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According to Eatty Gourmet

July 28, 2008

Presenting ...

Bread & Chocolate

By Eatty Gourmet

As many of you know, spending one’s summers in Hamden is full of surprises. One of my posh friends brought me to Bread & Chocolate -- the mere suggestion seemed almost too sinful to contemplate. However, I am not one to ever turn away from sin. Whose diet can afford both of these delights, you ask? Mine!

Some have driven past the sign out at the curb in front of 2457 Whitney Ave., assuming that such a place would offer only high-calorie items and might be better to avoid. But they would be wrong.

This family-run continental breakfast and lunch spot is a haven for people seeking the healthiest soups, salads and sandwiches that actually taste good. It is no accident that these people-in-the-know are often, though by no means always, women. For we are not talking ordinary lunch fare or bland food served on paper plates. We’re talking homemade exotic creations served on ceramic dishes of many colors and sizes.

The walls are a warm mango hue; the lighting is decorative. Every menu item at Bread & Chocolate is prepared with care and artistry in an atmosphere that encourages you to linger, chat or read, and to enjoy each bite of what you are eating.

Interesting culinary touches are in evidence with any order, and unusual pairings of flavors abound. The salads are gorgeous, full of color. Even a simple sandwich is transformed, as it will always be served on crusty artisan bread of your choice, pulled fresh from the oven. It might contain basil leaves in summer, cool avocado slices and fresh mozzarella drizzled with vinaigrette, and you can request it grilled.

The coffee is exceptional. The friendly owners know the fundamental importance of this drink to any memorable lunch or dessert, and they provide first-class strong brew in many delectable forms. I have often been known to drop by just for a house coffee, or perhaps a cappuccino, latté or café au lait to take along in one of my cars with me. Sometimes I also buy a Columbian brew for my driver, Aldo “The Beak” Graziano. I like to keep him up.

Though every bite we have eaten at Bread & Chocolate has been a pleasure, a few things are such hits with our crew that we have ordered them again and again, not feeling any need to branch out from something so satisfying.

For instance, the croissants are crusty crisp on the outside and warmly delicate on the inside, each one a slightly different shade of golden to dark brown. The French onion soup (not too salty and chockfull of melted cheese on wheat-bread chunks) is a classic, always available. The tuna salad on lettuce greens is tasty, with a hint of sweetness.

Some of our favorites are the specials of the day, such as the seafood chowder (light, clear and generously stocked with clams, fish and other good things) or the hearty mushroom soup, which would please even a connoisseur of the genre. The fresh mozzarella with tomato and basil on ciabatta melts in your mouth and bursts with flavor, as does the tropical salad that combines greens, fruits and nuts all on one lovely plate. This combination is Lawdy Linda’s favorite.

As you pick up your order at the counter, Jaime himself may ask if you would care for a slice of the featured bread, as it is considered an essential accompaniment for nearly any dish on the menu. If you are so honored, you graciously say yes, and then carry your dishes carefully to your seat at one of the little tables nearby, ready for a meal that is bound to brighten the middle of your day.

Finally, there are the desserts. These reside quietly in an unassuming little case by the door eager to catch your eye, but full of forgiveness if you should feel the need to turn the other way. However, since no one knows how long one is going to live, I say forget the forgiveness part. As Auntie Mame would say: “Live, Live.”

Just be aware that there are individual custard and fruit tarts, charming little works of art in themselves, which rival those from the finest French patisserie. There is no shortage of tarts here. There are tempting selections of rich chocolate offerings in appealing shapes and sizes. And each day, there is offered something you could not possibly imagine could be so smooth, so light yet so intensely flavorful: a swirled dark pudding made of both bread and chocolate.

So, Bread & Chocolate has my Seal of Good Eating. Something I don’t give to everyone. I wish you bon appetite.

“Aldo, drive on. I’ve heard about a charming little restaurant somewhere along the river.”

Eatty Gourmet summers in Hamden.

June 18, 2008

Presenting ...

Giant View Cafe

By Eatty Gourmet

A new restaurant has recently opened at the site of the former Duck Soup, at 3584 Whitney Ave. This intimate bistro is exceptional in so many ways that it's worth writing about -- and certainly worthy several visits.

After three months of anonymous visits, I feel I have a reasonable perspective on the variety and superior quality of the food.

The soups are made from scratch in the kitchen, as are the blueberry and strawberry rhubarb pies and the cakes, and each is deliciously done.

The salads are irresistible. I love freshly made, crisp and well-presented salads. The goat cheese medallion salad with pine nuts is really superb, as are the Caesar and classic Greek salads. If you like fresh grilled seasoned chicken with your salad, you've come to the right place.

Each meal I've had at the Giant View Cafe has been delicious. The spanakopita, the pierogies, the tomato and grilled cheese on a crepe are remarkably savory and prepared on the spot in that amazing kitchen.

If you care for breakfast, try an egg omelet with your choice of fresh mushrooms, gorgonzola, goat, cheddar, Romano or fresh mozzarella cheese, roasted garlic, broccoli, bacon or sausage. With your omelet you have a choice of a side of sliced fruit or the best-tasting home fries ever -- a combination of white and sweet potatoes mixed with a wonderful balance of onions and herbs. The portions are very generous.

If you prefer French toast, it's made with three thick slices of freshly baked sourdough bread served with sliced fruit and real maple syrup. If your choice is pancakes, you can have them with blueberries, chocolate chips or bananas and walnuts.

Also, scrambled tofu with curried peanut sauce with Pico de Gallo and black beans, surprisingly, is not to be missed. I say this because tofu is not high on my epicurean list. The texture was firm and it tasted like fresh smoked mozzarella. It was really good.

The warm blueberry and cranberry muffins are just perfect, especially with the exceptional variety of pleasing coffees, from strong to mild.

From the airy crepes, the diverse wraps and the daily specials -- not trucked in, but cooked on the premises -- Giant View Cafe has an unusually varied and tasty array of pleasing food. It is open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch late into the afternoon.

Eatty Gourmet summers in Hamden.


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