Present Company Presents: a Cellar Wine Dinner

Present Company, with Executive Chef Jeff Lizotte, offers a warm, cozy atmosphere, exquisite food, and a fun, relaxed vibe.  So naturally, it’s one of our favorite places.  Like many farm driven restaurants, PC changes their menu seasonally, so join them (and us!) on Monday night for a special preview of their new menu plus wine pairings.

Menu is below plus photos from the talented Jason Welch, to give you a feel for the vibe.  I’m eating as little as possible between now and then in preparation.  It’s going to be good.

Make your reservations via OpenTable – or by calling – 860 658 7890.  Seating at the Chef’s  Counter is most definitely recommended, so you can watch Jeff do his thing.

Monday, March 13th
New Menu Tasting Dinner at Present Company

Join us and experience Chef Jeff’s new menu paired
with boutique wines from our cellar

5 courses | 5 wines | $75

citrus salad
french breakfast radish, endive, baby greens, toasted madeleines

crispy skate wing
duck fat potato, mirepoix, red wine reduction

oven roasted savoy cabbage
truffled butternut squash, coco bean-mushroom duxelles

short rib of beef
celery root beignets, caramel apple and shallot salad

carrot cake
madras curry cream cheese, luxardo cherry, praline ice cream

present company sign wine dinnerpresent company jeff lizotte wine dinnerwine dinner photo present company

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Share Our Strength Hartford to benefit No Kid Hungry

The Riverview was the backdrop.  The crowd – charitable guests and big hearted Chefs, all coming together to support No Kid Hungry (one of my favorite charities – they are committed to ending childhood hunger in America).  I am so honored to be on this committee, chaired by Tyler Anderson of Millwrights and Angela Pitrone.  If you haven’t ever been – go next year.  You can find information on the event via: TOTN Hartford.

Thank you Connecticut Food and Farm for sharing your photos with me, and thank you chefs for such an amazing night and meal.  Please enjoy Winter’s photos below:

 

Local Foodie Goodness + A Food Fight with Hartford Symphony Orchestra!

“Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.” – The Dalai Lama

It’s a glorious time of the year for local food.  Ramps are in season, fiddleheads are in season – the first radishes and micro greens are making an appearance!  And going into the summer, Farm to Table dinners will be popping up everywhere (including the Billy Grant’s Farm Dinner series at Rose’s Berry Farm which I cannot wait to attend).  I’ve been spoiled this week with local foods, starting with Let’s Start From Scratch preparing my first ever delivery meal for me:

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Beautiful organic poblano peppers stuffed with cauliflower and black beans over quinoa.  Healthy and delicious!  As a busy working momma, this freed up valuable time to blow bubbles with a mermaid:

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Molly is local and will create scratch meals based on your dietary preferences using the healthiest and most seasonal ingredients available.  Highly recommended!

In other seasonal fare:

sweet acre

The good folks at Sweet Acre Farm are partnering up with the Hartford Baking Company to offer an organic, super convenient CSA this summer!  It will be available for pick up at the HBC Cafe every week from mid June to mid October.  Sign up for it here!

stumptown

And while you’re at the HBC, grab the VERY BEST cold brew, made fresh with Stumptown Coffee daily.  I’m mildly obsessed with it to be honest.

In other exciting foodie news, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra will perform their 4th annual “Playing with Food” night on Saturday, May 21st!  I’ve attended and had the pleasure of interviewing Carolyn Kuan – Head Conductor and mastermind behind the series – in the past years.  She is presented with a series of dishes from each participating chef.  She then pairs a piece of music with the dish based on what it would ‘sound’ like.  For instance, a tuba may play the role of a fatty piece of beef.  There is a visual representation of the dishes as well as a talk back with the chefs (from M & M Bistro, The Connecticut Convention Center, and Concorde Restaurant) – and this year – a twist!  The dishes will be judged by a celebrity panel emceed by the ever creative Jacques Lamarre!  As a classical pianist, it’s not hard to get me to attend the symphony under any circumstances, and I can say with absolute certainty from years passed that this performance will be a visual and sensory feast for all the senses.  And if you’re hungry – never fear- MAX Catering will provide small bites during intermission in the lobby.  Purchase your tickets here and join me Saturday night for a lovely evening of culture, food and fun.

