Zohara Preview and Newport: here I come

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Photo via the Newport Mansions Food & Wine Festival’s Facebook Page

I’m no Nutmegger.  No, not even a New Englander.  I’m a strange, hybridized transplant who has traveled from the hothouse of Kauai to the deserts of Peru – with quite a few stops in between.  As such, there are quite a few New England traditions which have been on my radar since setting down in this small corner of the world, admired from afar, and have yet to experience.  High up the list: the Newport Mansions Food & Wine Festival.  Thankfully, all that changes tomorrow, when I attend for the first time (with a press ticket courtesy of the festival, and the handsome Scott, who is not standard press kit issue, but the best possible company).  Due to an event in Hartford later on that same day – because September is both quite fine and quite busy – we will be utilizing Am Ride services to get home: which means they will be driving my car back, so that we may take advantage of VIP pours without spitting (something that I understand is a ‘thing’ but eludes my instincts on how to drink wine), or driving.  Strolling the Newport Mansions, sipping fine vintages, watching live chef demos, and waking up to run by the sea in preparation for the Hartford (1/2) Marathon?  Now THAT’S a weekend.

More to follow on our Newport adventures.  

But first, please enjoy a brief visual tour of the final installment of the Hadley & Occum Farm Dinners, which took place at the extraordinarily photogenic Sub Edge Farm.  Zohara – meaning “brilliance” in Hebrew, is the luminescent new project of Chef Dorjan Puka of the Doro Restaurant Group.  

The cuisine: Mediterranean.  The result: magnificent.  Look out for Zohara in the West Hartford Center soon.  

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(oh, hi Scott)

72 Hours in Austin

At some pretty much unnoticed point in the last several months, Scott and I quietly slipped off and explored Austin, TX from the vantage point of the uber hip Hotel San Jose,  Below is a visual tour of our adventures, which involved many tacos, cool architecture, vintage shopping, and a wild night of dancing in a honky tonk bar which was (thankfully) never photographed.  But before we plunge into the bright colors, intense foods, and shockingly good vineyards of Texas, let’s look at a couple  REALLY good foodie happenings here at home (namely, Connecticut)

HBC six year anniversary

The first: The Hartford Baking Company turns 6 on September 1st – that would be tomorrow.  If you’re an early bird type, get yourself over there at 7:30 am for a lovely pour over of Giv or Stumptown Coffee and snag a free loaf of artisanal bread for yourself when they open their doors.  If you’re the sandwich type – stop by at lunch and get a $5 sandwich deal.  My personal favorite, now and always: the brie and jam.  So much carby goodness you guys.  Go.

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The second: Doro Restaurant Group will be previewing the cuisine of Zohara – their new Israeli restaurant – on September 8th at the stunning Sub Edge Farm.  Chef Dorjan Puka is taking the reigns, and if you didn’t already get tickets – unfortunately – it’s sold out.  BUT you still have one final chance to experience a Doro Restaurant Group Hadley + Occum with BRUNCH, cooked by none other than Scott Miller, on September 18th!  Tickets are available here and I would buy one soon if you’re interested – they will be going fast. I will be documenting the Zohara dinner in a future post and hungrily attending next week.

Without further ado, here is the promised photos of Austin.  Notes: Hotel San Jose is creative, perfect, and part of the Standard Hotel Group.  We deliberately seek out Standard Hotels when traveling – and for good reasons.  They are a hip paradise with the very best in paired down amenities and just the right amount of quirky hedonism.  The tacos, all the tacos, pictured, were out of this world attractive.  If I wasn’t a taken woman, I would probably date one of them.  The ones in the photos are from Torchy’s and Jo’s Coffee – respectively – Jo’s also does this turbo cold brew/ice cream/espresso mash up, which is what frappuccinos try and miserably fail to be.  The cocktail in the first picture is a Michelada – which neither of us was particularly into.  The BBQ was from Salt Lick, a bit downwind of Austin – where we took a quick day trip, simultaneously touring several local vineyards.  If Texas starts shipping wine out of the state – we will sign up immediately.  Rich terrain creates beautiful grapes.  Not pictured, but part of the fabric of the entire trip – the music scene.  Everywhere, all the time, live, original, funky, glorious music.  Rock and roll, country, bluegrass.  Play The Avocados on Spotify in the background for the proper vibe while reading this post.  Finally – the tail end of the photos are from San Antonio.  Pictured: a water taxi (too hot and touristy, would not recommend) and Hotel Havana (12/10 – would aggressively return).

