Don’t look now, but there’s a Bear in your Tavern

Birthdays are often wonderful, especially when they are filled with delicious food.  And boy, did I have a foodie birthday this year!  Let’s start with my actual birthday eve, last night, at the Capital Grille.  With impeccable attention to detail and making special occasions as special as can be, they started with a card and confetti:

happy birthday

So festive!

They also brought out bubbly, which paired nicely with our (not pictured) oysters:

champagne

Making a girl feel special

And finished off with a dessert plate, which our server Michael customized for me upon overhearing me mention I hate cheesecake (which I do, don’t judge me):

happy birthday dessert

So instead, we were served my very favorite coconut creme pie.  Which is tart, salty, sweet, smothered in hand made whipped cream, and perfectly decadent

That’s just the level of consideration and attention to detail that can be expected at the Capital Grille.

IIn addition to the glorious celebration dinner listed above, I was fortunate enough to finally attend a Bears Smokehouse and Millwrights pop up dinner in the Millwrights Tavern on Monday night.  This will be a ‘thing’ every Monday night for the forseable future, and it involves taking Bear’s glorious BBQ and giving it a high end twist with Tyler Anderson’s signature cooking style.  Behold: “The Cook and the Bear”

rum cocktail millwrights

Behold also my Sloe Gin Fizz (sloe gin, lemon, and soda)- Chris Parrot never disappoints

The menu is divided into small plates (priced at $4) salads (priced at $8) proteins ‘from the smoker’ (at $6.50) sandwiches ($10.50), sides (also $4), and sweet stuff, aka dessert ($6).  It’s quite affordable and, well, let’s just look at some food porn shall we?

cocktail and pickles at millwrights

Tyler always makes a good pickle.  It helps that he works with the Community Farm at Simsbury and always sources fresh and local.  Also pictured: a “Dirty Holiday” cocktail (tequila, coconut, pineapple, and lime)

corn on the cob at millwrights

Grilled corn with the flavors of Greek salad.  Like Mexican style corn, this is drizzled and drenched in decadent toppings.  It’s, quite obviously, corn season, so the best time of the year to be eating the stuff anyway.  Tyler’s preparation of it is very signature of his style – a simple vegetable dish elevated with masterful flavors and a twist on a traditional technique. 

beet salad

It might seem difficult to order a salad when there’s so much meaty BBQ to be had – but get your dang salad.  It’s good for you – pictured is the: “smoked beets, ricotta, and walnut pesto.”  The beets packed flavor and texture and the citrusy, earthy flavors balanced nicely against the creamy cheese sauce.

ribs and mac and cheese at millwrights

You should still get BBQ.  Obviously.  Pictured: baby back ribs, baked beans, and mac & cheese with chicken cracklings.  Of all the things on this plate, the mac and cheese really sang to my soul.  In the way that only creamy cheese and crunchy chicken cracklings do

brisket sandwich at millwrights

The burnt ends sandwich – with the flavors of french onion soup.  It was difficult for me not to order this one for myself.  Burnt ends – the fatty, juicy ends of the brisket – are my favorite item to order at Bears Smokehouse.  But I restrained myself and will get it next time, because I simply, absolutely needed this:

best chicken sandwich at millwrights

The nashville hot chicken sandwich, iceberg, pickles.  Also known as the chicken sandwich against which all others will now be judged and found wanting.  Sorry Chick Fil A.  I don’t need you or your bigot chicken anymore.  I’ll take this local, better version instead.  And pair it with a nice Maine “Baxter” IPA.

The cozy Millwright’s Tavern is a perfect back drop for a decadent BBQ dinner – moving into the fall, this will be epically good comfort food.  Please go, check it out, and enjoy.  It’s a unique local collaboration which we are very fortunate to have here.

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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.