(and an enormous thank you to my friends at the Symphony for providing me with my tickets)

Flavor Packed Cuisine and Creative Cocktails @Rooftop120

Rooftop 120 is a magical place.  It feels like a slice of somewhere much further south, where tropical cocktails flow freely, people dine out doors, and the food is infused with Caribbean flavors.  I had the pleasure of being invited in, not once, but twice! (blessed) in the past couple weeks.

Visit the first: a Martini Lab with the always entertaining Tyler Devecchis and Top Liquor Queen, Nadine Gengras:

spring fling rooftop 120

Pssst.  there is another one coming up on April 6th!  Call the number above to reserve seats and do so quickly – it will most likely sell out quickly.

A big, friendly crowd gathered for this pink themed event to mix cocktails and eat delicious food created by head chef Xavier Santiago

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A big, rowdy crowd.  Not saying this was Girls Night Out because there were plenty of men present, but I sat at a table of all women – none of whom I knew – and was very entertained by the group (I was the quiet one – that’s a rare thing indeed).  Great night.

Pictured above: the starting cocktail Strawberry Martini with Ultimat Vodka

We mixed this ourselves (martini lab) I made a big mess.  My glass was not full.

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Looks easy right?  Well, I’m a klutz.

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Food pairing: strawberry and feta salad

Isn’t the color great?  The green dressing offset the sweet strawberries quite nicely.  Pink food and pink drink – quite clever.

Next up: a delicious, scratch margarita

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Behold the flowing agave

This drink was great as we were able to control our level of tartness, and I went VERY tart, naturally

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Yum.  Patron Tequila, Agave, citrus.  Simple perfection.

Knowing margaritas are simple to make at home, why don’t I do this more often?  I should, particularly in the summer months.  Top shelf tequila doesn’t take much to coax out the flavor.  This paired quite nicely with course number two:

chicken and risotto

Chicken and risotto.  Texture was great, breadcrumbs were great, sauce was creamy, chicken well executed.  On point everything.

Last course, dessert: DONUTS

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Teeny eeny bitty donuts with barely any calories.  Or so I told myself!  And strawberry milk.

I finished the donuts.  I’m not proud, but I did.  I passed on the last cocktail however – two full drinks is enough for me!

I enthused to Xavier about his food (particularly the risotto) so he invited me back to sample a couple of his other dishes that he is very proud of (thanks Xavier)

rooftop 120 final picture

PLUS I got to hang with Tyler and drink a Pineapple Mojito (Cruzan White Rum/lime/mint/simple syrup/sour mix/soda/pineapple juice).  Oh what a time to be alive.

Xavier made three dishes for me.  One of them was kidnapped by my boyfriend (the salmon – I sampled it, before he ate it).  The other two I polished off myself, in one evening, without any real plans on finishing them.  They were just… so good you guys.  The appetizer in particular.  I will never return to Rooftop 120 without ordering it.

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Appetizer: Loaded “Potato” (House Mad Gnocchi/Pickeled Onions/Pickled Jalapeno/Sour Cream/Bacon/Scallions/Vermont Cheddar Bechamel)

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Squid Ink Spaghetti “Thai” style (Gulf jumpo shrimp/ confit tomato/shaved garlic/Thai bird chili/San Marzano Tomato sauce)

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“Everything” Salmon (Butternut Ginger Puree/lemon creme fraiche/grilled scallions/picked red onions)

So there you have it.  Now is the PERFECT time to visit Rooftop, as their patio space is one of the best around.  Soak up the warm weather, have a cocktail, enjoy a little nosh.  Highly recommended.

 

 

Taste of Hartford + a Recap of the @MaxsOysterBar Taittinger Champagne Dinner

It’s time to eat well.  OK, it’s always time to eat well.  But Taste of Hartford offers the chance to do so for $30.16 and try some amazing multi-course menus in Hartford.  Here’s the full list of participants, plus the menus for Trumbull Kitchen and Max Downtown!

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So, yes, make a reservation, go “taste.”  It’s a good time for your mouth (and your wallet).

And now, let’s discuss bubbles.

max champs 9

Aha.  Yes.

