Two awesome weekends with Penelope – @MillwrightsCT and @FunwithCarbsLG barbeque

I had every intention of posting last week, I swear.  But somewhere between working full time (which I adore) little Penelope (who is the best thing in the world), and a three day holiday weekend (yaaaas), time just got away from me.  So here’s a summary of the last two weekends’ festivities, starting with: dinner on the patio at Millwrights with my loves!

Oh, what’s better than dining outside on a glorious summer evening with the people you care about?  Just about nothing.  Well, the opening night of Talcott Mountain Music Festival would have been nice, but when our babysitter had to cancel, we went for a family evening – and it was fantastic.  Millwrights, for being somewhat (ok, very) fancy and farm to chef, is still down home, hospitable, and oh-so-baby friendly.  How friendly you ask?  Friendly enough for the General Manager, AJ, to hunt down sunblock from me for little Penelope when she got a bit too much early evening sun on the deck:

millwrights baby

Thanks to Chef Tyler‘s wife for lending us some and pretty much saving our dinner.  P practiced her naice walking al fresco and threw a jelly sandal in the pond, and she did not get sunburned in the slightest.  A very successful evening.

Dining with a 15 month old can be a bit chaotic, so we have a couple simple rules to manage the experience and make sure it’s pleasant for us and our fellow diners:

– Eat early.  The ‘witching hour’ for P is around 7:00 pm, as that’s her bed time, so a 5:00 pm start time typically works well

– Seek out family friendly places.  This tends to be less “Chuck E Cheese” and more “awesome, laid back staff – ” like Millwrights, as well as places with stimulation and some space to stretch the little legs and wander about.  Outdoor dining in general is, of course, fabulous for this.

– When all else fails, grab some to-go boxes and exit stage left.  To be honest yes, this has happened a couple times.  But thankfully not on this particular evening!

So there you have it.  I’m sure every parent has a trick or two up their sleeves – just happens that this works well for us.  It also helps that I occasionally receive gift cards as bonuses through my work place – as budgets for new parents can be tight also (and ours certainly often is!)

millwrights cocktail

Another parent staple – a delicious cocktail.  Pictured: the Violet Femme (vodka, creme yvette, lemon, rosemary)

amuse bouche

Chef Tyler sent out this delightful amuse bouche, which has an equally delightful French name which I remembered only as its translation: cheese puff (the Violet Femmes may have been to blame for this)

millwrights biscuit

Anyone whose been to Millwrights and doesn’t have a gluten allergy will most likely attest to the flaky delectable qualities of the biscuit and house infused butter combo

asparagus action shot

We ordered a side of asparagus for P, but it was enjoyed by all

steak millwrights

Mike’s entree: Tournedos of Beef Tenderloin.  The pickled scape garnish was incredible.  I’m canning scapes this week in an attempt to replicate at home.

duck millwrights

My Duck Breast.  The parmesan grits were a bit of a let down for me – I’m a purist when it comes to grits and the texture was a bit too rich, mealy, and not quite starchy enough for my taste.  But the flavorful, fatty, rare plus duck more than compensated, and it paired quite nicely with my Violet Femme.

This was my first opportunity to actually dine on the deck at Millwrights.  I can’t wait to go back, hopefully for drinks at sunset?  Who knows.  It’s awfully nice that its only fifteen minutes away from our house 🙂

arrigoni 16

Love it

So that was Friday evening – over and home before the sun had fully set – but that’s not a bad thing at all on a long summer night with a small child in tow.  Saturday, we had another family excursion to the Pickin’ Patch in Avon!  We arrived just in time for the last strawberries, which is why our berries are a bit small.  We worked hard for them and they tasted extra juicy because of it!

picked by penelope

Sun ripened, juicy beauties.

pickin patch baby

Someone got a special wagon ride from Daddy!

