Taste of Hartford with Max + Midsummer Dreams at TheaterWorks

It’s Monday… it’s summer.  I know, I know.  You probably want to be at the beach, not reading this at your desk.  But never fear!  There are some GREAT things to do locally on a weekday (or weekend!) date in Hartford.

For you see – it’s Taste of Hartford all week, meaning affordable prix fixe menus showcasing seasonal goodness.  We have a reservation for Tuesday night at Max Downtown (yaaaas) so be on the lookout for all the food porn via my Instagram.  If you like the look of this check out their website for a full roster of upcoming events – or subscribe to the newsletter for updates.  Ok, without further ado, here are the menus:

DT_TasteOfHartford_Summer2016

TK_Taste of Hartford_Winter 2016-3

So many choices, so little time.  Book a reservation and get downtown!  And while you’re there, please do yourself a solid and see the quirky black (romantic) comedy and musical act which is Midsummer (a play with songs).  No, it’s not a musical.  No, no, no.  It’s more She & Him if instead of a group they were a madcap love encounter, set in Edinburgh.  Bold, modern, and paired down: with just two performers, two guitars, a ukulele, a stuffed elmo, and several other scant props, the play relies on brilliant acting and acoustic performances to create a past and present narrative.  The result is an unflinchingly honest look at two creative, soulful, magnificently flawed accidental lovers navigating their way through respective mid life crises, angry mob bosses, and a wedding scene which… well… I won’t give anything else away.  But I will highly recommend this highly acclaimed play, which is the summer nightcap to TheaterWork’s 30th year anniversary celebration.  Go get you some culture.

theaterworks midsummer

Photo by:  Lanny Nagler for TheaterWorks

So there you have it.  That’s what you do this week.  Go.  Enjoy.  Let me know what you think.

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Taste of Hartford + a Recap of the @MaxsOysterBar Taittinger Champagne Dinner

It’s time to eat well.  OK, it’s always time to eat well.  But Taste of Hartford offers the chance to do so for $30.16 and try some amazing multi-course menus in Hartford.  Here’s the full list of participants, plus the menus for Trumbull Kitchen and Max Downtown!

taste of hartford max downtown

TK_Taste of Hartford_Winter 2016-3

So, yes, make a reservation, go “taste.”  It’s a good time for your mouth (and your wallet).

And now, let’s discuss bubbles.

max champs 9

Aha.  Yes.

The good folks at Max Oyster Bar were kind enough to invite me – and guest!  to a lovely, multi course tasting of the cuisine of Head Chef, Hunter Morton, paired with the the expertly produced champagnes from one of the oldest establishments of the region: the Taittinger Group.  Hunter’s food pairing ranged from oysters and caviar to prosciutto wrapped veal loin.  The bright, creamy and well balanced acids of the selected champagnes cut through the rich proteins like a well balanced piano wire through a stick of butter (an elaborate metaphor perhaps but try a glass of champagne and rich, well executed dish and tell me if I’m wrong).  Visually appealing vegetables helped the champagnes with their balancing act, and regional brand representative Christian Dalbavie of Taittinger was on hand to introduce each varietal and walk guests through its distinctive tasting notes.  Below is a visual tour of our incredible meal.  Please enjoy.  We certainly did.

max champs 4max champs 6max champs 7max champs 8max champs 3max champs 11max champs 12

 

 

 

A Grand Tour of Wines with the Generous Pour @TheCapitalGrille + Breakdancing Hamlet

I get really excited about wine.  I get really excited about Shakespeare.  This post examines both – be prepared, my friends

vinted vogue shot

Bonus: I’m writing this from Vinted – where they serve up half price bottles of wine on Sunday evenings.  Having the Blue Back Square as your back yard carries its advantages.

Why is there a Vogue magazine in the above shot?  Why, because I was entranced with a story on a new musical, Hamiltonwhich sets the story of one of Founding Father’s to a hip hop soundtrack.  This is pretty rad in and of itself, but it ties nicely to what would appear to be a new theatrical trend in the works – as our very own Hartford Stage has a very limited run Breakdancing Shakespeare: Hamlet tonight, and through August 11th at the University of St. Joseph!  The project has existed for several years through the Greater Hartford Arts Council Neighborhood Studios, and it inspires to bring classical works to people of all ages through an infusion of relevant coolness and creativity.  More info and tickets available here.  Can’t wait.

