Your weekend, sorted, in two easy steps at Bartaco

Weekending can be hard.  Sure, it seems fun at first – go out, drink with friends, have fun, blah blah blah… but the options can be overwhelming.  Expensive.  And not always, let’s face it, that great.  So let me offer a VERY simple, yet sophisticated, solution – to this conundrum.  Head to your nearest Bartaco.  There are plenty of locations to choose from, and you can click HERE to find one that suits your travel radius.  Once you’ve arrived, settle in on the patio.  Chances are, if you found one, you’re on the east coast, and we have been promised the sort of gorgeous sun drenched weather this weekend that practically makes it a crime NOT to sit outside to dine.  And drink.  And what do order?  Why, glad you asked.

The Bartaco taco-to-mouth delivery system is almost fiendishly simple.  Just take your handy write in menu, and your small golf pencil, and scribble in your choices.  You can start small, go big at all at once, grab a quick bite, or linger if you wish (we won’t go into details of how long our last experience lasted… just relax and settle in, no one is going to rush you if you’re not ready… um, we promise.  based on personal experience).  Once you’re comfy, we recommend the Smoked Marasca:

(sunglasses optional but if you’re settling in for some serious day drinking – a plus)

Have you successfully completed step one?  Is it smoky, yet fruity, mysterious, and delicious?  Congratulations!  Let’s proceed to step two:

Do you see the arrow in the right hand corner, pictured above, plus “bar taco secret” below?  That is crucial in the two step dining/drinking/sun worshipping Bartaco experience.  For this, my friends, is the Bartaco SECRET taco.  Not listed on their menu, not available without knowing to ask.  And right now, it happens to be a most magical combination of buttery fresh lobster, balanced with pozole (fresh Mexican corn kernels) and just a hint of fresh chopped parsley, which will leave you with the mouth feel of a lobster roll, but the pleasurable textures and flavors of a taco.  Just a couple bites and there you have it. Late summer is served.  So don’t miss out on our crucially short patio season, or this crucially limited taco.  Just go.  Use my two step method.  Repeat as necessary and let me know what you think.  And follow Bartaco on Instagram for sneak peaks of secret tacos yet to come.

 

Bartaco invited me in to review and try their secret taco, but all opinions are my own.

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Three hotels, two glasses of rose, and one marvelous cocktail in Newport

Welcome back to hotel cocktails – Newport edition (the first and most certainly not the last – as this is one of our favorite places to be and it’s an easy drive, especially on a bright sunny spring day).

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(he’s the most fun and basically the best)

Historic and storied Newport is home to the Newport Wine Festival – of course – which we attended and I wrote about here – but there’s really no bad time to visit.  A day in April is especially fine, as it wasn’t nearly as crowded as it would be in the height of season.  We began with rose at the Castle Hill Inn.

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and watched the sunset, and culminated the evening with another seafront location – The Chanler

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Billecart-Salmon – creamy, dry, and almost more of a champagne than a rose.  We drank it outside by a fire pit overlooking the beginning of the Newport Cliff Walk, with the surf crashing below.  Absolute perfection.

chandler bathroom

Also, quality bathroom for a quality instagram story is always a huge plus.

Although we hotel hopped along the sea, we stayed at our usual spot: the Hotel Viking.  It’s historic

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(very)

and centrally located: gets top marks for hospitality and service.  I took advantage of Scott’s obsession with all things auto related, and off he went to peruse the Audrain Automobile Museum while I and enjoyed a cocktail on the patio:

 

Newport Lemonade | Thomas Tew Rum | House Strawberry Basil Simple Syrup | Dell’s

We will be back to the Viking and Newport as often as possible this summer – certainly at least once for the summer and of course, for the 2017 Newport Wine Fest (dates and info on that here).  

