Wednesday, December 28, 2011

12/27/11-Jim's Deli, Brighton, MA

This place is incredible. If this place was in CT, I swear I would eat here all the time.

We walked in to a cafeteria-like setup--grab a tray, place your order, wait for it to be done then slide down to the register. The menu is amazing--ridiculous, actually. So many sandwich and wrap choices, all creative and even breakfast and dinner options! I really didn't even know where to start but then I saw the "Cuban wrap"--not exactly authentic but so good--turkey, ham, cheese, pickles, lettuce and a spicy mayo, grilled in a wrap and served with a pickle spear--so good, the mayo totally made this wrap! Kirstin had the Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich, which came with a pickle spear and french fries--the sandwich was so big--it had 3 pieces of chicken on it, you couldn't even fit this in your mouth without getting it all over your face!

I really cannot express how awesome this place is--the staff is super friendly and efficient, which is amazing considering how many menu choices there are and how fast they get the orders out to you. The food is tasty and plentiful and all for a good price--this is everything you want in a local joint, and more. It was no wonder that shortly after we arrived, the line was practically out the door. Jim's--can you please open a location in CT??

12/26/11-Smoken' Joe's, Brighton, MA

Came up to Boston to visit Kirstin in her new digs. After fighting all the post-holiday traffic up here, we were starved so I consulted the phone to find a place in her area to get some dinner. I didn't know what I was in the mood for until I happened upon this place--so glad we came here!

A small place with a nice vibe and live music every night of the week, this BBQ joint is definitely a cool place to hang out. We walked in and grabbed a table and menus were brought over. I went with the sliced beef brisket platter, with sides of mac and cheese and fries and cornbread. The brisket was great and the BBQ sauce that our waitress picked for me was an excellent companion--sweet and smoky with a ton of flavor! The brisket was nice and moist, french fries were average and the mac and cheese was ok, but nothing special (I would get different sides next time!). The cornbread was great, wish I had more of that! Kirstin ordered the Turkey Tips, which surprisingly were so good! They had a teryaki flavor to them, were nice and moist as well. The dishes were plentiful, the music was rockin and the service was fun and friendly. A great place for good food, music and hanging with friends!

12/22/11-The Chestnut Grille @ The Bee & Thistle Inn, Old Lyme, CT

What a lovely place to visit at the holidays! We arrived at this gorgeous house for dinner (I wish it was light outside so we could explore the property!) and walked inside to a beautifully decorated house. There were garlands, ornaments, gingerbread houses and other accents throughout the rooms surrounding the foyer. The hostess was so pleasant, taking our coats and showing us to the dining room.

Tom ordered a beer while I had a glass of white wine and bread with a herb butter was brought over. The butter had a very strong garlic and parsley taste so only a little bit was needed on the bread to get the flavor. For an appetizer, we ordered the Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio with Truffle Oil and Aged Gouda--nicely presented and the gouda slices were a nice touch, however the serving was quite small for the price (comparatively to the carpaccio we had at La Tavola, which we liked better than this one). For our entrees, Tom had the Tenderloin of Beef with Wild Mushroom Risotto and Caramelized Onions--the beef was cooked to his liking and the onions were spectacular, giving the meat this sweet and smoky flavor. I had the Braised All Natural Pork Shank with Smoked Garden Chili Peppers, Grilled Asparagus and Poached Fingerling Potatoes-- The pork was not on the bone as I had thought it would have been, but was in small slices (small-ish portion again) with a nice serving of asparagus and a few potatoes around the plate, no chili peppers to be found in this dish, so maybe just used for flavoring--everything tasted good, just kind of an oddly presented dish.

We were heading home to make cookies for the holiday so no dessert for us! Overall, we had a lovely meal together, in a nice romantic setting. Definitely worth a visit if you are out this way!

Monday, December 12, 2011

12/2/11-Pagliacci's, Plainville, CT

I couldn't even make a guess at how many times I've been to this establishment over the years. When I was a kid, this was the go-to place for our family when we went out for dinner, which was fairly rare. I haven't been here in a number of years, but I was glad to see that everything was just as I remembered it.

A popular local Italian joint, the portions are big enough to feel a small army, while staying delicious and lovingly crafted at the same time. Dinner started with their fresh baked bread and garlic sticks--lucky for us, they'll bring you more so you don't have to fight over them! Then came our salads--house for Tom, caesar for me. For our entrees, I stressed to Tom that Pagiliacci's makes some of their own cuts of pasta in house (a rarity!) and suggested that whatever he order, he have their housemade pasta; with that in mind, he went for his usual standby, white clam sauce over housemade spaghetti--he couldn't even come close to finishing this dish, but he enjoyed every bite he put down! I always seem to get a "baked" dish here, so I went with the Baked Ravioli with a side of sausage--the raviolis are no joke! They are the size of a small paperback book, made in house and covered in sauce and cheese--soooo good.

It was good to be back and see that they are just as busy as ever! I won't wait as long for our next visit!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

11/18/11-Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, Newington, CT

I truly am a sucker for a classy dinner.

Tom and I got to have a lovely evening out for dinner since we haven't had much time to see eachother. An absolutely lovely romantic dinner setting, there were couples around us celebrating anniversaries and other small parties for birthdays--I guess the two of us don't need a celebratory reason to come here!

Service was impeccable, as it should be in a restaurant such as this, however I felt that our waitress was a little brash at times, such as not even greeting us when she came over to the table. Bread came over quickly, which was soft and warm. Next, our caesar salads arrived, perfectly dressed. Onto our main event--we both had filets cooked to medium-rare and the dishes were served with asparagus and mashed potatoes and one extra addition--I chose BBQ shrimp while Tom chose the baked stuffed shrimp, both were excellent. Everything was delicious and filling, presented nicely as well, with the plates coming out of the kitchen screaming hot! We would definitely make a return visit, however, I think I liked David Burke and Morton's better--but absolutely nothing against Ruth's!

11/18/11-Jake's Wayback Burgers, Stratford, CT

In a 27-hour intensive 3-day class, the only perk was my lunchbreak! Ran over to this mini-franchise right down the street from the firehouse to grab a quick bite. The setup is very much like 5 Guys, but cleaner looking and much less busy. I tried their turkey burger, fries and an iced tea--the burger was on the smaller side, but was tasty and moist. The fries are nothing special (I prefer 5 Guys in comparison). The service was friendly, helpful and relatively quick. Definitely a nice place to stop in for lunch!

11/12/11-Pond House Grille (fka Tango Creative Eatery), Glastonbury, CT

After two visits to the original Tango restaurant, this had quickly become a favorite of ours and we told all our friends to go here. We came here after they changed their name, figuring that we'd have the same great experience--sadly, good things never last. The decor has changed, the menu changed and they got rid of all the elements that made them stand out from the pack.

