Wordless Wednesday: Saturday Night Glastonbury Barhop

Note: I don’t count photo captions (or this note) as words ūüėČ Home sick today and don’t feel much like writing!

Sakura Garden happy hour red + free strawberry daiquiri shot

Another free shot – mango

Joe's happy hour California roll

Rooftop 120 martini menu

Dark n stormier, sparkler, pickle martini

Sourdough grilled cheese + french onion soup

Margherita flatbread

Plan B

Are there any places in your town to bar/restaurant-hop?

11 Things

I’ve been tagged in the 11 Things chain going around by three bloggers: Meg, Kelsey, and Amanda. I’m finally getting around to answering those tags, but am gonna do things my own way. I’m not going to say my own 11 things because I now have 33 things to answer since I was tagged by 3 people – it’d just be too much! In that same regard, I am not going to make up 11 new questions and tag people at the end of this, because I feel like so many people have already been tagged. If you want to participate, just answer any of the same questions I answer here! I am trying to a)¬†accommodate¬†my own laziness and b) not make something too long for you guys by changing up my 11 things post in these ways.

Questions by Meg:

1. Who is your favourite celebrity?

Oh Natalie, I love you!

2. What is your favourite TV series?

My favorite show that is still on the air!

3. When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Oh lordy. I wanted to be a teacher M-F, a dentist on Saturday, and an artist on Sunday, because I couldn’t choose a career. And apparently was a young workaholic? I am still a workaholic but did not end up with ANY of those three, though I do consider myself a bit of an ar-teest as a marketer and blogger ūüėČ

4. Is your CURRENT hair colour your REAL colour? If no, what is your real hair colour?

Kinda? I get partial blonde highlights because my blonde hair got progressively darker until it became dirty blonde when I was 18 or 19. Couldn’t deal!

Now I feel silly because looking back I'm not THAT dirty blonde!

5. What is your favourite season?

Though I am a summer girl who is always cold, I have to say that my favorite season is fall because of how cozy it is.

6. If you could be an animal, what would you be?

A cat…they are the queens of their houses and can just chill all day!

7. What is your favourite flavour combo?

Anything salty + sweet! I love contrast.

8. How much time do you devote to blogging/blog reading per day?

Probably 2-3 hours total, but spread throughout the day, and more on weekends.

9. When you feel lazy, what is your go-to meal?

I just tend to much on snacks in that case! So a meal made out of snacks.

10. It’s your last day on Earth, what would you eat?

I had to think about this when I signed up for Serious Eats –¬†¬†Flatbread w/goat cheese and ¬†roasted veggies (app);¬†¬†J. Gilbert’s filet, baked potato w/butter, grilled asparagus (din);¬†Red Robin’s garlic steak fries + Catsup & Mustard’s half-sour pickles;¬†J. Gilbert’s chocolate ganache cake w/banana liquer. Yeah, I’d be full.

11. Does your exercise routine and eating habits change on the weekend?

Not exercise – I actually never miss a weekend workout because I have more time to work out then than on weekdays. But my eating habits may change in that I tend to go out to eat more and also have a couple of drinks each weekend night.

Questions by Kelsey:

1) If you could only eat 1 meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Probably a giant salad beast because I could put anything I wanted into it and switch it up each time ūüôā sneaky!

2) What is your favorite book?

My all-time favorite is “Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine. Ooh, now I wanna read it!

Source

3) What was your favorite childhood memory?

Probably all the “shows” that I used to put on as a kid. Whether at home solo/with siblings, or with neighborhood friends. Once we even put on a circus for the whole neighborhood!

4) What’s your favorite joke?

I just love puns. I make them frequently.

5) Who is your favorite actor?

The man…the myth…the Leo.

6) What is your biggest dream in life?

To be a full-time blogger ūüôā

7) What’s YOUR favorite number? (did you notice I picked #7 to ask this question? haha)

Kelsey is in love with the #7! I actually don’t have one, never thought of it before.

8) Who was your favorite teacher growing up and why?

My elementary school teachers for 4th/5th grade, Mr. Belowch and Mrs. Pratt, were both amazing, fantastic people. I wonder what they’re up to now!

9) What is your favorite candy?

I don’t eat a ton of candy but my fave candy bar ever is…

10) What is your biggest accomplishment?

I am most proud of starting this blog! But I also achieved the highest grade of 600 students in my Financial Accounting class in my soph year of college and was invited to be a TA as a result – that was pretty cool.

11) What is your favorite thing to wear?

To be honest…

Source

Questions by Amanda:

1. What is your favorite TV show?

See Meg’s #2!

2. Skiiing: downhill, cross country or water (or all/none!)

NONE! No cold for me!

3. Favorite season: winter, spring, summer or fall?

See Meg’s #5!

4. Peanut butter or almond butter?

PB obviously. I feel like I’m the only blogger who doesn’t like almond butter.

My fridge in college.

5. Did you play sports in high school?

No, I just did karate! I dabbled in rec basketball – emphasis on dabble.

2007 rec bball champs!

6. Who’s your favorite singer/band?

At the moment…

Source

7. Country music: yay or nay?

YAY YAY YAY.

8. What’s your favorite drink at Starbucks?

A nonfat bold half-caf misto, extra coffee please, sprinkled with cinnamon.

