Sunday, December 2, 2012

11/30/12-Matthew's Restaurant, Unionville, CT

A lovely dining experience!

Tom and I decided on dinner here before taking in a theatre performance. Finding the restaurant is tricky since it is in an odd location, but follow the signs to the parking lot around the back of the building which will bring you to the restaurant's door. They have a patio, which I'm sure is lovely in warm weather but since it was late November, a table indoors for us. The waitstaff was very attentive, filling water glasses and bringing fresh ciabatta style bread to our table. They have a Louisiana-style grill menu for the specials this month, which is fitting since the owner has roots there. Speaking of, Matthew himself was seen making tableside caesar for another party and was consistently involved in the dining room, checking on customers and helping his staff--always nice to see this.

For my dinner, I decided to go with the Louisiana mixed grill--herb crusted lamb chop, andouille sausage with house mustard sauce and a petite filet, cajun blackened with a demi glace, all served with chive whipped potatoes and fresh veggies. Wow. This plate had it all! The filet was my favorite--cooked perfectly to my order of medium rare, with a nice flavor from the blackening. The chive whipped potatoes were a perfect accompaniment, and the carrots and asparagus was also a nice touch. Tom went with the NY strip steak--also cooked perfectly to his liking. The steak was very tender and he had a great portion of sauteed spinach and potatoes.

I wish we weren't full by the end of this delightful meal because I wanted to have those beignets, but maybe another time. Service was professional and very efficient in taking care of the dining room patrons, topping off an excellent experience. Would definitely come back!

11/29/12-Michael's Deli, Cheshire, CT

Had some job training near home today, so got to have lunch with the hubby on my break. We decided to check out Michael's Deli. It had a comfortable, homey feel to it with a few tables for the lunch crowd. There are specials posted on their website everyday, so I already had an idea of what I wanted today. We shared the cheeseburger soup--chock full of ground beef and diced tomatoes that gave it a nice, hearty texture and flavor. I had the chicken caesar asiago wrap--not sure where the asiago was since it appeared to have american cheese, so the wrap was average, nothing special. Tom had the Junior's favorite--grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, pesto mayo, provolone cheese and greens--very enjoyable!

A nice place to stop instead of the usual lunch choices. Business was steady the entire time, which is always a good sign!

Monday, November 26, 2012

11/23/12-Spicy Green Bean, Glastonbury, CT

Tom and I headed out to lunch with Jill and Cory. I've been talking about wanting to go back here since a Yelp event a few months ago, so I'm glad we finally made the time. Even though it was pretty busy when we arrived, we got a nice big table by the window.

Jill and I both got the "Big Bangin Monster Steak and Cheese"--and it was all of that and more. Real steak, cooked up perfectly with a great spice blend that gave it an amazing peppery flavor, caramelized onions, cheddar cheese, mayo, lettuce and tomato on a hefty roll, served with fries (regular for me, sweet potato for Jill). The steak sandwich was delish and was the envy of Tom--but where was the mayo? There could have been more cheese, too--there was a barely there sprinkling of cheddar melted atop the steak. These two things didn't stop me from enjoying this sandwich. I want another one right now, just thinking about it.

Cory and Tom had burgers--Cory's all-American burger must have been good, since it was inhaled. Tom went with the Chimi burger, which had the house chimichurri sauce on it--but where was the sauce?? A very, very light coating of chimi sauce was found upon opening up the burger, but it really couldn't be tasted because there definitely wasn't enough of it. Tom also ordered a roast beef sandwich to go, and he had the same problem again--he ordered it with a garlic mayo and it was barely there. It seemed that maybe the kitchen just does a small squirt in the middle of the burger/sandwich and doesn't layer it out to the sides of the meat and bread--we all love creative condiments, so let them shine! Next time I will be sure to order an additional side of the sauce to meet my particular taste.

Oh and the fries were incredibly good! I don't know how they make or season them, but they are damn tasty and addicting! The sweet potato ones were ok, nothing special, especially in comparison to the regular fries.

Service was friendly (and even hooked us up with cookies because of the Yelp check-in!) and we were all stuffed by the end of lunch. We will definitely return!

11/13/12-Saybrook Fish House, Rocky Hill, CT

Tom and I headed to Saybrook Fish House for dinner this evening and from the minute you walk in the door, you can tell this place has been around for quite some time. This place definitely has a worn-in feel to it with a steady stream of regular neighborhood customers--if my grandfather was alive, he would come here. Even though we were probably the youngest couple in there, we didn't feel uncomfortable. We were brought a large bread basket, with a few different varieties to choose from (even those cellophane-wrapped breadsticks that no one has seen since the early 90's). Then a family-style salad was brought to the table. I am a bit of a purist when it comes to my salad, so I didn't care for the large piles of sliced veggies, but this did make it easier to pick off the ones you didn't like. For an appetizer, we had Rhode Island style calamari--nice and spicy, just the way we like it and the calamari was cooked perfectly.

For entrees, I had the special swordfish--blackened, served with asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes. No complaints for my dish! The fish was cut thick and had a nice, blackened taste to it and the potatoes were nice and garlicky. Tom had a special Louisiana style pasta dish, with shrimp, chicken, clams, mussels in a spicy red sauce--very filling dish that yielded leftovers for the next day.

We were stuffed by this point, so dessert wasn't an option. However, they give you a free fruit bowl and they offer to wrap it so you can bring it home. This was impressive, with 2 large strawberries, melon slices, pineapple, canteloupe, an orange and an apple.

You definitely get a lot of food here and we had a good experience--however, I still felt like it was overpriced. It would have felt far too pricey for us had we not had a groupon, so I don't anticipate returning anytime soon. If you are looking for a place to dine with the grandparents, this is it!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

11/8/12-Burton's Grill, South Windsor, CT

Tom and I were in the area on business and was looking for a place to get a nice lunch. We decided to try out Burton's in Evergreen Walk, a definite power suit kind of place. We were brought some warm rolls and our beverages and we decided to start with the Philly spring rolls--really interesting take on a philly cheesesteak, I loved the gooey, melty cheese coating the thinly sliced steak inside the roll--the spicy ketchup dipping sauce did nothing for me, but Tom enjoyed it!

For my lunch, I went with the California chicken sandwich--bronzed chicken breast, cure 81 ham, chipotle mayonnaise, avocado cream and pepper jack cheese on griddled ciabatta, hand cut french fries--the concept was a good idea but I felt that the avocado cream and the chipotle mayo pretty much canceled each other out. Tom had the Mediterranean chicken--pan seared chicken breast topped with sun-dried tomatoes,
goat cheese and provolone, served over spinach risotto, finished with a delicate lemon butter sauce--the risotto was nicely done and a good accompaniment to the chicken.

Service was prompt and efficient, always a plus at lunchtime. It was a bit pricey for lunch but we left satisfied with our choice.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

11/3/12-McLadden's Irish Publick House, West Hartford, CT

Tom and I headed out for the night in one of my favorite towns to dine in--West Hartford--and decided to try something a bit different. McLadden's was hopping when we got there, with a large crowd of people in the bar area and quite a few more waiting for tables. We were seated after about a 20 minute wait. I like the feel of this place--dark, wooden seating area with the signature Guinness harp towards the back of the room, beer taps mounted onto shelves along the walls and a stage area for live bands. I've never been to Ireland, but this is what I hope a traditional Irish bar looks like.

To start, we shared a bowl of the French Onion soup. Our waitress told us that so many bowls of that soup had been ordered tonight alone. Maybe it was the chill in the air that got people craving some warmth in their souls or patrons just know how good this soup is, either way, it was a great choice. The onions were cooked perfectly and just melted as they hit your tongue. The Gruyere and provolone topping a crostini gave the soup that bite that hits you in the back of your mouth, while the beefy broth melded all the flavors together.

For entrees, Tom went with the corned beef and cabbage. The portion size was excellent and adding some mustard to the mix really made the dish for him. I am not a big fan of corned beef myself (contrary to my red hair and fair complexion, I am not Irish in the least) but the few bites I stole were pretty good. I decided on Bangers and Mash for myself--the Irish sausages had that distinct flavor that I expected, but it was the three onion gravy that really ramped up the flavor in this dish. The potatoes were fluffy and plentiful and also benefited from the gravy.

We were quite full by the end of this evening and we overall had a good experience. I would definitely come back--maybe next time to hang out at the bar and enjoy my own crock of french onion soup!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

10/13/12-Sandpiper Restaurant, East Haven, CT

Starving after a long day, Tom and I headed out to get dinner. I've been wanting to go out for seafood for a while now (I just don't feel like I got to it enough this summer), so we took a short drive down to Cosey Beach. This restaurant is in a prime location with a bright, clean interior. We waited about 20 minutes before being seated in a booth by the window.

I decided to deviate from my normal choices for dinner and went with the broiled cajun swordfish, served with a a side salad and french fries. The fish may have been a tiny touch overcooked but I could completely overlook that because the overall portion and taste was excellent--Tom agrees, as he stole more than one bite from my plate! Tom went with one of the night's specials--fried shrimp and clamstrips, served over french fries. He said the clam strips were average and comparable to most places and also said that the shrimp may also have been a tiny bit overcooked, but the portion size was nice.

