Five fun events to watch out for in July/August

While I’m writing this, I’m eating buffalo cheddar waffle potato chips and drinking a Grey Goose and Agave Ripe Sour cocktail.  It’s my last hurrah before starting my 21 Day Fix from Erica!  Upon editing and publishing my meal will be more like this:

shakeology pic stitch

Hallo, Vegan Smoothie and water bar

These nutrient dense beauties have a bevvy of natural superfood ingredients – including Goji Berries and Chia seeds –  plus it’s 100% Vegan – which is WAY more appealing than ‘mystery chemicals’ found in so many weight loss foods.  I also will have my butt kicked during a 30 minute high cardio workout tonight!  Now, I’ll be modifying this plan considerably, as I’m doing it during the apex of summer vacation season, and I’ll be in the Florida Keys for the last week – not to mention I’m not looking to lose a ton of weight and would rather just tone up and be healthy.  But quite frankly, I’m quite stoked to get on track with healthy eating and daily work outs and away from – well – buffalo potato chips for several weeks!  So far today, I’ve had a shake, a banana and an apple plus several water refills – and I feel good and ready for a nice healthy lunch time salad.  Expect more updates as the program rolls along 🙂

So, enough about fitness goals and on to the ‘meat and potatoes’ of this article (sorry, the very IDEA of dieting has me fixated on food apparently – I can’t guarantee that will be the last metaphor to pop up).  Connecticut is bursting with fun things to do this summer.  I am highlighting five of them here, but I could have easily made this list 25 – and it may end up becoming a regular feature.

1. Taste of Hartford – starts today, July 21st and runs until August 3rd:

Taste is back for the summer, ahh.  Wow, nothing like writing about delicious food while on a cleanse!  I”m very VERY excited to ‘cheat’ a bit during Taste – Trumbull Kitchen on Wednesday,  and then dinner with my husband at Carbones – after the very lovely Linley invited us in – on Thursday!  For anyone who doesn’t know, Taste is Hartford’s premiere restaurant week, featuring prixe fixe menus at a $25 or $30 price point from all participating locations.  There will be a full write up of the Carbone’s dinner on Friday, but in the meantime, please feast your eyes on this wonderful picture from M & M Bistro:

toh M and m bistro

Thanks to Emily for this great picture!  Featuring one of the dished M & M is preparing for Taste, as well as a cocktail from our sponsor Onyx – a full gallery of the Onyx cocktails for Taste is available here

2. Om Street on LaSalle with West Hartford Yoga on July 26th!

This totally free event looks like a blast.  Unfortunately, I’ll be in Saratoga the day of (which is really too bad because combine this with the Wine Festival below and you have one heck of a lovely day).   But WHY Studios is where I go for yoga – their drop in class is so convenient for lunch.  And I can’t recommend them enough.  Cait attended last year and snapped this awesome pic – you can also check up her write up of last year’s Om here:

lasalle

Thanks for the awesome photo Cait!

3. CT Wine Festival – also on July 26th!

ecard wine fest

Yoga and wine outdoors.  Basically a perfect day.

LeeAnne tipped me off to this event – though admittedly it is also listed on my CT Wine Passport – which I appear to have lost.  Doh.  But it DOES count for a stamp for those who still have their passport and want to daytrip down to Goshen for the opportunity to sample over 11 of the state’s top vineyards in one convenience location!  Fun, fun, fun.

4. Fantapsy Football at Wood N Tap – dates to be announced soon in August – sign up starts now!

Wood N Tap partners with us every year at CTNow for advertising, and as part of that reciprocal support, we are a proud media sponsor for them.  It’s a really great cause.  100% of the proceeds go to the CT Children’s Medical Center – which will forever have a special place in my heart after they basically saved Penelope’s life last year:

Penelope and others 4361

One fat, adorable and healthy patient.  Thank God.

I am not into Fantasy Football personally (or, as one my ex roomates hilariously called it: “imaginary football”) but my husband plays in three different leagues – minimum.  So I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to talk him into attending this event, hurrah.