Now, on to the main course of this post (pun intended) the magnificent Generous Pour at the Capital Grille.  I was invited to attend for the second year in a row with Carolyn, who joined me last year also:

carolyn with wine

This picture is from last year.  It’s magnificent and also a very accurate depiction of our friendship.  From here on out – photo credit for all pictures goes to Carolyn

The Generous Pour is an annual event at the Capital Grille.  It is running now through August 30th, and the concept is simple: sample eight exceptional wines (generous samples, as you can see from above) for $28 with the purchase of an entree.  We happened to time our visit with their Taste of Hartford menu, which unfortunately has come and gone for this year, but it’s still well, well worth the visit in order to dive, nose first, into some truly exceptional blends:

row of wine glasses

 

Behold all the beauties.

The wines ranged from lightest (Sauvignon Blanc) to deepest (Syrah)… here are some highlights from each and every glass:

Galarie “Naissance,” Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley (Winemaker: Laura Diaz Munoz): A light and bright wine, with a very thin mouthfeel but a smooth and creamy finish.  Fruity and perfect for summer sipping.  I tend to gravitate more towards New Zealand Sauv Blancs, but it’s lovely to find the hand picked all stars from Napa, which featured very heavily on this list.

Barrymore, Montery, Pinot Grigiot (Proprietress: Drew Barrymore): Whoa.  I didn’t know Drew Barrymore had a vineyard.  Talk about a class act.  And her wine matches her reputation – summery, citrusy, tart, described as a “crowd pleaser,” – just like Drew! – and very able to live up to the name.  I have bad, bad associations with Pinot – think a warm oversized bottle, diluted by ice cubes to the point where it’s just not worth the effort drinking it.  But this wine reminded me why it’s important to keep an open mind – and palate – when it comes to blends.

Stonestreet “Bear Point,” Alexander Valley, Chardonnay (Winemaker: Lisa Valtenbergs): Again, another thin mouthfeel (makes me believe that the sommelier had an eye out for summery blends when creating this list), with lots of spice, and a very classic take on the ‘big Cali’ Chardonnay style – lots of personality and lots of oak.  Would and did pair quite nicely with food – but more on that in a minute.

kat with wine glasses

Let’s break here for a picture of me in my “happy place” 

On to the reds:

Cambria “Julia’s Vineyard,” Santa Maria Valley, Pinot Noir (Winemaker: Denise Shurtleff): I love, love a good Pinot.  It’s a rich, complex, moody complicated wine which is disastrous when executed poorly but oh so good when it’s done right.  And this particular blend’s grapes all come from the vineyard – a rarity, and every single one of them came together to create a truly delightful wine.  A mouth load of poppy and cherry, and a nice mineral quality to finish which made me want to close my eyes and picture myself at the vineyard (wouldn’t that be lovely).

Matanzas Creek, Sonoma, Merlot (Winemaker: Marcia Monohan): I’m planning a visit to see my sister in November, and she is considerate enough to live in San Francisco, which means we’ll be paying a trip to Sonoma as well as eating the finest Mexican food outside of Mexico (hello, Mission District).  This vineyard may be worth a visit, with a nice chocolatey palate to the merlot, balancing out some dark fruit flavors nicely into a well rounded blend.  If you’re drinking this at the Capital Grille – and why wouldn’t you?  Do yourself a favor and pair it with a steak.  A very happy companionship that would be.

Arrowood Reserve Speciale, Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon (Winemaker: Kristina Werner): Not familiar with Cabernet Sauvignons?  I was not personally, but it’s a nice, relatively new combination of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, and it’s easy to grow and a crowd pleaser.  This particular variety is, however, quite rare and also accordingly expensive.  The vineyard it resides in (another Sonoma – hurrah) has century old vines, and this particular blend only pops up occasionally on wine lists due to its limited quantities.  Flavor wise, it’s just a really nice, classically executed Big Cali red.  If you’re into that sort of thing like I am, it’s not one to miss.