Overall, we had a nice dinner. Service was prompt and the owner/manager could be seen walking around checking on patrons. A perfectly good place to stop in and feed that need for seafood!

10/6/12-Sakura Garden, Glastonbury, CT

Tom and I came here for my birthday dinner. When we arrived, we opted to go with regular seating versus hibachi tables and was brought to a lovely, modern dining room. You could watch the sushi chefs at work nearby, which was neat.

For appetizer, we got the beef negimaki, which looked like sushi! Thin beef strips that were rolled around a bunch of scallions and coated in teryaki sauce--really interesting, nicely plated and pretty tasty! Tom was excited to order sushi, so he got an eel roll and a shrimp tempura roll--he enjoyed both and voiced that he could definitely eat another roll. Instead I let him finish my entree, which was Yaki Soba. My noodles were ok, but not very exciting. I felt that they lacked in flavor and I've definitely had better.

We opted to skip dessert, as I had some awesome cupcakes waiting for us at home. We had an overall OK experience and if we came here again, we'd go for the hibachi.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

10/5/12-Namaste India, Southington, CT

Growing up in this neck of the woods, I sometimes feel like I've eaten at every place in town. Maybe, maybe not, but I sometimes get the sense that my options are limited and my family and friends choose to eat at the same joints over and over. Consistency is comfortable but I am always on the hunt for something new. We've been meaning to get to this place sooner, so when plans deemed that Tom and I would both be in Southington for dinner, there was no better time to give this place a shot. 

We went to dinner around 530pm and there was only one other table filled in the restaurant. The restaurant was tastefully adorned with culturally appropriate decorations and was a comfortable atmosphere. We were quickly seated, glasses filled and papadum and its accompaniments were brought over. For appetizer we tried the Jhinga Manchurian--crispy shrimp in hot cilantro garlic sauce. I can't say that I got the cilantro flavor--the sauce was more reminiscent of a bbq type sauce and although it was mild to our tastebuds, it was still very good. 

For dinners, I went with Chicken Curry and Tom had the Lamb Saag. My curry was very good, nice and flavorful--next time, I will definitely kick the heat up from mild. The chicken was nicely cooked and the portion size was great, leaving me with leftovers. The lamb saag was not exactly as we might have pictured it--the spinach was pureed and coated the lamb chunks. The flavor was surprisingly good and the lamb was a good match, with the Indian spice blend shining though. A large bowl of Basmati rice was also placed on the table for us to share and we also got a side of garlic naan, which of course, was excellent. 

Overall, we had a very nice dinner. It is nice to finally see an Indian restaurant in town and it seemed that the citizens of Southington appreciate it too from the steady stream of phone calls and takeout orders during our dinner. We would definitely visit again!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

9/22/12-Burger Baby, Hartford, CT

Tom and I took a drive up to Hartford to try one of the newer burger places to see how it held up to our favorites. Easy parking right next door is nice so you don't have to walk too far. We got there on the early side of things, expecting it to be busy on a Saturday night. Shockingly, this place was pretty dead--never a good sign. A lone waitress in the dining room yelled over that she'd be with us in a minute--what, no hostess?  Odd, but okay. She seated us quickly, then came back a few minutes later to get our drink order.

The one thing I have been looking forward to in coming here were the duckfat fries. We haven't had duckfat fries since being in Portland, Maine and falling in love with them at the restaurant Duckfat. So, I'm sure the disappointment on my face was quite evident when our waitress said they were out of them. On a Saturday night? Sigh. She did try to push the truffle fries, but I stuck with the regular to go along with the Burger Baby Deluxe--american cheese, house made pickles, country fried bacon and a housemade sauce. I ordered my burger medium--it was bordering medium-well/well done when it arrived on my plate, making the burger almost dry. The bun was nice and sufficient for the size of my burger and I was a big fan of the country fried bacon, never having that before but unfortunately, there was very little of the housemade sauce (which looked similar to the sauce on a big mac). The fries were fresh cut but heavy on the oil, leaving them soggy.

Tom had the Wagyu burger and the truffle fries. He liked the taste of his burger, however, his was overcooked from his order of medium-rare. The black truffle aioli had a prominent taste and was a different flavor. The truffle fries were soggy as well (maybe this is more expected since they have the truffle oil coating them?)

As we were finishing our meals, a chef had wandered out from the back to wave to a friend. This friend expressed her disappointment in there not being duckfat fries that night; he replied that the machine was actually clogged/broken and they had just fixed it, so they could now serve the duckfat fries. Tom and I were surprised to hear that--not sure why our waitress just didn't tell us that in the first place, instead of saying they didn't have them.

Overall, not impressed at all. We felt that other burger places in the area offer much more in the areas of creativity, quality and taste--not to mention, value. The burgers here are a bit overpriced. Service was friendly but we were kind of off put by the white lie, and I felt bad that she was handling a lot of tables by herself. This place had potential but falls way short. With the stiff competition of great burger joints in the area (West Hartford, Glastonbury, Manchester), I'd say we're not returning.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

9/14/12-Salute, Hartford, CT

I realize I was just here. I very rarely make a return visit so quickly to a restaurant that I like but I couldn't wait! After a great first experience, I had high expectations for my second visit. This time, I went with Kim and Jen--Kim actually knows one of the owners, so she was very excited to hear that I had a great first visit just a few weeks ago.  I made reservations, which was a must on a busy Friday night. We were seated outside by one of the owners and he continually checked on us throughout the meal to make sure we weren't too chilly--he even offered to bring us chef's coats if we did get cold!

With lots to catch up on, we ordered a wine bottle special and the garlic cheese bread to get the evening started. The garlic cheese bread is easily one of my favorite things on the planet--hot, gooey but not overpowering garlic flavor, just perfect. On to our entrees! Jen had the Diver scallops over shrimp fried rice and soy butter--the rice had great flavor to it and the scallops were a good size and nicely seared. Kim had the Grilled salmon with a side of potato lasagna and sauteed spinach--I grabbed a bite of the potato lasagna, which was very tasty (and I am not typically a fan of scalloped potatoes!). I had the Rose Pasta, which was sweet sausage, mushrooms and spinach in a tomato cream sauce served with four cheese tortellini--so creamy and heavenly, there was no way I was finishing this dish! The only thing to note is there was barely any spinach in the dish, otherwise, it was delicious. Tom had my leftovers as soon as I got home and he licked the container he thought it was so good!

To top off our experience, we had the chocolate lava cake for dessert--I am glad we all had our own because no one wanted to share once we had that chocolaty first bite! The three of us had a great night and agreed that this is great place to go on a date night or a girl's night; needless to say, plans are in the works for a return visit. What really sets this experience apart from other recent dining experiences is the service--our table was visited by all three owners of the restaurant. Although Kim may have known one of the owners, we were treated with the same courtesy and attentiveness as any other table--this care and passion was evident as you could see the different managers talking to other tables, ensuring a great evening. It is so nice to see a management staff that really cares about the customer and giving them a great dining experience.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

9/7/12-Colony Grill, Avon, CT

Out with Jill & Cory tonight to try this pizza joint that has made its way north from Stamford. I have been to the original Stamford location and I love it. This new incarnation, however, it completely different. The interior is spacious, clean and modern, versus the wooden, worn-down Irish feel that Stamford has. I was absolutely delighted that while we were waiting for our booth to be ready, the owner came over to greet us and tell us about the restaurant, specials and what to expect. He also highlighted the additional menu options that Stamford does not have, such as buffalo wings.

When we were seated, we waited a few minutes for a server to come over. A girl came over, only to find out that we weren't her table and she told us how the new hostess was "running them ragged", but graciously took our drink order and offered to find our server--very nice of her. Our actual server came over, confirmed the drink order and took our food order. We decided to start with the chili covered nachos--nice flavor on the chili, decent serving size. I let everyone know that the pizzas were one size and we should plan to get a few since they are thin crust. We went with: sausage and hot oil; bacon; meatball. Of  course, the sausage/hot oil is and was my favorite, with that signature oil giving the pizza a little bit of a kick. The bacon and meatball were also good, no complaints here.

Another thing to note--after noticing that we were emptying our glasses faster than she could refill them, our server brought us pitchers--really nice touch, appreciated by all of us.

Overall, the four of us had a nice evening and although Colony can't replace my love for New Haven pizza, it is a decent replacement when in the Stamford or Avon area!

Friday, August 31, 2012

8/26/12-The Cookhouse, New Milford, CT

Tom and I were out in this neck of the woods for a wedding and before heading home the next day, we decided to stop here for lunch. This really has been the summer of BBQ joints for us and as this summer season comes to a close, this was a great way to top it off. This place is wooden and rustic feeling, with a slight smell of the smokers in the air.

Thanks to Jason M.'s review, I knew exactly what I was going to order--the Fat Tommy Flatboy--pulled chicken, pulled pork, pepperjack cheese, caramelized onions and "comeback sauce", all on a flatbread that reminded me of a tougher cousin of a pancake. The sandwich was amazing and every item worked well together. I also had the sweet potato fries on the side, nice and crispy. Tom went with the beef brisket platter--very nice portion size and the brisket had a great flavor with a perfect smoke ring on the meat. His dish came with honey and brown sugar glazed carrots and french fries. The bbq sauce on the table was also pretty tasty and accompanied the meat nicely.