As well as berries, the Pickin Patch has a variety of ‘you pick’ vegetables.  We grabbed some snow peas, and I would definitely like to go back for more of a veggie array at some point in the future.  We plucked these particular berries for a very maple syrup infused brunch at our house the very next day and served them in maple syrup (naturally).  The entire concept of the brunch was birthed from a single bottle of maple syrup infused wine from Arrigoni Winery in Portland. I did a tasting when I picked the bottle for the party up, and a write up of many of their wine blends is coming tomorrow!  There were enough of them that they deserve their own post.  The maple syrup wine didn’t last long, but thankfully we had back up:

onyx and necklaces

Namely, Onyx moonshine infused with strawberries.  Paired with some delightful Lia Sophia necklaces which were also up for grabs at the brunch

p and hannah

Look at these fashionable ladies

Most of the cooking was done by a kindly guardian angel who arrived on a fluffy cloud from Billings Forge and professionally took over my kitchen, thus preventing a syrupy meltdown on my part.  Cathy AmaranteI can’t thank you enough for applying your professional catering knowledge to my chaos, and the food you prepared was tasty and beautiful:

egg cups

Pinterest worthy ham and egg cups

goddess pancakes

Bacon and apple pancakes.  I also provided really ugly and not very good Vegan pancakes.   Sorry vegetarians/vegans.  I tried.

brunch spread

Other tasty food stuffs!  Those giant muffins were so good and unfortunately can be purchased very close to my house.  I’m in trouble.

p and alex

Little people enjoying play time

p and amanda and spike jonze

…and necklace modeling.  Yes, it looks good on you P

On Independence Day, we celebrated with my husband’s family and a giant array of Italian delicacies (hello, cutlets!)  Unfortunately the weather was awful – fortunately – we got to attend Leeanne‘s barbeque the very next day!

l cheese plates

I made this and, heck yes, I’m very proud of it.  Blue cheese, Sweet Pea chevre, and prosciutto.

l blackboard

No lack of food or tasteful displays here! 

The highlight of the barbeque for me were the Broad Brook Beef burgers.  Ok, definitely the highlight for me were the Broad Brook burgers.  I’ve never tried this local beef before, and the meat was intensely flavorful and juicy.  Oh man.  Definitely going to stock up at some point in the near future.  There were also many delicious libations flowing:

l rose

Rose, because we classy

l onyx

Yet more Strawberry Onyx Lemonade. Great minds think alike.

rare luddite sighting

Also, Two Roads Brewing Company Road Jam beer.  Hi Rob!

p baba

I managed to photograph both camera shy luddites, but not a single group shot of the ladies.  DANG

cool kid

…except for P killing it in her glasses

Lack of taggable Facebook photos notwithstanding (the horror!  the humanity!) a terrific time was had by all, and it was an honor to be in attendance for Leeanne and Rob’s first BBQ.  The next day was the end of our three day weekend, so we opted for a low key hike to Enders

enders

Which I’ve blogged about before here and I’ll do so again because I absolutely love it

p and daddy

P and Daddy enjoying the waterfalls

bill murray

And a picnic!  Note how Mike is channeling Bill Murray from Caddyshack

sangria enders

Guess who just got mason cocktail jars and promptly filled them with sangria?  And posted the recipe at the end of this blog?  Awww yeah

p and mammy enders

Only seems right to end on a Mommy-Baby selfie

It’s the apex of summer – so many more long and sunshine filled weekends to come.  Hope everyone else enjoyed the sun, the beach, the awesome weather, and the long holiday weekend with friends and family xoxo

Easy Summer Sangria

2 bottles unoaked red table wine

1/2 cup cointreau

1/2 cup brandy

1/2 cup sugar

1 lemon

1 apple

1 orange

San Pellegrino Aranciata

Cut the apple and orange and place in the bottom of a large pitcher.  Juice the lemon over the other fruit and sugar.  Macerate the fruit with a long handled spoon, and add the cointreau and brandy, plus 1/2 bottle of red wine.  Place in fridge for several hours, stir, and add the remaining wine.  Keeps in the fridge for up to a week.  To finish and enjoy: strain out the fruit and serve over ice with a splash of San Pellegrino Aranaciata or other flavored Pelligrino (sprite or prosecco also work nicely)