I'm not saying that what we ate was bad--it wasn't--it just wasn't as good as it used to be. We found the menu lost its creative touch, not to mention that it also had odd pricing and not a decent appetizer selection. I had the pan-seared duck with mashed sweet potatoes, asparagus, cracklings and a cherry chili demiglace--duck was cooked nicely with no fatty or stringy quality as can be the case. I would have liked more cracklings or something else crunchy to balance out the mushy sweetness of the dish, however overall it was good. Tom had the cabernet braised lamb shank with big fat onion rings and caramelized root vegetables--the lamb was cooked to his liking and the dish was nicely presented.

Ok, so overall, it wasn't bad--service was friendly and the food was decent (I was glad to see they kept the delicious bread and butter at least!) but we were just so underwhelmed by the changeover (c'mon, no aromatics course?!). What used to be a romantic yet exciting place to go to dinner has turned into nothing special. Back on our quest for our new favorite restaurant!

Friday, November 4, 2011

11/2/11-Formosa Asian Fusion, North Haven, CT

Looking for someplace inexpensive to get a quick lunch, we headed down to Formosa for their lunch menu. Having never been there before, we had high hopes. The interior is decorated to give a nice atmosphere, while the exterior is dated, so don't let that deter you.

The lunch menu is priced perfectly (the dinner menu was considerably more expensive) and as always, a good way to judge a place without breaking the bank. Tom had the Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce--although it had a chili pepper designating it as "spicy", neither of us found it to be. The sauce had great flavor and the dish was plentiful, with a tasty fried rice on the side. I had the Chili Pepper Sichuan Style with chicken--not exactly what I expected, as it was chunks of chicken sauteed with roasted jalapenos (I expected a red pepper kind of sauce). However, it was still pretty good and had a bit of heat, but nothing too overwhelming. We both had the wonton soup as well to start and were pleasantly surprised to find the wontons were stuffed with chicken instead of the traditional pork. In all, we left content. Can't say we'd come here all that often but it was a nice place to grab a quick lunch!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

10/17/11-J. Gilbert's, Glastonbury, CT

My favorite fine-dining partner, Sheri, came out with me tonight to J. Gilbert's because they sent me a coupon for my birthday--so excited to try this place out! This place is beautiful, from the landscaping to the power-lunch, romantically cozy interior.

Our server, who was helpful and charming, guided us in our first visit to an excellent dining experience. Sheri started with the Maryland Crab Bisque, while I had the Caesar Salad--both were nicely presented and portioned. Bread was also brought out for us to enjoy, which was crusty and soft. On to our entrees! I had the special--two 4 oz. filets with a red wine reduction demi glace, cooked to my choice of medium-rare, served with a grilled bbq shrip skewer, asparagus and white cheddar chipotle mashed potatoes--phew! Again, everything was beautifully presented, the filets were cooked to perfection with a slightly woodsy hint on both the filets and the shrimp. Asparagus was also nicely done. The mashed potatoes were only slightly disappointing--maybe they sat a bit longer than anticipated, but they just weren't as spectacular as I had hoped for. Sheri also had filet, cooked rare, with asparagus, lobster mac n'cheese and seared George's Bank scallops. Her dish was excellent also, with her filet cooked to her order--her downside with the lobster mac, which really only had one or two good sized pieces of lobster in it, but the taste was pretty good. My dinner was also nicely pared with a red zinfandel, which I enjoyed and thought was a nice compliment.

Dinner wouldn't be complete without a dessert (and I'm such a sucker for a dessert tray!) so we went with the Chocolate Velvet cake--moist chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, banana liqueur, chocolate ganache, crème anglaise--pure heave on a plate! Sheri also had a "Nutty Irishman" coffee, with frangelico and baileys--it smelled so good!

I know Tom was jealous he didn't get to come with us, so I'm sure that I'll return! Great place for a date night!

10/16/11-Valencia Luncheria, Norwalk, CT

Ethnically-based food always seems to be inexpensive and comes in large portions--Valencia Luncheria is no exception. A small, unassuming place along Main St. in Norwalk, you may not even give it a second look driving by if it wasn't for the yellow-painted exterior and blue awnings.

My partner and I were posted in the Norwalk area for the day and with the guidance of my smartphone was led to this place. It is very small with only a few tables that were all full, even at midday on a Sunday. I love good Spanish food and knew right away what I wanted to try. This place is known for their arepas (which is a Venezuelan handmade corn cake fried or skillet roasted stuffed with your choice of fillings)--my filling choices were easy--Pernil (Venezuelan pork roast) and the "Zach" (chicken and honey). My partner had the "Chef", filled with meat and jalapenos. We got our orders to go, as is the nature of the business I'm in and found a place to eat. First thing I noticed is how greasy it was--there was a small pool of grease in the bottom of the wax bag the arepa was wrapped in, so a little napkin-blotting was necessary. As I took a bite, the corn cake was soft and chewy with a slightly sweet taste--the pernil was delicious and moist, while the "Zach" was a perfect compliment to the arepa with the honey! These were so filling that I wasn't able to finish both of them!

An excellent place to stop for a quick and filling lunch, totally worth it--remember to bring cash, no credit accepted here.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

10/2/11-Merritt Canteen, Bridgeport, CT

This place is what America is all about--burgers, hot dogs, fried food and milkshakes.

My partner and I were instructed to post in the city so we decided to grab lunch while we could. While debating what to have for lunch today, I remembered that there was some place in Bridgeport that had been featured on the Food Network so after looking up the address, we decided to head over. Reading a few reviews, it was clear this place is a favorite for many people and I can see why now.

After waiting a short time in line, I stepped up to the counter and rattled off my order. Without typing anything up or writing anything down, the girl shouted my order to the kitchen and a few minutes later my order was bagged up, exactly as I ordered it--impressive! I had a bison cheeseburger (perfectly cooked, great flavor and how many places can you get bison?!), a chili dog (they are not kidding, folks, this dog has got some heat but don't let that deter you, it tastes great, too!), french fries (standard issue, a bit soggy and almost undercooked for me) and to wash it all down, a black and white milkshake. With a meal like that, I didn't eat anything the rest of the day! My partner followed suit, with a chili cheesedog, a bacon, egg and cheeseburger, onion rings and a chocolate milkshake. We were one well-fed happy ambulance crew today (and that truly is an unusual thing in this business!). We hope to be back here and I'd suggest it to anyone in the area--they've been around for decades, so they've gotta be doing something right!

Monday, September 12, 2011

9/10/11-La Tavola Ristorante, Waterbury, CT

Happy Anniversary to us!