Overall, an excellent experience--I can see why this place is consistently rated best BBQ in the state. It is in a nice area, with a lovely scenic drive in the Rt 7/Rt. 67 area--you won't regret the trip!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

8/23/12-Salute, Hartford, CT

Stopped by here for a bite before the Yelp Helps event and had a good, solid experience. The owner makes you feel like family the minute you step in the door, as if you had been there a million times. He checked to see if we parked at the garage next door or if we walked because they validate parking at 50%! 

We were quickly seated and water glasses filled. We tried the "almost-famous" garlic cheese bread--nice and crusty on the outside, draped with chopped garlic and cheesy goodness--definitely worth trying. 

For meals, Tom went with the Pasta a la Vodka--the feta cheese gave it a distinct, salty taste but it wasn't overpowering. The sauce had a nice consistency and the dish was nicely presented. I had the meatball salad--perfection! Two huge meatballs adorned my plate of salad that was lightly dressed with balsamic dressing. It is funny how tomato sauce covered meatballs work with salad--the sauce gives a nice balance to the natural acidity of the balsamic dressing. I love the chunks of fresh mozz and the parmesan shaved tableside for you over the salad. 

At that point, we were full but not overly stuffed, as we still had some "light bites" to look forward to at the event. To round out our experience, our waiter gave us a bag of housemade biscotti to-go and it was delicious later on the next day. I should also mention how awesome the staff is, chasing me up the street when I left my phone at the table--so thankful they caught me! 

Well worth the visit if you're in downtown Hartford. The ambiance is casual with a romantic, classy vibe and our overall experience was great!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

8/17/12-Apricot's, Farmington, CT

For all they hype about Apricot's, the building looks so rundown from the road, you would think you were dining at a shack! Turn into the parking lot and go up the stairs inside, and it is totally different. We were greeted by the host, who explained that he could seat us inside or outside on the deck and if we wanted to eat under the tent by the river, we could walk down there and see if a table was available. We chose the deck, as it still had the view, but was private for us since no one else was out there. They really have a great location with the river running behind the place and this really adds to the experience.

Warm bread and butter was brought to us--both kinds of bread were delicious. The summer lunch menu was varied and made it hard to choose, but the turkey burger really got my attention, so I went with that. This was probably one of the better turkey burgers I've ever had--it was huge, juicy and really had great flavor to it. Definitely handmade, the burger was served on a portugese muffin with smoked gouda, caramelized onions and a side of scallion mayo--what an amazing combo, all components really worked well and complimented each other! I also got sweet potato fries, which were crispy and perfectly done. The burger was so huge I couldn't finish it! Tom also went with a burger, the Grilled bacon and bleu burger, his usual choice in a burger, with a side caesar salad. He was disappointed in the side salad, as it didn't have shaved parmesan or croutons as caesar typically has. His burger was also huge and impossible to finish, but he found his burger to be a bit on the dry side--he added some of the scallion mayo to his burger too since we both were pleasantly surprised by it.

With how heavy those burgers were, we both wish we made different lunch choices, but that just means we'll have to come back another time. A lovely al fresco summer lunch!

8/15/12-K.T.Baxter's, Wallingford, CT

We've been here once before and decided to give it another go. It was relatively dead for lunch on a Wednesday afternoon, with only a few tables and seats at the bar filled. One waitress seemed to be doing everything for the room and she seemed a bit overwhelmed and busy, but she took care of us in a timely fashion. We both ordered specials--Tom had the Cajun burger, while I had the soup of the day and a grilled turkey, cheddar and bacon. Tom felt his burger was probably a premade, frozen, average burger--nothing exciting. My sandwich was dry and crusty and definitely could have used some mayo or other sauce to make it easier to swallow. The soup was a sausage minestrone--not bad. Both of our meals came with fries (the uniform kind) and a pickle.

Overall, nothing exciting and not much of a reason for us to come back, especially when there are so many other choices nearby.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

8/4/12-Willimantic Brewing Company, Willimantic, CT

After hearing about this restaurant/brewery for some time now, we finally got out this way to stop in. What a beautiful space! I would never have thought a restaurant would work so well in an old post office, but they really pull it off while keeping a lot of the old charms.

Service was very friendly and helpful. I am not a beer person, but the waitress brought over two samples for me to try and I ended up going with their Cream Ale--smooth and light. Tom went with the Workingman's Wheat, and he enjoyed that.

On to the food! The nachos should really come with a disclaimer, or at the very least, a suggestion that you should have 4 people or so with you. The plate was absolutely monstrous!  We made this suggestion to our waitress--and then she told us that a man had come in last week and ate the whole thing by himself (gross, believe me).

I didn't want to even think about more food when our sandwiches arrived. I had the Beer Tap Beef Sandwich (thin sliced steak, swiss and balsamic-beer glazed onion)--I felt that the sandwich was a bit on the dry side and it could have used either a sauce or au jus on the side. Tom had the Brooklyn Buffalo Chicken Wrap--the wrap was so messy, with the sauce dribbling out the bottom.. It would have been better if the chicken was breaded so the hot sauce could stick to it. Both sandwiches came with huge steak fries in your choice of flavors.

Overall, decent bar food and house brewed beer. I am sure this is the hot spot to be on the weekend or at happy hour and can see why it is so popular!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

7/27/12-Liquid Lunch, Milford, CT

Hubby and I headed out for lunch today and I am glad we came here. Liquid Lunch has 5-8 soup choices everyday, so you're bound to find something you like. Tom and I both had the soup and half sandwich combo, which was perfectly portioned. Tom went with the clam chowder (as they were out of the french onion by 1pm) and the half Portland (turkey, apple coleslaw and sharp cheddar). I have never really cared for clam chowder, but this one wasn't bad at all and the sandwich had a nice tang to it. I went with the cheeseburger soup (as they were out of the buffalo chicken) and the half Martha's Vineyard (grilled chicken, cranberry sauce, bbq sauce, pepperjack cheese and caramelized onions)--sandwich was messy but super tasty and the soup was decent--pieces of meat were tiny and the broth was very oily, however the flavor was nice.

Overall, a nice, quick lunch with lots of options, plenty of seating and friendly staff. Worth a stop!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

7/20/12-Black Eyed Sally's, Hartford, CT

What a cool place to hang out.

I've been here on a few occasions, but apparently Tom has never been. So, on a rainy Friday in Hartford we stopped in to get some Southern food. The ambiance is very cool, with paintings of blues artists on the walls and the sound checks of a musician who is going to hit the stage later in the evening.

The menu has every Southern dish you might be craving (for us, that's pretty much everything!). We decided to start with fried okra and pickle chips--hot, lightly fried with a "Tennessee tartar" sauce for dipping--this disappeared fast! I never had either of these things fried before, but I would definitely have them again. For entrees, Tom had BBQ Beef Brisket platter, which came with coleslaw, red beans and rice and he ordered an additional side of garlicky green beans. The brisket came atop texas white toast and was a great portion. It wasn't fall-apart tender, but it wasn't tough either and had a nice smoky flavor. I went with the Southern Fried Chicken, which came with collard greens and mac n cheese. The chicken was out of sight--four pieces fried to perfection, nice and juicy on the inside yet crispy and a nice hint of spice on the outside. The mac and cheese was incredibly creamy and the collard were good (but not as good as the ones we make!)

We were too stuffed to even consider dessert, but we had a great meal! Can't wait to go back!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

7/19/12-Bricco Trattoria, Glastonbury, CT

Out to dinner tonight with a lovely friend from school, Kim. I was a fan of the restaurant that formerly occupied this space (Sauce) and hoped that this would be just as nice--and it is. Classy, upscale interior, friendly staff and great food. I was able to make a reservation via OpenTable (which I love) and was seated immediately upon arrival.

Kim had a draft beer to start, while I went with the bellini--perfectly balanced, not too sweet. Bread came to the table--soft and warm, seasoned, with a bowl of olives in olive oil. On to our entrees--Kim had the fresh potato gnocchi, which she enjoyed while I had the fresh cavatelli napolitano with braised pork sugo--the pasta was perfectly done, served with a nice amount of the braised pork, which was super tender and really added to the overall flavor of the dish.

To finish our evening, we went with the warm Valhrona chocolate cake. I was excited to try this, since Valhrona is my current favorite chocolate thanks to a chocolate tasting I did a few months ago. This was rich and chocolaty, not at all like the traditional cake I thought it would be and would definitely satiate any need for chocolate.

Overall, a lovely evening out. Would definitely return!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

7/13/12-Mike's Deli, Old Saybrook, CT

Tom and I grabbed some lunch before hitting the sand after his cousin recommended this place. Great deli!