5. 2nd Annual Cigar-B-Q, hosted by the Tobacco Shop – at Horton’s Farm on Saturday, July 26th!

Wooo, July 26th is certainly a busy day this year 🙂  This is another event with a great cause behind it – with funds benefiting the Ct Migrant Farm Workers’ Clinic 

tobacco shop pig roast action shot

And also, the masterful pork roasting of Tobacco Shop owner, Gerry Grate!

Tickets must be purchased in advance by July 23rd, so don’t delay if you plan on attending this one – it will sell out!

So there you have it!  Get out there and enjoy it.  And please let me know of any upcoming events in  late August/September that I should highlight too!

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@HSOtweets Talcott Mountain Music Festival and a farm to chef BBQ

Summertime in Connecticut means that the Hartford Symphony Orchestra moves out doors to the Simsbury Meadows (double check info) for five fun and family friendly concerts, each featuring a different theme.  We attended last Friday and were blown away by the Orchestra’s collaboration with Morgan James, Capathia Jenkins, and Randall Craig Fleischer for Broadway Rocks!

hartford courant media partner

This is my favorite media partnership yaas

hartford mag and flowers

A Hartford Magazine on each and every table!  Nice

We had a very nice group of ladies in attendance (plus one gentleman boyfriend who graciously offered to snap this picture)

ladies at talcott

Pictured left to right: Diane Taha of the Greater Hartford Arts Council, Carolyn Paine of Connetic DanceRachael Forker of Onyx Moonshine, Me! of CTNow/Hartford Courant, and Emily Cahill of Yelp, Hartford.  Quite the power group.

Speaking of Onyx, Rachael was kind enough to bring us Cranberry Onyx Margaritas.  I’m glad I haven’t had the chance to try the Cranberry Onyx before this… the margarita blend was such a nice blend of citrus and tart – it was the serendipitous introduction.

moonshine yaaas

Plus, the Onyx looked really nice in my new mason jar cocktail glasses.

In addition to friends actually in attendance, we had friends who were there in spirit:

caitlin and 90 plus cellars

Haha, hi Cait!  Flanked by two bottles of 90 Plus Cellars, quite appropriately.

Emily mixed her 90 Plus Prosecco with a home made blueberry and basil simple syrup, which will hopefully serve as a nice base for many a future summer cocktail meet up.  We also had some great offerings from our partners for Talcott:

three sisters wine

The always amazing Rosedale wines

fruit tart

And finger foods from Fitzgeralds.  The fruit tarts are my actual favorites.  I crave them in the winter because I associate them with Talcott and summertime.

All the food, libations, and camaraderie were an excellent back drop to the main attraction: the music.  I’m a self professed classical music nerd, due to many, many hours on the piano in my formative years.  And who doesn’t like a good Broadway tune?  The beauty of Talcott is that it takes a higher brow concept, like the Symphony, and combines it with the mass appeal of pop music:

talcott crowd

Demonstrated with this crowd here.  The perfect weather probably didn’t hurt.

There was plenty of singing along to crowd favorites from Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera, and to round things off: a flash mob from The Age of Aquarius!

dancing onstage

Fun

Oh, also there were fireworks.  And a perfect, full Hunter’s Moon.

talcott moonlight

So, basically, the best night out I can remember in quite some time!

Also fun and relaxing was hosting a farm to chef BBQ on Sunday.  Yes, I know that term gets bandied about quite a bit, but the lion’s share of the ingredients were sourced from farms within 5 miles of my house that very day, so I feel like it’s justified.

p wiz tomato haz

Behold the tiny hunter gatherer

Penelope loves trips to the Garlic Farm, which is useful as I currently write their newsletter and we have a CSA starting up soon.  It seems like a great thing to do with a baby – tactile development, GMO and pesticide free vegetables, shapes, colors – plus, at the end, we have fresh delicious things to eat

hartford baking co

Hallo beauties

My friend Amanda and I headed up to Lost Acres for local wine whilst the men folk stayed at home with the kids.  Naturally, this led to a glass of wine on the patio, with jazz playing in the background

dry riesling

If you haven’t been to Lost Acres and you live close by, just go.  It’s so worth it