After an exciting and life-changing few weeks for us, we were happy to kick back and celebrate these changes and our anniversary over a delicious Italian dinner. I've heard so many good things from friends about this place that it seemed like the perfect special occasion restaurant. Reservations are a must! We called the night before to get a reservation and got a high-top in the bar and we were promptly seated there when we arrived. The atmosphere is classy, with black and gold accents, modern music playing on the stereo and not the traditional Italian music as I had expected. Our waitress was friendly, bringing over a basket of warm bread with green olives and a garlic paste--no olive oil as a bread dip in an Italian restaurant was a surprise

For our appetizer, we had the Pepper Beef Carpaccio served with baby arugula, shaved red onion, lemon, EVO & truffle salt--beautiful, meticulous presentation with an amazingly complex taste--the beef rounds melted in your mouth, accented by the pepper not only on the beef but from the arugula with a salt and lemon kick. In the meantime, the entrees that were brought past our table really revved up our appetite! Tom had the pasta special for the evening--house made pasta with spicy sausage, spinach, chopped fire-roasted tomatoes, in a garlic and evoo sauce--a nice balance all around with a colorful presentation. I had the lasagna bolognese with spinach pasta, classic meat sauce, ricotta cheese & mozzarella--in the traditional Italian way, the portion would have easily fed two people, but I gave it my best effort! Neatly plated and not swimming in sauce, it was a delicate yet filling entree.

As we had our yearly wedding cake from J-Cakes in North Branford waiting for us at home, we passed on dessert. Overall, the food was excellent and we felt we made a great choice for such a special evening, with the only negative being that our waitress seemed to have a habit of disappearing and forgetting about us--good thing we enjoy each others company!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

8/22/11-Elizabeth's Cafe, Madison, CT

We got back late after a long weekend spent in the woods and and neither of us felt much like cooking so we went to try this place I've heard some buzz about.

To our surprise, we actually had to wait for a table--on a Monday night in CT, that's unheard of, so that's a good sign, right? The owner was nice enough to make a few adjustments to get a table for us and after about 15 minutes, we were seated. Water was brought over, along with some warm bread. We started with the calamari, served with marinara and a lemon aioli--the marinara was nothing thrilling but the aioli was great and the portion was excellent! On to our entrees--Tom had the Pan-seared Tilapia, with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Kalamata Olives, Roasted Red Pepper and Caper Sauce--he enjoyed this preparation and the fish was nicely cooked, I even enjoyed the bite I had of it! I had the Shrimp Scampi--hate to say it, but I was disappointed--there were only 5 shrimp in the dish and I could have recreated this dish at home easily, it was nothing special.

In all, this place was totally overpriced and not worth it for us. The food was good but not great, the service was pleasant and accommodating, but really, nothing special.I don't see us returning.

8/19/11-Barrington Brewery, Great Barrington, MA

Camping Weekend!

Stopped off for lunch here before heading in to set up our campsite. Tom and Harold have a work-connection to this place so we were excited to try this place. I had the chicken cordon bleu sandwich with a side of their beer-battered fries (I could eat a ton of those!); Tom had a special, buffalo chicken wrap; Harold had BBQ Beef Brisket sandwich; Carissa had the hot roast beef sandwich and the little one picked at a hamburger. Tom and Harold also tried one of their beers, the Berkshire Blonde--Tom thought it wasn't that great, it had too much of a hay-like taste to it. All of our lunches were pretty good though! Seemed like a very chill, laid-back atmosphere with a good bar scene, we'd be glad to return next year when we're back at the campsite!

8/13/11-David Burke Prime @MGM Grand Foxwoods, Mashantucket, CT


Every once in a while, it is necessary to splurge on a dinner like this and with our anniversary coming up, what better excuse to celebrate with a great steak? Having watched enough Top Chef and other food-related programs, we're familiar with the David Burke namesake and was super excited to check this place out. With reservations made via OpenTable, we walked into a a classy yet whimsical environment, with cow-print decor, accents of gold and a sense of indulgence in the air. Our waiter, who was ever-so friendly, brought us over water glasses and two large popovers to start our meal. The last time we had popovers was at the Mill at 2T and in comparison, these were dense and eggy tasting, in contrast to the light, airy ones at the Mill. While waiting on our entrees, we watched a nearby table as their tableside caesar salad was prepared--I wish we had ordered that, it looked incredible! Not to fear, our incredible dinner soon arrived--we came here for the dry-aged steaks, kept in a Himalayan salt-lined, temperature-controlled room. Tom had the 55-day aged rib eye while I had the dry-aged sirloin; the word incredible barely does this justice. Both of our steaks were cooked to our liking of medium-rare. At first bite of Tom's rib eye, the taste of salt cured meat starts to melt and coat your tongue and it is just heavenly. While you're not assaulted by the salt on my sirloin, the tenderness from the aging process is completely evident. For sides, we chose to share asparagus and shallots and a side of homemade french fries that came with ketchup and a kicked-up aioli--both were nicely presented and then devoured. 

After a meal so decadent, we couldn't justify having dessert. To our surprise, our waiter brought over cotton candy--what a concept! In addition, a small purse with two chocolate-covered rice krispie squares was given to us with the check--definitely sweetened the bill for me! Overall, this experience was all we could have hoped for and I cannot wait to return!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

8/9/11-Joe's American Bar & Grill, Providence, RI

This small-chain restaurant used to have a location in West Hartford and I have a funny memory from the last time I was there--I was out on a dinner date with my then-boyfriend and his mother called him and ordered him home because she didn't like that he was out on a date--we were both in college. Yeah, that relationship didn't last much longer.

This location is as classy as I remember the one in West Hartford being--it is the kind of place I'd imagine power business lunches taking place because of the dark wooden decor, vintage pictures and local reminders such as the Providence College oars mounted on the wall. Even the bathrooms are classy and well-kept!

Jill and I stopped in for lunch on our day trip to Providence and we started with the spinach and artichoke dip, served with pita and tortilla chips--what a huge serving of the dip! We definitely needed more chips in order to finish the bowl of dip (which we were unable to do!) but otherwise, it was hot, bubbly and delicious. For our lunches, Jill had the California Club Salad--very large portion but she found it to be overdressed so ordering the dressing on the side would be an idea for next time. I had the Chicken Club Sandwich, which was nicely stacked and presented, perfect for a light yet satisfying lunch. A nice stop for the both of us--and I am happy to report, a better memory than my last visit :)

8/5/11-The Homestead Rest, Sparta, NJ

On our way out of town for the weekend with friends, we stopped at this popular local joint. It is adorned with photos of horses, riding gear and above the mantle is a gigantic set of horns--this place is both country AND western! They had a large, lively bar area filled with people, but we were interested in the food!

We were quickly seated at a table and drink orders placed. For our dinners--Jill had the Homestead Burger-with bacon, american cheese and fried onions, served with their house-made chips and a pickle spear. Tom had the Cheyenne Chicken Fried Steak-- Smothered in sawmill gravy & served with mashed potatoes & string beans-- he enjoyed the white gravy that coated the entire dish and it was such a full plate he couldn't finish it all! I had the Fistfull of Dollars burger--Gruyere cheese, onion rings, lettuce, tomato & chipotle mayo-- I enjoyed this burger, it was cooked to my liking and gruyere, while it is so underused, worked really well on this burger.

Overall, a nice stop on our way to our destination--good food, clean bathrooms and prompt service.

Friday, July 29, 2011

7/22/11-Aziago's, Southington, CT

I was here a few months ago with my mom for lunch, but I haven't been here for dinner in 6 years, so it was about time for a proper revisit.