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Brunch so hard with Barcelona Wine Bar

barcelona (1 of 1)It’s not every day you take over a Facebook page.  Might as well make the most of it!

Submit a compelling argument to me as to why brunch is NOT the greatest meal of the week.  For one, it’s rare.  Usually occurring only on Sunday (but at Barcelona Wine Bar – you also get Saturday brunch – rejoice!), with all the carbs, all the meats, all the sugars, and of course, all the booze.  Barcelona was kind enough to invite myself and several guests (big and one small) to enjoy brunch with them – and pick up the tab – for which I sincerely thank them.  Also sincerest thanks and gratitude for a truly amazing meal.  This is truly one of my favorite spots in the Center.  Shout out to my friend Xavier, formally of Rooftop 120, for recently being named their new West Hartford Executive Chef also!  Ok, down to business.  Some highlights from our feast:

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Brunch without booze is a sad breakfast, they say (and they’re right).  So might as well booze like you mean it with the perfect Bloody Mary from the more than ample bloody mary bar.  It’s a little overwhelming perhaps, but Amanda is a pro and created this artistic and delicious creation:
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Pictured: nothing excessive

And then, of course, there’s the food.  Barcelona is known for tapas style dining, combining traditional Spanish cooking and eating styles with a little American flair and fusion.  Their Brunch Tapas menu is available alongside the (more traditional) tapas selection and delectable cheese boards and paellas to share… so that you can mix and match if you care to do so.  We were spoiled and overwhelmed with brunch items and stuck to those however:

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Exhibit A: Chicken and Churros

Of all the dishes, we sampled, my personal favorite was the “Breakfast Octopus:”

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Replete with a perfectly poached egg sprinkled with just the right amount of paprika.  Octopus, cooked correctly, is a texturally perfect meal.  This plate is also light and healthy, which was good because the chicken and churros were… probably not…

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Come to think of it… poutine (with Mangalica gravy), is also PROBABLY not particularly healthy.  But dang, is it tasty.  Also pictured: Mimosas made table side with my favorite Juve Y Camps Cava and fresh grapefruit or orange juice.

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Another crowd pleaser: Huevos a la Flamenca (Spinach, Manchengo, Baked Egg).

Penelope enjoyed Lemon Blueberry Pancakes for her own baby brunch:

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Sharing jokes with Auntie Amanda

And we adults enjoyed a very grown up rift on french toast with the Torrijas:

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That’s Coffee Vanilla Syrup and it’s amazing.

Thanks again to Barcelona for, well, killing it in every single way.  Our entire dining party, including the (not pictured/too busy eating to pose for pictures) Scott and Adam had a perfect dining experience.  I’ll be back very soon to see what sort of cool twists Chef Xavier has put on the dinner tapas menu – so stay tuned for more Spanish food porn in the very near future, and follow Barcelona on Facebook and Instagram for even more foodie goodness.

Taste of Hartford with Max + Midsummer Dreams at TheaterWorks

It’s Monday… it’s summer.  I know, I know.  You probably want to be at the beach, not reading this at your desk.  But never fear!  There are some GREAT things to do locally on a weekday (or weekend!) date in Hartford.

For you see – it’s Taste of Hartford all week, meaning affordable prix fixe menus showcasing seasonal goodness.  We have a reservation for Tuesday night at Max Downtown (yaaaas) so be on the lookout for all the food porn via my Instagram.  If you like the look of this check out their website for a full roster of upcoming events – or subscribe to the newsletter for updates.  Ok, without further ado, here are the menus:

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So many choices, so little time.  Book a reservation and get downtown!  And while you’re there, please do yourself a solid and see the quirky black (romantic) comedy and musical act which is Midsummer (a play with songs).  No, it’s not a musical.  No, no, no.  It’s more She & Him if instead of a group they were a madcap love encounter, set in Edinburgh.  Bold, modern, and paired down: with just two performers, two guitars, a ukulele, a stuffed elmo, and several other scant props, the play relies on brilliant acting and acoustic performances to create a past and present narrative.  The result is an unflinchingly honest look at two creative, soulful, magnificently flawed accidental lovers navigating their way through respective mid life crises, angry mob bosses, and a wedding scene which… well… I won’t give anything else away.  But I will highly recommend this highly acclaimed play, which is the summer nightcap to TheaterWork’s 30th year anniversary celebration.  Go get you some culture.

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Photo by:  Lanny Nagler for TheaterWorks

So there you have it.  That’s what you do this week.  Go.  Enjoy.  Let me know what you think.