The good folks at Max Oyster Bar were kind enough to invite me – and guest!  to a lovely, multi course tasting of the cuisine of Head Chef, Hunter Morton, paired with the the expertly produced champagnes from one of the oldest establishments of the region: the Taittinger Group.  Hunter’s food pairing ranged from oysters and caviar to prosciutto wrapped veal loin.  The bright, creamy and well balanced acids of the selected champagnes cut through the rich proteins like a well balanced piano wire through a stick of butter (an elaborate metaphor perhaps but try a glass of champagne and rich, well executed dish and tell me if I’m wrong).  Visually appealing vegetables helped the champagnes with their balancing act, and regional brand representative Christian Dalbavie of Taittinger was on hand to introduce each varietal and walk guests through its distinctive tasting notes.  Below is a visual tour of our incredible meal.  Please enjoy.  We certainly did.

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A lovely tour of vegetarian tapas with @Barcelonawinebar in West Hartford

Tapas.  Are.  Delicious.  Vegetables, executed correctly, are delicious.  These are two of my favorite things.  But before we delve into their culinary delights, let’s examine a third of my favorite things: BEETHOVEN

Beethoven Rocks

Ludwig.  Van.

Do I get more excited to listen to Beethoven I would for many contemporary musical options?  Maybe.  I’m a giant nerd, hold your judgement.  Or if, like me, the musical genius of this great composer sings to your soul, then join me at the Bushnell to listen to the Hartford Symphony’s performance of Bold Beethoven from November 5-7, directed by accomplished pianist William Eddins.  I am deeply appreciative to the symphony for providing me with tickets – which are also available for purchase here.  Ah yes, yes, indeed.

And, back to tapas.

Spanish tapas, of course.  Traditionally executed at Barcelona Wine Bar – who are kind enough to be within walking distance of my home, dedicated to authentic presentation of well executed and classical Spanish favorites, and kind enough to invite me to many of their events.  Here’s a mini-calendar – I’ll be at the Black Hog Brewing one and also commandeering their Facebook page for the night, which is neat:

Wines of Catalunya on November 10th

Black Hog Brewing Dinner on November 19th

Thanksgiving Dinner, Barcelona style, on November 24th

The cooking class took place in the dining room adjacent to the bar, with Executive Chef Eric Stagle guiding us through a range of easy to follow recipes:

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Simple to replicate at home – and I have a recipe to prove it

Chef demonstrated cooking techniques for four different dishes:

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Fried brussels sprouts with picked red onions and pimenton

spanish omelette

Sweet potato tortilla (not pictured but here is the traditional spanish tortilla which I often order and is also delish)

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Braised chicken thigh with pureed butternut squash 

and, last but not least

barcelona tapas dinner picture 1

Churros.  Delicious churros.  With chocolate dipping sauce.

For those playing at home, here is the sweet potato tortilla recipe.

Sweet potato tortilla
10 eggs
1 large sweet potato
2 onions
1 qt. olive oil
Peel and julienne your onions put about 1/2 an onions worth to the side.
Sauté the rest of the onions on low heat until very soft
Heat Olive oil while you peel your sweet potato. Cut potato in half the long way and then cut into 1/4″ slices.
Salt your sweet potatoes and the 1/2 julienned onion you had reserved. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.
Poach the sweet potatoes in the olive for about 10 minutes. Don’t over cook them.
Crack your eggs into a bowl while potatoes cook. Salt your eggs
Add cooked hot sweet potatoes and soft cooked onions to your egg mixture.
In a non stick pan that is on medium high heat put a little olive oil in the pan. Add your egg potato mixture to non stick pan and turn to low. Cook for 10 minutes and the finish in a 250* oven

October Roundup – from Wagyu and Wine to Hartford Fashion Week

It’s time for Fall in New England, with all the traditional bells and whistles.  Apple picking, events, haunted hayrides – you name it, it’s happening this month.  Here’s a round up of a couple upcoming things I’m really looking forward to, in addition to two fall traditions I’ve already celebrated that will be available all month long:

Hartford Fashion Week kicks off tonight at Union Station in Hartford.  Friday and Saturday’s shows are SOLD OUT, but you can still buy tickets for Sunday (act fast!)  I attended a preview last night at the Wadsworth’s monthly First Thursday and was also interviewed for Telemundo as the only Spanish speaking committee member.  The interview was, hmmm, interesting, but the First Thursday collection was terrific.  I particularly enjoyed Redfield Design – the romantic steampunk collection jived very well in the Wadsworth’s space.

kat and katrina

With Hartford Fashion Week founder, Katrina, post interview.  This lady rocks!

wadsworth

Redfield Designs models acting the part of living statues at the museum

For more info or to buy tickets for Sunday – visit here.  You can also purchase tickets at the door for $40 tonight or tomorrow, but those will most likely be standing room only and cannot be guaranteed for availability.

