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:

 

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48 Hours in Miami + the Greenwich Rose Cruise with @90pluscellars

SPOILER ALERT: this post contains rose.  Lots and lots of rose.  So much rose.  If you’re not thirsty now, you may be by the time you finish this post.

Let’s start with – the upcoming Greenwich Rose Cruise from my good friends at 90 Plus Cellars!  Save the date for this inaugural event (for CT!) on June 4th.  The Boston version is a blast:

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TBT to when I was a drunken flamingo

And I’m sure this one will be no exception.  Purchase tickets here and use code DRINKROSE33 at check out to receive $10 off per ticket!

From rose to – froze!  That would be frozen rose folks.  It’s a thing and it’s fantastic

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The very best slushie

I made friends with this libation while on a mini-vacation The Standard  in Miami while in town for my little sister’s graduation.  This ultra hip hotel features the very best in amenities, from spa to pool to hammocks

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Complete with astroturf

To (private) bathtubs outside of your room, to cool little ‘zines which are perfect for a beach excursion:

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We enjoyed 48 glorious hours of tropical bliss, starting with an intense rainstorm, which was perfect for tub soaking and hot stone relaxation, and culminating in a Vespa mini tour of Miami Beach and, of course, my beautiful little sister’s graduation day

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Which we toasted with – you guessed it – more rose

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So very proud of her!!

A photo tour of the hotel plus our scooter adventure is below – but first a small diversion to Little Havana, aka Calle Ocho, which no trip to Miami is complete without.  We visited the Ball and Chain and enjoyed gin and guava cocktails plus salsa dancing, plus street empanadas from a dodgy little stand, plus cigars. Standard Miami.

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street empanada

In other culinary adventures, there was a Panther Coffee within walking distance of our hotel, which is one of Scott’s favorite coffee shops and therefore quite amazing (I defer to him on all these coffee related as, well, he obviously really knows his stuff from years of research)

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Perfect little macchiato

Next time we visit Miami, we fully plan on returning to The Standard.  It’s cool in the most laid back and luxurious way.  Check it out if you need a place to stay in Miami, NYC, or LA.  Highly recommended:

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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:

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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:

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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)

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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.

 

 

#GivingTuesday with @CONNeticDance plus a tour of @Bvssportsbar

Happy Giving Tuesday everyone!  It’s time to give back as well as to shop all those sweet deals at Target.  We recommend checking out CONNetic Dance’s #GivingTuesday deal: $100 for tickets the opening night of the Nutcracker Suite and Spicy (Wadsworth Atheneum, Downtown Hartford, December 12th), plus a piece of an original painting created through dance and expression in collaboration with Open Studios!

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Also created in collaboration with Penelope!  Check out the full Youtube video of the dance here plus a link to purchase the tickets and painting!

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A scene from the “ugly sweater party” for Carolyn’s Nutcracker – a signature dance of the performance

Penelope and I will both be attending the matinee on Sunday, December 14th, which includes a special appearance from SANTA and a dance party.  Very exciting stuff.

Other exciting stuff – allow me to introduce my new favorite sports bar in the entire world: Bobby V’s

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A terrific place to watch the Giants lose 14-20 to the Redskins.  Oy.

Head Chef Jordan Stein is an old friend, and he was kind enough to invite myself and Jenna Kijowski and Jessica Brigham Bishop (of CT Ain’t So Bad) in for a lovely sampling of cocktails and food last football Sunday!

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Squad!  Check out Jenna’s blog here!

We sampled multiple drinks, including:
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Caramel Apple Martini (Caramel Vodka, Sour Apple Pucker & a caramel swirl)

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Thin Mint Martini – ooh lala! (3 Olives Vanilla Vodka, Kahlua, Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur, White Creme de Cocoa, Cool Swan Irish Cream, Creme de Menthe)

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Pumpkin Spice Martini – for those of us, like myself, who can’t get enough pumpkin even after Thanksgiving (Pumpkin Spice Liqueur, Cool Swan Irish Cream, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, topped with nutmeg and cinnamon)

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The Leaf Peeper – my personal favorite! Spicy and refreshing (Pineapple & Mint Infused Tequila, St Germain, Apple Cider & a splash of OJ)
We didn’t finish these drinks, full disclosure guys.  Way too many and there were a couple more that we tried that aren’t pictured.  In the interests of it being 1:30 pm in the afternoon, small sips of the cocktails were enjoyed by all, and we switched to beer for the food ingestion (plus beer & football, what can I say?  I’m a sucker for a classic pairing)
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Broad Brook Porter Ale for me – a nice fresh, crisp, dark brew
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A super rare Lawson’s “Double or Nothing” for my pals – a delicious blend with notes of buckwheat and maple.  Yum!
 Ok, on to the foods.  Jordan’s philosophy is simple: make scratch bar foods and execute them very well, with people’s dietary restrictions in mind.  The Portabella Poutin is a hearty vegetarian dish which I would eat RIGHT NOW if it magically appeared in front of me, and the Nachos are made with rice chips and gluten fee!  Side note: get the wings.  Just do it.  Try a couple of the adventurous toppings – you won’t be sorry.
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Portabella Poutin – roasted portabella mushrooms over potato wedges, smothered in a porcini gravy and topped with havarti & muenster cheese
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Clams Casino Flatbread – surf & cockle clams, north country bacon, tomato, fresh herbs, mozerella & parmesan cheese blend
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Nachos (glamor filter intentional – nachos are glamorous business) Pulled pork, melted cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream
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Calamari Sticks – rice flour dusted calamari served with sweet chili & snappy lime dipping sauces
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Wings – peach fire, sticky soy, chipotle BBQ, pastrami, chocolate & coffee

