pile of lobster, all balanced atop the brioche and liberally lavished with hollandaise with a squiggle of Sriracha dotting the perimeter. A plentiful pile of potatoes came along for the ride. I picked up my fork and prepared for takeoff.

  First bite reaction? Hollandaise…oh lovely, laced with lemon, vivacious, slightly frothy yet with a pleasing thickness, oh yes, with a nice kick from the Sriracha ( very, very zesty Vietnamese hot sauce for the uninitiated). Poached egg, yes, nicely tender and lobster, oh goodness, how did they do this to the lobster? It’s actually snapping a bit, standing all on its’ own with that amazing texture, yet melding marvelously well with all the other elements. And those potatoes? No tasteless undercooked or overbrowned filler, these nuggets has a crisp, spicy edge with a pillowy, puffy interior that collapsed in your mouth. I was completely enraptured.

  As for BK? He too was in gustatory glory, having eaten his Eggs Benedict in classic fashion, with a happy smile on his face. And as for that pancake, I took a forkful or two and found it to be completely delicious, the blueberries piggybacking off my lobster in complete harmony. Pushing back from the table I had to leave a few choice mouthfuls behind, it would have buried me to continue, almost too much pleasure for one woman to absorb.

  Loathe to leave such a paragon of perfection, we decided to linger and made our way back to the bar to Courtney, the self- proclaimed “Queen of Cappuccino”. So confident is she of her absolute domain, Courtney had a blazing cup emblazoned on her shirt. As we waited for the result  of her boldness, a slightly frazzled man came out from the kitchen and poured himself a giant glass of cold soda. I instantly realized he was the chef and asked him his name. “Yul”, he replied”. “Oh Yul”, I exclaimed as I grasped his hand to shake, “thank you so much for giving me the brioche. I knew the buttery flavor of brioche bread would be so perfect with the lobster!” I continued to grin at him as he gave me a sideways look.

“Oh, you’re the one-it wasn’t easy stacking that you know”, he sighed just a bit, weary from his labors…but after a moment he looked me right in the eye and gave me a huge smile.

  As for the Queen? Well, yes, her assertion is completely justified and after finishing off the fine frothiness of stellar cappuccino, I can, with all confidence, say take a drive to Stonington and stop into Noah’s for a spectacular Sunday brunch. But maybe give Yul a break and lay off the brioche.


Noah’s Restaurant

113 Water Street

Stonington, CT


Robin Glowa HHC, AADP,  is The Conscious Cook, a food and wellness professional who teaches healthy cooking classes to students of all ages utilizing simple, delicious recipes with healthy, natural, organic and local ingedients. She is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher's College. She writes about eating and living well in her column "The Conscious Cook". Confessions of A Conscious Cook follows Robin's adventures in cooking and eating on the more decadent side, as she pursues all the ways to live a delicious life.
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