This place is tiny, with no real semblance of order, but it all seemed to work out in the end. Tom had a salami  grinder with all his favorite toppings, while I went with the house smoked turkey with my favorite toppings. There are a ton of choices for sandwiches, along with daily specials, soups and sides. The sandwich is huge, with enough stuff on the bread that it is bursting out the sides. The bread is nice and soft, but I wish it was a bit heartier and larger to better hold the contents of the sandwich. Otherwise, this stop made for a nice lunch on the sand--we'll definitely be back on our way to the beach in the future!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

7/6/12-Pasta Cosi, Branford, CT

Tom and I headed out for dinner at Pasta Cosi, located in the cute downtown green area of Branford--such a nice quiet area compared to Rt.1! We had reservations, so we were seated right away and water glasses filled. The ambiance is nice for a date night and with only a handful of tables, it was cozy without being cramped.

I started with a glass of the house Pinot Grigio and Tom had a beer and a bread basket was brought over. I love good Italian bread, but this stuff was so hard, it surpassed the limits of the word "crusty". This was one breadbasket we definitely did not want refills on.

Hoping that things would turn around, our appetizer arrived--fried mozzarella. The mozz was definitely fresh (in the two odd-shaped pieces we got), but plating and portions were way off-balance. We asked for both of the sauces they had available on the menu for this item--lemon caper raddichio and marinara. The lemon caper came in a large ramekin, taking over half of the dish, with the marinara taking up another quarter, leaving the two mozz pieces in the rest of the plate. Plating issue aside, the flavor of the sauces worked nicely with the mozz and was enjoyable.

For my entree, I had the Amatriciana--pasta with a sauce of diced onion, pancetta, bacon, garlic, wine and red pepper, with sliced sausage on top. I loved the slightly smoky flavor to the sauce but I wish the pieces of pancetta and bacon were more plentiful and visible; otherwise, I enjoyed this dish and the housemade pasta. Tom went with his go-to pasta dish--clams in white sauce. He noted how filling the dish was, related to the housemade pasta but he also commented that the clams were a bit overdone. Overall, it was a nice meal but it didn't stand out enough for us to become one of our go-to Italian joints, or even for us to likely return to.

7/5/12-Fiore, Middletown, CT

Met Jen for lunch today before she starts her new job! We met halfway in Middletown and neither of us has been to Fiore, so we gave their lunch menu a shot. We were immediately seated upon entering in the small dining room, which definitely could use some updating and redecorating. Water glasses were filled and garlic knots were brought over--holy garlic! They were so good and garlicky, it was a good thing I wasn't on a first date! The menu consisted of a large selection of traditional Italian dishes and all are very reasonably priced. Jen went with the shrimp scampi--nice portion of pasta, done to al dente, with large, perfectly cooked shrimp (only one shrimp wasn't properly deveined). I had the veal francaise, which came with 2 pieces of veal, served with a bright lemon-butter-caper sauce and broccoli on the side--veal was good, not overdone and a great portion for lunch. Lunch also came with house salads, which was a nice addition.

In all, we both had a lovely meal and a great time catching up, as always. Would definitely return for lunch again!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

6/30/12-Skipper's Seafood Restaurant, Niantic, CT

Tom and I perused the Niantic Arts Festival this morning and decided to grab some lunch on the way out. We were definitely thinking seafood, just not sure where, when Tom spotted this joint as we drove by. We quickly turned around and headed in.

We placed our orders at the counter, then headed back outside and grabbed a table under the awning so we could enjoy the view of the Niantic bay. Ten or so minutes later, our order was ready. I got a lobster roll (hot, of course) with drawn butter and a side of potato chips and coleslaw. I am so happy to report that this lobster roll was one of the best I've had--chock full of good sized lobster chunks, on a buttered and toasted New England style hot dog bun, I was a happy camper after having this! Tom had the clam strips dinner, which came with fries and coleslaw--he commented that the clam strips were among the best he's had, not too oily or heavy tasting, but light and fresh; I tried them and enjoyed them as well. The french fries were nice and crispy and Tom enjoyed the coleslaw, noting that the cabbage was perfectly done for his taste and the flavor was right on. We would definitely come back next time we're in the area!

6/28/12-Perk On Main, Durham, CT

Tom and I met up with Emily today and brought her to one of our favorite brunch spots. It was beautiful outside so the three of us grabbed a table on the deck so we could enjoy the view.

Tom broke out of his usual (Swiss Army Ciabatta) and had the Nathan Hale crepe, filled with chicken, tomato, basil, mozz and a hint of balsamic vinaigrette--he really enjoyed this and has decided he'll order crepes more often! He shared my crepes, as always--I ordered the Maple Avenue and the Rajun Cajun. The cajun is definitely a new favorite for me, chock full of chicken, tomatoes, cheese and ranch. Emily had the Maple Avenue as well, along with the Chicken Ranch--she commented on the crepe dough itself had a great flavor, along with creative and delicious fillings. I think we have another fan! All of our plates came with half a dill pickle and a slice of cantaloupe, rounding out a lovely brunch for all of us.

Both Tom and I enjoy the relaxed atmosphere here and the service is friendly and well-timed. Another thing I love about this place is that they get what they can locally and/or organically and they are very eco-friendly. All scraps are composted, everything that can be recycled is and they have filtered tap water free to the patrons. Definitely worth a stop if you are in the area looking for a nice, comfortable breakfast or lunch spot!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

6/22/12-J. Gilberts, Glastonbury, CT

After three, long years in school, today I accomplished my goal--I passed the NCLEX and now am officially an RN! A celebration dinner was indeed necessary and this place was on my short-list of choices to have that special dinner at. Very rarely do Tom and I get to go all out, but that is what we in fact did here tonight and it was truly one of the best dining experiences we've had yet.

We got caught in some awful traffic on the way to J. Gilberts and thankfully when I called to let them know and to see if they could hold our table, the hostess was kind and understanding, assuring us that we would still have our table. Upon arrival, we were escorted to a small booth and ice water filled our glasses. Our server came over and he was professional, efficient and personable. After taking our drink orders (wine for me, beer for Tom), warm sourdough bread was brought to the table with whipped butter and a "pastrami" butter--the bread was perfectly crusty on the outside and soft on the inside.

Our first course arrived shortly thereafter--fried calamari with carrots, jalapenos, served with a side of creole remoulade and a sweet and sour sauce--calamari was perfectly done, not rubbery at all, and the sauces complimented the dish very well. Salads came next--caesar for Tom, baby greens for me--nice portions, both nicely presented and not overdressed like can happen at some places.

Now the important part--the entrees. Tom went with the 16oz prime angus KC strip, garlic broccolini and lobster mac and cheese. The steak was cooked perfectly to his liking, was tender and flavorful, the broccolini was firm yet tender with a nice added touch of the garlic pieces and the lobster mac and cheese had nice decent sized chunks of lobster in it (Sheri, they must have heard your note from our last visit!). For my dinner, I chose the 6oz filet mignon with the salt baked potato and grilled asparagus. The filet was also cooked perfectly and tasted great, the potato was huge and was loaded up with all my favorite toppings and the asparagus was fresh had a nice seasoning on it.

As full as we were, we could not celebrate without rounding the night out with dessert. The chocolate velvet cake was our choice and it was perfectly rich and buttery. A stellar evening all around--service and timing were impeccable, food was sumptuous, and the company of my wonderful husband and the reason we were out celebrating made the night that much sweeter. Thank you, Tom, for giving me this night and all your support over the last few years--I could not have done this without you and I love you more than you know.

6/21/12--Rizzuto's Wood-Fired Kitchen, West Hartford, CT

After another spectacular Yelp event, Kirstin and I decided to keep the party going and grab a drink and a bite to eat. Neither of us had been to Rizzuto's and we parked right around the corner from it, so we decided to give it a try. We walked through the revolving doors into a beautiful, classy space--high ceilings, warm colors, wood-burning oven on display and an ambiance that just makes you feel like you're going to have a great experience.

We were seated in a booth, a jug of water was brought to the table, drink orders were taken and a plate of warm bread with a bowl of marinara sauce for dipping was put on the table. We weren't too hungry after having munched on all kinds of goodies at the Yelp event, so we decided to split dishes--Organic baby arugula salad with pears, goat cheese (gorgonzola for Kirstin), toasted pecans and a fig balsamic dressing--the sweetness of the dressing and the creaminess of the goat cheese were an excellent compliment to the peppery arugula. I also loved that since the waitress knew were were sharing the "main" size salad, she had it split into two dishes with our cheese selections of the side for both of us--very accommodating! We then had the fig bbq'ed chicken pizza, with onion, cherry peppers, mozzarella on a whole wheat crust--loved the sweet and spicy contrast, the pizza was very crispy and tasted great.

After all that, we couldn't eat another bite if we tried. However, the waitress came over with free housemade limoncello as a digestif to our meal--it was sweet and went down smooth--what a lovely final touch to our evening! Overall we had a great time, service was excellent and the food was outstanding. Would most definitely return here to try the other items on the menu that caught my eye!

6/20/12-Flaggstead Smokehouse, Farmington, CT

Date night with Rick! Dinner tonight was my choice, so I picked another BBQ place to compare with the last place we went. Flaggstead is a little building on Rt. 4 with a tiny dining area. It is charming and makes you feel at home, with it's worn in look, Texas decor and the smell of BBQ cooking. Seating inside was at a premium tonight, with a large table filled with a big family and only two other tables by the door, we were in a tight spot but we made it work. They do have an outdoor deck but with the temp being near 100 degrees today, inside was the place to be.