Once back home, I prepped a very simple bruschetta (recipe below) and cracked open another bottle – one I’ve been saving for some time, waiting for the right pairing:

ironside bruschetta

Tada!  Plus Ironside Cabernet – courtesy of Cait – from the same folks behind the 90 Plus Cellars Brand

The tomatoes from the Garlic Farm were beef tomatoes – rich and meaty, with a thick, juicy texture which I felt would pair better with red wine then a right.  The nicely balanced tannic quality of the Ironside blended nicely with the crunchy, balsamic  bruschetta.  Plus, I was pleasantly surprised at the thinnish mouthfeel of Ironside – it’s got a three dimensional, robust flavor palatte but a more maleable body then many cabernets, which also lends itself well to summer drinking!  Ok yes, I just learned “mouthfeel” and I’ve been dying to use it in a sentence.  True wine snobs feel free to attack me in the comments. 🙂

The Ironside also worked very well with Sweet Pea local burgers and watermelon feta arugula salad (stolen from the Capital Grille’s summer menu, thank you very much).  It’s the first wine created by the 90 Plus Cellars company, and the backstory is quite charming too!  Always nice to read about or drink a wine that you have a bit of a personal connection to, don’t you think?  (My connection, if it’s not obvious, is Cait, who now works for 90 Plus as a marketing lady extraordinairre).

hamburger and saladt

Also pictured: marinated shrimp.  And you can’t see it, but there is black pepper Sweet Pea chevre on top of the burger.

It’s definitely worth it to go local, fresh, and seasonal for a BBQ.  The bruschetta alone packed a much bigger flavor punch then many I’ve prepared in the past, due to the extremely fresh ingredients.  Plus, there’s the added satisfaction of sustainability and knowing you’re supporting local agriculture.  I’m thinking that when we go to the Florida Keys in August, I’ll try to make a Floridian version of farm to table (sea to table?) with fresh grouper and citruses.  Ah yes.  Let the good (summer) times roll!

Farm fresh bruschetta

Beef Tomatoes

Fresh garlic

Fresh basil

Balsamic vinagrette

Extra virgin olive oil

Rock salt and fresh cracked pepper

Fresh ciabatta bread

Cube tomatoes and combine with slivered garlic and torn up basil in a medium sized bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic and season to taste.  Refrigerate for at least 1/2 an hour and up to four hours.  Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees, thin slice the ciabatta and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Lightly toast the ciabatta and then spoon the bruschetta on top and serve immediately.

 

@SharpeHill tasting #allthewines

roosters

Glorious roosters!

 

It’s become apparent to me that I need to do a post dedicated to my little daughter, Penelope, seeing this blog is named after her!  That will be upcoming this week – but in the meantime for anyone who doesn’t know – she’s my little girl and she is delightful.  We currently have family visiting from South Carolina this entire week in honor of Penelope – and cousin Hailey’s! – birthdays this upcoming weekend.  So we set out for Sharpe Hill Vineyards with two cars full of excited babies (and adults, if we’re being honest).  Pomfret is about an hour’s drive from our house in East Granby, and as this was my first visit, I was a bit nervous bringing the entire crew out with me

group shot

The gang’s all here!  And yes, this was the best picture of the 20 or so that another vineyard goer kindly snapped for us.

 

But my friend LeeAnne had promised that the food and wines were excellent, so I was confident it would be a good experience, as she is quite the expert on all things food and wine related.  She had told me about the food and wine – I wasn’t prepared for the awesome decor!  Sharpe Hill has a great Colonialist vibe going, with antique pictures on the wall as well as the labels of various bottles.

pretty set up

Look at this pretty set up for keeping bottles chilled at the counter.