Mt Brave, Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon (Winemaker Laura Diaz Munoz): The second wine from Ms. Munoz on the list as well as the second and only repetitious blend, this ruggedly beautiful red has deep crunchy notes, big red flavor, and an explosively smooth palate.  It packs quite a punch and will take you nicely into your flourless chocolate cake if you choose to partake in that – but more on dessert in a minute.

Kinton, Santa Barbara, Syrah (Wine visionary: Julia Jackson): With a list like this, it’s important to end on a high note.  This magnificent Syrah delivers a smooth, cherry, vanilla visionary taste with a very creamy palate and delicate balance of flavors.  A special vintage year, this Syrah finished off our tasting in excellent style.

wedge salad

Oh yes – in addition to the wine, the Capital Grille spoiled us with food.  The “Taste of Hartford” pre fixe menu is available during two weeks in the summer and the winter, so watch out for January’s cycle at www.tastehartford.com.  My meal started with the above pictured Bleu Cheese and Applewood Smoked Bacon Wedge

burger and truffle fries

Closely followed by this magnificent burger the “Chef’s Signature” Cheeseburger and parmesan truffle fries.  I can’t say enough about the Capital Grille burgers.  When you’re somewhere that loves and pays such close attention to beef, the results are going to be superb, and this one was no exception.  My only complaint – a dried out bun, but considering we ordered off the lunch menu at 3 pm, when the kitchen was switching over to dinner, I think this small fault is justified.

flourless chocolate cake capital grille

To end things: Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake.  I’m not an expert so I won’t say that these flavors are a perfect accompaniment to the deep reds at the end of the Generous Pour, but the flavor notes in most reds were present on this dish, and I certainly enjoyed putting the two together.

All in all, we enjoyed a very magnificent meal and lovely patio seating al fresco, enjoying the downtown hustle and bustle of Front Street.  Thanks again to the Capital Grille for their hospitality and excellent service, as always.  So go, try this list, before it runs out at the end of the month.

Majorca, Taste of Hartford, the Ct Science Center and Mohegan #SunWineFest

Wooo!  A busy and foodie couple of weeks folks.  But first – two sneak preview of upcoming posts I’m very excited about…

coney island poster

Love Under the Boardwalk

In partnership with the Wadsworth’s new and very noteworthy Coney Island Exhibit, my good friend Carolyn Paine is producing an original choreographed production, produced by the Wadsworth Atheneum, in partnership with her company, CONNetic Dance.  Featuring classical ballet intermixed with circus theatricals, performances will be Saturday, February 7th, at 2 pm and 8 pm, and tickets are available at the Wadsworth’s website.

Also – Penelope had a Very Special Photoshoot and she was the littlest Princess Elsa of all at Sassy Mouth Photo!

baby elsa

I can’t even.  Bet you can’t either.  So cute.

So, more to come on both these things.  But first – a look back at some amazing and fun times over the past couple of weeks!

First, Hartford picked up a new Tapas restaurant: Majorca

majorca friends

With some good friends, old and new at the Grand Opening, which benefited Family Life Education

Majorca specializes in tapas, small plates, and is a very welcome continuation of the space once occupied by O’Porto in the West End.

calamari

Grilled calamari.  Charred to perfection and ever so preferable to the more prevalent, fried variety

oyster with vinagrette

Oysters with a classic vinaigrette.  REALLY big oysters.

prosciutto wrapped date

A true Spanish classic: dates stuffed with manchego and wrapped in prosciutto.

There were also four cocktail samples to try:

cocktail samples

Pictured left to right: Pineapple Mule (pineapple vodka, ginger beer, fresh pineapple), Ginger Plum Martini (plum vodka, ginger liqueur, sour mix), the “Majorca” (citrus vodka, Hypnotic, and white cranberry juice) and Red Sangria (simple syrup, triple sec, fruit juice, and Sycamore Lane Cabernet)

As well as a fancy, necessary cheese plate:

cheese w wine

Paired with a nice rioja – always good to find a rioja present on the wine list. 

I am quite, quite happy to have this new little gem among my dining choices in Hartford, and I’m excited to go back for a full meal – hopefully soon!

