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!