It’s easy to be pART of the ART in HARTford – to borrow a turn of phrase from the Greater Hartford Art’s Council. Big Red for the Arts at the Society Room last night officially kicked off the 2014 United Arts Campaign – a yearly fundraising initiative that provides a backbone of support for individual artists, as well as arts groups, in the greater Hartford area. As part of our partnership through CTNow, I was fortunate to attend the VIP reception along with: Governer Dan Malloy and his wife Cathy, who is CEO of the Arts Council, the legendary Jacques Pepin, legions of avid art supporters and foodies, and my very own awesome coworkers! Yay.
photo courtesy of the Greater Hartford Arts Council Facebook page
I stepped out on the town, by happy accident, with Emily Cahill – who had plans with Nick, who had to work – on the same evening that my plus one, aka my husband, was stricken with the flu and unable to attend. We kicked off the evening with a pre-wine cocktail (naturally) at Sorella. It was Emily’s first trip to Sorella – marking this as the second time I’ve been fortunate enough to introduce a good friend to this amazing new eatery on Pratt St.
bourbon basil smash. yes please.
Upon entering the Society Room, we were quickly and graciously ushered upstairs and kicked off the evening’s drink adventures with a glass of brute Korbel. Hard to argue with that.
cheers! not pictured: Emily’s fab red shoes
All the wine featured in the VIP Reception were CT grown and bottled, which was nice to see. I sampled Emily’s favorite Westwind from Hopkins Vineyard and enjoyed a blend Chardonnay from Jonathan Edwards, which I have visited before and – it’s worth the drive to the shoreline. I also tasted the Cabernet Franc from Sharpe Hill Vineyards – which I will be visiting this weekend – so it was nice to get a small preview of what I’ll be enjoying Saturday!
Sharpe Hill paired with the evening’s first bite – a luscious little risotto ball
At this point, even though we were hovering near Jacques Pepin – who stayed for the whole party and from what I could overhear is a very charming man (I was too shy to introduce myself) Emily and I both concluded that going downstairs in search of more substantial fare was in order, to balance out all the wine. Plus, the smells of the food and the drifts of conversation were enticing us to join the main party.
downstairs at last with Kerry Burrows of Hartford Magazine!
I lobbied – successfully – to start with a sample of the tequila cocktail, again, to balance out the wine (later, Emily had the equally difficult task of persuading me to try the 111 proof Onyx berry lemonade – oh wait – she didn’t have to try that hard). The Hotel California tequila, pureed strawberry, and Minionetto Prosecco got me seriously excited for summer. The tart berries and tequila – the hint of bubbly – it’s almost time to drink on the patio, and when it is, I’ll definitely try to make one of these at home. A quick side note – every one of these wines and spirits is available for purchase at Maximum Beverage if you’re so inclined.
Oh yes please, I’ll drink this every day in the summer. Look at those berries!
We descended into a general melee of sampling, noshing, and socializing. Plenty of Hartford friends were out and about – Tim Yergeau of the Greater Hartford Arts Council was spotted looking very sharp in a red sweater with a blazer on top and red laces in his shoes – such attention to detail! I caught up with the always wonderful Whitney Gray of the CT Science Center. And when we found Cathy Amarante working the Billings Forge table, the night basically couldn’t get any better.
My personal highlight for wine was a Portuguese Iberia wine – the Peccatore. I’m a huge fan of ‘in your face’ reds, and this variety was full bodied yet dry, and paired awfully well with the filet mignon with lobster mac & cheese from Capital Grille.
mac and cheese, steak, wine, and…happiness, basically
The same Portuguese group also poured robust Porto Parador 10 Year Port – which paired exceptionally well with a macaroon from Taste by Spellbound. But I am getting ahead of myself. Even better than a macaroon (which was excellent in its own right, to be fair) – better than all the other bites of the evening, for me at least, was the wondrous whipped ricotta bruschetta-EVO with honey, sea salt and herbs from the legendary Billy Grant of Bricco Trattoria.
bread with cheese, olive oil, salt and honey. simple and classic. oh yes.
Emily and I both fan-girled Billy a bit, as we’ve both interviewed him in the past for various projects (my interview is here), and he, in turn, turned a blind eye to our multiple raids on his bread table. Seriously. It was worth it.
Before winding down the evening, I packed myself a snack to go in the form of a shortbread cookie from Billings Forge. I’m a bit obsessed with their seasonal shortbreads, which are autumnal leaves in the fall, lucky clovers at St Patricks Day, and now, strawberries for spring! Look at how lovely this is. It’s a little piece of art in its own right.
then my husband stole it as soon as I entered the house. guess I have an excuse to visit this week!
After my friends had finished rightfully mocking me for squirreling food into my tiny clutch, we reluctantly said our goodbyes and stepped out onto Pratt Street, to immediately encounter another example of how alive and well the arts are in Hartford, in the form of upcycled jellyfish on display at Hartford Prints!
look at those jellies. they make me happy
With Trashion Fashion fast approaching, Amy and her crew have been hard at work creating these little beauties out of clear plastic bags. The next opportunity to make them – if you’re so inclined – will be at Liquid Lounge on Friday, which will also feature a live recycled sculpture. Seeing the jellies set against the turquoise background was a perfect ending to a wonderful evening. Thanks to all the staff at the Greater Hartford Arts Council for hosting such an amazing event – can’t wait for next year. #Hartfordhasit