Rick and I both went with a two-meat plate. I had the brisket and ribs with my sides being garlic mashed potatoes and corn bread. The brisket was definitely the winner--tender, moist, with a nice smoke layer that had a great taste alone, but was also wonderful with the BBQ sauce on the tables. The ribs to me were on the dry side, making them really tough to eat unfortunately. My sides, however, were fantastic--the mashed potatoes were sooo garlicky, it was a good thing I wasn't going to be making out with anyone anytime soon! The cornbread was a nice big piece, moist and delicious, with a pad of butter on the top, melting down the sides. I also had the house sweet tea--not overly sweet, just perfect if you ask me.

Rick went with the half chicken and ribs, mac and cheese and cornbread. The chicken portion was huge, tender and tasty. We were told upon ordering that the mac and cheese was a new recipe they were trying out for the first time that night--Rick didn't care for it at all, saying he wouldn't order that again.

Overall we had a nice dinner. I would return and try one of their sandwiches--and definitely get some more of their cornbread!

6/19/12-Joey Garlic's, Newington, CT

I haven't been to Joey Garlic's in quite some time, so it was nice to make a return visit with Dan. Admittedly, the last time Tom and I ate here, we weren't thrilled with what we had so I've been wanting to give this local favorite another shot.

When we arrived, even though it was a Tuesday night, the place was packed and people were waiting for tables--wow! Since we were on a time constraint, we sat down at the bar. In looking over the menu, I wanted something on the smaller side--if you didn't know, this place has HUGE portions. I couldn't have anything that required me to take leftovers home, so I was looking at the salads when I came across one called "Meatball Salad". Hmm, sounds weird and kinda gross, but intriguing at the same time. Dan encourages me to get it for just those reasons, so I did. This salad had everything but the kitchen sink in it--lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, red onion, capers, peppers, etc--and three meatballs drenched in marinara sauce on top of it all, with a large hunk of garlic bread on the side. This was entirely too big to finish but I did my best before I threw in the towel (leftover salad that's already been dressed? ick, no thank you.) Dan ordered his fav--the cheesesteak grinder. Sadly, he ruined my amusement and ate the insides out with a fork--it was so huge, surely it would have made a mess if he tried to pick it up and eat it! He also had a coconut milkshake, which of course made me want one, so I got an Oreo milkshake to go--so delish! 

Dan and I had a nice dinner and I am happy to say that I'd be glad to return. Next time I'll plan to bring the leftovers home so Tom can enjoy my dinner too!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

6/17/12-Sirinan's Thai & Japansese, Wallingford, CT

Decided to try a new-ish Thai place in town and were pleasantly surprised! Tom and I ordered all our favorites as a baseline to compare--Crab Rangoon (Tom said it was tasted like it actually had crab in it and was creamy and flavorful); Spicy Calamari (the calamari was a bit rubbery but the dipping sauce had a nice kick to it!); Drunken Noodles (excellent portion size, nice heat without losing flavor) and Pad Thai (light & refreshing). Looking forward to returning and trying something new!

6/13/12-C.O.Jones, New Haven, CT

Tom and I headed out to dinner to try something new. When we arrived, we were told to pick any table and the waitress would be right with us. The girl that had our table was young and peppy, she brought over their signature chips and salsa and she explained that from 5pm-7pm, certain appetizers and drinks were half off--great deal! Tom ordered a Dos Equis draft while I went with the house margarita on the rocks and we placed our dinner order.

At this point early in the evening, things started to not go well for us. Tables that came in way after us were getting their drinks and bottles of water for the table. The appetizer that we chose to order, the chorizo and manchego croquettes, came out before our drinks did! There were two croquettes, split in half on the plate--nice texture, good flavor. We then waited....and waited....and waited....for our entrees to arrive. Tables that arrived after us got up and left. Even the table next to us made a comment about how long we seemed to be waiting for our food! For a small place, on a weekday night, this was both odd and unacceptable to us.

Finally, dinner arrived! Tom had the braised steak burrito--he enjoyed this, said it was very filling. I had ordered 3 different tacos (apparently when you order 3 different kinds, it doesn't come with sides, however, 3 tacos of the same kind does)--roasted duck, spicy carnitas and grilled shrimp--they were all interesting and tasty in their own ways and went down very quickly (they are on the small side).

So we finished our meals and flagged someone down for a container to wrap the rest of Tom's leftovers. Now, usually at this point, the waitress either asks if you want dessert and coffee (if they offer this) or gives you the check. Neither happened. After wondering where she went for quite some time, we finally caught her eye and when she came over, her response was "Oh, are you ready for the check now?" Ummm, duh! By the time we were paid and on our way, we had spent over 2.5 hours here. Don't get me wrong--we love to take our time and enjoy our food when appropriate, but this place just wasn't that type of place. We both agree--we'll never return.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

6/1/12-Robb's Farm & Ice Cream, South Glastonbury, CT

With a little help from my Yelp app, we were in search for great dessert in the area--we found it! Super creamy, homemade ice cream straight from the farm! I got a scoop of their "Goat Tracks"--vanilla with hardened peanut butter ribbons and mini peanut butter cups--just heavenly. Tom went with his usual standby, mint chip. Even though it was a bit chilly as the sun was setting, we sat outside to enjoy the beautiful view from the farm of the hillsides around us. Robb's Farm has an incredible amount of flavors available for such a small operation and the quality really shines through with every lick of your cone. Can't wait to return!

6/1/12-Rooftop 120, Glastonbury, CT

Tom and I headed out for the evening to check out this relatively-new place. When we arrived, we were told that the wait to eat out on the rooftop was 30-45 minutes (we had reservations but apparently the rooftop is first-come first-serve) so we decided to just eat inside. Rooftop 120 is a beautiful space--very chic, modern and classy. We were at a cute little table in an alcove that gave us the feeling that we were all alone. Our waitress came and took our drink order--a Blue Moon for Tom and a Rooftop Sunset martini for me--my drink was delish but $12.75 for ONE martini? Yikes.

On to the food! We started with the Cuban Eggrolls--because who has ever heard of a Cuban Eggroll? We were so glad we went with this one and I almost wish I had ordered two! Pork, ham, swiss all rolled up and deep fried with a creole mustard on the side--how could you go wrong with this? For our entrees, we both decided to get a  burger--Tom with the Rooftop Cheeseburger and me with the Gourmet Turkey Burger. Tom's burger was nothing to write home about--cooked almost well done, it lacked flavor for him; however, the truffle fries we got on the side were pretty good. It also came with a half pickle on the side--we described it as a cross between dill and bread and butter pickles--odd and unexpected but not terrible. My turkey burger wasn't great, either--it was charred black on both sides--that being said, it was still moist inside. My big problem was with the brie--the slices were so thick that the flavor from the brie completely took over the rest of the burger. I could barely taste the turkey burger itself, nevermind the caramelized onions! With such a slamming burger place down on the first floor, I wouldn't get a burger here again.

Service was a bit on the slow side so by the time we got the check, we decided to venture elsewhere for dessert (especially after seeing that ONE slice of red velvet cake was a staggering $12.75). We loved the atmosphere and would like to come back again, but I think our money would be better served sitting at the bar and enjoying the happy hour menu (not to mention that the bartender seemed like she was much more personable than our server)--plus, I'd really like to get those cuban eggrolls again! Definitely worth checking out--I hope they'll improve in time and get their prices in check!

5/20/12-Tschudin Chocolates, Middletown, CT

Took my mom on a chocolate tour here for her Mother's Day gift and although the tour may have been a bit rocky at times, we still ended up learning a lot and enjoying some great chocolate!

Tschudin is a tiny chocolate shop in downtown Middletown with an even tinier kitchen. I wasn't sure how the seven of us on the tour were going to fit back there with the chef and his two assistants, but we managed! The chef showed us the process of creating a piece of his chocolate creations from start to finish--from tempering the chocolate to putting it in the molds to getting the filler to just the right temperature. Chef then had us helping in the kitchen, learning to dip pretzels and frozen mousse bars. We then got a tasting of different chocolates from around the world to get a feel for what we might really like to indulge in. This had to be my favorite part of the tour, as now I have a few names of chocolate brands that are just exquisite! To top off the tour, we were each given a small box and we got to fill it with any of the chocolates available in the case. Tschudin had some very creative options, such as earl grey infused and chipotle spiced.

At this point, three hours had gone by--what a tour! We were all told we could stay as long as we liked and the chef was more than willing to answer any questions we had. Overall, we had a nice afternoon and enjoyed the educational experience. The only off-putting moment we had was how the chef spoke to his assistants, who were culinary students--having worked in the restaurant business, I understand it is part of the culture, but to those who don't (like the members of our tour group) it made for a few uncomfortable looks (the chef at one point did address the way he was speaking to them, clarifying that it was so the students would learn). The two of us left with a whole new respect for chocolatiers--who knew it was so time consuming and intensive? I am looking forward to stopping by in the future with the hubby so he can pick out a few chocolates for himself and so we can enjoy those frozen mousse bars I helped to make!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

5/20/12-The Stone House Restaurant, Guilford, CT

Tom and I decided to have brunch today after I got up from my "nap" this morning--and what a beautiful day for it! The Stone House is in a great location, so we were hoping that the quality of the food was on par with the view.