 

@faithwnpr Food Schmooze, @HartfordMag Best of Party, and Watch Hill Rhode Island

 

Is it really Monday already?  And is June almost over?  The weekends in summer fly by like sparrows, especially at the peak of the season: the solstice.  It was quite a busy and eventful weekend for us – and I can’t complain about any of it, even though I’m thoroughly tired out and sun drenched today.  Below is a recap/roundup from Thursday night through Saturday.  But first!  A word from our sponsors!

BB_1029240_CIGAR_DINNER

Just kidding, I don’t have sponsors.  But Front Street Bistro is hosting this awesome cigar dinner tomorrow night, and you should go.

One of my favorite events of the year:

w faith middleton

The Faith Middleton Food Schmooze Martini Competition.  Pictured here with Kerry Burrows and the lady herself

Faith Middleton is a popular host on WNPR, and her show focuses on “the richness of life and everything in it.”  The topics vary, but overwhelmingly, the show is about food.  Glorious, delicious food.  And the Food Schmooze brings together top restaurants to compete for the accolade of best martini – which makes for some very good sampling:

Kerry food schmooze

And this year’s venue, the Riverview in Simsbury, is simply gorgeous!

smokin with James

The first drink we tried upon entering was ‘Smoking with James’ by Plan B – which also won the entire competition!

In addition to the smoked peach cocktail, Plan B provided burger sliders.  I would have photographed one, but I was too busy eating it.  Sorry.  I did manage to grab photos of a couple other food pairings:

tylers awesome bite

Thank you Chef Tyler – so very much – for saving me this decadent little crab bite.  It paired delectably well with Millwrights Kyokai #7 – a tequila based cocktail which I’ll soon go back for a full sized version of.

burger baby beet cocktail

Another favorite – a Beet Martini from Burger Baby!

sal e peppa

A refreshing basil concoction from Sal e Peppa

half door

A very unique and hoppy cocktail (that’s a hop ice cube!) courtesy of The Half Door

rizuttos cocktail

One of my favorites from Rizuttos – a Spicy Sriracha Lemonade Bourbon, which I sampled before in this post.  The cotton candy garnish was a nice touch!

infinity bistro strawberry rhubarb

Infinity Hall Bistro provided a summer strawberry rhubarb cocktail.  I’m stoked for their new location to open in Hartford.

floral cocktail

Barley Vine’s “The Richness of Life” cocktail, featuring aromatic gin and pretty flower garnish

on20 cocktail

On 20‘s cocktail was bold and classic

chili thai tini

Cavey‘s cocktail had an unexpected and welcome Thai twist, and was paired with a (not pictured) spring roll

I didn’t necessarily sample in this order precisely, but I tried to move from dinner to dessert cocktails – and there were many rich and sweet ones to choose from:

blackberry habanero goat cheese profiterole

First up: a savory dessert – goat cheese rasberry profiterole from the Riverview, which paired nicely with their “bridezilla” spicy and sweet rasberry jalapeno cocktail

bobby v sports bar cracker jack cocktail

A pretty, whimsical Crackerjack Cocktail from the new Bobby V’s Sports Bar!

doubletree by bristol signature cookie cocktail feat chocolate caviar

My personal favorite of the event: Doubletree by Hilston Bristol‘s Signature Cookie Cocktail, with crushed cookie rim and home made chocolate caviar at the bottom.  I went back for another.  Ok I had three.

j christians

A more ‘meh’ pairing – J Christian‘s banana fudge liqueur, paired with a chocolate covered pineapple ball from Edible Arrangements.  Pineapple and chocolate are just strange bedfellows.

There were over thirty restaurants participating and competing.  There was no way I was trying thirty cocktails.  I’m happy with the selection I did sample, but I would have loved to try more!  A photo gallery including some of the lovely looking ones I missed (alas!) is available here.

