Jane Stern: After Gordon Ramsay, bullied owners do their best

Photo of Jane Stern

Stone's Throw restaurant in Seymour is the latest target of Chef Gordon Ramsay's attack dog style of shock treatment for restaurant owners who have lost their way. The episode of his new show "Gordon Ramsay's 24 hours to Hell and Back" featured the remaking of the Stone's Throw. The episode ran on the Fox network the night of Jan. 30.

I ate at the restaurant that afternoon, trying to avoid both the incoming snow storm and the rush of TV fans who saw the show and wanted to experience a Ramsayfied eatery right here in Connecticut.

When I watched the show it was classic Gordon. Lots of Sturm und Drang, histrionic visits to a kitchen full of rancid lethal food, and verbal outbursts more befitting a drill sergeant than a celebrity chef. This technique is to "break down" the restaurant owners. They are berated and insulted until they snap and confess that they have not a clue how to cook or run a restaurant.

I wish I had eaten at the "old" Stone's Throw before the gentrification, but I didn't. The only measure of the food was what I had today. I think I was expecting a miracle, allegedly smelly old food transforming into Michelin 5 stars. It did not happen quite that way.

When Ramsay first visits the restaurant he is in disguise: wearing a dress and a wig pretending to be an old lady, he is a dead ringer for Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire. He is joined by three real old ladies and as they dine together he complains about the horrible smell in the place and twice spits his food out.

I did not smell anything off during my visit, and the food served was not something I would recoil from. The place looked clean and fresh, the servers were on the ball and the meal proceeded accordingly.

I started out with the crab cakes that Chef Ramsay shows the chef/owner how to cook. In front of me were placed two nice sized crab cakes, but they were missing something...oh yes, flavor. The cakes were filled with minced peppers and onions and allegedly Bay seasoning. They looked presentable but were as bland as if they were made of cardboard.

Next I got the classic wedge salad. This is a dish that shows up on lots of menus these days. It is a giant slice of iceberg lettuce with blue cheese crumbles, blue cheese dressing, bacon, tomato, and caramelized onions. Except for the beautifully caramelized onions the dish was fine but unexciting.

I ordered the grilled luncheon steak. I asked for it medium rare and it was brown throughout. The meat was marinated and sliced in strips but the thing that brought it to life (and me back to life with it) was the incredible parsnip puree it nestled on. This fine tasting addition to the plate was absolutely terrific. If you like the earthy shock of root vegetables you will swoon over this. It was one of the best things I have eaten lately. I would love the recipe.

I moved on to wild mushroom bolognese, with sirloin bits on broad pappardelle noodles. It was a hefty portion and hearty winter fare. The valley is hardly lacking in great Italian food, so while there was nothing wrong with it, I know there are versions as good or better in restaurants a "stone's throw" away.

I ordered an espresso which was cold but the waitress quickly replaced it with a hot cup. I ordered two desserts: vanilla creme brûlée with black pepper shortbread. The brûlée must have been in cahoots with the crab cakes because under the properly burnt sugar crust the custard was tasteless. The shortcake cookies looked and tasted like communion wafers.

I moved on to an apple tart with salted caramel and vanilla gelato.

Stone's Throw

337 Roosevelt Dr,
Seymour, CT 06483


I was hoping for something along the lines of a tarte tatin, but this apple tart was soggy and limp. I am sure that the apple tart when it came out of the oven was tasty, but it had been re-heated in a microwave which turns all baked goods into rubber. The salted caramel was just three tiny puddles of bland caramel sauce. The vanilla gelato was the strangest thing ever, it was brown and looked more like Rocky Road ice cream then an ivory smooth gelato.

This may sound like a pretty negative review, but let me step back and take the side of the traumatized owners who Ramsay called lazy and incompetent. The wife of the chef/owner ( a sweet faced double cancer survivor) was bullied and humiliated until she was forced to confess her husband was clueless. Therefore I do not think it is fair to be too negative about Stone's Throw's maiden voyage. Despite the trendy make over it still seems like a nice unpretentious place with decent prices and a good bar. The view of the Housatonic River is lovely, and all the staff appear dedicated and eager to help.

I wish I could drive up like Gordon Ramsay in an 18-wheeler with a crew of make over artists, but I can't. I am not a celebrity chef, just a humble restaurant reviewer. I would simply advise the kitchen to add more Bay seasoning to the crab cakes, do something about the bland brûlée and amp up some of the other flavors. Make everything sing as loud as the parsnip puree.

I liked this place very much and felt great empathy for the owners. In 24 hours all that was familiar to them was ripped out and thrown away. They now have a beautified place with a new menu. They still have their training wheels on, and I hope they soon get the hang of things. I see a bright future once the shock wears off.

Jane Stern is co-author of the long-running Roadfood book series.