@marchofdimesct Signature Chefs Auction at the Riverview in Simsbury

Man oh man.  Black coffee and blogging at 6 am?  This is the LIFE.  In other news, I don’t recognize the productive morning person I am becoming.  But, faced with a super busy week (husband out of town traveling, our black tie 250th gala tonight, hair appointment at Blo for said gala during my lunch break) I am fitting things in where I can, as one does as a mommy, a blogger, and a working professional.  And that includes setting my alarm an hour and a half early in order to recap the amazing time Leeanne and I enjoyed at the Riverview in Simsbury last week, for the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Gala!  If you missed this one, there will be another in Fairfield on November 5th too – right around the corner.

a recipe for healthy babies

A recipe for healthy babies!  Awwww

Let’s back up for just a minute and look at what the March of Dimes accomplishes.  They are the premiere charity dedicated to eradicating, whenever possible, premature delivery (which leads, naturally to health complications for mamas and their babies) as well as for providing the best possible care for preemies?  What a good cause, is my point.  I was honored to get an email requesting I attend the event as a blogger, and I did receive a free ticket (plus a guest – ie/ the lovely Leeanne) from the charity.

selfies with leeanne ftw also rizuttos cocktail

A rare Leeanne selfie.  I’d like to thank Suzie Hunter for making this possible

The Signature Chef’s Auction takes place annually, with a bunch of big hearted chefs joining forces to offer gourmet bites of food and small samples of cocktails, while guests mingle and enjoy a silent and live auction:

mickey mouse

I didn’t bid, but if I had, it would have definitely been on this Disney experience package.  So fun.  P is excited to meet Mickey Mouse.  Someday (soon) it’s going to happen.

In addition to the silent auction, guests enjoyed a live bidding, which Leeanne and I unfortunately missed as we were both tired and didn’t stay for more than an hour or two, although we thoroughly enjoyed circling the gorgeous Riverview space during the time that we were present, and saying hello to a bunch of our friends who were there working the event:

plan b

Starting with Plan B burgers.  Quite simply the best.  I snatched a ‘to go’ second burger on the way out because I’m obsessed and they were quite kind about my greed, ha.  Also, mini is the perfect size/shape for a burger, in my opinion, and I love that Plan B will make any of their regular burgers with toppings into minis upon request in their restaurants!  OK, end burger rant.

Having started with beef, we moved onto seafood:

bobby vs

Seared tuna FTW

The above delicate bite was from Bobby V’s, an upscale sports bar and lounge located in Windsor Locks:

sweet set up and bobby vs

Kudos for the signature table settings too!  Very cool.

Next up, we sampled a delectable and complex serving of short rib stuffed in pepper from Barcelona:

barcelona peppers

So very pretty

Side note: Leeanne seriously has a photographic memory when it comes to dishes/ingredients.  I was having difficulty taking notes and balancing the plates (plus I was distracted/excited by all the wonderful food and cute baby photos) and she repeated all the ingredients to me, which was seriously nice and also seriously impressive!

march of dimes leeanne photo

And she took this nice picture of the back of my dress/necklace detail!  She is the best

In addition to the food stuffs, there were plenty of libations being poured.  Our friends at Onyx are always nice to see out and about:

linley

The lovely Linley pouring several options for the Onyx (my favorite was the cider/apple Onyx combo – so very good)

Another high note for drinks came form Rizutto’s, who were present with a lovely bite of braised lamb and parsnip/potato mash:
risottos plate

Yum.

Paired with it was a really delightful cocktail called “The Orchard.”  I didn’t snap a picture of it and the event, but I may or may not have ordered a full sized version of the same drink at lunch today:

the orchard

The Orchard – house infused apple vodka, Lillet, sage garnish

So yes, very very nice.  We also enjoyed burnt ends sliders from Bear’s Smokehouse:

bears with burnt ends

Thanks Jamie – delicious as always

What goes well with BBQ?  Beer, naturally.  And Hooker Beer was conveniently located next to Bears (nice placement)

hooker beer selection

I sampled the Munich Style – even tho Watermelon Ale is my favorite – it just seemed like a better seasonal choice (it was the right call, especially to pair with the burnt ends)

There were many more plates to try, but I was filling up fast, so I went straight to dessert and enjoyed a really, really, really, really good cookiewich from Taste by Spellbound:

taste by spellbound

Choose your cookie, choose your filling.  I did red velvet with maple frosting and regretted nothing

But let’s not lose sight of what the event was all about – a fundraiser to help babies!  There were plenty of adorable baby photos everywhere to make sure that was top of mind during the evening:

ze babies awww

Sooo cute

Thanks again to the March of Dimes for the invite.  I’ve been connecting more with the coordinators, and I’m looking forward to walking in their March for Babies Greater Hartford in 2015!

