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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Newport Mansions Wine Festival

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Have you been to Newport Mansions?  It was, simply, the place to BE for the wealthy and social during the Progressive Era (1900-1930), and the mansions are a reflection to a period of unprecedented and unchecked economic growth, fueled by the Industrial revolution.  Columns made of marble and financed by steel, if you will.  This incredible little pocket of the United States is well worth a visit at any point of year, but most definitely, most especially, during the annual Newport Mansions Food & Wine Festival.  There are two days of tastings in multiple mansions: with hundreds of wines, food sampling, and beer and cocktail samplings.  There is a decadent Jazz Brunch.  There is the opportunity to meet the distributors of some of your favorite blends and chat with them, as well as discover new varieties (we particularly enjoyed Kanonkop Wines – new to both of us)  There is the chance to pose with a  giant magnum of Whispering Angel, but alas, not to adopt it and treat it as another child.

There is also, of course, the amazing back drop of the Mansions.  Thank you to the Festival for giving me a press ticket to attend Sunday’s Grand Tasting.  Due to another event in Hartford that afternoon, Scott and I only made it to one mansion (boo – next year will plan for more!) – and then drove back the same afternoon.  How did we drive back after so much wine sampling?  We took AmRide, and they met us promptly and drove my car back home (with another driver following our vehicle and driving our driver home).  The price was incredibly reasonable and the service and experience were impeccable, not to mention the peace of mind of knowing that we could get home on time, enjoy the festival, and indulge in all the wine samplings we desired.  It’s basically a personal chauffeur that you can afford because of the genius of tech – download their app and check it out for yourself.  Our friendly driver is pictured in the last image of the series below.

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(date someone who looks at you the way Scott looks at vintage cars)

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(Gosset is one of our ‘go to’ champagnes – highly recommended)

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(Israeli wine trail = new life goals)

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(Arethusa is, quite simply, the best)

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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)

Rose alllllll day!

Last week was the first ever 90 Plus Cellars Connecticut Rose Cruise.  They invited me to join them, and I was lucky enough to bring a squad:

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(waves to squad)

We had a truly fantastic afternoon in the gorgeous Greenwich harbor, cruising for three hours, eating small but delicious sandwiches

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Practicing our fake laugh for Instagram

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And yes, that’s three people in Lilly Pulitzer and one in a pink gingham bow tie.  Because Greenwich.

And most importantly, sampling four different varieties of Rose!

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Including the new Lila Wine, which comes in a can.  Which is important.  Because cans can go to the beach.  Crisp and delicious and perfect for summer.

90 Plus’ Rose this season is pleasantly floral and, like most roses, oh so easy to drink swiftly when it’s hot outside.  Maybe that’s why rose is the new ‘it’ wine this season.  Well, this is a trend that I fully support, and you should too.  Rose is truly for everybody.  And it should be drunk on boats whenever possible.

 

48 Hours in Miami + the Greenwich Rose Cruise with @90pluscellars

SPOILER ALERT: this post contains rose.  Lots and lots of rose.  So much rose.  If you’re not thirsty now, you may be by the time you finish this post.

Let’s start with – the upcoming Greenwich Rose Cruise from my good friends at 90 Plus Cellars!  Save the date for this inaugural event (for CT!) on June 4th.  The Boston version is a blast:

drunk flamingo

TBT to when I was a drunken flamingo

And I’m sure this one will be no exception.  Purchase tickets here and use code DRINKROSE33 at check out to receive $10 off per ticket!

From rose to – froze!  That would be frozen rose folks.  It’s a thing and it’s fantastic

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The very best slushie

I made friends with this libation while on a mini-vacation The Standard  in Miami while in town for my little sister’s graduation.  This ultra hip hotel features the very best in amenities, from spa to pool to hammocks

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Complete with astroturf

To (private) bathtubs outside of your room, to cool little ‘zines which are perfect for a beach excursion:

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We enjoyed 48 glorious hours of tropical bliss, starting with an intense rainstorm, which was perfect for tub soaking and hot stone relaxation, and culminating in a Vespa mini tour of Miami Beach and, of course, my beautiful little sister’s graduation day

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Which we toasted with – you guessed it – more rose

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So very proud of her!!

A photo tour of the hotel plus our scooter adventure is below – but first a small diversion to Little Havana, aka Calle Ocho, which no trip to Miami is complete without.  We visited the Ball and Chain and enjoyed gin and guava cocktails plus salsa dancing, plus street empanadas from a dodgy little stand, plus cigars. Standard Miami.

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street empanada

In other culinary adventures, there was a Panther Coffee within walking distance of our hotel, which is one of Scott’s favorite coffee shops and therefore quite amazing (I defer to him on all these coffee related as, well, he obviously really knows his stuff from years of research)

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Perfect little macchiato

Next time we visit Miami, we fully plan on returning to The Standard.  It’s cool in the most laid back and luxurious way.  Check it out if you need a place to stay in Miami, NYC, or LA.  Highly recommended:

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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

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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!

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:

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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:

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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.

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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.