Restaurant review: Stone Hearth
Carissa Duhamel – Copy Editor
The terms “GMO-free” or “paleolithic-friendly” may be foreign to the average SCSU student’s vocabulary, but downtown Westville restaurant Stone Hearth is attempting to change that. Located on the corner of Whalley and West Rock Avenues directly across from where Fitch Street meets Whalley, the six-month-old restaurant has made its mission to offer ecologically and health conscious dishes at a relatively affordable price with attentive, heartfelt service.
“When we opened this restaurant, we opened it because we saw a need for something new, something different,” Howard Pelkey, Stone Hearth’s general manager said when asked how he and owners Peter and George Gremse came up with the concept for the restaurant. “There was no place to go in the area for a great meal and a great glass of wine without hopping in the car and going downtown. The space became available, and everything seemed to just align.”
With that focus in mind, Pelkey has collaborated with his chefs to create a menu filled with sophisticated dishes made from green ingredients. “The farmer’s market across the street was a huge inspiration,” Pelkey said. “The concept here is to use local, organic, sustainable, artisanal products…Our menu is pretty much entirely GMO-free.”
Pelkey and the rest of his staff are so dedicated to assuring the quality of Stone Hearth’s ingredients that they rent their own farming space at Gilbertie’s Herb Garden in Easton, CT where they have choice USDA-certified produce grown for them.
“Instead of just purchasing from a farm, what we did is we rented plots of land. Instead of just buying their products, we went through and told them what we wanted them to grow for us,” Pelkey said.
Just because Stone Hearth’s dishes are good for both your body and the Earth doesn’t mean they’re not also good for your taste buds. Highlights of the restaurant’s cuisine include a Burrata mozzarella caprese salad, which features an Italian cheese with traditional solid mozzarella encasing soft, butter-like cream mozzarella cheese delivered from Liuzzi Gourmet here in New Haven, layered with hot house tomatoes and fresh basil, then topped with olive oil.
Stone Hearth also serves a gluten-free play on traditional spaghetti and meatballs that substitutes strings of spaghetti squash for grain-based pasta paired with the restaurant’s house-made marinara and meatballs made from the authentic Italian trinity of ground veal, beef, and pork that leaves guests satisfied without missing the subtracted grains.
One of the restaurant’s most arresting dishes is it’s buttermilk spiced donut, which is topped with a salted caramel ice cream and spotted with an apple chutney before being drizzled with a complex lavender gastrique.
The first note detected upon tasting the dish is the aggressively tart apple cider vinegar, which the gastrique sauce is based on. That first bite is seamlessly followed by a flow from bright sours to soft sweets as the tongue senses the chutney next, succeeded by the salt of the ice cream and then a mellow melding into cream, cinnamon, and finally delicate lavender. To call the dessert only ‘heavenly’ would be to do it an injustice.
In reflection on the food he wakes up each morning to create, Pelkey says he couldn’t be happier doing anything else, “To me this is the greatest job in the world. I get to throw a party every night, and in the daytime my research is tasting wine, beer, and spirits, and go hunting down food to make magic happen.”
After tasting his food, you might just be convinced that he is a magician.