Our 4th wedding anniversary @Atlantisresort

Happy 4th anniversary to my husband, Michael.  On October 21st, 2010, we carved our names into a tree outside of a courthouse in Vegas:

October 21

Perfect for the type B bride who elopes and easily forgets dates!

Ascended the Stratosphere

stratosphere

So high in the air

And said “I do:”

our wedding

The dress is BCBG and I bought it online without trying it on.  It fit perfectly.  I get lucky sometimes (in love too!  I mean, obviously)

It’s more traditional to do something ‘big’ for five years, but then again, we’re not really traditional people.  So we decided to head off, without little Penelope, to Atlantis Resort a couple weeks ago to commemorate our wedding in a big way.

balcony view

Thanks for the free balcony upgrade, Atlantis!  And the amazing trip

As the view above demonstrates better than a thousand words, Paradise Island (Freeport, Bahamas) is an absolutely idyllic locale.  The island vibe is happy, serene, and as relaxing as listening to the palm trees on the beach.  We enjoyed every minute of our four day, three night stay, although I think that we both agreed that the family friendly nature of the resort meant that the next trip back would definitely be with Penelope present.  There are large, clean, kid friendly pools…

pool yaaas

Whoa.  Yeah.

…awesome water slides (terrific) super aquariums (sharks! wow), and a really cool looking kids’ club.  So yeah, there was some natural parental guilt when I pictured how much P would have enjoyed the pools, being the little water baby that she is:
P1010483

Seen here enjoying a pool with Daddy on Sanibel Island last Christmas in Florida.  Man, that kid was bald back in the day

But – sometimes it’s really nice to have one on one time with someone you love.  And if that one on one time happens in paradise?  Well, heck, might as well roll with it.  So I relaxed, and we thoroughly enjoyed our vacation.

lying down

From the beach/grottos (that’s me, manatee style)

To the casino:

w the sculpture

Note Mike’s yard long daiquiri please.  The man loves his daiquiris

To our off resort field trip to Senor Frogs:

baby mike and kat

Our first trip to Senor Frogs in 2009

four years later

And in 2014!  I think Mike wore those same board shorts in 2009.  Might be time for a new pair 😉

In addition to the pool, beach, casino, and bar excursions, I went on a food quest: to eat conch in every form I could find it.  I had reasonable success but I believe I could have done better and will try to raise the bar next trip:
johny rockets

Conch chowder at Johnny Rockets?  Love it

preparing the conch salad

Conch crudo prepared fresh on the sea (literally, in a boat) ceviche style with lime and tomato

mimosa brunch

Stewed conch in gravy for breakfast (pictured right on that very full brunch plate)

awesome grouper

Ok, this is a picture of grouper.  But there were conch fritters at the meal.  We just ate them all before I could take a picture – it happens – and the grouper was very, very good

In addition to the Conch Quest, I crossed an item off my foodie bucket list and went to Nobu for the first time.  Michael and i both loved it, and my favorite items were the lychee martini with elderflower and the salmon wrapped in pear, which is a flavor combination I still fantasize about:

photo 3

Really masterful pairing, both in flavors and texture

In addition to the pools, the beaches, the really cool water slides, and all the aforementioned eating, there was a nice little cluster of shops on the resort.  I believe in duty free whenever possible, and I was very happy to score a travel perfume for myself:

chanel

yaaaas

And a Barbie perfume set for P:

barbie perfume set

Which she absolutely loves because of course she does

And, of course, I wore as much Lilly Pulitzer as possible in a four day period:

photo 2

Dress from Silkworm!

lilly t

Also from Silkworm.  Come to think of it – most of my Lilly is from Silkworm.  Thanks for being a northern outpost for this awesome southern brand, Erica!

We stayed at the Royal Towers at the resort, which is the mid price range option, and very centrally located, which is nice, because as you can probably imagine, the resort itself is friggin’ enormous:

atlantis arches

And also, really gorgeous

When we return, I think it will be to the Royal Towers.  And it most likely is a question of if, not when, as the entire vacation was really lovely from start to finish, and all the family friendly elements of Atlantis will make it a great destination to return with P in the years to come.  So goodbye for now Atlantis:

rum cake yaaas

And goodbye rum cake, which definitely did not survive the plane ride home.  Because I ate it.

Until, we hope, very soon!  And thanks to all the lovely people we met on the island who helped us to celebrate our four year anniversary in such a wonderful way.  And to my husband, if you overcome your hatred of social media long enough to read this – I love you very much, and happy anniversary.

