Your weekend, sorted, in two easy steps at Bartaco

Weekending can be hard.  Sure, it seems fun at first – go out, drink with friends, have fun, blah blah blah… but the options can be overwhelming.  Expensive.  And not always, let’s face it, that great.  So let me offer a VERY simple, yet sophisticated, solution – to this conundrum.  Head to your nearest Bartaco.  There are plenty of locations to choose from, and you can click HERE to find one that suits your travel radius.  Once you’ve arrived, settle in on the patio.  Chances are, if you found one, you’re on the east coast, and we have been promised the sort of gorgeous sun drenched weather this weekend that practically makes it a crime NOT to sit outside to dine.  And drink.  And what do order?  Why, glad you asked.

The Bartaco taco-to-mouth delivery system is almost fiendishly simple.  Just take your handy write in menu, and your small golf pencil, and scribble in your choices.  You can start small, go big at all at once, grab a quick bite, or linger if you wish (we won’t go into details of how long our last experience lasted… just relax and settle in, no one is going to rush you if you’re not ready… um, we promise.  based on personal experience).  Once you’re comfy, we recommend the Smoked Marasca:

(sunglasses optional but if you’re settling in for some serious day drinking – a plus)

Have you successfully completed step one?  Is it smoky, yet fruity, mysterious, and delicious?  Congratulations!  Let’s proceed to step two:

Do you see the arrow in the right hand corner, pictured above, plus “bar taco secret” below?  That is crucial in the two step dining/drinking/sun worshipping Bartaco experience.  For this, my friends, is the Bartaco SECRET taco.  Not listed on their menu, not available without knowing to ask.  And right now, it happens to be a most magical combination of buttery fresh lobster, balanced with pozole (fresh Mexican corn kernels) and just a hint of fresh chopped parsley, which will leave you with the mouth feel of a lobster roll, but the pleasurable textures and flavors of a taco.  Just a couple bites and there you have it. Late summer is served.  So don’t miss out on our crucially short patio season, or this crucially limited taco.  Just go.  Use my two step method.  Repeat as necessary and let me know what you think.  And follow Bartaco on Instagram for sneak peaks of secret tacos yet to come.

 

Bartaco invited me in to review and try their secret taco, but all opinions are my own.

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Thursday nights are better at La Foresta!

Wandering towards the shoreline of CT is a summer pastime not to be missed.  And one of my new favorite loops involves a glass of wine at the simply gorgeous Charmard Vineyard (more to follow on that shortly!) followed by a romantic dinner at La Foresta.

What do you need to know about La Foresta?  It’s off the beaten path but worth it.  Nestled in the countryside, a converted barn full of original art, rare wine, and superb Italian cuisine awaits you.  If you’d like to taste and preview a guided tour of their wine list, I recommend the three course dinner I recently enjoyed – which is available every Thursday after 2:30 pm.  View the menu here.  I actually dined solo, which is one of my favorite ways to really enjoy the flavors and pairings of food.  But by all means, bring a date, or a couple friends.  It’s a good vibe no matter what you choose.

With wine balanced perfectly to compliment the food (my favorite was the prosecco!) and perfectly executed versions of some of my favorite dishes… well… I really enjoyed myself.  Let’s leave it at that.  And I’ll be back soon, and you should too.  Say hi to owner Francesco if you see him, and congratulate him on three years in business, as well as a second year in a row winning the prestigious Wine Spectator award!

Burgers for a good cause at Plan B Springfield

Beer!  Burgers!!  Patio Season!! And it’s all for charity.  I was way blessed to receive an invite (and a dinner!) from my friends at Plan B Springfield this week and am honored to be their official brand ambassador for the Beer and Burger Community Combo-tition.  Basically – the b Restaurants going head to head, with burger + beer pairings designed by a local foodie celebrity (mine came courtesy of Nick O’Malley of I Ate It So You Don’t Have To… but yes, I ate it anyway, and yes, I’m not sorry)

I even took a VERY awkward selfie to commemorate the glorious occasion (The OMG Burger: Pimento Cheese Stuffed Beef Patty | Spicy Candied Bacon | pickled onion and pimento cheese honey aioli on a fresh pretzel roll)

How was the burger?  Well, I don’t eat pork so I ordered it without the bacon… but pimento cheese, pretzel roll, and the perfectly seasoned beef?  All in good company.  And well balanced by a New Belgium Fat Tire draft.

