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

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Zohara Preview and Newport: here I come

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Photo via the Newport Mansions Food & Wine Festival’s Facebook Page

I’m no Nutmegger.  No, not even a New Englander.  I’m a strange, hybridized transplant who has traveled from the hothouse of Kauai to the deserts of Peru – with quite a few stops in between.  As such, there are quite a few New England traditions which have been on my radar since setting down in this small corner of the world, admired from afar, and have yet to experience.  High up the list: the Newport Mansions Food & Wine Festival.  Thankfully, all that changes tomorrow, when I attend for the first time (with a press ticket courtesy of the festival, and the handsome Scott, who is not standard press kit issue, but the best possible company).  Due to an event in Hartford later on that same day – because September is both quite fine and quite busy – we will be utilizing AmRide services to get home: which means they will be driving my car back, so that we may take advantage of VIP pours without spitting (something that I understand is a ‘thing’ but eludes my instincts on how to drink wine), or driving.  Strolling the Newport Mansions, sipping fine vintages, watching live chef demos, and waking up to run past history and to the sea?  Now THAT’S a weekend.

More to follow on our Newport adventures.

But first, please enjoy a brief visual tour of the final installment of the Hadley & Occum Farm Dinners, which took place at the extraordinarily photogenic Sub Edge Farm.  Zohara – meaning “brilliance” in Hebrew, is the luminescent new project of Chef Dorjan Puka of the Doro Restaurant Group.

The cuisine: Mediterranean.  The result: magnificent.  Look out for Zohara in the West Hartford Center soon.

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(oh, hi Scott)

72 Hours in Austin

At some pretty much unnoticed point in the last several months, Scott and I quietly slipped off and explored Austin, TX from the vantage point of the uber hip Hotel San Jose,  Below is a visual tour of our adventures, which involved many tacos, cool architecture, vintage shopping, and a wild night of dancing in a honky tonk bar which was (thankfully) never photographed.  But before we plunge into the bright colors, intense foods, and shockingly good vineyards of Texas, let’s look at a couple  REALLY good foodie happenings here at home (namely, Connecticut)

HBC six year anniversary

The first: The Hartford Baking Company turns 6 on September 1st – that would be tomorrow.  If you’re an early bird type, get yourself over there at 7:30 am for a lovely pour over of Giv or Stumptown Coffee and snag a free loaf of artisanal bread for yourself when they open their doors.  If you’re the sandwich type – stop by at lunch and get a $5 sandwich deal.  My personal favorite, now and always: the brie and jam.  So much carby goodness you guys.  Go.

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The second: Doro Restaurant Group will be previewing the cuisine of Zohara – their new Israeli restaurant – on September 8th at the stunning Sub Edge Farm.  Chef Dorjan Puka is taking the reigns, and if you didn’t already get tickets – unfortunately – it’s sold out.  BUT you still have one final chance to experience a Doro Restaurant Group Hadley + Occum with BRUNCH, cooked by none other than Scott Miller, on September 18th!  Tickets are available here and I would buy one soon if you’re interested – they will be going fast. I will be documenting the Zohara dinner in a future post and hungrily attending next week.

Without further ado, here is the promised photos of Austin.  Notes: Hotel San Jose is creative, perfect, and part of the Standard Hotel Group.  We deliberately seek out Standard Hotels when traveling – and for good reasons.  They are a hip paradise with the very best in paired down amenities and just the right amount of quirky hedonism.  The tacos, all the tacos, pictured, were out of this world attractive.  If I wasn’t a taken woman, I would probably date one of them.  The ones in the photos are from Torchy’s and Jo’s Coffee – respectively – Jo’s also does this turbo cold brew/ice cream/espresso mash up, which is what frappuccinos try and miserably fail to be.  The cocktail in the first picture is a Michelada – which neither of us was particularly into.  The BBQ was from Salt Lick, a bit downwind of Austin – where we took a quick day trip, simultaneously touring several local vineyards.  If Texas starts shipping wine out of the state – we will sign up immediately.  Rich terrain creates beautiful grapes.  Not pictured, but part of the fabric of the entire trip – the music scene.  Everywhere, all the time, live, original, funky, glorious music.  Rock and roll, country, bluegrass.  Play The Avocados on Spotify in the background for the proper vibe while reading this post.  Finally – the tail end of the photos are from San Antonio.  Pictured: a water taxi (too hot and touristy, would not recommend) and Hotel Havana (12/10 – would aggressively return).

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New and noteworthy: farm dinners with Treva + brunch at Little River Restoratives

Working in content marketing for my company, A Little Bird Told Me, and working (mostly) with restaurants exposes me to, well, all the food.  I’m spoiled.  I know it.  And I consider it my duty to share it with the world.  So without further ado, here are two excellent offerings from two of my very favorite clients:

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What is Hadley + Occum?  It’s the rich, glacier born soil that graces the Farmington River Valley.  And it’s the genesis of all that beautiful produce which burst from every farm stand during these glorious hot summer months in the West Hartford/Valley area.  And it’s also the name of the new farm dinner series from the DORO Restaurant Group, starting with perennial favorite Treva and the cuisine of Chef John Medonis:

john medonis at sub edge farm

Seen here perusing the kale at Sub Edge Farm, which will host the dinner on July 27th.

Get tickets here and enjoy this first of a series of beautiful nights on the farm with what is guaranteed to be excellent, local driven cuisine.

Also tasty and new: brunch at Little River Restoratives – Hartford’s hippest cocktail bar and soon to be Ramen purveyor via a sister restaurant which will open next door on Capitol Avenue in the fall of 2016.  Catch a glimpse of the new menu with what Proprietor Chris Parrot refers to as “Japanese hangover food:” authentic Cabbage pancakes smothered in Japanese mayonnaise, cheese, and your choice of toppings.  Plus excellent cocktails with body soothing ingredients such as aloe vera water and Vitamin b12.  Plus a DJ.  Plus the aforementioned simple, umami saturated and oh so satisfying menu, with Executive Chef Tyler Anderson of Millwrights guest cooking during our visit today.  So yeah – basically as cool and cool can be, and very tasty to boot.  Below are some pictures of today’s brunchfest with Style Context:

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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)

Yardbirds! Yardbirds! Here come the Yardbirds! (Yardbird and Co)

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There’s a new food truck in town, the Yardbird Co.  Executive Chef Eric Stagle, a Barcelona Restaurant Alumn, has executed a quite killer menu based around simple fried chicken with an Asian twist plus some small bites ranging from healthy quinoa to unique deviled eggs.

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Catch them at Bushnell Park this upcoming Saturday from 11 am to 2 pm, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram @YardbirdandCo

What does the Chef think?  He is “so happy to be serving food that makes people happy. Excited to see what else we can put on the menu as the seasons change.”  They also work with several local farms, including Sub Edge and the Farmer’s Cow.  So catch them when you can, and support something that is both local and delicious!

(Current menu: Yardbird chicken sandwich : pickled cabbage : kimchi : pickles/ sriracha honey Chicken steam buns/ black garlic hoisin/ pickled ramps Chicken croquettes/ ramp aioli Smoked chicken deviled eggs Quinoa salad/ asparagus/ fiddleheads/ ramp vinaigrette Potato wedges : spring garlic aioli : smoked eggplant aioli : cherry pepper aioli)

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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

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)

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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!