For starters, I had a French cheese plate with a few sliced apples, crackers and a strawberry, all nicely presented. The plate came with four different types of cheeses, but unfortunately no explanation as to what the selection was. Tom had sliced tomato and mozzarella with drizzled basil oil over the top--his appetizer looked great, he appreciated the shaved parmesan that was atop the dish as well. For our meal, I had the French sausage and brie omelet, which came with potatoes and a small salad--I've never had French sausage, which I would describe as a thick salami almost, but the omelet itself was a nice portion and the brie made it super creamy. Tom went with the marinated skirt steak with scrambled eggs and potatoes--steak portion was small unfortunately but had a nice flavor to it, eggs were good and the potatoes were ok. For dessert, we both went with vanilla ice cream, served in a martini glass--2 small scoops but a nice finish to our meal.

Overall, we had a nice brunch but nothing to rush back down there for--we prefer the laid-back buffet style brunches. The staff was pleasant, but maybe slightly overwhelmed, as there were two private parties going on in the restaurant at the same time along with the brunch crowd. I'd give this place another shot--I could definitely see us coming back down here for a drink and a small bite at the bar, while enjoying the nice weather.

5/19/12-Luna Pizza, West Hartford, CT

Hubby was nice enough to grab takeout and bring it to my workplace so we could have dinner together after he got out of work. He ordered a BBQ chicken pizza and a dozen of the Italian wings. Pizza was ok, not great--I think that the BBQ chicken pizza I make at home is better than this! It would have been nice if the chicken was coated in the BBQ sauce, instead of plain breaded chicken chunks.Wings were good, nice touch with the side of hot sauce and blue cheese. I was glad we had a coupon, otherwise I felt like it was overpriced. I guess we're just spoiled having great New Haven pizza nearby!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

5/15/12-Miya's Sushi, New Haven, CT

Let me preface this review by saying that I do not like sushi--I don't do raw fish, it grosses me out. Sorry to those who love it (and yes, I've tried it--bad results!). Tom enjoys sushi, so I feel bad from time to time when he wants it and the thought turns my stomach. That being said, I knew from reading the menu that there were items at Miya's that I could enjoy!

We came down here around 6pm on a Tuesday night and was instructed to choose a two-top along the wall. Water glasses were filled and small novels....uhh, I mean menus....were placed in front of us. No joke, the menu is 30-something pages long, so it can get a bit overwhelming. As first timers, our server suggested the blue-plate special, where the kitchen makes up ten of the most popular menu items, but this won't work for us, considering I wouldn't eat most of what was brought out. We also had a gift card to use up so we perused the menu for what felt like forever before we made our decisions.

To start, we got the Tokyo Fro--thin potato strips fried up with a special sauce drizzled over the top--so good! Tom got a drink--the Kama Sutra--pureed berries, sake and beer all mixed together, which was surprisingly good! Now onto our sushi choices! "A Roll of a Lifetime" (roll of baked arctic char skin with asparagus)--this was Tom's favorite fish sushi, saying he'd definitely order it again; Ooh La La Mitzvah (tempura arctic char, brie cheese, avocado)--also just Tom's, but he enjoyed this one as well; "Italian Stallion" (fried calamari, new york mascarpone cheese, pistachios and orange marmalade)--what an incredible, surprising combination of flavors, we both enjoyed this one; "Dr. Zhivago's" (squid, caspian  seaweed, avocado, and roasted garlic in a whole grain roll, fried whole and served with a tangy sesame soy)--hands down, our favorite roll of the evening, just amazing; "Chicken Teriyaki Roll" (whole grain teriyaki roll, the contrapuntal ingredients plus sprouted brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet and oats, resulting in a stormy symphony of flavors and textures. animal welfare approved organic connecticut pasteur raised chicken, broccoli, mushroom, pineapple, cranberries, almonds, burdock root and homemade sake teriyaki sauce)--crunchy, delightful and complimented nicely by the sauce, beautiful presentation; "Mishima Sonata" (a roll of catfish, peanut butter, banana, avocado, honey, goat cheese, tempura fried in its entirety in a whole grain roll)--Tom also enjoyed this one, nice sweetness to it.

Overall, the two of us had a very enjoyable evening, with lots of leftovers to take home! Service was very helpful for us first-timers and made us feel at ease and the atmosphere definitely has a college town vibe.  I also enjoyed that the menu focuses on sustainable seafood and ingredients (spend a few minutes reading the menu, you'll learn something!). By the time we were ready to leave, the place had totally filled up, surprising for any place on a Tuesday night. Glad we found a place that is safe for those of us who don't enjoy raw fish but have that twinge of guilt when our significant others do!

5/14/12-La Via Del Gusto, Manchester, CT

I have to thank Karin D. for pointing me in the direction of this place--it is a bit far for me to travel to all the time, but completely worth it if you're in the area.

Met Colleen for lunch at this little place and was so excited to give this place a go. The lovely man behind the counter was both charming and helpful and I trusted his judgement when building my combo sandwich, while Tom opted for the sopressata. We split the sandwiches, as is typical for us, and dived right in. The sopressata and a special italian cheese tasted absolutely amazing, nicely complimented by the light red pepper spread that they make in house; same with my combo, made with sopressata, ham and salami. Both grinders came out nicely warmed on a great bread and were quickly devoured. The sandwiches are a bit on the pricey side, but the top-shelf ingredients and special touches make it totally worth it. Colleen decided on sweets for her lunch, having two chocolate-dipped strawberries and a lobster tail. After Tom and I finished our sandwiches, we definitely couldn't fit dessert too, so we opted to get lobster tails and cannolis to go (the cannolis may not be in the case--that is because they make them FRESH while you are waiting! The lady behind the counter gave us a taste of the cannoli cream before we ordered ours--it is heavenly!) Even though I didn't have room for the lovely desserts, I had room for Italian Ice--strawberry for Colleen, lemon for me--at $1.50 for a small, the price is perfect for such a delicate treat.

I waited a few days to write this review so I could tell you about the cannolis and lobster tails that we brought home--ohhhh my goodness. I am glad I live far, else I would want to stop here way too often for these desserts. Trust me--they taste as amazing as they look!

This place is set back from the road and is easy to pass right by, so keep an eye out for it! There isn't a big sign that says the name, look for Strano's instead. Stop in next time you're in the area, you'll love it--the staff makes you feel right at home!

Monday, May 7, 2012

5/5/12-First and Last Tavern, Middletown, CT

Prime location in downtown Middletown, make sure you bring some quarters for the meters! We decided to come here on this Saturday night to avoid the Cinco de Mayo crowd down the street and we had a nice dinner.

We were seated quickly and the host brought over their signature bread to start--I could just eat this and be happy, the spices on it are amazing. Our waitress wasn't friendly at all--it was early, so she wasn't super busy or anything like that. When she came over to the table, she didn't introduce herself, just mentioned that she'd bring some water and asked what we wanted to order--OK then, no specials or small talk, I guess. Right down to business, we ordered a pizza with meatball and bacon and the First and Last wings to share. The wings came out first--they are described as being tossed in garlic and Italian spices, but the wings have a dry rub on it and it is much much spicier than anticipated! We do enjoy hot and spicy, so we enjoyed the wings. The pizza came out shortly after that--I am glad we went with the meatball, it arrived piping hot and was so tasty (it made for great leftovers cold the next day!). Service was quick and we were out of there in no time. My big complaint is that they packaged the half leftover pizza in a paper bag--they can't spare a pizza box? Not the most convenient way to transport leftover pizza, but it made the trip home nonetheless. Great place to bring the family for standard Italian fare--the pizza is good too, just a bit pricey compared to your local pizza shop.

5/4/12-Crown and Hammer, Collinsville, CT

Out tonight for a little dinner celebration with Jill and Cory. They frequently come out this way and have been here before. This restaurant is located in a beautiful location, very close to the Farmington river trail, Nepaug state forest and reservoir, so it is a perfect place to stop in the area. A very historic section of Canton, this building is very deceiving from the outside--once you get inside, it is a nicely decorated space, successfully marrying old and new, giving it a comfortable feel. They offer call-ahead seating, which we took advantage of, and we were seated right away.

We went with an appetizer to start--Jill chose the JW's Nachos--holy mess on a plate! The chips were buried under a mountain of guacamole, cheese, chili and jalapenos--a very messy dish. Shortly thereafter, warm bread was brought out to share. Then came our entrees--Cory had a salad with grilled chicken, Jill had the fish and chips (nice large pieces of fish battered and fried--it looked good!), Tom had the Bison burger with lettuce and tomato (it is on the pub menu, which you have to ask for when dining in for dinner) and I had the Stuffed Chicken with spinach, VT cheddar cheese and apples with an apple cider reduction, served with mashed potatoes and house veggies. My dish was nicely presented and well-priced, with the cider reduction being the star of the meal.

