Starstruck at Mohegan Sun

Like I said yesterday…and the day before…I’ve got an exciting evening to share! So exciting I had to give it a build-up of several days, I suppose. I wasn’t going to let a snowy Saturday get me down this past weekend. I had exciting plans to reunite with college friends at Mohegan Sun Casino, and thankfully by the time I left around 6pm, the highways were pretty much all cleared and it was (fairly) smooth sailing during my trip.

I arrived, found some of our group playing video poker at a bar, and settled in with an Absolut Pear Martini while we waited for more friends to arrive so that we could grab dinner. The martini was delicious, just the pear-flavored vodka with a touch of vermouth, shaken with ice so that it was niiiice and chilly. I love a smooth, strong drink!

We grew to a party of six and set out to find a dining destination. The first two options we stopped at, Sol Toro and 23 Sports Cafe (both Michael Jordan restaurants), had waits. I had been hoping to try something new, but also didn’t want to delay dinner. Luckily, there were plenty of tables for large parties available at Jasper White’s Summer Shack, and old favorite of mine that I’ve visited a couple of times before, most recently during the Winter Storm Alfred power outage.

Specials are written on chalkboards throughout the restaurant.

The Summer Shack has the casual beach vibe of so many of the authentic seafood restaurants back in Florida that I adore. The seafood here is always fresh, and that’s the reason for the chalkboards throughout the restaurant that list the numerous special starters, entrees, and desserts.  So much of the menu is always changing, depending on what will taste the best based on availability!

Jeff and I, always foodie partners in crime.

I started off with a Dark & Stormy, or ginger beer with rum. This has become one of my favorite drinks to order whenever I see it on a drink menu when I’m out, ever since sampling it several times at Rooftop120. Their version, the Dark & Stormier, is definitely stromier aka STRONGER! However this Dark & Stormy was still delicious and I savored it throughout my meal…which resulted in me having to chug it so the rest of the party could leave and get-to-gamblin’, oops.

Reunited at the casino, at the end of our evening.

When the hostess was seating us, she informed me that Chef Jasper White himself (yes, it’s Jasper White’s Summer Shack) was actually in the restaurant that very evening! I became a bit of a babbling mess and blurted out that I would love the chance to meet him or talk to him, and tell him how much I enjoy his restaurant. I never ACTUALLY expected that Jasper White would come to our table to meet me!

Celeb chef sighting!

You know you’re a foodie when you’re fangirling over meeting the chef of a great restaurant, much like one would fangirl over meeting the singer of their favorite songs (oh yeah, I’ve done that before too). It was great to have the chance to tell Jasper about my blog, and how my family came to his restaurant during one of our nights without power during Winter Storm Alfred, and that I’d written about the experience and shared it with my readers. I  was so excited to give him my card – the idea of Jasper reading my blog was (and is) very exciting!

I was in for an even bigger surprise when Jasper sent over some appetizers for the table to sample! We received the stuffed oysters pictured above, as well as seafood potstickers. Both were beyond amazing, but I’d have to say my favorite of the two were the oysters. The crunchy breading atop the stuffing was so flaky, and the lemon juice squeezed atop each one really made it.

Ever the adventurous foodies, Jeff and I decided to split two of the more unique appetizer specials. First was the baby octopus with crushed tomatoes and white beans. This was fantastic! The octopus had a really nice flavor and the beans and tomatoes tasted SO good served atop that crunchy bread on the side – kinda like a little bruschetta! I squeezed a lot of the lemon wedge’s juice onto the greens too.

Unfortunately, our second choice, grilled sardines with a spicy marinara, were a little bit of a fail due to the bones! The fish that I did taste was good – I have been curious to try sardines ever since reading about them in the blog world, first on Kath Eats. It wasn’t too salty like I’d feared. The issue was the skeleton – the tiny sardine bones were impossible to pick out! This just comes with the territory of eating sardines I guess, but I am not a fan of high-maintenance dishes like that. Jeff and I both kinda gave up eventually, which was unfortunate because the fish was yummy! I guess bone fish just is not for me. The marinara didn’t taste that spicy to us, but I did enjoy its flavor and scooped some onto more of that crunchy bread, and put more lemon juice on this app’s greens as well. I like how each app comes with greens – the maple-glazed scallops I ordered last time did as well!

In contrast to the interesting apps Jeff and I sampled, our friend Charlie, the king of the plainest foods of all time, ordered buffalo wings. He was more than eager to give me his review, declaring that the meat was delicious, but the wings lacked any buffalo flavor (he also wanted me to include that he is, indeed, from the Buffalo area). He also declared the bleu cheese sauce to be excellent. My friend Prasant tried a wing, and gave the same consensus as Charlie. Sounds good to me, since I cannot deal with anything spicy, but these may not be the best choice if you are looking for a spicy wing!

Prasant and my other friend, Alex, ordered the same thing…the cheeseburger. Can’t go wrong with a good old burger every now and then, but as you can see, Jeff’s tastes align more with mine when it comes to what to order at a seafood restaurant! Prasant and Alex both liked their burgers though, and that grilled onion in the photo above looks really good to me!

Clearly I was so psyched about the pickles I received with my food (always gotta order pickles on the side, right Christina?) that I couldn’t sit still enough to let Jeff take a photo that wasn’t blurry.

The service we received at Jasper White’s Summer Shack was also excellent. Our waiter was really nice and, after initially bringing me 2 pickles, brought me a few more after he found out he would have to charge me $1 for them. Thanks, man!

And a huge thanks to Jasper White for being kind enough to check out my blog and send some delicious seafood my way!

While the boys in our crew headed to the craps table (where Jeff went on a heater and proceeded to win the tables’ players amounts ranging from tens to thousands of dollars), my friend Kelly (this is a third Kelly I know, so now I have mentioned all three of them on the blog at some point, yay!) and I decided to class it up, pass by the free casino beverages, and spend a little money to enjoy a more unique cocktail at Leffingwell’s Martini Lounge.

Such a gorgeous place! The bar was full, so we settled into some giant red comfy chairs (that were a little too large and seemed to swallow us) and perused the martini menu.

I was worried I’d have a hard time deciding on a drink, but immediately spotted the French Pear martini, remembered the first pear martini I’d had from earlier that evening, and decided that trying a version of it that included eldeflower liqueur and a twist was just what I wanted!

Kelly satisfied her sweet tooth AND grape tooth with a Grape Snow Cone martini.

How cute is her hair? Jealous.

And my awkward photo-posing-with-a-martini, which you saw briefly on Sunday…

Drinks can be so pretty!

After we finished our drinks and had wonderful girl-time, Kelly and I met up with the boys at the craps table. There wasn’t room for me to jump in until Jeff’s heater had ended, but I still managed to leave the casino $20 richer!

Dammit Brookstone, ruining my lighting.

We hung out for a little while longer and I decided to give into a craving that I always get when I go to Mohegan…

Oh Half-Baked Fro Yo from Ben & Jerry’s, how I love you so. And how I LOVE sugar cones. Got a kid’s cone for a nice treat!

Taken by a random man who may or may not have been drunk. Open your eyes, Caitlin.

What a fantastic evening, which went quite well with the rest of my wonderful weekend. It was so great to see so many of my friends together in one place for the first time since graduation – and meet Jasper White!

Have you ever met the head chef of a restaurant? Do you ever visit the casino – and do you ever win?

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