Speaking of meals – Taste of Hartford is currently entering its second week.

taste of hartford logo

 

P and I have gone out twice to enjoy it – and I’m looking forward to going to Agave (sans P, alas) later on this week.  This last week’s experiences took us to Ted’s Montana Grill and Carbone’s, respectively.  But before Teds – we hit up the CT Science Center

science center lines

Which had a packed house due to special pricing for MLK Day

This wasn’t our frist trip to the Science Center, but it definitely was the best so far – P really enjoyed herself and is finally old enough to fully enjoy the exhibits geared towards younger kids – of which there are several!  Our favorites:

water experiments

Kinetic water experiments on the first floor

fossil experiments

Digging for fossils on the third floor

energy house

And a super fun ‘eco awareness’ playhouse (also on the 3rd floor)

We followed this awesome playtime by lunch at Ted’s

teds montana burger

Bison burger for me, cookie for P, happiness for all

And went out again a couple days later to Carbone’s with the lovely Cathy and Rachel!

rachel and cathy

Ladies’ night

In addition to the Taste menu, there was a very, very excellent Arancini starter

arancini

Yummm

Paired with a nice Aperol Sunset cocktail:

tequila cocktail

Like a margarita, but with way more bite

Followed by a lovely salad

citrus salad

P ate all my pomegranate seeds for me

And a perfectly sized portion of lemony shrimp risotto:

shrimp risotto

Which I paired with prosecco because of course I did.

For anyone who’s not familiar, Taste is a restaurant week – well weeks really – featuring prix fixe appetizer, entree, and dessert options for either $20.15 or $30.15.  It’s fun and affordable and I put quite a bit of time into organizing it, so I really appreciate that I can ‘eat’ it once it’s up and running -not all promotions offer such literal satisfaction.  In addition to several wonderful meals, I was thoroughly spoiled this weekend at Mohegan Sun and Wine Festival

I was able to stop by the Bourbon Tasting on Friday night, which was a new experience for me and also, a neat use of my 2014 resolution (which was to drink more bourbon).  I was extraordinarily negligent on the photos – however – I did enjoy several samplings: Maker’s 46 being my favorite.  It was elated to be able to drink it both neat and on the rocks and appreciate its nuances and woody palate – finally a bourbon girl!  Hurrah!  Also, who wouldn’t appreciate this dessert lineup:

bourbon tasting desserts

Wow yourself

And I did, at least, manage a bathroom selfie, because who doesn’t love one of those?

bathroom selfie in silkworm dress

In a new fav dress from Silkworm and absolutely zero chill.  Oh well.

Returning the next day for Sun Wine Fest, I managed to both: 1/ take many more pictures and 2/ really enjoy this event, which last year had been overwhelmed and under impressed.  It’s hard to do Wine Fest and not feel the immediate, pressing urge to sample all the wine.  Because there are so many to try, both high end and low, and going in with focus and direction helps:

mohegan wine map

And also a map

Amanda and I attended together and came up with a simple plan: stick to bubbles as much as possible:

moet and strawberry caviar

Moet bubbles with strawberry caviar

rose yaaas

Ok, cheating because not carbonated, but a really excellent French rose: Whispering Angel

bubblies

Three nice varietals from Sonoma, from the Gloria Ferrer.  Where I’ll be hopefully headed at Thanksgiving.  Oh yaaas.

I also bumped into some good friends:

mumm napa

Yes, I consider Mumm Napa Rose to be a good friend.  We are on BFF terms actually

with ghost lisa

Also, the gorgeous Betsy Foster and a ‘ghost Lisa’

oliver english and suzy hunter

Our amazing and beautiful Social Media maven, Suzie Hunter, with her new friend Oliver English

carrie with cupcakes

And last, but very certainly not least – the Cupcake Goddess herself, Carrie, of Nora Cupcake

To wrap up the afternoon, we headed upstairs to the beer tasting and I found a very nice new summer beverage which I’ll absolutely be stalking down locally, one way or another:
fishers island lemonade

It’s from the Long Island sound and it’s a glorious tart combination of whiskey, vodka, and lemonade.  I loved it.

So yes, quite a lovely afternoon, all in all!  Not to mention, a great couple of weeks.  Yay.