Friday morning, I had the pleasure of attending the Traveler’s Championship.  I took a couple lovely photos from our corporate greenside box, before reading the literature that clearly stated NO PHOTOS.  Whoops.  So in lieue of sharing any putting shots, here’s a little picture of my sunblock swag, which was much needed on a hot sunny day:

travelers sunblock

It’s very cute and it’s currently in my purse

Friday evening, I had the pleasure of visiting Blo West Hartford, where Stacey hooked me up with, quite possibly, no scratch that – definitely – my best blow out yet

blo hair

I asked for beachy waves and the stylist nailed it.

What was the special occasion, you ask?  Why none other than the Hartford Magazine Best of Hartford Party – which took place at the Hartford Public Library

hplct

All glass everything

cuvee cheers

And we pregamed at Cuvee with rose and champagne cocktails.  It was a fancy evening

kat and erica

Lilly Pulitzer and Tracy Negoshian fancy.  Pictured with the lovely Erica from Silkworm in West Hartford!

vary studious

Big books and cocktail gowns fancy.  Pictured: me, Yurah, Caitlin, Carolyn, and Emily!

cait and kat

“Someone won Best Runner Up for Best Blogger” fancy (hint: it wasn’t me! congrats Cait!)

a vert macaroons

Macaroons from a’Vert and cabernet fancy

ripe cocktail hartford mag

Ripe mini-cocktails (always fancy)

ze ladies

Aerial view of the ladies and their NoRa mini cupcakes (fancy fancy)

nancy and such

Aeriel view of: Erika Arias, Michael Guinan of Hartford Magazine, Brad Hoffman of Hoffman Auto and Nancy Meyer – Courant Publisher (yeah, kinda fancy)

hoffman crew

More goofy than fancy – but always delightful – the Hoffman Auto crew!

cupcake trio and candy cigarettes

Trio of mini NoRa cupcakes, prosecco, and candy cigarettes from the Food Schmooze (all vary fancy)

smoked salmon pastrami

And Billings Forge fancy salmon pastrami with cream cheese on toast and green beans for dessert.  Because I’m a weirdo.

I’m just going to leave this here:

Sorry

All this and it was only Friday night!  Whew!  Like I mentioned before, quite the weekend.

Saturday, we headed down to Watch Hill, Rhode Island with the family.

chocolate donut yaaas

Happiness is a chocolate donut and a day at the beach!

watch hill ri

And such a pretty beach it is!

westerly beach

This is why we always come to Watch Hill.  Before Taylor Swift made it… cool?

ooh sand so naice

And this year, P was really old enough to enjoy playing in the sand!

throwback beach

A big improvement from last year, where we had matching Lilly swimsuits but only stayed at the beach for – wait for it – 5 minutes

such twins many lillys

This year, Katlin and I wore the matching Lilly’s.  This just happened.  I dig it.

The above picture was snapped at the Kitchen at Pleasant View Inn in Westerly.  The view was magnificent – the food – adequate?  I loved the spicy bloody mary which I ordered, and the bacon wrapped scallops were quite nice:

bacon wrapped scallops

Plus!  Lovely presentation

However, my scallops were advertised to contain fried onions and instead came topped with onion rings, which threw me and also threw off the salt balance of the dish:

pan seared scallops

Pretty, but not necessary

From speaking with my fellow diners, I believe I just ordered a dish that I didn’t quite care for – I should have stuck with my instincts and ordered the enormous lobster roll!  Oh well, there’s always next time.  P spent most of the meal asleep:

asleep with turtle

Which is how I felt for most of the following Sunday!

So there you have it – a tremendous weekend indeed.  Even tho I feel like I’m too busy at times, I probably shouldn’t lose sight of how blessed I am to get to attend and experience so many terrific local events, not to mention to have such a wonderful family.  Hope everyone else is enjoying the summer and long weekends full of fun as well.