New and noteworthy: farm dinners with Treva + brunch at Little River Restoratives

Working in content marketing for my company, A Little Bird Told Me, and working (mostly) with restaurants exposes me to, well, all the food.  I’m spoiled.  I know it.  And I consider it my duty to share it with the world.  So without further ado, here are two excellent offerings from two of my very favorite clients:

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What is Hadley + Occum?  It’s the rich, glacier born soil that graces the Farmington River Valley.  And it’s the genesis of all that beautiful produce which burst from every farm stand during these glorious hot summer months in the West Hartford/Valley area.  And it’s also the name of the new farm dinner series from the DORO Restaurant Group, starting with perennial favorite Treva and the cuisine of Chef John Medonis:

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Seen here perusing the kale at Sub Edge Farm, which will host the dinner on July 27th.

Get tickets here and enjoy this first of a series of beautiful nights on the farm with what is guaranteed to be excellent, local driven cuisine.

Also tasty and new: brunch at Little River Restoratives – Hartford’s hippest cocktail bar and soon to be Ramen purveyor via a sister restaurant which will open next door on Capitol Avenue in the fall of 2016.  Catch a glimpse of the new menu with what Proprietor Chris Parrot refers to as “Japanese hangover food:” authentic Cabbage pancakes smothered in Japanese mayonnaise, cheese, and your choice of toppings.  Plus excellent cocktails with body soothing ingredients such as aloe vera water and Vitamin b12.  Plus a DJ.  Plus the aforementioned simple, umami saturated and oh so satisfying menu, with Executive Chef Tyler Anderson of Millwrights guest cooking during our visit today.  So yeah – basically as cool and cool can be, and very tasty to boot.  Below are some pictures of today’s brunchfest with Style Context:

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72 Hours in Montreal

Montreal.  A wonderful, artsy city, full of bicycles (at least in the summer months – I would imagine not so much in the winter), street art, amazing and authentic brasseries,  a sparkling clean subway (shocking to someone used to NYC, and apparently you can buy wine via a poster/barcode system although that was the subject of fierce debate between myself and Scott… so if anyone knows for sure, please chime in in the comments), outdoor street markets bursting with flowers, sidewalk cafes, Montreal bagels (life changing), chocolatiers, Syrian food, and really, really neat stationary stores.  Oh and so much more, I’m sure, but there is only so much you can soak in during 72 hours.  We just exhausted our store of meats and cheeses from trip one, with the last of the chorizo from the Jean Talon Market going into this weekend’s arroz con pollo.  Plus, there are so many more poutine variations to try:

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So a follow up trip will be a thing in the coming months.  In addition to the amazing outdoor/indoor market, we also purchased many small and necessary notebooks in the Nota Bene stationary store, strolled through the Ritz Carlton for a cocktail, shared an enormous portion of poutine (pictured above) at La Banquise, and noshed on small, dense, nutty, wood fired and utterly delicious bagels from Fairmont Bagel (noteworthy for having an entire separate flavor profile from its American counterparts.  and also!  the first bagel in space!  thats… adorable).  We also enjoyed the classic L’Express (not pictured as I didn’t bring my camera, but the steak frites and cornichons were superb), plus the unparalleled Syrian food at Damas.  So food, folks.  Lots and lots of food.  Pretty par for the course for a Kat/Scott excursion, although we are making a more conscious effort to experience more culture in addition to food culture (starting with Fiddler on the Roof next weekend in New York- hurrah!)  But regardless: no complaints.  No regrets.  Please enjoy the photos and do yourself a solid and visit Montreal if you have the chance to do so.

 

 

Rose alllllll day!

Last week was the first ever 90 Plus Cellars Connecticut Rose Cruise.  They invited me to join them, and I was lucky enough to bring a squad:

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(waves to squad)

We had a truly fantastic afternoon in the gorgeous Greenwich harbor, cruising for three hours, eating small but delicious sandwiches

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Practicing our fake laugh for Instagram

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And yes, that’s three people in Lilly Pulitzer and one in a pink gingham bow tie.  Because Greenwich.

And most importantly, sampling four different varieties of Rose!

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Including the new Lila Wine, which comes in a can.  Which is important.  Because cans can go to the beach.  Crisp and delicious and perfect for summer.

90 Plus’ Rose this season is pleasantly floral and, like most roses, oh so easy to drink swiftly when it’s hot outside.  Maybe that’s why rose is the new ‘it’ wine this season.  Well, this is a trend that I fully support, and you should too.  Rose is truly for everybody.  And it should be drunk on boats whenever possible.