Plus, let’s not forget the sweet patio vibes, and my really darling dinner date, who said the french fries were, quote “the best ever.”  Future food critic in the making folks.

So please.  Stop by through Sunday at your local plan B and try the burger and beer special, and vote online for a charity here.  10% of all proceeds are going to the beer/burger/charity pairing with the most votes.

Three hotels, two glasses of rose, and one marvelous cocktail in Newport

Welcome back to hotel cocktails – Newport edition (the first and most certainly not the last – as this is one of our favorite places to be and it’s an easy drive, especially on a bright sunny spring day).

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(he’s the most fun and basically the best)

Historic and storied Newport is home to the Newport Wine Festival – of course – which we attended and I wrote about here – but there’s really no bad time to visit.  A day in April is especially fine, as it wasn’t nearly as crowded as it would be in the height of season.  We began with rose at the Castle Hill Inn.

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and watched the sunset, and culminated the evening with another seafront location – The Chanler

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Billecart-Salmon – creamy, dry, and almost more of a champagne than a rose.  We drank it outside by a fire pit overlooking the beginning of the Newport Cliff Walk, with the surf crashing below.  Absolute perfection.

chandler bathroom

Also, quality bathroom for a quality instagram story is always a huge plus.

Although we hotel hopped along the sea, we stayed at our usual spot: the Hotel Viking.  It’s historic

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(very)

and centrally located: gets top marks for hospitality and service.  I took advantage of Scott’s obsession with all things auto related, and off he went to peruse the Audrain Automobile Museum while I and enjoyed a cocktail on the patio:

 

Newport Lemonade | Thomas Tew Rum | House Strawberry Basil Simple Syrup | Dell’s

We will be back to the Viking and Newport as often as possible this summer – certainly at least once for the summer and of course, for the 2017 Newport Wine Fest (dates and info on that here).  

Butchers and Bakers

Butchers and Bakers, no candlestick makers.  But a cooper?  Oh yes, they have one of those.  And a wood fired pizza oven.  And Tito’s Vodka cocktails on tap.  And in house butchering.  I am speaking, of course, of the brand spanking new Butchers and Bakers – part of the Locals 8 Restaurant Group – at 270 Farmington Ave, Farmington, CT.

Before we get to the main business at hand – namely food and libations – let’s loop back to the cooper.  A cooper – or a barrel maker – is not something one encounters every day in modern America, but the type of dedication to craft detail which is necessary to create a wooden barrel by hand is indicative of the type of restaurant which breaks down its own cuts of premium meat.  It should come as no surprise that Kevin Watson – VP of Operations and Chef – is a cooper by choice and restaurateur by trade.  The bespoke interior was overseen by him, and the menu of small bites, pizza, and large portions of meat is also overseen by him.  Then again, it does take a village – and the Locals 8 restaurant team knows a thing or two about food.  Particularly, meat.  And its a large staff in a large space.  I was fortunate enough to be onsite for opening day, and watching the energy of pre shift was electric.  As was the subsequent sampling of many fine dishes.

Pictured below: house made bread (crusty and well proofed – as was the pizza crust), a lovely glass of Folie a Deux Cabernet (pairs well with pizza), Local Cheese Board (apricot compote + spicy almonds), Coal-roasted Peach Panzanella (for the patio season ahead – a must), Sizzling Garlic Shrimp (stop it, so good), Tito’s Moscow Maid (on draft, lemonade and rosemary), Mushroom Pizza (soubise + cremini + oyster + shitake + portobello + truffle oil).  High notes: the dangerous drinkable properties of that draft Tito’s cocktail – charred roasted peaches bursting with flavor and balanced by acidic dressing and light, soft cheese, shrimp bright with garlic, did I mention the cocktail?  oh right, yes, and of course, the aforementioned, not too doughy, well seasoned pizza crust.

