Time for Nolcha and the New England BBQ Championships

Fashion week is here.

The most wonderful time of the year.

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I’ll be very excited to attend Nolcha again this fall, which I did and recapped in the middle of the frozen winter and recapped here.   This year’s shows will be on September 12th, and it will be wonderful to attend them and just marinate in new and innovative creative from some truly talented up and coming designers, hurrah.

Speaking of innovation – let’s take a look at Bear’s Smokehouse first ever New England BBQ Championships shall we?  But before we do – let’s discuss that this event which took place last night, with the professional judging and awards ceremony happening today.

It was an opportunity to experience a true BBQ throw down from some of the best local pit masters in the area.  A fundraiser, with 100% of the profits from the event going to Riverfront Recapture.  Little baby cupcakes from Nora and craft beer samples from many great local spots.  All set against the serene backdrop of the Connecticut River.  Cool yes?  But they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so enjoy this photo recap of the event.

And a special shout out to Jamie, photographed in the first picture below, and his wife, Cheryl (not pictured), for their  continued efforts to bring not only great BBQ to the state, but to usher in cool events and do good while doing so.

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Last but not least – this is entirely unrelated to the post – but I took Penelope to Flamig Farm earlier in the day and snapped this picture, and I’m a proud mommy so I have to share it:

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Best

Don’t look now, but there’s a Bear in your Tavern

Birthdays are often wonderful, especially when they are filled with delicious food.  And boy, did I have a foodie birthday this year!  Let’s start with my actual birthday eve, last night, at the Capital Grille.  With impeccable attention to detail and making special occasions as special as can be, they started with a card and confetti:

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So festive!

They also brought out bubbly, which paired nicely with our (not pictured) oysters:

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Making a girl feel special

And finished off with a dessert plate, which our server Michael customized for me upon overhearing me mention I hate cheesecake (which I do, don’t judge me):

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So instead, we were served my very favorite coconut creme pie.  Which is tart, salty, sweet, smothered in hand made whipped cream, and perfectly decadent

That’s just the level of consideration and attention to detail that can be expected at the Capital Grille.

IIn addition to the glorious celebration dinner listed above, I was fortunate enough to finally attend a Bears Smokehouse and Millwrights pop up dinner in the Millwrights Tavern on Monday night.  This will be a ‘thing’ every Monday night for the forseable future, and it involves taking Bear’s glorious BBQ and giving it a high end twist with Tyler Anderson’s signature cooking style.  Behold: “The Cook and the Bear”

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Behold also my Sloe Gin Fizz (sloe gin, lemon, and soda)- Chris Parrot never disappoints

The menu is divided into small plates (priced at $4) salads (priced at $8) proteins ‘from the smoker’ (at $6.50) sandwiches ($10.50), sides (also $4), and sweet stuff, aka dessert ($6).  It’s quite affordable and, well, let’s just look at some food porn shall we?

cocktail and pickles at millwrights

Tyler always makes a good pickle.  It helps that he works with the Community Farm at Simsbury and always sources fresh and local.  Also pictured: a “Dirty Holiday” cocktail (tequila, coconut, pineapple, and lime)

corn on the cob at millwrights

Grilled corn with the flavors of Greek salad.  Like Mexican style corn, this is drizzled and drenched in decadent toppings.  It’s, quite obviously, corn season, so the best time of the year to be eating the stuff anyway.  Tyler’s preparation of it is very signature of his style – a simple vegetable dish elevated with masterful flavors and a twist on a traditional technique. 

beet salad

It might seem difficult to order a salad when there’s so much meaty BBQ to be had – but get your dang salad.  It’s good for you – pictured is the: “smoked beets, ricotta, and walnut pesto.”  The beets packed flavor and texture and the citrusy, earthy flavors balanced nicely against the creamy cheese sauce.

ribs and mac and cheese at millwrights

You should still get BBQ.  Obviously.  Pictured: baby back ribs, baked beans, and mac & cheese with chicken cracklings.  Of all the things on this plate, the mac and cheese really sang to my soul.  In the way that only creamy cheese and crunchy chicken cracklings do

brisket sandwich at millwrights

The burnt ends sandwich – with the flavors of french onion soup.  It was difficult for me not to order this one for myself.  Burnt ends – the fatty, juicy ends of the brisket – are my favorite item to order at Bears Smokehouse.  But I restrained myself and will get it next time, because I simply, absolutely needed this:

best chicken sandwich at millwrights

The nashville hot chicken sandwich, iceberg, pickles.  Also known as the chicken sandwich against which all others will now be judged and found wanting.  Sorry Chick Fil A.  I don’t need you or your bigot chicken anymore.  I’ll take this local, better version instead.  And pair it with a nice Maine “Baxter” IPA.