 

A weekend with Penelope and some pampering for Mommy at Skincare by Marcia!

Reminder: tonight is Yelp Helps at the Society Room!  So get out after work, enjoy some cocktail samples and nibbles, and get to know some of Hartford’s finest local charities, non-profits, and arts organizations.

Sometimes the weeks – and especially the weekends – get very busy with events.  It’s an occupational hazard of working int he media – and to be honest I love it – but it’s really nice to slow down at times and spend quality time with Penelope.

kat and p

We make for quite the dynamic duo

On Saturday, we headed into Hartford to walk the pink carpet, make arts and crafts for Daddy, and enjoy Open House Day.

happy fathers day

Hartford Prints hosted a great arts and craft’s event for kids.  This is Penelope’s cousin’s, Eva’s craft.  P’s was decidedly more abstract.

ootd

My OOTD.  I was proud of the mommy look so I am sharing, even tho it’s a terrible selfie face.

Conveniently, The Society Room is located directly across the street from Hartford Prints.  And they had a nice pink carpet rolled out for the ‘fabulous little ladies’ attending this VAZ event (the sweet spot for this event was 6-12 years, but everyone from 14 month old P to older teenage girls seemed to have a really great time!)

society room vaz

Fancy fancy

 VAZ is a local group dedicated to providing women with fun and meaningful ‘girls night out’ type experiences.  The event we attended was their annual junior VAZ – and it was, indeed fabulous.

aerial view vaz

Great turnout! 

Among the many vendors present, I spotted a couple familiar places who are clients of mine:

  Little Miss Bella Boutique in Farmington!  A great spot to pamper your little princess with a manicure or a tea party!

playhouse on park kids

Playhouse on Park! With a booth all decked out for the occasion in dress up finery

There were tons and tons of fine, girly merchandise for sales – from shoes to tutus.  Thankfully, Penelope has excellent taste and she chose the $5 teddy bear – proceeds from which benefited Grace Academy Hartford.

Penelope might have been a bit young to really get into the shopping (oh thank you God) but she was completely into the red carpet.  Little girls ages 6 and up were invited to strut down a runway MC’d by Cinderella

pink carpet

Work it, ladies

So naturally, Penelope had to test out the runway herself

yes i dance now

There was dancing and much excitement

cousins

With her lovely cousin Ava.  Still eyeing the stage however.  Can’t keep a diva off the stage.

After we left VAZ, slightly dazed, in a sugar coma, and covered in glitter, my Aunt Virginia suggested we walk down to the Wadsworth, which was offering free admission for Open House Day!

open house day

So cool

wadsworth

And there was a live DJ and chalk for the kiddos outside!

Inside, there were a myriad of arts and crafts activities, as well as the opportunity to dress up and be photographed in traditional African clothing garments as an interactive function of one of the Wadsworth’s new exhibits: Fresh Faces (a collection of varied portrayals of African Americans in American art).

wadsworth arts and crafts

It’s amazing how often you can go to the Wadsworth and end up leaving with something you created yourself!  Here, museum goers create collages with varied textured papers, as well as their own art pieces.

So, Saturday was a fine day out in Hartford.  Sunday was, of course, Father’s Day, and Mike took off for golf with his Dad for most of the day, leaving P and I to our own devices.  We stayed local in Granby, visiting two farms and a vineyard and hiking at Enders.

p with her scapes

Picking scapes at The Garlic Farm

p and mammy

Paddling in the waterfalls at Enders

waterfalls

So very gorgeous.  I recommend you go, and bring a towel

adirondack chair

Sitting in the Big Girl Chair at our favorite, Lost Acres Vineyard

rose glass

Whilst Mommy enjoyed a nice glass of rose

bag of swag

The results of our shopping: local honey, scapes galore, Sweet Pea feta, local pork, and a bottle of rose

In addition the weekend’s festivities, I’d like to include a mention of Marcia, who is an amazing aesthetician who recently moved to Stonington, CT, from California.  She brought with her Lira products – a brand which is quite popular on the West Coast and based out of London.  Like another one of my favorite UK based brands – Lush – Lira uses all natural stem cell plant ingredients to create highly precise skin care products with homeopathic basis such as alpine roses and oranges.  Right up my alley!  I am a bit leery of chemical facials, so I was very into the ingredients list in this line.

lira

Tada!  Lira!