Will return for many meats.  Will return for patio season.  Will return for many things.  Welcome to the CT restaurant scene, Butchers and Bakers, and thank you for having me.

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ALL about Cocktails – Hotel Libations with Hoi Polloi + Bloody Marys for a cause with Max Restaurant Group

WELCOME to another installment of Hotel Cocktails – in the Shoreditch district of London.  Before we venture across the pond, let’s looks at something a BIT closer to home (well… I guess it depends on where you’re reading this from, but for the purposes of this narrative, let’s assume you’re in Connecticut, or at very least, somewhere on the east coast of the USA.  OK?  OK).

Max Restaurant Group is well known for its charitable endeavors, and as soon as I finish typing this, I’ll be headed to Max Oyster to sample their new Bloody Mary Bar (clearly the best part of any Sunday): drinking for a cause as they raise funds all day for Autism Speaks.  Join them at any of their CT or MA locations, OR at the lovely Cooper in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

max restaurant group autism speaks

All good things.

And now, back to our review.  Scott and I were in London in February for a couple days, and being aficionados of the Ace Hotel in NYC, we naturally ventured to its London counterpart, and the very chic and on trend Hoi Polloi (an extra cheeky name if you consider the working class roots of the East End), which you, naturally, enter through a flower shop if you haven’t crossed in via the hotel lobby

 

Few things better than a big city eatery which knows you’ll find it.  No need for a sign.  Signs are for Applebee’s.  The cocktail list was, naturally, intriguing as hell.  After much deliberation, I selected a Zhoosy Sour:

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Woodford Reserve | Woodford Rye | Choya Yuzu umeshu | creme de banana | yuzu citrus | egg

A flip with whiskey?  I’ll take it.  Only (minor) complaint is that this is a missed opportunity to showcase a Japanese whiskey, given their immense caliber and all the other ingredients – but I’m going to stop insulting the mixologist now and assume that the Woodford was selected and blended in two varietals for its smoky sweetness to balance the other ingredients.  And balance it did.  Not a single one of the individual elements was identifiable in this cocktail.  Which is perhaps, one of the hallmarks of a well mixed libation.

Vibe of the Hoi Polloi?  Not surprisingly, intensely hip and open to whatever you want to make it.  Afternoon tea?  no problem.  DJ and dancing?  They have that too.  Want to work at the bar?  Wifi and lots of power outlets await you.  Full dinner service?  Well, naturally.  Would love to return for dinner the next time we are in London.  Cheers to a great experience with, naturally, the best company.

Best in Bridal this weekend with Lux Bond & Green

Love is in the air.  Spring is (attempting) to spring.  It takes a minute people.  We live in New England.  So, even if the snow falls today, hope springs eternal for warmer climes, and of course – wedding season.  Grab someone you know who is engaged, your bridal party (or, even better, grab your fiancé), and head to our friends at Lux Bond & Green today and tomorrow (3/31 and 4/1) for their Best in Bridal Wedding Band Extravaganza.  You can also shop online via the link above.

Why should you go?  Well first, because they are awesome people.  Locally owned and operated, customer service focused, and just SUPER nice to deal with.  Not to mention knowledgeable jewelers.  LBG has been in the game of pretty shiny things for many, many years.  And they will pass their buying expertise to you.  And the sales for this weekend can’t be beat.  And – did we mention shiny things?

There will be raffles and splendor and many, many diamonds.  Specifically: the largest regional selection of diamond, platinum, gold, and alternative metal wedding bands.  And during the extravaganza, enjoy an immediate 10% discount on wedding bands, free engraving, and 10% savings on most bridal gifts: plus an additional 5% coupon for your next purchase.  Plus champagne and beer.

Cheers to all the happy couples (and please note: LBG believes in love for ALL and is open to all relationships, and I think that’s pretty darn cool).  And enjoy these photos taken by yours truly – who enjoyed the opportunity to photograph flowers and diamonds together because that’s just awesome.

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