The cozy Millwright’s Tavern is a perfect back drop for a decadent BBQ dinner – moving into the fall, this will be epically good comfort food.  Please go, check it out, and enjoy.  It’s a unique local collaboration which we are very fortunate to have here.

Mini vacations to @SeaCrestCapeCod and all the mixology at the annual @faithwnpr Martini Competition!

Summer is in full swing – well not today – today it’s cool, cloudy, and spitting little rain drops (thanks New England).  But in general, the apex of the warm weather is upon us!  Today’s post recaps my recent trip with Carolyn to one of her family’s favorite seaside resorts – now one of my favorites too – as well as one of the best mixology events of the year – the annual Faith Middleton Food Schmooze Martini Competition. But first – a preview of fun things to come:

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I met this lovely lady – Caitlin – and her penguin friend – at the Travelers Championship mini-golf tourney for charity.  She and I will be connecting this summer to bring Penelope to the Mystic Aquarium for a behind the scenes tour of the fishies.  Very exciting.

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Penelope and I also enjoyed a lovely Farm to Table brunch over the weekend Clark Hill Farms in Granby!  We will be returning shortly to pick blueberries, and I’ll be recapping our experience – along with the the upcoming Scales, Shells & Steak dinner by renowned Chef Billy Grant at Rose’s Berry Farm on July 17th!  Tickets are available here.  

‘Tis truly the season to eat local.

‘Tis also the season to take mini trips to the Cape!  The beauty of Connecticut is that it’s really, really tiny – and easy to drive from one state to the other.  Carolyn and I took off for the Sea Crest Beach Hotel on a whim several weeks ago, when we realized that our only chances for a girls’ vacation lay in taking our trip ASAP, before the summer became any busier:

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Yes, we changed into vintage swimsuits just for cocktail hour.  We’re ridiculous like that.

The Sea Crest is not your typical Cape Cod resort, and that’s a good thing.  For starters, it’s not embedded in rustic woods – just straight up waterfront, powdery white sands, and of course, the glassy smooth perfection of Cape Cod oceanfront.  In addition, it’s located on an inlet, which means that you can watch the sunset over the water – a rare treat on the East coast. They also feature onsite dining:

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Sometimes I’ll order something other than raw oysters.  But – actually, no that never happens

As well as beach side drinks service:

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Drinks on the deck!

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Drinks to go with your dino mag!

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Drinks for everyone!  No movement required!  Side note: both of my swim suits are from Venom Vintage

I’m looking forward to returning to the Sea Crest this fall for my first ever half marathon – The Zooma Cape Cod -which I agreed to in a moment of manhattan infused madness at the Glastonbury Strawberry Moon Festival with Caitlin!  My training is under way – very slowly this week as I’m recovering from illness, but slowly but surely picking up.  At least the gorgeous ocean front setting is a good motivation to stick with it!

So, off the beach and on to the cocktail competition!  As aforementioned, the Faith Middleton Food Schmooze Martini Competition is one of my very favorite events of the year.  Faith’s cooking show  on WNPR is a must listen whilst zipping around the city on weekday afternoons – she combines thoughtful repartee on all things food related (often joined by the talented and funny Chris Prosperi) as well as a variety of eclectic topics.  But, if food is King of the Food Schmooze show, the martini is Queen – and the annual martini competition showcases some of the finest mixology from around the state:

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Let’s start with my personal favorite libation, from personal favorite mixologist David Brogan, aka @signaturedavid.  He combined Wild Moon Chai Spice Liqueur, Blanco Tequila, RIPE Agave Margarita Bar Mix, Strawberry rhubarb simple syrup and Cointreau for his “Summer Spice” cocktail.  It was a perfect balance of bitter, spicy, and saucy – truly refreshing and definitely worth recreating at home!

Other notable favorites included:

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“Sunshine and London” courtesy of On20 – a very berry blend of Strawberry Shrub, gin, watermelon, and basil.  Side note: shrubs are ridiculously easy to make at home and a great way to use up local, seasonal fruit.  

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I’m subbing the picture of the Plan B cocktail with this ridiculously cute image from their Marketing Manager, Rachel’s Instagram account – but they made a “Cherry Picker” Bench Mark Bourbon infused with cherries – naturally – egg white foam, and vinegar.  Like the shrub in On20, the vinegar adds a nice sour touch to what could otherwise be an overly sweet libation.  That’s how you know you’re dealing with cocktail experts

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Never failing to please, Max Burger‘s cocktail, the “BRB” was a summery mix of: agave nectar, fresh basil, muddled raspberries, sour mix, bourbon, and black walnut bitters

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A “Luscious Garden” courtesy of the Half Door:  Jameson, sage, and blackberry infused syrup, lemon juice, and bitters

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“Cucumber Honeyrita-tini” courtesy of Flipside: Cucumber, triple sec, tequila, honey, and lime juice