ALL about Cocktails – Hotel Libations with Hoi Polloi + Bloody Marys for a cause with Max Restaurant Group

WELCOME to another installment of Hotel Cocktails – in the Shoreditch district of London.  Before we venture across the pond, let’s looks at something a BIT closer to home (well… I guess it depends on where you’re reading this from, but for the purposes of this narrative, let’s assume you’re in Connecticut, or at very least, somewhere on the east coast of the USA.  OK?  OK).

Max Restaurant Group is well known for its charitable endeavors, and as soon as I finish typing this, I’ll be headed to Max Oyster to sample their new Bloody Mary Bar (clearly the best part of any Sunday): drinking for a cause as they raise funds all day for Autism Speaks.  Join them at any of their CT or MA locations, OR at the lovely Cooper in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

max restaurant group autism speaks

All good things.

And now, back to our review.  Scott and I were in London in February for a couple days, and being aficionados of the Ace Hotel in NYC, we naturally ventured to its London counterpart, and the very chic and on trend Hoi Polloi (an extra cheeky name if you consider the working class roots of the East End), which you, naturally, enter through a flower shop if you haven’t crossed in via the hotel lobby

 

Few things better than a big city eatery which knows you’ll find it.  No need for a sign.  Signs are for Applebee’s.  The cocktail list was, naturally, intriguing as hell.  After much deliberation, I selected a Zhoosy Sour:

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Woodford Reserve | Woodford Rye | Choya Yuzu umeshu | creme de banana | yuzu citrus | egg

A flip with whiskey?  I’ll take it.  Only (minor) complaint is that this is a missed opportunity to showcase a Japanese whiskey, given their immense caliber and all the other ingredients – but I’m going to stop insulting the mixologist now and assume that the Woodford was selected and blended in two varietals for its smoky sweetness to balance the other ingredients.  And balance it did.  Not a single one of the individual elements was identifiable in this cocktail.  Which is perhaps, one of the hallmarks of a well mixed libation.

Vibe of the Hoi Polloi?  Not surprisingly, intensely hip and open to whatever you want to make it.  Afternoon tea?  no problem.  DJ and dancing?  They have that too.  Want to work at the bar?  Wifi and lots of power outlets await you.  Full dinner service?  Well, naturally.  Would love to return for dinner the next time we are in London.  Cheers to a great experience with, naturally, the best company.

Best in Bridal this weekend with Lux Bond & Green

Love is in the air.  Spring is (attempting) to spring.  It takes a minute people.  We live in New England.  So, even if the snow falls today, hope springs eternal for warmer climes, and of course – wedding season.  Grab someone you know who is engaged, your bridal party (or, even better, grab your fiancé), and head to our friends at Lux Bond & Green today and tomorrow (3/31 and 4/1) for their Best in Bridal Wedding Band Extravaganza.  You can also shop online via the link above.

Why should you go?  Well first, because they are awesome people.  Locally owned and operated, customer service focused, and just SUPER nice to deal with.  Not to mention knowledgeable jewelers.  LBG has been in the game of pretty shiny things for many, many years.  And they will pass their buying expertise to you.  And the sales for this weekend can’t be beat.  And – did we mention shiny things?

There will be raffles and splendor and many, many diamonds.  Specifically: the largest regional selection of diamond, platinum, gold, and alternative metal wedding bands.  And during the extravaganza, enjoy an immediate 10% discount on wedding bands, free engraving, and 10% savings on most bridal gifts: plus an additional 5% coupon for your next purchase.  Plus champagne and beer.

Cheers to all the happy couples (and please note: LBG believes in love for ALL and is open to all relationships, and I think that’s pretty darn cool).  And enjoy these photos taken by yours truly – who enjoyed the opportunity to photograph flowers and diamonds together because that’s just awesome.

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Appetizing with Russ and Daughters Cafe

A Sunday well spent brings a week’s of content, as the saying goes.  What could be better than a sunny 60 degree day in February on the Upper East Side with someone you love?  Throw in a bagel and cream cheese you say, with some of the best cured fish in the city?  Well, ok.