We are always surprised when we walk into a restaurant on a Friday or Saturday night and it is practically empty, although this place has never seemed too popular. Needless to say, we were seated immediately and our drink orders taken--since it was so hot out, frozen drinks were on our minds so Tom had a frozen peppermint patty and I had a frozen Italian mudslide--both refreshing and excellent! House made bread was brought to the table with a small plate of quality olive oil for dipping. Small salads were also brought out before our dinners arrived. For our entrees--Tom had the prime rib special--although the prime rib was nicely cooked, he wasn't a fan of the gravy that was poured over the meat, explaining that the meat itself is good and didn't find the gravy necessary and would have preferred a side dish of au jus. His dish came with a side of mashed potatoes, which also didn't totally thrill him. I had the veal parmesan served with a side of penne and marinara sauce--while I liked the texture breading, it was so obtrusive that it was hard to distinguish in my mouth where the veal was versus the breading because of a lack of flavor--very hard to describe, so I can't say I was entirely thrilled with my dish.

Overall, our experience was ehhh--average. From past experience, lunch at this restaurant is much better than dinner so I can't say that we'd go out of our way to return for dinner

Monday, July 18, 2011

7/11/11-Puket Cafe, Rocky Hill, CT

Lunch with Kim!

Any excuse to have Thai food, I was excited when she agreed to meet up here. As with any Thai food outing, I usually get drunken noodles as a basis of comparison and I was pleasantly surprised that they were excellent--and spicy, just like I asked for! The heat level was perfect for me and the portion was great for lunch. Kim had the Pad Thai, which she enjoyed as well--nicely plated and also a great portion. Prices were reasonable and the setting was comfortable for our lunch outing!

7/9/11-Tango (revisited), Glastonbury, CT

To be honest, we couldn't wait to come back here. When you have as good as an experience as we had on our first visit to this establishment, you can only hope it wasn't a fluke, especially since we've talked it up to everyone who asks us, "What's the best place you've been to lately?". We are happy to report that it is NOT a fluke--Tango is still amazing!

We took Tom's cousin Alicia and her husband Mike along with us, since they enjoy creative dining as much as we do! The expandable towelettes started our experience as it did last time (kitchy, yes--but still awesome). Garlic bread with maple butter was brought over to us--an interesting contrast in flavors that worked, surprisingly. We started with the calamari appetizer that we loved on our last visit--unfortunately it had too much of the vinegar-based sauce, making the calamari soggy (I know we wished for more sauce last time, but there has got to be a better balance!).

On to our entees! With brand new menu selections in place, no specials were offered tonight but no matter to us--great meals all around! Mike had the Seared Ahi Tuna, which was beautifully plated, looked as if it was cooked perfectly to his liking and must have been good since it was devoured! Alicia had the Eggplant Involtini--nice portion size and she enjoyed this as well. Tom had the Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi with a creamy wild mushroom and smoked gouda sauce with fried leeks--he was a huge fan of this dish, I wish I had tried it! I had the Cornflake Chicken with loaded mashed potatoes, braised kale, and with a side of orange BBQ sauce--everyone at the table had to have a bite of this dish because it was amazing! The orange BBQ sauce was so different, yet worked so well and the loaded mashed had so much bacon in it, I was amazed!

We couldn't end things without having dessert--Tom and Mike shared a banana and nutella croissant while Alicia and I shared a chocolate chip cookie dough "sandwich" that came with a side of cinnamon sugar dusted sweet potato fries--yeah, that's what we thought too. The fries, while we appreciated the attempt, definitely did not go with the cookie dough sandwich at all--if they want to keep those as a "dessert" option, it should be separate, not with something else. Also, how could I forget the "aromatherapy" course? My favorite part of the night--we all loved this!

Overall, yet another great meal out with Alicia and Mike! Can't wait to do it again!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

7/3/11-Soul de Cuba, New Haven, CT

I think Tom and I debated on where to have lunch today for two hours, but after much debate we made an excellent choice! We're trying to experience more of what New Haven has to offer and sometimes that can be difficult pricewise, so lunch is usually a better option for us. Many places that we came up with and wanted to try were closed on Sundays for lunch but thankfully this was not.

I've experimented with a Cubano burger from a Bobby Flay cookbook, but sadly I've never had the real deal--that was all about to change today. This is probably one of the tiniest restaurants we've ever been to, with just a handful of tables in a brightly decorated dining room, adorned with family photos, artwork, even framed cigar labels (because, let's be honest, when you think of Cuba you think of cigars!). Our waiter was on the quiet side, but very efficient. Water glasses were brought right over and Tom also ordered a beer (Cristal, from Peru). We decided on the chicken empanadas to start--hot, flaky dough with chopped chicken, peppers served with a side of mango salsa--these were so good, perfectly cooked and the salsa was a nice accompaniment. Onto our bocadillos! Tom had the Soul Cubano--serrano ham, manchego cheese (fresh cut--bit of rind on the edges!), salami, roast pork with a cilantro and roasted garlic aioli on the pressed bread--I was told I was only getting one bite of his sandwich, that's how much he enjoyed it! I went the traditional route and had the Cubano--ham, roast pork, swiss cheese, salami, pickles, mayo and mustard on the pressed bread--the amazing flavor of the pork took this sandwich by storm, along with the mustard and the nice crunch of the pickle. Both of our sandwiches were seriously amazing and we left completely satisfied, two new fans of Cuban food! Tom definitely wants to come back and try their dinners and you would definitely want to make reservations if you are looking to try this place!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

6/30/11-California Pizza Kitchen, West Hartford, CT

Lunch date with my two favorite Laura's! We came here as a way to celebrate summer genetics class ending and what a tasty celebration it was!

Strawberry lemonades for the girls and a regular lemonade for me started our lunch, along with an appetizer of the Avocado Club Egg Rolls-Avocado, chicken, tomato, Monterey Jack and applewood smoked bacon in a crispy wonton roll. Served with homemade ranchito sauce and herb ranch--I wish all egg rolls were as delicious as this creation was! Perfectly portioned for the 3 of us, we enjoyed every last bite of this one.

On to our pizzas! Laura P. had a tough time deciding (and who wouldn't?) but in the end made a great choice--the Margherita pizza. Laura B. went with the Hawaiian BBQ Chicken Pizza (no onions! and on the honey wheat dough, obviously)--I was jealous of this one, it looked amazing! I went with the California Club (on the honey wheat dough)--my only complaint was I couldn't really enjoy the avocado since it was in big wedges, preferably I would think that diced up would work out better--other than that, it was an excellent choice. We all enjoyed a few slices, then took the rest home for later. In all, it was a fantastic lunch with some of my favorite nursing girls--I'll miss you both in my classes next year but that doesn't mean we can't still be study buddies :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

6/19/11-Illiano's, Middletown, CT

Had a lovely Sunday off from work (finally!) and enjoyed it with Tom, touring a few wineries and then ended up here. This local Italian pizza joint has a few locations throughout the state and seems to be quite popular. When we walked in, a good majority of the tables were full and there was a steady stream of people coming in for takeout. One of the first things we noticed when we sat was that everyone who was coming in for an order for pickup was being served a bite of pizza while waiting--we were no exception, also being brought a small plate to wet our appetites.