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A very beachy libation from the Doubletree by Hilton in Bristol, the “Slim Shady:” Grapefruit vodka, white lemon juice, grapefruit bitters, and St Germain

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My favorite presentation of the evening: a smoked blueberry infused moonshine with honey bacon spiced rim courtesy of Bear’s Smokehouse.  They currently only serve beer and wine, but if this is what we have to look forward to for future cocktails, well dang.  Just another reason to go there…. often

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A spicy cocktail and cookie combo from Firebox, the “High Cooler:” St George Green Chile Vodka, fresh pressed watermelon juice, lime juice, and lime zest, with a pistachio chipotle meringue

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Diner style presentation and flair (naturally) from Blue Plate Kitchen, who presented the “Honey Green Tea-ni:” Rime organic vodka, infused meyer lemon simple syrup, and green tea

Many, many thanks to WNPR for hooking myself and a guest up with two passes to this awesome event:

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Pictured here hand modeling a very yummy shrimp and frozen gazpacho amuse bouche from Tisane (who also killed the cocktail game with their Hendricks Gin (yum), yellow watermelon juice, cucumber, lime, and ginger simple syrup cocktail

One of the notable pitfalls with this type of an evening is that it’s virtually impossible (for me, at least) to sample everything.  So although I did vote for my favorite:

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And received my sticker, thank you very much

I ultimately did NOT try the winner cocktail (shucks) – but congrats to Infinity Hall and Bistro for their “Lime in the Coconut” cocktail which took first place!  And kudos to the DoubleTree and Max Burger for their respective second and their place wins.  I have so much inspiration for summer cocktails now – starting with making a local blueberry shrub, once Penelope and I go blueberry picking next week.

Brunch for Babies with the @MarchofDimesCT

June is a fabulous, busy, buzzy, wonderful month.  The weather is perfect – there are multiple events to attend, inside and out, really everything is quite exceptional.  Here’s a quick preview of some choice happenings I’m looking forward to in the upcoming weeks:

CT Music Awards (that was last night! the results are here!)

Hartford Magazine Best of Party (fancy fancy)

Farm to Street Dinner, (a giant potluck with some of Hartford’s finest, as well as Jeff Lizotte of On20 – who we will also be visiting for Happy Hour and I will be blogging about)

Talcott Mountain Music Festival (one of my favorite events of the year)

But first and foremost: a recap of the “Brunch for Babies,” hosted by the March of Dimes Connecticut at the Riverview in Simsbury!

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The March of Dimes mission: to improve the health and livelihood of babies everywhere!

Leigh-Anne Lefurge – the March of Dimes Communications Manager, was gracious enough to invite myself and my friend Amanda to attend this beautiful brunch:

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Thanks Leigh-Ann!  Awesome working with you as always

In keeping with their tradition, the “Brunch for Babies” featured famed New England author Elin Hildebrand, “the queen of the summer novel.”

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So talented yet also so stylish!

In addition to Elin signing books, the preview to the main event featured a pretty sweet silent auction:

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Mommy’s Time Out?  Yes, I’ll have some of that

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Plus these pretty rad bell bracelets.  Which I won!  And promptly wore to the Seacrest Beach Hotel (check name) with my friend Carolyn.  More to come on our adventures soon!

There were also plenty of food stations to browse and brunch through.  The March of Dimes does a great job with keeping their events light and fun with a variety of food options to circulate through, versus a sit down, formal brunch (the excellent Signature Chef’s Auction in the fall offers a similar feel and menu).

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Apple Mote Cristos and Watermelon Gazpacho – courtesy of the Riverview

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Always good to see the lovely Cheryl of Bear’s Smokehouse!  Carving up and serving some melt in your mouth smoked turkey

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And one of my absolute favorite “hidden gems,” the Grass Roots Creamery of Granby!  Serving “Humphry Slocombe” style gelato, they offer a variety of unique flavors.  My favorite (pictured) the Biscoff

The brunch was hosted by our very own Sarah Cody, host of FOX Connecticut’s travel series, in addition to the excellent “Mommy Minute” blog.

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She introduced the March of Dimes’ inspirational “Mom of the Year” Lisa Millerick: a mom of four NICU children, March of Dimes volunteer, and an affiliated children’s photographer for “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.”

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Pictured here accepting her very well deserved honor

We were also given the chance to donate directly to the March of Dimes cause, via table cards and hand knitted preemie hats which were then given to local intensive care units:

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So adorable

The March of Dimes is truly a worthy cause and, as a mother, so near and dear to my heart.  I was blessed to have carried Penelope healthy and to term, but many women aren’t so lucky – and there is always something that may be done to improve the health and well being of newborn babies and their mommas!  Please consider donating to this great cause, joining their March for Babies, or attending the Signature Chef Auction in the fall.  The babies thank you!