Saturday, November 27, 2010

11/26/10-Leon's, New Haven, CT

Tom mentions that he's in the mood for Italian--finally, not Thai! After hearing many mixed reviews about this New Haven Italian restaurant, I wasn't quite sure what to expect but I was ready to give it a whirl.

We were promptly seated in the back of the restaurant where large glass windows give you a great view of New Haven's harbor area--they also have seating outside, which has got to be lovely in the summer. Our waiter greeted us, brought us our beverages and a basket of fresh bread--crusty on the outside, soft on the inside. Tom and I shared the fried calamari for an appetizer--lightly fried, big pieces, nice portion size and accompanied by a spicy eugene sauce. Our entrees were not far behind--I ordered one of the specials, Penne Bolognese--the sauce was described as "bangin" bolognese with italian sausage and a dollop of ricotta. This was a great bolognese sauce, very nicely presented with the ricotta giving each bite a cooling sensation and it was such a nice portion, I enjoyed the other half as leftovers the next day. Although my dish was great, Tom's dish was the clear winner--Veal Chops, served with roasted potatoes, broccoli rabe and a delicious sauce that had hints of balsamic vinegar, horseradish and mustard. The two chops had an absolutely beautiful presentation on the plate and were perfectly cooked, with the sauce being unique and complimentary at the same time.

Too stuffed for dessert, we threw in the towel after our entrees. This atmospheric restaurant was classy and comfortable at the same time, service was prompt and delightful and the food was excellent with no complaints from either of us. I would be more than happy to return to celebrate any of life's occasions.

Monday, November 22, 2010

11/21/10- Wood-n-Tap, Southington, CT

Met up with Kirstin to get a bite since I didn't get a chance at work! I've been avoiding Wood-n-Tap because last time I was here years ago, the menu was very limited (and also, because of crappy bar service at their other restaurant TD Homer's for my little sister's birthday). I am happy to say, they have definitely expanded their dining options. However, I wasn't able to try some of their more intriguing dishes as it was very late and they were only serving appetizers. Tom and I both had chicken tenders (I know, how original) and it was a good portion, with fries, for a decent price. Kirstin suggested that we also get the Tap Room Fries--Light and crisp sweet potato fries topped with sugar maple icing and served with a honey dijon dipping sauce--I was skeptical, but they were so good! The contrast of the sweet icing and the savory taste of the honey dijon worked for me. She also enjoyed the Oven-Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli--wrapped in sage pasta with parmesan cheese, served in a brown butter and sage cream--it looked good!

Alright, Wood-n-Tap, you have my attention. I'll be back again

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

10/30/10-Sebago Brewing Company, Portland, Maine

To say that Tom was hungry would be the understatement of the year. I owed him big time after being such a trooper all day, watching me taste dishes and him not even getting a bite! So wherever he wanted to go for dinner, we would go. After talking to a few people at the hotel, we got a suggestion for a brewhouse within walking distance, so we trekked down to Sebago Brewing Company.

Great cozy bar with a nice casual atmosphere. We got a seat at a high table in the bar area and got down to business. Tom tried two of their beers, the Boathouse Brown ale and the Saddleback ale--both were well received. Tom ordered the Classic Reuben--Our extra lean corned beef sliced thin and piled high on grilled marble rye bread with russian dressing, sauerkraut, and melted swiss cheese--he devoured it, with the only comment being that it could have used more dressing. I ordered the Paradise Cheeseburger Wrap--Black angus beef, lettuce, diced tomatoes, american cheese, pickles, mayo, mustard, and ketchup in a wheat tortilla--it tasted EXACTLY like what I remember McD's cheeseburgers tasted like (I haven't had McD's in years, so I can't totally vouch for that! Tom had my leftovers a day later and agreed, but he hasn't had McD's in a long time either!) but it was very good and filling. Both of our plates had french fries piled high and a pickle on the side. Overall, a nice ending to a great day!

10/30/10-Duckfat, Portland, Maine

When you hear a name like Duckfat, it kinda sticks with when I found out that I would be going to Portland, this is the only place I truly wanted to try while on our trip. Coincidentally, it was withing walking distance from our hotel!