We decided on having dinners instead of pizza this time around--Tom went with his favorite--Linguini with clams in a white sauce; I went with my favorite--Veal Parmigiana. Both of our dinners came with small side salads and warm garlic bread. We were both happy with our selections and in typical Italian fashion, there was too much food to finish, so we had leftovers to pack up and bring home to enjoy another day. Overall, a lovely, quick dinner in a welcoming atmosphere with a friendly staff--glad we live close so we can enjoy again!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

6/4/11-Fat & Happy Bar and Restaurant, Newington, CT

Out to dinner with Jill and Cory to this semi-new restaurant (it is the old 99 house....and if you've ever been to a 99, when you step inside you'll say "Oh yeah...."). They have tried to mask the 99 look by changing a few things around to make it look more modern, still a comfortable atmosphere.

We decided to start with "Robin's Queso Dip"--ground sausage, jalapeños, tomatoes and cheese served with seasoned tortilla chip--I think we were all disappointed by this. It tasted just like jarred queso you get at the store with a few things added into it and if by "seasoned" tortilla chips they mean with salt, then yes, otherwise nothing remarkable. Although it was a large portion, it should not have been priced so high--maybe $4-5 would have made more sense to us.

On to our entrees! Cory had the Shepard's Pie-ground beef and lamb mixed with carrots, onions, peas and gravy topped with whipped potatoes, Vermont aged cheddar baked to a golden brown--the cheese baked over the top made this dish look great and it must have been good because it disappeared! Jill had a build your own burger, which she seemed satisfied with. Tom had Fish and Chips--traditional pub-style beer-battered white fish (fresh catch of the day) house-made French fries and fresh tartar sauce--he had actual good sized portions of fish, nicely fried, and he polished his plate as well. I had the Open-faced Steak Sandwich-caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, beef gravy and Vermont aged cheddar cheese.--slightly too overcooked for my liking, but really nice flavor from the onions and the beef gravy (I omitted the mushrooms). I would have preferred if the bread underneath had been toasted first to give my sandwich a fighting chance from getting too soggy and next time would probably request that. The fries were "hand cut" and pretty good.

Overall, average experience. I'm glad to see another non-chain restaurant in this town, giving the residents even more options. I hope that they grow and improve--they have some tough competition in the area. It is good for a quick bite but I wouldn't go out of my way if I wasn't in the area.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

5/27/11-Leunig's Bistro, Burlington, VT

Made it to Burlington, VT for the night--cute town!

We had reservations for a nice dinner date at this cute, upscale bistro and what's the first thing that happens? Soon after we sat, Tom reached for the wine list and knocked his water glass all over the table and his pants! Can't take us anywhere :)  Luckily for us, our waitress was very nice and helpful and got us a dry tablecloth and new utensils.

After all that, she brought us bread with a small log of butter from a local farm--nice touch! We started with the calamari fritti--lightly fried with a nice spice to it. We then asked our waitress for a few recommendations on our entrees and she led us in the right direction! Tom had the Beef Bourguignon-Beef Tips Braised in Red Wine, with Smoked Bacon, Pearl Onions, Carrots, Celery & Button Mushrooms, Garlic
Mashed Potatoes & Haricots Verts--served as a one-pot meal, the beef was a bit on the dry side, but the overall flavors of the dish were very nice. For myself, the waitress suggested the Filet Mignon--Grilled Beef Tenderloin, “VT Loaded” Red Bliss Mashed Potatoes with Peppered Bacon, Cabot Cheddar, Crème Fraîche & Scallions Served with Asparagus & Creamy Mushroom Ragout--the filet was cooked to medium and was tender (but I've had better). The VT loaded mashed potatoes were my favorite part of the dish--strong cheddar flavor, with bacon and scallions mixed in, they were beyond delicious. My dish did not come with asparagus as was noted in the description (maybe they were out??); instead it came with baby spinach leaves, which were nice. No room for dessert for us tonight! In all, we had a nice date night dinner and I would recommend this place to anyone looking for a place to take their special someone; however, if and when we return to Burlington, we'll be exploring the other places and cuisines this town has to offer!

5/27/11-Cider House BBQ, Waterbury, VT

Road Trip!

School prevents us from being able to take a real vacation, so a getaway in Vermont will do just fine. We were spending a day doing the touristy things--Cabot Cheese, Ben and Jerry's, Cold Hollow Cider Mill--and on the way, we stopped to get a proper lunch. This place was quiet, with only one other couple enjoying the weather out on the covered patio. This place has such a relaxed, rustic feel and the smells of the food coming out of the kitchen was amazing. Since we were at a BBQ joint, I had to try their pulled pork, with my choice of their bourbon sauce--the pork was moist with a nice smoky taste, the sauce was sweet, thick and complimented the sandwich nicely. I chose fries as my side--cut fresh in house, nicely salted. Tom had the Cider House Local Beef Burger--  home made BBQ sauce lightly mixed with Vermont Highland Cattle beef, topped with chipotle mayo, mixed greens, blue cheese with a side of hush puppies--juicy, cooked to his liking, and the hush puppies were also pretty good. Overall, food was good, our server was friendly, funny and helpful and their focus on using local farmers and producers whenever possible led to us having a nice lunch.

Monday, May 16, 2011

5/15/11-Luce, Middletown, CT

We were craving a new experience and since I was away last night, finding one was the least I could do! We headed to downtown Middletown with 2 places in mind--Luce and Esca. We started with Esca but quickly found that they only serve the dinner menu on Sundays! Not in the mood for dinner quite yet, we went across the street to Luce and I'm glad we did!

It was very quiet when we arrived (the main roads being blocked off probably didn't help traffic very much) and were seated by the windows. Inside, the decor was dark with a romantic, upscale feel and a fireplace that must be lovely in the winter. Service was quick and efficient, with beverages and bread being brought to our table shortly after sitting. Tom was intrigued by a special that they had available--striped bass with mussels and clams with garlicky spinach in a fra diavolo broth--I am trying to get better about tasting seafood, so I tried a bite and really enjoyed it. The bass did not have a strong fishy taste, the fra diavolo broth really complimented the dish. I had the Chicken BLT Sandwich,with applewood smoked bacon and a dijon aioli--the chicken was perfectly grilled and there was a mound of bacon on my sandwich! Accompanying the dish was a mix of regular and sweet potato fries and a dill pickle slice, all very nicely presented. We had an excellent lunch and would be happy to return!

5/14/11-Laskara, Wallingford, CT

Admittedly, we've been avoiding this place. Tom's parents had been here a few years ago and didn't particularly care for the place so we put it off. Tonight, however, I didn't make the plans--we celebrated Kelly's bachelorette here and I'd say it was a nice dining experience.