Marcia is warm, friendly, and consultative in her skin care approach.  She invited me down for a free facial after I met her through a mutual friend at one of our Hartford Magazine launch parties.  I’ve waiting a couple weeks to post this as I wanted to see the difference in my skin.  Since the facial, my occasional acne has cleared up considerably (I’ve also been using a gentle Lira facial exfoliator recommended by Marcia) and my skin has better shine and tone, without a doubt.  It was amazing how much dead skin was on my face (ok, it was disgusting)… immediately after the facial, I had visible freckles which weren’t there an hour before!

marcia billburg better photo

Thanks so much Marcia!

Marcia can be found right on Stonington’s cozy main street, inside Elizabeth’s Hair Studio

view of the street

I have mad love for Stonington.  It’s just the quintessential Ct shoreline town, and the Main St is just quaint and perfect

If you do go see her, please mention this post for 10% off of a treatment of your choice!  And also,  like her page on Facebook for more info on what she does and the fabulous Lira product line.  You’re not likely to find it from another aesthetician on the East Coast, and the natural ingredients are worth a daytrip (not that we need an excuse with this gorgeous summery weather).  Plus, summer is a great time to protect your skin from the sun and the elements with a little pampering.  I’ll be back soon, without a doubt 🙂

 

 

Let’s do everything outside – it’s summer – and let’s start with dinner at The Place

Full disclosure: I am writing this from the Garlic Farm in West Granby! I’ll be managing their newsletter this summer and keeping the locals up to date with breaking news on ramps and CSAs and such. Hurrah!  I can’t wait for ramp pesto in a couple of weeks – will most definitely share the recipe and I may end up with a surplus if anyone is interested in sampling – so stay tuned.  Also: look how bucolic it is out here – consider a day trip:

garlic farm

Sitting on a bench, under a shady tree, in the late afternoon in early June on a nice farm – it’s just delightful

My resolution this summer is going to be a simple one – spend as much time as possible outside. It’s fitting to start by writing al fresco about my al fresco dining experience this weekend at The Place in Guilford.

fire pit

Simple grilled goodness.  The entire menu is listed on the red board in the background.

This restaurant operates only in the summer (which makes sense if you’ve ever asked yourself “why don’t I eat outside today?” in Connecticut in January – which you haven’t, because no one ever wants to do that). The owners spend half the year in Florida, and the vibe of this restaurant is very reminiscent of, say, the Rum Bar in Palm Beach Gardens, FL (one of my favorite spots down south). Very casual, all outdoors, just show up, have a good time, and enjoy.

attack lobster

“Attack lobsters,” for example, are native to Florida

Due to the popularity of the concept, expect a long wait in summer and be warned: they do not take reservations!

“The Place” has a beautifully zen menu concept, all the way down to the order system (more on that in a minute). It’s BYOB

mason jar of cocktail

OR BYOMJFOSCM (bring your own mason jar full of spicy cucumber margarita)

And BYOG too (Bring Your Own Glasses)

byog

Mine are Lilly Pulitzer acrylics and I love them

the place cheese plate

Also, BYOCP (Bring Your Own Cheese Plate) – ours had blue cheese (foreground), honey, roasted brussel sprouts, parmigiano reggiano, Griffin farmstead chevre, and olives

My good friend Leeanne, her husband Rob, and my Uncle Stephen and Aunt Ramie joined us for dinner.  Not pictured but absolutely delicious was Leeanne’s garlicky  feta dip, accompanied with pita chips.  We also ordered two rounds of grilled clams to start our meal:

grilled clams

Seared to hot perfection on the open flame and topped with just a bit of tomato sauce. 