In addition to football, or the sport of your choice (I just watch football so you tell me) there is also horse and jai alai betting for those so inclined.  A fun way to spend an afternoon indeed!  Will be back often.  And next time, we can only pray, my G Men will WIN instead of – ugh.  Enough on that.  Thanks again to Chef Jordan for a delightful showcase of his cuisine.  A highly recommended spot!

 

 

 

A recap of Hartford Fashion Week + a look forward to the #WehaWhiskey Festival!

It’s EVENTS SEASON.  All the things, all the time, all the food, all the sparkle, all the nights out, none of the chill.  Sometimes I have to take a step back and really appreciate the cool things I get to be involved in and collaborate with.  Tonight, for example, I was fortunate enough to attend the March of Dimes Signature Chef’s Auction at the gorgeous Riverview in Simsbury.  And in a couple short weeks, I’ll be back at the same location for Share Our Strength.  More to follow on both of those shortly.  But for now – let’s look forward to this Saturday and the upcoming Weha Whiskey Festival!

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Use promo code KAT for 15% off tickets at checkout!  Enjoy 200 whiskeys, courtesy of Maximum Beverage, food from the Highland Park Market, and the satisfaction of knowing you’re raising funds for Camp Courant and the Ct Children’s Medical Center

I stopped by Maximum Beverage today to sample some of the whiskeys they will be pouring at Saturday’s event, including one of my very favorites – Eagle Rare Bourbon

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Maximum has their own single barrel version.  If that doesn’t impress you, we may have nothing in common (sorry)

I hope all of my local whiskey and foodie friends will join me for this event – which I have never managed to attend before!  Very exciting and more, of course, to follow.

So, off of whiskey and on to Hartford Fashion Week.  Katrina did such a marvelous job, along with the rest of the committee (myself included) in bringing an a week’s worth of fashion and fashion related culture to Hartford.

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Here she is with the stylish and fabulous Debbie Alan Wright, owner of Project Closet, and the dashing and handsome Lorenzo Hall (of Fox CT).  A good looking crew!

For those who missed this year’s event, there were multiple nights of fashion themed fun leading up to the three runway shows at Union Station – from a cultural round table at the Hartford Public Library to a fashion themed First Thursday at the Wadsworth.  The star attraction, was, naturally, twelve local original and independent designers showcasing their very diverse looks – from streetwear to ballgowns – at Union Station.  I would strongly recommend visiting and liking the Hartford Fashion Week Facebook Page for some truly beautiful photo galleries and, of course, to stay on top of next year’s event.  But below are some of my favorite moments from the shows:

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Tribal elegance from the Hartford Denim Company

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Wearing an LBD from Therapy Boutique in New Haven and enjoying red carpet fun with my favorite, Jon Aidukonis…

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And my beautiful, tiny diva, Penelope (dressed to kill in a vintage from Venom Vintage)

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Who strutted the runway and, alas, became fashion roadkill at one point 

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Talented local artist Nina Salazar instructing the Femme God models backstage

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Another backstage moment with Saints by SJ

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De Muerte

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AER Collections

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Funkenomics (not pictured: breakdancing)

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Show finale: Saints by SJ

Plus!  Several cool afterparties.  Cuginos in Downtown Hartford provided a lovely buffet after Saturday’s show, and I failed miserably at photographing any of it because Fashion Week hanger is a real thing as either Katrina or Man Repeller will attest to.  However, Amanda, Kate and I had our own marvelous little afterparty at Treva:

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Two inky brunettes and one happy blondie

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And I enjoyed my very favorite local cocktail: the Giardino.  It’s a glorious aromatic gin libation, made special by the full rose ice cube which will slowly melt into your glass, releasing delicious botanicals.  Highly recommended!

However hectic and chaotic backstage may have been, however many flaws we may have noticed during the first go round, Hartford Fashion Week was a truly special event, and I am honored that I was able to participate in its inception – and of course, looking forward to contributing again next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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

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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

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Fancy

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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)

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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:

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So nice

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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

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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!

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Visits with horsies for baby

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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!

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.