Russ and Daughters is a New York institution, with a gritty and wonderful flagship location on the Lower East Side.  Want a fine, comprehensive, and dazzling array of cured fish?  Caviar?  Babka?  Well, head down, grab a ticket, and wait in line (and DO NOT lose that ticket, my friend).  Looking for a slightly more polished and artsy experience?  Well, do what we did yesterday and head all the way uptown to the Russ and Daughters Cafe, nestled in the basement of the Jewish Museum.  Sit down, have an egg cream, and an appetizing platter that will knock your socks off.  Nosh away, friends.  Nosh away.

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Greek Wine Dinner at the Fez

The Fez is a charming, cozy, Moroccan restaurant on restaurant row in Stamford, which owner Nancy Laist describes as a “bit of Soho in CT.”  Although they are known for their live music, we came for the food (and the wine) and were not in the least bit sorry that we did.

Greek wine is a category neither Scott nor I have explored at any length, so we were delighted that Nancy invited us to attend (and gave us tickets for the event, thank you!)  The wine itself was good enough and interesting enough that several bottles found a home in our cellar (a Domaine Katsaros Valos and a Rhous White – all bottles pictured below and available for purchase at Horseneck Wines & Liquors).  The Rhous White in particular we loved: a Muscat blend lacking the sweetness of many of the lighter whites of Italy and Spain.  The wine, overall, was punctuated by a somewhat intense but very pleasing mineral quality, which the distributor  assured us was indicative of the region.

And the food?  Oh my, the food.  Baba ganoush was a creamy and airy delight: whipped eggplant served with a cinnamon toasted Pita chip.  Scott proclaimed the grilled octopus with harissa mango sauce (not pictured) to be his favorite – a great textural char on this dish offset the subtle sweetness in the sauce nicely.  As for me?  The vine leaves, stuffed with meat alone and no rice, were fresh and appealing.  Vegetable kebobs punctuated with freshly made falafel and a light dessert of African style baklava, known as Briwat, ensured that the balance of food was also not too heavy or overwhelming – a common issue at multiple course wine dinners.  Of everything we sampled, my heart belonged to the lamb: slow braised with a thick wine reduction to ‘fall off the bone’ perfection.

And speaking of hearts – The Fez is hosting a Valentine’s Day dinner (reservations highly recommended).  Four courses and a prosecco toast are offered for $60 – excluding tax and gratuity – with live music from Kathy Muir.  Treat your sweetie to a cozy, intimate dining experience, and enjoy the visual tour of our dinner below.

The Fez | 227 Summer Street, Stamford | 203 324 3391

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Hotel Cocktails: Beluga Caviar Martini

Welcome, friends, to a new special section of my blog where I review cocktails at the various hotel venues Scott and I venture into during the course of our travels.

Why?

Well, because hotels are a perfect little microcosm of the macrocosm of the city around them.  The best are thought out in meticulous detail, creating a world unto itself, much like a properly created cocktail is a world unto itself.  A chance to pause from life, and enjoy one simple, thing, executed well, if you will.

So let’s explore together, starting with the Beluga Caviar Martini at the Beverly Wilshire

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Beluga Noble Russian Vodka | Cinzano Dry Vermouth | Petrossian Caviar Cube

A word about the Beverly Wilshire – classic Beverly Hills.  How classic?  Well, “Pretty Woman” was filmed here, and yes, there is a “Pretty Woman” cocktail on the menu (but of course), although  visual inspection of one several tables over was definitely not encouraging.  Something has to cater to the tourists, after all.

No, order the Beluga Caviar Cocktail instead.  At first, it will impress you as, perhaps, pretentious, a little “too too” – much like Rodeo Drive itself.  But then you taste it, and soon you are a convert.  The oil from the caviar will slowly but surely seep into the vodka, so I would recommend drinking this at a semi brisk pace before it crosses the line from ‘dirty’ to ‘fishy:’ and if you’re brave enough to order two – that’s on you.  One was perfect for me.  Sometimes, simplicity and brevity are best.