 

Unfortunately, I just missed the Head Chef, Catherine, who was away on business when we arrived Sunday.  But Kevin (pictured below manning the tasting table!) was an excellent host, with a great knowledge of the wines and also an immense amount of patience with our large group which included, of course, various small folks.

kevin pouring

Kevin pouring at the tasting table

My group opted to sample just a couple wines to figure out what they liked and settled on the Ballet of Angels for a group table experience, so I did the tasting solo for the most part, although my brother-in-law, Sean, did sample a couple wines too!  Sharpe Hill graciously comped my tasting as well as a bottle for the table, so I thank them for that, and we were very happy to purchase a couple of our favorite bottles on the way you (A Ballet of Angels and St Croix, respectively!)  Below are my notes of a couple highlights from the tasting.

ballet of angels

Ballet of Angels: I’m happy that this wine is always at my local package store, as I’ll definitely pick it up again.  Although a little on the sweet side for my palate, it had a nice dry balance and is an excellent trade off – in my opinion- for a Pinot Grigio, which is one of my husband’s favorite blends.  This is also Sharpe Hill’s signature wine, and it has received a whopping 96 medals in various wine competitions, at home and abroad.

chardonnay

Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay: Now THIS is what I’m looking for in a white.  It had some great American oak characteristics and the full body of a classic chardonnay.  Not pictured, but equally delicious, was the Cuvee Ammi Philips 2012, which had more French character – ie – subtle palate – due to the French and American oak aging process.  Kevin was very helpful in guiding my somewhat unsophisticated taste buds through the nuances between the two varieties!

dry summer rose

Dry Summer Rosé: I don’t understand why rosés get such a bad rap – I truly don’t.  Maybe it’s because there are overly sweet ones out there, but a true, dry rosé is a delightful drinking experience – particularly going into the summer months.  I liked the Summer Rosé immensely, as well as its slightly more sophisticated (not pictured) cousin – the Angelica Rosé 2012, which featured 100% St Croix grapes for a slightly smoother finish.  Both wines have  fruity aroma and a full body which would be great on a patio in the summer… ah yes… soon it will be that time of year!  Hurrah.

cabernet franc

Cabernet Franc: I’m a red wine girl, I’ll admit it.  And, as mentioned in a previous post, I’d already had the pleasure of trying this particular cab at Big Red.  But it was very nice to try it again, in a bit more a ‘cerebral space’ of thinking about the flavor components of the wine vs. just how delicious it is to have a glass of red in hand.  So my second tasting of this Cabernet Franc was enlightening in identifying a robust and not at all tannic local red.  For a red, it was dry, and I definitely would follow the recommended pairing of a meat dish with this cabernet.  Kevin was also kind enough to provide me with a piece of dark chocolate for another classic pairing – red wine and chocolate!  Ah yes, by now, I was firmly in my happy place.

st croix

St Croix 2010: This little beauty is currently sitting in my kitchen at home, and I’ll be enjoying another glass this evening.  One of the nicest things that Kevin did during my visit was break down the various varieties of grapes used at the vineyard.  The Sharpe Hill St Croix is a truly outstanding grape, and the 27 medals it’s received are well deserved.  An immensely smooth wine with a complex aroma and well finished palate – I’ll be asking for a special order of this at my package store at some point for sure.  Delicious!

port with rice krispie

Pontefract 2008: Can there be anything better than a good port and dessert pairing?  And how nice that I had brought an Easter favorite – rice krispie treats – considering all the pretty Easter décor on the table!  It made for a lovely picture and an even lovelier bite.  This port will also be on my special orders list at some point I’m sure (according to Kevin, they can ship by special request to almost any package store in the state with enough advance notice – good to know!).  It was smooth, drinkable, and sophisticated.  I talked my brother-in-law into tasting with me, and he said he liked it too – and it was his first port!

Thanks again to Sharpe Hill for having us.  I’m very much looking forward to going back this summer, when the gardens are in bloom, to enjoy more wine!  Cheers!