For our main, five out of the six people at the table ordered lobsters – with Rob opting for a steak instead (which he claimed to be absolutely delicious).  And we all, wisely, ordered corn on the cob:

corn

LOOK AT THAT CORN.  The fact that it was dipped in a giant vat of melted butter may have enhanced the charred flavor.

Corn was at the lowest end of the price spectrum on the menu, at $2.95, and lobster was the highest: venturing up to $29.95 for a 1 3/4 pound lobster (although we all ordered in the 1 1/4- 1 1/2 pound range for a slightly lower price).  In between, there were options for a native blue fish – which according to a friendly fellow diner who is related to the owners – has teeth and a ‘wicked’ bad temper – as well as non pescatarian options, such as the aforementioned steak and also grilled chicken.  Penelope stayed home with Grandma, as we dined a bit late -but The Place is very, very kid friendly, and next time she will join us for sure.

Oh, a quick note on the BYOB.  We saw plenty of wine circling the tables, but the only options to purchase onsite were Snapple, water, and other basic, non-alchoholic libations – so plan accordingly.

yaaas

If you’re smart you will invite my Uncle Stephen and he will make you spicy cucumber margaritas with a hot salt relish.  Note my uber fashionable whale sweatshirt.

chartreusian flip

Here is drink number two: a creamy and licorice minded Chartreusian Flip

better pic grilled lobster

Which paired awfully well with this little beauty – a perfectly roast lobster

We strolled up between courses to warm up by the fire pit and observe the double cooking method of the lobster – first boiled and then grilled for tender, sweet results.  For purists, there is also the option to order the lobster plain boiled.  We also checked out the uniquely simple firing method at The Place:

the place

Just a set of tiles and each order is tallied in pencil and then marked off when complete.  Plus the stack of paper plates which everything is served on.  I told you it was simple.

Not so simple was our dessert wine pairing: a bottle of Pontefract “port” which was kindly fetched for me by Leeanne from Sharpe Hill Vineyards when she visited this weekend!

pontefract

I had tried it back in April and loved the St. Croix grapes and complex palate, so she brought me a bottle and we enjoyed it with the dessert menu with The Place also offers to finish off your meal.

carrot cake

I chose carrot cake but preferred the Mississippi Mud Cake which my wiser friends ordered. 

Dry carrot cake notwithstanding, the vibe, food, and price point at The Place combined to make for a delightful dining experience which was well worth the drive.  Can’t wait to go back this summer and try the blue fish!

A very special #TGIF featuring #Ortizfoodiepride

Instead of the usual cocktail mixology video for Friday, I have instead for this week a special cocktail recipe from my Uncle Stephen Ackley: master mixologist.  I do have a brand new cocktail video for next week from Friday for next week however – and  it contains rhubarb!  And it’s from Firebox!

But this week, my sister, Amy, visited me from San Francisco/the Bay area – which prompted a family get together in upstate New York with many delicious foods and libations: so this is a special post to honor that visit.  And yes, there is a cocktail recipe  copied at the end of this post.

gangs all here

With my sister and Penelope the day before we went to NY.  Note that baby Orlando looks like Yoda here.  Which is so adorable.

apple wine

The Lost Acres Apple Wine that we enjoyed al fresco on Saturday and also on Sunday

epic cheese plate #2

More local goodies: organic strawberries from Granby Village Health, Sweet Pea chevre, and apple and walnut bread from Lost Acres Orchard!

Here is the entire ‘gang’ who was at the party on Sunday – all from my father’s (Ortiz) side of the family – and all contributing delicious Cuban and Puerto Rican dishes from our heritage to dinner that day!

familia

I love you guys so much

Ok, back to the food.  It’s a bit of a family tradition to marathon eat, and as everyone is a foodie, the ingredients have to be top notch.  Therefore, we started with lobster tacos, with fresh soft shell lobster which my Uncle Greg, who was hosting the dinner, sourced from Maine the previous week

lobster tacos

Lobster with home made chipotle mayo, cilantro, radishes, and slaw on corn tortilla

uncle greg

My Uncle Greg rendering pork fat from the pulled pork (spoiler alert) to heat up the tortillas

lobster

Look at this beautiful, fresh lobster!