Signature Chef’s Auction for the March of Dimes The March of Dimes is committed to raising the standard of living for pregnant women and their babies, and they also are incredibly important in the care and wellbeing of preemie babies.  This signature fundraiser occurs annually in Hartford at the Riverview.  This year’s date will be October 15th, and you can purchase tickets here for the October 15th event. It’s for the babies.  And it’s also a terrific event with wonderful food sampling from some of the best chefs in the region.

Share Our Strength another collaboration from some of the finest and kindest Chefs in the Hartford area.  Share Our Strength benefits No Kid Hungry – a national charity which is committed to ending childhood hunger.  So again, it’s for the kids.  Chef Tyler Anderson of Millwrights is the chair of this year’s event.  The October 29th event will this year feature a full table seating by each participating restaurant, with a three course sit down meal: a truly great chance to enjoy an excellent meal with friends whilst giving back to the community.  Tickets are available here

Wagyu and Wine an annual offering from The Capital Grille – this special engagement will run through November 22nd, and allow you the opportunity to enjoy a delicious, fatty, crispy, flavorful waggly burger, paired with an excellent glass of red wine, for only $25.  I attended with my good friend Jon Aidukonis.  We took advantage of the free valet parking (so convenient, especially in Downtown Hartford!) and sat out on the lovely patio space on Front Street, as if was a beautiful evening to be outdoors

wagyu valet parking

Fancy

kat and jon wagyu

I have tiny little T Rex arms coz I’m excited for burgers

I chose the Gorgonzola and Black Truffle Wagyu Burger and paired it with the recommended Justin Isosceles Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles, 2012)

wagyu glamour shot

Glamour shot

I’m an enormous fan of the following flavor combinations: gorgonzola, red meat, and red wine.  So naturally, the marriage off all three in this meal was right up my ally.  I also enjoy the technique that the Capital Grille lends to the wagyu burger – it’s a high quality product for sure, but in the wrong hands you can end up with a soggy, fatty burger with an overly rich finish.  The Capital Grille executes the wagyu burger with finesse and expertise, yielding a product which has a textural outer layer with a nice hint of salt and a creamy, meaty, flavorful center (which they will happily leave medium rare upon request).  Paired with a chocolatey, Bourdeaux style cabernet with an excellent balance and a big, strong presence and you have a symphony of textures and flavors for your palate to enjoy.  John also kindly allowed me to sample his paired wine: the Landmark Overrlook Pinot Noir (California 2013).  The spicy, fruity Pinot is an excellent fall wine, and I would like to go back and enjoy a full glass with the second pairing: the Wagyu Cheeseburger with fried egg and crisp onions. And I probably will.  Because for $25, why the heck not?  Thanks to the Capital Grille for inviting us in to enjoy this pairing and providing us with a lovely meal.

Apple Picking I took the little Miss Penelope out to Clark Hill Farms at Bushy Hill and we both had such a great time.  We enjoyed apple cider donuts:

cider donut apple picking

So nice

minnie mouse apple picking

And ran through the fields and picked a whole bag of apples!  Like a big girl

It’s peak apple season and we New Englanders are very spoiled with our options statewide

apple picking

Gorgeous

But I would recommend Clark Hill Farms in particular for their ridiculously good farm to table breakfast.  I’ve been three times now, and I’ll be writing a post JUST about their food at some point in the near future.  Granby is only a 30 minute drive from Hartford, and if you go out there, I recommend checking out Lost Acres Vineyard too!

horse apple picking

Visits with horsies for baby

wine apple picking

And delicious, crisp, fresh apple wine for Mommy.  I’m not a cider person, but the Apple Wine at Lost Acres is clean, well executed, and delightful without any of the vinegar aspects (pleasant to some I know) which characterize cider.  Highly recommended!

What do you like to do for October in CT?  Leave me some recommendations to try if you please!