A very nice meal--the service was pleasant and the food was timely and filling. Tom and I agree that if we were in the area, we'd stop by but we wouldn't go out of our way to get here. Overall, a lovely evening with friends!

5/4/12-Arch Street Tavern, Hartford, CT

Came here for lunch with my clinical group to celebrate the last day of school EVER! I've never been here before but it was relatively easy to find with on and off street free parking (in Hartford? awesome!). Walking in, one of my classmates commented that it smelled like church--I wouldn't know, but it definitely has a worn and broken in feel to it--according to the website, the building was originally the Hartford Brick Carriage Factory, built in 1895, so yeah, it has some years on it. We sat at a big long wooden table in the middle of the restaurant and drinks all around were ordered--the Cabana for me--as we toasted to our final semester coming to an end.

The menu is a limited, no fuss, bar menu with the usual suspects--burgers, salads, sandwiches and wings. I went with the chicken caesar wrap--the waitress mentioned that it came with potato chips but for an additional $1.75, I could swap to french fries. For me, this was kinda off-putting, but I went with the fries so I could share with a classmate (they were nothing exciting, save your money and stick with the chips!). The wrap itself was good, especially because I asked to have mine with the cajun chicken to give it a little extra kick. Karolina had the buffalo chicken salad--at first glance, she was disappointed that the chicken just had a bit of buffalo sauce poured on it instead of the chicken being coated in it, but after a few bites, she said it was enjoyable. A cup of house chili, an apple gorgonzola salad and a burger were among some of the dishes ordered at the rest of our table, with no major complaints noted.

Overall, it was a nice lunch with the girls and a great way to end the semester, as this was one of the last times I'll see some of them--thanks for a great clinical experience! As a side note, considering the other choices that Hartford has to offer, and the fact that the food here just isn't that exciting, I'd go somewhere else first. This is more of a place to hang out at the bar after work and drink or to go hear some live music on the weekends, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

4/25/12-Griff's Chicken Shack, Hamden, CT

We've been here a few times and we never leave disappointed!

Stopped in for lunch today and both Tom and I got chicken tender baskets with french fries and coleslaw and the awesome dipping sauces--Island BBQ, honey mustard and blue cheese. I always try to get a different sauce, but it is so hard when the ones I've had are so good! The chicken is so juicy and huge, you will not leave hungry. They have a chicken tender eating contest (currently 32 tenders is the record) but you'll be satisfied with just a few! I also enjoyed the sweet tea--the real stuff! The owner is really nice, the food is fast and the atmosphere is relaxed and colorful--and today, he was playing Jimmy Buffett! Any place playing Jimmy has my vote!

Monday, March 26, 2012

3/20/12-The Farmhouse Tap & Grill, Burlington, VT

Our last stop in Burlington before heading back to the B&B for the night was to get dinner at the Farmhouse. An old friend of mine works here and posts about the beers they have, which totally appeals to Tom and the menu looked pretty awesome, so we were happy to try it. Loved the space! They are a self-described "gastropub" and that feel definitely came through! Great size dining room with a laid-back, hipster feel to it, with an outdoor beer garden that was hastily opened for the beautiful weather that invaded Burlington in late March. Like many other VT places, they are connected with many local farms and producers, which always means that quality is fresh and excellent.

For beers, they have an amazing selection. Tom decided to try two of the hefenweizens they had on the list, while I went with a cider that was on draft, suggested by the waitress--she made a great call, it was crisp and light, just the way I like it! Before dinner, a paddle with four condiments was brought out--ketchup, whole grain mustard, house made bbq sauce (this was the one thing I was not a fan of!) and an aioli--nice touch for further customization of your burger! For dinner, I had a burger that was on the specials for the night, topped with local VT cheese and apples tossed in a balsamic dressing--juicy and a touch of sweet from the balsamic apples, I definitely enjoyed this! Tom had a burger as well, also with local VT cheese (I didn't try his because it disappeared so quickly!). The burgers both came with fries, which were "hand cut"--pretty good, nice and crispy! The burgers might seem a bit on the pricey side, but the locally sourced quality is worth the extra cash.

In all, we had a very nice dinner--everything was awesome from the service to the food to the bar.....would definitely return next time we're in town!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

3/19/12-Simon Pearce Restaurant, Quechee, VT

Came for dinner on a Monday night and everything was just wonderful. We got a table by the window, which looks out over an incredible view of a waterfall (the sheer power of the water was also seen just before the restaurant, as there is a bridge that got completely washed out during Hurricane Irene. It was noted in the menu that Simon Pearce also suffered extensive damage during the storm, losing their entire wine cellar).

Water glasses were filled, drink orders taken and warm bread was brought to the table--a small baguette and irish brown bread, both excellent. For starters, I had the Vermont Cheddar Soup--creamy and absolutely delish, the only thing that could have made it better would have been crumbled bacon on top! Tom started with the Rock Crab Cake, which he enjoyed. For entrees, Tom had the Seared Duck Breast with yaki soba noodle, bok choy, edamame and a raspberry soy reduction--the duck was cooked perfectly, the raspberry soy was a nice compliment to the duck. I had a Wild Boar and Smoked Bacon bolognese--the dish definitely had an almost overpowering smoky taste, the sauce was flavorful but so thin that you had to be careful when eating or it would splash everywhere when you were grabbing the pasta! Portion size was perfect and service was nice and efficient. We opted out of dessert--nothing really caught our eye. Overall, a lovely dining experience made better by the view! 

Friday, March 16, 2012

3/16/12-Zingarella Pizzeria & Ice Cream Cafe, Plantsville, CT

This new restaurant is quite the popular place in town! I remember (and fondly miss) Kry's Pizza inhabiting this building and I was really hoping that this was a good replacement. They really have done an excellent job updating the outside and the inside of the building, adding to the revitalization of downtown Plantsville. The interior is warm, a bit cramped and slightly quirky with the mix of different chairs, but it has an overall nice atmosphere. Shortly after 530 when we arrived, the placed was packed and we got the last table in the dining room, which was unfortunately right next to the door--it could get very chilly when people kept the door open!

After we were seated, our waitress came by and mentioned that she was backed up with a bunch of new tables and she'd be by in a little bit--this was a precursor to how service went for the rest of the evening. A while later, she came by for the drink order and then the food order. We decided to start with some garlic knots--they were delish! I was expecting a bread basket as is customary in Italian restaurants, but I guess not here. Family-style salad came at the same time, which was already dressed in balsamic vinaigrette dressing--standard table salad. After the salad, we had a very long wait before our dinners arrived--a bit too long.

Onto the entrees! Dad had the three cheese raviolis with a side of meatballs--we noted that the portion seemed to be on the small side, but the meatballs made up for that because they were huge! Mom had the Salmon alla griglia--she really enjoyed this dish, especially the dill vinaigrette that dressed the fish filet. Tom had the pollo scallopine piccata--he enjoyed the chicken but found the side of mixed veggies to be overcooked. I had the lasagna pasticciata--I also found my portion to be on the small side, but it was satisfying--probably the first time I've ever been able to finish a pasta dish, which Italians know is not usually feasible! Our waitress was sporadic, not very careful about refilling drinks and then trying to clear plates before everyone had finished, which put us off a bit.

It is a new place, going through growing pains. With time, I hope that service gets better, both faster and friendlier and that they find their groove and become a consistently nice place to get a meal. The food was good overall and I would say that we'd come back, but most likely only on an off peak time, like a late lunch. Actually, I'd like to give their pizza a chance--but for take out.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

3/14/12-Danny's Little Taste of Texas, South Windsor, CT

Out for the evening with Rick--he wanted to get BBQ and who am I to argue? Neither of us have been here but have heard good things. We grabbed an early dinner before a movie, so we were the only ones dining in at the time. The interior is a bit worn with a definite rustic feel to it, but we're not here for the atmosphere! With not one, but two rolls of paper towels on the table, we knew what we were getting in to.

The menu is fairly large and diverse, with other options for those not in the mood for BBQ, along with a few specials each night. We were brought a small bowl of house made potato chips--nice and crunchy. Onto the good stuff! Rick went with the Rodeo Smoked Combo--andouille sausage, beef ribs and 1/4 smoked chicken, along with french fries--they smoke the food on premises, which was evident by the slight smokiness of the restaurant. The rib that he got was mostly fat and the waitress noticed it on the way over to the table and told us she had already asked the cook to throw a new one on for him--that's classy and awesome. I had the "Billy the Kid" babyback ribs 1/2 rack with french fries--the ribs had just enough tension that they weren't completely coming right off, making eating them enjoyable and they had a great flavor. The fries were house-cut and seasoned nicely as well. I also cannot resist trying the cornbread at a BBQ place so we both got sides of that--she recommended it grilled and it honestly has to be the best cornbread I've ever had. It was a very generous side, nice and moist (I asked for the recipe, but no luck!). If we weren't so full, the deep fried twinkies might have been next, but alas, it just gives me a reason to come back!