We all started with a round of martinis and other assorted alcoholic beverages (I don't know why I keep trying martinis, I think it is because I hope I'll like them someday but I really just don't care for the straight up vodka taste). We did not order apps because we had some at our previous location, so on to our entrees--I could not even begin to remember what everyone had but it will suffice to say everyone seemed to enjoy what they ordered. For myself, I figured I'd go with something different, something Mediterranean considering that is the cuisine they are known for, so I ordered the special--Pastichata (slow cooked veal over rigatoni in a plum tomato sauce)--Melissa ordered the same and we both felt that the veal was very "beefy" in taste, not at all what we expected, however the dish was enjoyable. Dinners came with family-style bread and salad as well. We were all full and didn't order dessert but the staff came out with a complimentary piece of baklava--I was so excited to have this and I now am making it my mission this summer to attempt it because it was so good!

Overall, the evening was a success! Kudos to Melissa for planning a lovely evening for the bride-to-be!

4/23/11-Taste Restaurant & Lounge, North Haven, CT

We hadn't heard much about this place, but we had a deal and it's not too far from us, so we popped in on this dreary Saturday night. The space is small but beautifully decorated with gorgeous paintings of dress mannequins done by the waitress we had tonight! Her talent is astounding and it is wonderful that she is able to showcase her work (and sell it).

We started with the pork potstickers, served with a ponzu dipping sauce--the sauce was lovely, really complimented the potstickers, nicely plated as well. Then for our entrees--we both chose pasta dishes, which unfortunately I cannot remember the description of--however, I do remember that we both enjoyed our dishes and the main point we walked away with from Taste was portion size--everything was perfectly portioned and we left feeling satisfied and craving dessert instead of overstuffed and unable to move! This place is worth a look if you're in the area and unsure of where to go.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

4/9/11-Max's Oyster Bar, West Hartford, CT

I am really trying to make an effort to try different kinds of seafood, even though I have been almost completely adverse to it up until recently. For me, it is more likely that I'm going to try it if someone I'm with orders it and lets me have a bite, so I was super glad that Sheri and I were going out for lunch at Max's Oyster Bar so I could steal a bite from her!

I love dining in West Hartford, you really can't go wrong; that goes for the Max Restaurant Group too, where I've never had a bad meal. Today's lunch was no exception. To start, I was intrigued by the Hot and Salty Point Judith Calamari--Coriander batter, nuoc mam cham dipping sauce--Sheri mentioned that the dipping sauce reminded her of a thai fish sauce, and it did have that vinegary taste to it.

Sheri has been here before and told me exactly what she was getting--the Seafood Sampler, filled with an assortment of shellfish, oysters, clams, mussels, snow crab claws, shrimp and other market crustaceans, perched on a mountain of shaved ice with creative accompaniments. I finally got brave and tried a mussel with a remoulade sauce at her recommendation--with the sauce, it wasn't half bad! The texture was a bit weird for me, but I got over it and the sauce totally made up for it! I also tried one of the colossal white shrimp--I happen to like shrimp but the taste of these was so strong and it was cold that I really didn't care much for it, but it did allow me to try the dipping sauces that were provided on her plate. For my own lunch, I decided to go with the San Francisco Style Crabmelt--Sourdough bread, blue crabmeat, dill aioli, gruyere cheese, old bay french fries--I loved the concept and the overall taste was nice but where this dish fell flat for me was that the sandwich was so heavy that the bread became soggy and the sandwich was very hard to handle. I think I would have preferred this dish with lobster, since it would be lighter. The old bay seasongin on the fries was a nice touch though! I enjoyed that very much.

Overall, another successful outing with Sheri--I am so glad to have a friend who enjoys the good things in life as much as I do!

3/26/11-Lanie's Cafe, Loudonville (Albany), NY

Whenever we travel, we try to ask locals where to dine out. After looking at the suggestions in the hotel guidebook, we decided to go down to the front desk to ask where they would recommend. We were steered in the direction of Lanie's, a restaurant not too far from where we were staying. Since this was a Saturday night and we didn't have a reservation, we waited about 45 minutes for a table but it definitely was worth it!

When we were seated, we looked around at the plates on other tables--not only did everything look and smell amazing, the portions were huge! We decided to forego the appetizer and just stick to entrees. All of the dinners come with their salad bar, which was fresh and full at all times, along with italian bread and a block of cheddar--not sure why, but hey, we'll go with it! Tom decided to try the Surf and Turf Pasta--Medium-rare 5 oz. filet mignon skewer served atop sauteed shrimp and scallops tossed in a spinach tomato scampi sauce over choice of pasta--the filet was cooked perfectly and the chef was not shy about the seafood! I had the veal saltimbacca--An egg-battered cutlet of veal stuffed with cappicola and fresh mozzarella, baked and served in a sweet, light marsala butter sauce--this dish was huge and so so good! Neither of us could finish our entrees so we took the yummy leftovers home with us! I would definitely return here next time I'm in the area!

Monday, March 28, 2011

3/26/11-Bangkok Bistro, Schenectady, NY

Hands down, worst Thai food we've ever had. Both of our noodle dishes were overpriced, underseasoned and overcooked. Decor was weird and the restaurant was really cold. The only plus was the service--our waitress was friendly and efficient. Not much else to say about this one!

3/25/11-Moe's Southwest Grill, Southington, CT

I realize this is a chain and although we try to avoid them, at 10pm in Southington, sometimes that is the best you can do. The food is nothing to write home about--it was the service that spawned this review.

We were trying to get food after the community theatre's production of "Rumors" and figured Moe's, which is very new to town, should still be open--turns out they close at 10pm. It was literally 9:59 when we were driving by the storefront to see and as we were about to pull away, a manager came to the door and flagged us in! We were greeted with a very loud "Welcome to Moe's" from the staff! The manager was more than accommodating, telling us to take our time and to feel welcome to sit down and eat since they still had a ton of things to do before they could leave for the evening. Taking her up on the offer, the staff was courteous and friendly--they did not make us feel rushed at all. A burrito, quesadilla and some chips, queso and salsa for Tom and I (the queso isn't that great, it tasted like melted american cheese, however the hot salsa is excellent; my quesadilla was filling and tasty and Tom was happy with his burrito creation--however, we agree that this place is a bit overpriced--what can we say? We're spoiled with authentic inexpensive Mexican). Can't say I'd go out of my way to eat here for the food, but for a last minute alternative to fast food, we'd be happy to return. Our thanks to the staff of the Southington Moe's for their kindness.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

3/19/11-Haveli India, Middletown, CT

Our first Indian food experience! We've always been intrigued by Indian food but at the same time, overwhelmed and not sure what to try. Prior to this, all I've had were vegetable samosas and naan that my former co-worker used to bring in. Luckily, Tom's friend Brian and his wife, Priya, are well versed in the cuisine (Priya's family is from India)--so who better to take us on our first try?

It is hard for me to describe Indian food. It is so different from what we've had, yet similar in some ways. The spice/heat is not anything like what I anticipated (then again, I've developed quite the tolerance for heat) but the flavors are truly amazing. Instead of going into detail about the flavors of the dishes, I will just go ahead and say the things that I tried were honestly delicious and I would definitely return, knowing a little bit more about the cuisine--I just don't think I can do it justice trying to describe the experience!