Fun times in #Barnstable with Penelope

Ok, so real talk, I hash tagged Barnstable because I figured no one else will and it would be funny.  It’s a tiny little town in Cape Cod, but boy is is amazing:

barnstable yaaaas

Barnstable for life, homies

Mike’s coworker has a very nice little beach house in the Cape, and has been inviting us up for… well… over a year to be honest.  The timing finally synced up for a night’s journey, and it was really amazing

packing ugh

Not so amazing: drunk packing apres Talcott the night before, thankfully I got to sleep in the car.

Penelope is a real water baby – I think she is party mermaid- so I figured she would enjoy herself

p in her cover up

And she also got to model this fetching cover up – with googly eyes!- from Auntie Cait she loves it

After a quick, mercilessly traffic free drive up (which would not repeat itself on the way back, ugh) we arrived in Barnstable and headed straight to the beach, via boat

barnstable marina

Which is always the best way to get to the beach

I was strongly reminded of a wonderful spot in Jupiter, FL, that we used to frequent quite often before moving up north – Peanut Island!   But Barnstable is even the next level of the sand levys at Peanut – the entire beach is swallowed up by the sea at high tide, only to emerge again at low tide

im on a boat

Which makes for a beautiful curve and some seriously flat skylines.  I feel like I finally understand the current Wadsworth matrix by Ruben Ochoa – which conceptualizes a perfectly flat beach skyline in minimalist terms.

The Nannis are most excellent hosts and provided sandwiches, bloody mary cocktails, and a sweet jet ski modeled by Penelope

jet ski baby

Modeled by Penelope, who was quite understandably very into it

flip flops and bloody mary

Hello, bloody mary in the flat sand!  Nice to see you

In addition to the generous libations poured by our hosts, I provided a Hartford staple: Onyx Moonshine

onyx on the beach pretty

Seen here getting the glamor shot it deserves

The limited edition, summer edition Onyx is infused with cranberries from Cape Cod, so it seemed appropriate to bring it home.  And our hosts had Ripe Agave Lemon Sour mix in the fridge (again, good people) so we were in good shape for mixers!

As well as fun beach cocktails, we enjoyed the time honored New England of clamming.  OK, it was actually musselling.  The nature of the flat sands creates natural divots where savvy bivalves can hang out, even at low tide

musselling

And even savvier humans can harvest them

Penelope was more interested in taking the mussels OUT of the bucket vs putting them in, but she enjoyed herself regardless – I am still convinced she is a baby Lisa Simpson

tankini

She also rocked a fetching tankini

Because of the nature of the disappearing beach, we were forced to pack up and leave around 3 – just as the sun started to peak out – doh!  But it worked out well for the dinner festivities as the guys left for lobstering and we were awarded with an enormous, stunning dinner, pulled fresh from the sea

mussel and wine

One of my favorite things to eat in the whole world

yummy plate 2

A really gorgeous plate: fresh lobster, salt potatoes, and zucchini enchiladas

I’ve read about salt potatoes before – a Massachusetts staple – but I’ve never had the pleasure of trying them.  They were so good and simple to make – just baby potatoes boiled with salt (I mean, obviously) the flavors were perfect with the seafood, and the zucchini enchiladas were also delightful and a great recipe to have on hand when the zucchinis really come into season in the next couple of weeks.  I’ve copied it below in case anyone would like it!  Thanks again to our hosts for having us to stay – it was really an awesome mini-trip of food, beach, and general fun.

Zucchini Enchiladas

Ingredients:

10 oz Mexican chorizo

1 c yellow onions, diced

1 tbsp fresh garlic, chopped

1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground coriander

1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed (15 oz)

1 can diced green chiles (4 oz)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 can red enchilada sauce (15 oz)

4 zucchini, halved lengthwise

8 oz shredded pepper jack cheese

Prep:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

Scoop the flesh from the zucchinis and set aside

Cook the chorizo in a large sauté pan over medium high heat till browned.   Drain and set aside. Use a bit of the drippings to sauté onions, garlic, oregano, cumin and coriander until onions soften. Stir in beans, chiles, and return chorizo to the pan.

Spread ¼ cup enchilada suace in the bottom of a 11 x 15 inch baking dish. Sprinkle salt over the zucchini and place in the dish. Spoon heaping helpings of the filling into each ‘boat’ and top with cheese and remaining enchilada sauce. Cover dish with foil and roast 15 minutes. Remove foil and roast enchiladas until zucchinis are fork tender and cheese melts – another 20 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

 

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!