Upon arriving in Maine, we had plenty of time to grab lunch before the competition got started, so we stopped before checking into the hotel. Duckfat is a tiny little place with cozy seating and a fresh atmosphere. When you come here, you absolutely must get the hand-cut Belgian fries, cooked in duckfat--I know, it sounds weird, almost gross but I swear, these are the best french fries I have EVER had. Crispy, salty and delicious, they were only made better by the exquisite dipping sauces that you can choose from--we had the garlic aioli and the Thai chili mayo, both yummy! Not wanting to fill up too much before the competition, we split the roasted turkey panini with brie and cranberry fennel relish--no complaints here! To finish, we had beignets dusted with cinnamon sugar--c'mon, would you really pass up the opportunity to have beignets? So soft and hot on the inside, it was the perfect ending to our lunch. Can they ship the fries to CT??

10/30/10-Hood Dairy Cook-Off and Chef's Challenge! Portland, Maine

Welcome to the review of the 2nd annual Hood Dairy Cook-Off Challenge and 1st annual Chef's Challenge in beautiful Portland, Maine!

As you can see, it was an amazing weekend!

Early Saturday morning, Tom and I packed our bag and got in the truck, headed to Portland for such a great opportunity--because of this blog, I was asked to be a judge in Hood's Dairy Cook-Off and Chef's Challenge!

We arrived at the Ocean Gateway Terminal in Portland around 230 in the afternoon and was greeted by CJ, a PR rep for Hood. He showed to my seat at the judge's table along with 9 other judges, all food bloggers from across New England. We were going to be tasting and rating a dish by professional chefs with the theme "Thanksgiving with a Twist." The chef's had 60 minutes to create their dishes with the one stipulation that they must use at least one Hood product in their dish. The results? Absolutely incredible!

From the state of Maine, Chef Gary Cartwright of Stripers
Fall Harvest Bread Pudding with Bacon Brittle and Sour Cream Maple Ice Cream

From the state of Massachusettes, Chef Josh Ziskin of La Morra
Chicken Breast stuffed with Braised Kale and Sopressata atop Mushroom Polenta

From the State of New Hampshire, Chef Evan Mallet of Black Trumpet Bistro
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Pancetta Chestnut Hash and Arugula Salad

From the state of Rhode Island, Chef Matt Jennings of La Laiterie Bistro
Deconstructed Thanksgiving Leftover Pot Pie with Biscuits, Pickled Autumn Vegetables & Turkey Sausage

From the state of Vermont, Chef Steve Atkins of the Kitchen Table Bistro
Turkey Tetrazzini with a Free Form Ravioli (the noodles were made with sour cream!)

And the winnner is......

Representing from the GREAT state of CT, Chef Red Keith Lamphear of the Black Rock Tavern in Thomaston, with his creation Stuffed Chicken Breast with Pumpkin Spaetzle

Words and pictures really cannot describe the smells, the taste and the incredible feeling in the room during the competition. My wonderful husband, Tom, sat behind me the whole time--he was starving by the end of it all! It was great to meet fellow bloggers from across New England who have the same passion for great food. Thanks so much to Hood for the incredible honor of judging this competition! (And thank you to funandfearlessinbeantown for her awesome close-up pictures of these dishes! Maybe Santa will bring me a great camera like hers?)

We also stayed for the taping of the Hood Dairy Cook-Off where home cooks from across New England competed for $10,000! It was great to be a part of the audience, sit back and relax and watch more amazing dishes being created in front of us. I met the competitor from Connecticut, Linda, who's semi-finalist dish was Sassy Shrimp Court Bouillon with Asiago Crostini--it looked delicious! If you live in New England, check out TV Diner on NECN, where this program will be airing.

It truly was a wonderful weekend, nice to get away for a night, even if we couldn't stay for long
(I had a huge exam to study for and I'm happy to report that I did very well!)--it is very hard for us to do much of anything lately, even going out for dinner because of my schooling. I hope to be able to come back to Portland to experience more of what this foodie town has to offer!