Priya ordered for us--we started with Lamb Samosas and Vegetarian Pakora. For our entrees, she suggested that we have the Chef's special--complete Indian dinner--an excellent choice because it really gave us an idea of all the different dishes, in little containers for tasting. It contained--*Choice of Soup *Samosa*Piece of Tandoori Chicken *Seekh Kebab *Lamb Curry*Saag Paneer*Dal, Raita, Rice, Papad, Onion Chutney *Choice of Bread (poori or Naan) Dessert, and Tea or Coffee.

Overall, a great first experience! By the end, we felt much more comfortable and I'm happy to say we enjoyed it so much that we look forward to having Indian again!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

3/5/11-Tango, Glastonbury, CT

I feel re-energized. My faith in having a truly incredible dining experience has finally been fulfilled, after an all-too-long hiatus. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about Tango--the architecture was gorgeous, the food was mouthwatering in both taste and presentation and the staff was prompt, friendly and fun--an experience for all the senses.

Let me start by admitting something--Tango wasn't our first choice. We haven't been to Plan B in a long time, so we figured we'd give that a shot--then we heard that the wait was 70-90 minutes and I looked at Tom and we walked out the door (sorry, but it's not that serious!). So, I pull out my blackberry to figure out what is nearby and Tango popped up--I said to Tom that I had heard good things about it a while back, but I really couldn't remember much about it. So we figured, what the hell, let's give it a shot. Boy, were we glad we did.

Pulling up to the building, you wouldn't immediately think "restaurant"--the design and architecture is so different than anything else you'd typically expect to see, but it is beautifully designed, with tons of big windows, an outdoor patio and really neat spiral wood block columns on the inside. We walked in to a warm, romantic, yet casual atmosphere and was quickly seated. Staff came over immediately to fill water glasses, take our drink order and then the strangest thing happened--our waitress came by with a small bowl of hot water and a plate with two white discs and a pair of tweezers on it. She could see the quizzical look on our faces and explained that the discs were expanding towelettes to rinse our hands off with--major points, right there! It almost takes you back to childhood but with such a grown-up touch.

A basket of fresh bread, homestyle biscuits and whipped cinnamon butter was brought to us--I could have ate just the biscuits and that cinnamon butter all night and I would have been happy. Perusing the menu, we decide to try an appetizer since they were quite reasonably priced and creative. We chose the fried calamari--tossed with sautéed chorizo, sweet cherry peppers and a cider vinegar reduction--the chorizo gave this dish a nice heat while it was really the cider vinegar reduction that gave this dish the special something (be sure to mix the bowl of calamari when it is brought to your table to spread the vinaigrette all over). The portion was huge for the two of us, so we opted to box half of it to save room for our entrees. After appetizer, an amuse was brought out--a spoonful of melon fruit salsa with crispy prociutto--sweet and refreshing.

Onto the main course--Tom had the braised bacon roast served over buttered asparagus dusted with fennel pollen and assorted stir-fried vegetables--Tom loved his dish, finding it to be very tender yet filling. His vegetables were well thought out, instead of the usual haphazard side dish of randomness, seasoned and cooked to perfection. I had the Butter Basted Tenderloin Medallions-loaded mashed potatoes, a sweet demiglace, and fried cioppolinis. The plate was very nicely presented with the tenderloin cooked to a perfect medium. The best part was the demiglace--it really changed the whole flavor of the dish and made me crave more! Needless to say, we both polished our meals.

If everything we'd had until this point had been this good, it was essential that we try dessert. Just before dessert came, another surprise arrived. This time, a large white bowl was brought to the table, inside was filled with warm water and orange slices floating on top--then, our waitress opened a thermos and poured liquid nitrogen into the bowl and this incredible white rolling fog appeared all over our table, lightly scented with fresh oranges--it was called the "aromatherapy course." I said to my waitress that it was literally the coolest thing I've ever seen done (it was--the fog was "cool"...). To top off our evening, our dessert arrived--chocolate threeway--white chocolate mousse, warm chocolate cake and soft dark chocolate triangles--yep, we were in heaven.

I want to go back already. This is definitely our new special occasion spot. I'm tellin ya, you will not regret giving this gem a shot. Thanks to the staff for a great dining experience!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

2/20/11-York St. Noodle House, New Haven, CT

Just past Yale New Haven Hospital is this small place I've passed a few times while working in the city and I've always wondered if it was good--I am happy to report that it is fantastic!

While the majority of the clientele is the Yalies, anyone would feel comfortable joining the crowd. The Sunday lunch crowd was steady, keeping the staff moving and the smells coming from the kitchen was just intoxicating. We started with the fried dumplings, which had a different yet pleasant taste from the dumplings you'd get at your local chinese takeout joint. Shortly after, our dishes arrived--Tom had the spicy glass noodles served with house hot sauce, and they were not kidding. His dish was most definitely spicy but it wasn't completely uncomfortable--there was a ton of red pepper mixed in to the sauce with thai basil and a few celery pieces. I had the spicy wok basil, which was similar to having drunken noodles, but this dish definitely had more heat, with a bunch of sweet onions and bell peppers to balance it out. To cool off the bite a bit more, we decided to try bubble tea. I didn't know what to expect, so I went with the watermelon flavor--it came to the table in a hurricane glass, bright pink slushy mixture with large purple tapioca pearls on the bottom. It was an interesting concept, but I think I chose the wrong flavor to try--it was a bit odd, but I'd be willing to try a different flavor next time.

If you're driving through the Elm City, I'd definitely suggest giving this place a chance. Prices are beyond reasonable, portions excellent and the food is great!

Friday, February 18, 2011

2/15/11-Griff's Chicken Shack, Hamden, CT

Tom has been raving about this place that he got turned onto by his coworker, so when he had a surprise day off today, he suggested we go to lunch. The name of the place may have the word "shack" in the title, but it is nothing of the sort. Griff's is in a small plaza just down the street from Quinnipiac University on Whitney Ave. and it has a brightly painted walls adorned with crayon drawings from many of their patrons.

While they do have some sandwiches, salads and wraps on their menu, Tom tells me its the chicken fingers that we have to order, so we split a 5-finger basket with fries, coleslaw and 2 sauces topped off with a Foxon Park soda for Tom and a sweet tea for me. The chicken fingers are HUGE, juicy and tender and the dipping sauces we tried were delish--honey mustard (anyone who knows me knows this was an obvious choice), sweet thang and ranch. We had a great lunch for a cheap price in such a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere--that's a win in our book. We'll definitely be back!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

1/29/11-Black Rock Tavern, Thomaston, CT

I had high hopes for this place. I was truly hoping for something above average, especially after meeting the chef and being a part of judging his dish at the Hood Dairy Cook-Off back in October. Don't get me wrong--our food was good, there was nothing wrong with it--but after seeing his creativity at the cook-off, I just thought maybe we'd experience something different.