If you are in the area and hungry, skip the madness of the Buckland Mall area and head down the street for some quality BBQ!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

3/10/12-ANOHO Asian Noodle House, Middletown, CT

I truly had high hopes for this place. Having been to some other great Asian restaurants, it would have been nice if this place was good, but it really was average at best.

We went to dinner a bit early and were quickly seated. Water glasses were filled and Tom and I quickly decided what we wanted to try. We started with the hot & sour soup--I've never had this soup, so I have nothing to compare it to. I found the soup to be on the thick side, almost slightly gelatinous; however, the flavor was pretty good. We then split the Chengdu dumplings with a spicy sauce--the dumplings were very thin and slippery, instantly tearing when grabbed with chopsticks. The sauce was a peanut base, not spicy at all, but complimented the pork filled dumplings nicely. Onto our entrees--since this is a noodle house, we both did the create-your-own noodle dishes. I had the chow fun noodles with szechuan sauce and chicken--the portion size was excellent,  and this dish finally had some heat to it (not overpowering, definitely doable). Tom had the udon noodles with the szechuan sauce and beef--the noodles were nice and he had the same feelings on the sauce but overall, we've had better.

Service was very confusing and spotty, as all three staff members working in the dining room took care of all the tables together, which didn't work so well. Overall, a very average experience, however, the prices are very good for the area. We wouldn't go out of our way to return here, as there are better options a short drive away to fill our craving for noodles.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

2/17/12-The Blue Lobster, Berlin, CT

Out to grab a quick dinner before grabbing our 4th row seats at the CT Whale game! I think I've driven by this place a hundred times and always wondered about it, but never really thought to have dinner here until my sister's ex-boyfriend mentioned how him and his father have had great meals here.

A small, simple place with only a handful of tables, we were lucky to snag a booth right when we walked in. They have quite a nice menu of selection, all very reasonably priced, but I knew what I came here for--the hot buttered lobster roll. Tom got the same with a cup of their lobster bisque and we split french fries. The rolls were nicely stuffed with lobster meat, tossed in melted butter--in my opinion, it is the only way to have a lobster roll. The bisque was creamy and had a nice smooth, balanced flavor to it with a few actual lobster pieces in it. French fries were your average frozen variety and Tom said the coleslaw was pretty good. Overall, it was a nice, quick dinner. With prices like that, it'll make you feel like summer is right around the corner!

Monday, February 13, 2012

2/11/12-Barcelona, West Hartford, CT

Ohh, Barcelona--it was love at first bite.

It would be an understatement to say that I've been dying to come here. To my excitement, I was out of work on time and able to join Tom in a dinner celebration for his friend's surprise birthday dinner. Kudos to his lovely wife on the great choice! The restaurant was beyond packed when we arrived and it stayed that way throughout the night, with people crowded around the bar, no doubt indulging in the famous sangria or the Spanish wines. I myself enjoyed a glass of wine, although I couldn't tell you which one it was! The ambiance is perfect for spending time with friends--from the dark wooden decor with modern artistic accents to the music coursing through the place.

After we were all settled into our table, the hard decisions began--what to order, what to try? Tom and I settled on five of the tapas plates to share--Duckfat potatoes, Chorizo with sweet and sour figs, Gambas al ajillo, Chicken empanadas and  Hangar steak--ohh my goodness, all so good. I couldn't pick a favorite dish if I tried! We also got to try bites from our friends dishes, such as the Papas Bravas, and warm crusty bread was brought to the table with dishes of olive oil. Self-control is definitely a necessity when dining here because I think we all could have just kept ordering dishes all night long.

With a meal like this, how could you not order dessert? I went with the Crepas Salguero--heavenly, light and artfully prepared (however, I did have a bite of the Warm chocolate hazelnut indulgence and was immediately jealous!).

I would eat here all the time if it was possible--and with locations in Stamford, Greenwich, Fairfield, New Haven, SoNo and even one it Atlanta (that's for you, Jason), I'll be hard-pressed to stay away. I cannot recommend a place more highly than this one--from the amazing drinks, fantastic food and attentive service, you cannot go wrong.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

2/4/12-Whitfield's, Guilford, CT

Went out for dinner this evening and decided to give this place a shot. We didn't have a reservation, so we sat at the small bar. The bartender was lovely and friendly, gave us our menus and we took our time. I can see why a reservation would be necessary--they have a prime location on the Guilford Green, a lovely view out to the town center and a great, classy atmosphere, perfect for a date night or a business lunch.

The bartender mentioned that the menu had just been changed--typically, it is changed every 3 months or so to go with the seasons but she said that sometimes the chef just gets bored with what is on the menu and changes it more frequently. We had a tough decision ahead of us, but I'd say we made some great choices. Tom had the Prosciutto Wrapped Atlantic Salmon with a saffron white bean stew and baby spinach--he commented that it was one of the better meals he's had lately. It was perfectly cooked with the prosciutto lending itself to giving the fish an excellent flavor and the white bean stew complimenting the fish nicely, with no "fishy taste" at all. I wanted to keep it light tonight, so I ordered an appetizer to share-- "Steak and Eggs"-Pan roasted filet mignon, grilled tomato, fried egg, brioche toast, steak sauce--what a combination! Artfully plated, it came out nicely stacked together, all parts working well together, with the filet cooked medium rare. I also had the Frisee and Apple Salad with grilled chicken, smoked bacon, dried cherries, apple cider vinaigrette--the apples and dried cherries took away the bitter taste of the frisee and the vinaigrette balanced out the sweetness, with the bacon adding the characteristic smokiness.

The bartender mentioned that all the desserts are made in-house daily so the dessert menu is ever-changing. After a dinner as wonderful as ours, dessert had to be good--another tough choice, but we opted to split the chocolate lava cake, topped with vanilla ice cream, chocolate and raspberry sauce, garnished with fresh blueberries, strawberries and raspberries--absolute heaven in one bite.

I would definitely come back here--next time I'll make a reservation!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

2/1/12-The Chicken Joint, Berlin, CT

Out for a late lunch with my favorite medic, Rick. He mentioned that he was looking for a good fried chicken place and was wondering if I had been here--since I had not, off we went!

This place is in an old dance club and you can definitely tell from the moment you walk in the door. The new owners haven't done much to change that, with the disco ball still hanging and the dining room sparsely decorated. We had the place to ourselves, so our waitress told us to sit wherever we wanted and to take our time. We both decided to get the 4-piece Southern Fried Chicken--the chicken was reasonably priced, came out piping hot and was pretty good. It was juicy on the inside with that salty, crispy outside that you know and love. Rick was disappointed that they were out of the mac n cheese wedges, with our waitress telling us that they have been waiting for a shipment of those and the sweet corn fritters for a while now--hearing that disappoints me, now knowing that they don't make these sides themselves in-house. I also ordered 2 biscuits for us, which were hard and tough, so they were probably previously frozen or old (sad....I do love a good biscuit!).

I brought home 2 dozen wings as well (had a groupon to use up!) so I selected the garlic parmesan and the buffalo for Tom--considering he ate the whole dozen of the garlic parmesan for lunch the next day, I'd say they must have been good.

Overall, the place has a weird location and vibe to it, but the chicken is pretty damn good and since they are called "The Chicken Joint", they are, at the very least, living up to that!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

1/6/12-K. Gee's Gourmet Burgers & Beers, Southington, CT

I had high hopes that a burger place the likes of Corey's in Manchester or the Plan B chain had finally made it's
way to the Southington area--I was seriously disappointed.

We had dinner here tonight--although it is in a great location on Center St., the interior of the building is odd--a dark bar area with a separation wall to a blue and white themed small dining room with a few standard tables and booths. The place was very slow and we were instructed to sit wherever we wanted.

The food? Standard bar food--absolutely nothing "gourmet" about this place. I had the K. Gee Allstar Burger, which came with cheese, bacon, and fried onions. I have a few complaints--first off, don't ask me how I want my burger cooked if all the cook can do is "well done"--my was certainly not medium as requested; also, the bacon was overcooked and dry. The fries were definitely not "hand cut" as the menu stated, they were definitely the frozen kind. Tom ordered the Buffalo burger--his burger was cooked medium-well, not exactly medium as was ordered and he thinks that the burger was similar to the bubba's burgers you can get in the freezer case, so he's not sold on the "fresh" made burgers, either.

Overall, a complete let-down. I can't imagine this place staying in business long unless they make some serious improvements. We won't be returning.

1/1/12-Pantanal Restaurant & Churrascaria, Bridgeport, CT

New Year, New Experiences!

Even though I work in the Bridgeport area, I don't end up there very often during the lunch hour. With today being a holiday, I wasn't even sure what would be open. Thankfully, my partner mentioned that he knew of a Brazilian place just up the street that had great food--I'm in! This place is in a residential area of town, and it has a great buffet available everyday for cheap! I sampled a few items for my quick lunch including plantains, chiffonade greens with pork cracklins, cut watermelon, rice, and the carver sliced me a few pieces of chicken wrapped in bacon, steak and sausage--everything was so good, with the meat made that day rotating on spits behind the carver, cut to order.

If you are in the area and not sure what to eat, I'd recommend giving this place a go!