Following the tacos, Amy and I decided we needed a breather before course #2 (chowder) and we also, naturally, needed more cheese to go with the Sweet Pea chevre we had brought with us (naturally).  As it was a beautiful day, we walked to the local The Big Cheese in Rosendale.

boom baby boutique

I was too excited about the mix of cheese and vintage clothes (I bought a blazer!) to remember to take a picture of the cheese shop (dang).  But here’s another local shop that I put on my list for our next visit to Rosendale!

orlandito

Orlando being worn by his mommy and looking ridiculous hip in his baby sunglasses.  I can’t take it.

epic cheese plate

The finished cheese plate – featuring from left to right: manchengo, a marvelous ‘grilling cheese,’ jerk cheese, smoked gouda, a creme brie, and the aforementioned chevre.  Oh and olives.  Always olives.

The grilling cheese was a truly marvelous discovery which I will be repeating as soon as possible on our grill this summer.  It was so good and so easy to prepare!

cheese ungrilled

Before

cheese grilled

And after!

Naturally, it wouldn’t be a proper dinner without a soup course.  My Uncle Greg prepared a light and tasty seafood chowder, with, among other things, clams, bits of the lobster, and swordfish.

clam chowdah

Excellent

Don’t worry – we did take a bit of a breather before the main course.  There was pulled pork to heat up after its long sous vide bath

pulled pork

Ah yes.  This is what every Cuban wants, always

ropa vieja

Plus Ropa Vieja, brought by my Uncle Chris, to reheat

pastel de amarillo

Pastelon de amarillo to warm up (for the uninitiated: sweet plaintains mixed with a glorious medley of meats and olives, topped with cheese.  A riff on a traditional mofongo, if you will)  Courtesy of Uncle Stephen

rice

It wouldn’t be Cuban dinner without the rice…

blurry black beans

And the beans.  Blurry action shot because, again, I was excited

this is heaven

The combined plate of gloriousness with avocado garnish, paired with Lost Acres Apple Wine

After dinner, the focus switched to the adorable baby cousins

cousinssss

I mean, really, really adorable you guys

There were presents

smart phone 2

A smartphone for P!  of her very own!  How naice

orlandito macaras

Maracas and a tiny fedora for Orlando!  According to P, also hers

baby in fedora

Ah yes, P, it looks great on you too

maracas

There are giraffes on the maracas you guys.  I can’t even

And of course, there was chocolate (curry and toffee flavored) and many, many after dinner libations from my Uncle Stephen, who had also been mixing throughout dinner.  He showed up with about five boxes of liquor and at least ten types of bitters, so we were pretty spoiled.  My favorite cocktail of the evening was a replication of the ‘4th and Rye’ from 116 Crown in New Haven (rye, gin, St. Germaine, simple syrup, and heat).  The recipe shared below was from a close second favorite cocktail of the evening – one of my Uncle Stephen’s own creation

uncle stephen

Picture here immersed in his craft

Now that Amy and Orlando have continued their family tour (next stop for them – Florida!  lucky) I am a bit sad

sad_kitten2

Ok, really sad

But overall I feel extremely blessed to have such a wonderful and culinary focused family!  Would love to hear some of your family’s traditional dinners in the comments below, and please request any recipes you’d like to try out for yourselves!  Don’t forget to try out mixing Uncle Stephen’s cocktail too:

Earl of Plymouth Cocktail

2 oz Plymouth Gin

1.5 oz Earl Grey Infused Vodka

1 oz Lillet Blanc

.5 oz simple syrup

.5 oz lemon juice

Dash Lavender Bitter

Shake, strain, and pour into chilled cocktail glass; garnish with curled lemon zest