We got to the restaurant around 530--it was relatively full, but the hostess said we could have a table if we thought we'd be done by 630--the offer was very nice, so we agreed. When we were seated, olive oil and marinara dipping sauces were already on the table and a basket of good bread was brought over--the marinara was cold, making it unappetizing for us, so we stuck with the olive oil.

Our waitress came by to take our orders--to start our meals, I had a caesar salad and Tom had the New England chowder. I went with "Red's Smokin Ribs"--1/2 rack with french fries and coleslaw. Tom ordered the frenched pork chop topped with frizzled onions, with mashed potatoes and veg medley. My ribs were good, nice and tender, with the 1/2 rack size being more than enough for me! Tom's pork chop may have been a bit overcooked, but was still tasty, quite large in size also. The veg medley, however, left something to be desired, as he didn't get much of anything and it seemed as if it was quickly tossed in oil and a few pieces were put on the plate.

We knew we were getting close to our deadline, so we ordered a piece of carrot cake to go. The best part of carrot cake for me is the cream cheese frosting and unfortunately there was the tiniest dollop right on the center of this circular piece of cake--not enough to cover any of the cake, or even share! The cake also had way too many walnuts in it, which was weird.

The most off-putting part of the dinner was the service. Our waitress was nice, but she forgot about us for long spans of time, leaving the hostess to do a lot of her work (refilling glasses, clearing plates, even wrapping my leftovers). Maybe they were short-staffed, I'm not sure--all I know is that she didn't seem to be able to handle her tables. With this occurring, we got out a bit later than the 630 deadline, but there was no one else waiting for a table when we left so I guess it all worked out in the end.

1/22/11-Cuckoo's Nest, Old Saybrook, CT

Stopped here for lunch with Jill, Leigh and their mom on our way to do some outlet shopping. I was the only one who'd never been here before out of the group. To start, we were given a basket of chips and a bowl of the house salsa--really good salsa! For lunch, I had a grilled chicken quesadilla, which was very filling. It came with a good sized cup of sour cream, but it had green onions or something mixed into it, which I felt was unnecessary. The other 3 ladies started out with the soup of the day--artichoke--which had mixed reviews. Jill had the Santa Fe steak roll up, which she enjoyed, Leigh also had a grilled chicken quesadilla and Jill's mom had a dish off the mexican ala carte menu. Prices were reasonable and we all left full. I was kinda disappointed with the lunch menu in comparison with the dinner menu, so I'd like to come back maybe for dinner sometime to make a more informed judgment decision on this quirky shoreline joint.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

1/15/11-Louis' Lunch, New Haven, CT

Louis' Lunch is just one of those places that, if you live in CT, you have to go to at some point--it is the birthplace of the hamburger! I was here quite a few years ago when the Palace Theatre in New Haven was still open and me and my fellow stagehands were working backstage for a show all day--when we finally got a break, this is where we went. It was much less busy then--thanks to the Travel Channel, Louis' is on many people's radars now--good for their business, not good for a quick lunch.

Tom and I finally stopped in today, at the peak of the lunch crowd. Plan on waiting--we waited nearly 45 minutes for our burgers. Also, as you've seen from pictures, the place is tiny so plan on standing and waiting. When our name was finally called, we headed to the truck to eat more comfortably. The burgers are handmade, ground fresh everyday, served on toasted white bread with your choice of these three toppings--tomato, onion and cheese (canned and spreadable cheese, mind you)--that's it. Don't bother asking for anything else, especially ketchup, because you will not get it. The burgers are cooked in vertical ovens dating back to the beginning of this restaurant--1898. All burgers are cooked medium-rare unless you specify well-done (which I don't recommend)--I can attest to this because out of the burgers we got, 2 were regular and one was well-done (possibly a mixup with another customer's order). The regulars are impossibly juicy and tasty, with the juice soaking into the toast, the taste of the freshly ground meat shining through in each bite; the well-done burger had a nice charred taste but lacked the flavor of the regulars. The simplicity of the burger combined with the history and tried-and-true nature of this place gives way to an excellent lunch experience. Grab a locally produced Foxon Park soda, chips or the house-made potato salad to round out your lunch and you'll leave a happy customer.

Monday, January 10, 2011

1/9/11-Anthony Jack's, Southington, CT

Out to dinner this evening with Tom's cousin Alicia and her husband Mike--both of which love good food and new dining experiences as much as we do! Known for their wood-fired steaks and seafood, this is a popular dining establishment in the ever-growing town of Southington--it has a classy, dimly-lit interior, a very chic feel. We thought ahead and made reservations and were promptly seated upon arrival.

Shortly after sitting down, drinks were brought along with fresh rolls right out of the oven. Next was the salad course--Caesar for all of us. Then came the entrees--Alicia had a pasta dish that she frequently enjoys when she gets lunch in town--rigatoni with mushrooms in a cream sauce. Mike had filet oscar, cooked to his liking with the house vegetables and a side of mashed potatoes which he enjoyed. Tom had the prime rib with rice and house vegetables--Tom found his prime rib to be a bit on the thinner side than is typical and also a bit overcooked for his liking. I had the NY strip steak with asparagus and a side of mashed potatoes--the steak was charred nicely and seasoned, although mine was also cooked a bit more than I would have liked (medium-well instead of medium).

In all, we left happy and satisfied. Stay tuned for this foursome's next adventure in March!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

1/8/11-Nardelli's, Waterbury, CT

With nothing special planned for this wintry Saturday afternoon, Tom and I decided to take a drive out to the Plank Rd. location of the local Nardelli's Grinder Shoppe chain. I've always wanted to try their deli creations, especially because they are continually ranked #1 in the CT Magazine polls.

First off, the whole sandwiches are HUGE. I don't know if they make their own bread or have it sent in, but it is soft and delicious. I ordered an italian combo (pruzitini, capicola, salami, provolone) and loved every bit of it. Tom ordered the Buffalo Chicken (Bleu Cheese, L & T, Cheese, Classic Mix (diced veggies) & Hot Sauce, Olives)--the wide bread made for an excellent surface to hold the bleu cheese, therefore causing much less of a mess than usually happens when Tom orders a sandwich like this. We both grabbed chips and drinks to round out our lunch and tried like hell to finish the sandwiches but a whole really is too much--a half will definitely suffice. Our sandwiches were well-made, tasty and filling and the staff was friendly and fast--we can see why this place is loved by so many.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

1/4/11-Katz's Deli, Woodbridge, CT

Working out on the road today, finally got a chance to stop for a late lunch and was right around the corner from this deli with a famous name, so my partner and I stopped in. The selection is huge--lots of great creations to choose from, it was hard to decide! I chose the fresh turkey and brie wrap with romaine, craisins, candied walnuts with a raspberry mayo--the wrap was a great size, nicely made with a good taste combination but I wish the brie was melted instead of in chunks. Lunch was also accompanied by a pickle slice, nice touch. The thing that grabbed my and my partner's attention was the price--sticker shock! Don't get me wrong, the wrap was fresh, inventive and delicious but damn, really? Ohh well, still worth a try if you're in the area and have a couple extra bucks in your pocket.