9. What is your current fitness goal?

I think I’d like to say I’ve run a half marathon! But I hate running. Thoughts?

10. What’s your favorite type of exercise?

Choreographed cardio (step, Group Groove, Zumba, etc)

11. What’s your dream job?

See Kelsey’s #6!

Woo! That took awhile but was fun. Hope you guys enjoyed reading my, well, 33 random facts. A little less if you take the repeats into account!

Did any of my answers surprise you?

I Am…

My twino (twin wino) Meg tagged me forever ago in her “I Am” post¬†in which she shared with everyone all the things she is to remind herself of all the reasons why she’s awesome. This sounds like a fantastic idea to me – I have been so busy recapping things I haven’t been able to responded to her tag with my own “I Am” post, but now I’m happy to say I finally am! I struggle sometimes with focusing only on my flaws, or on not feeling “good enough”. This has been something I’ve been trying to overcome for the past couple of years now, and I am excited to write this post because I feel like it will be a good exercise in focusing on the positive!

So without further ado: I am….

Independent (a recent development, but one I am extremely proud of)

Dedicated – a hard worker who does not quit easily

A foodie who values high-quality, wholesome eats – wholesome for the body (SALAD BEASTS) and the soul (dessert anyone?)

A wine-o and appreciator of a good cocktail

FitFluential ūüėÄ

Nerdy – and a total bookworm

Grandma-like in many behaviors (early bird, bingo-player, etc)

Pickle-obsessed

Appreciative of the little things

Silly

Technology dependent (I admit it)

Not a fan of children

Lover of my friends and family – I’d do anything for them

Clothing/shoe/accessory-obsessed (thank you, Forever 21)

Camera-crazy

A dance-lovin’ fool

Always cold

Caffeine-addicted

THANKFUL for all I have

What are you?? Time for me to tag some other bloggin’ friends – write a post and tell me what you are!¬†

Chick-fil-A and Froyotopia!

Happy Friday! I’m pretty busy at work today so without further ado I present to you a post that I drafted almost a month ago – it’s still got yummy eats for your viewing pleasure!

I really hit the motherload of good eats on my most recent family trip to Florida. The title of this post should be evidence enough of that for you!

Grabbing lunch during my senior year spring break.

There’s no way I can’t visit a Chick-fil-A¬†when I’m near one. The closest one to CT is in the student union of NYU…I don’t even know if that really counts. I’ve been psyched about going since…well…the last time I had Chick-fil-A, in October.

Where's ma sammich?!

I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t love this place, except Jeff, but we’re gonna call him weird on this one. I’ve met no bigger fan than the hilarious Christina. She rocks the Chick-fil-A Foursquare check-ins like nobody’s business. Just check out her hilarious Chick-fil-A Foursquare tip: “EVERYTHING.”

Do you think I’ve had enough build-up here? OK fine. I ordered my usual, and favorite, sandwich: the Chargrilled Chicken with extra pickles and Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce.

Oh, what a beautiful thing. Especially when eaten in 80 degree weather by a pool. Just a bit smug.

Oh what, you think the day’s delicious eats stop there? No way, not if I have anything to say about it. At snack time, the little sis and I made our way over to Downtown at the Gardens, just a few minutes by car from the hotel pool, for an (unsuccessful) visit to Urban Outfitters and a (successful) visit to Froyotopia, the closest self-serve fro-yo spot.

Hating nothing more than slow fro-yo goers in front of me in line.

So many great flavors! I got a little of everything, but the stand-outs were banana, coffee, and gingerbread. Fro yo flavors almost always go together fine for me, in case you’re wondering about that strange combo.

Naked fro-yo waiting to be topped.

I am a toppings nut¬†(no pun intended on naming a topping there AKA a nut, and that was probably too much explanation for that pun…) and had been to Froyotopia once before in March on spring break, so I knew that they had an ample selection of toppings. Behold!

Digging the pre-portioned cheesecake bites!

The final product.

Downtown at the Gardens is really nice, but there are a lot of open spaces for shops and restaurants that they have had trouble filling. I hope they get everything moved in soon because it is a really nice area! Hannah and I found a nice spot to enjoy our yogurt.

I don’t know how she does it, but she sticks to about one flavor and only a couple of toppings. I am so indecisive and like self-serve because of the fact that I can get a little bit of everything. Where else can you go out for ice cream/froyo and say “Hi, I’d like a medium, please fill it with a little of that, one of those, two of these…” – answer: you can’t. That’s why I’m thankful for self-serve!

Showing off my little-bit-of-everything.

What a yummy day – as all my days in Florida were! TAKE ME BACK!

When you go out for fro-yo, do you get a little of everything, or do you create a flavor combo involving only a couple flavors/toppings?

Anyone else out there share my Chick-fil-A obsession? I know many bloggers do!

Super Bowl Food 2012

That’s right, Super Bowl Food 2012¬†is this post’s title because we all know it’s not about the commercials, it’s not about the football, it’s about the FOOD¬†on Super Bowl Sunday! To be honest, this may be my favorite food holiday. It certainly beyond-tops Thanksgiving. Not that Thanksgiving at the Gerber home this year wasn’t delicious, but they had us over again on Sunday to enjoy a crazy delicious spread before and during the epic Patriots vs. Giants match-up. And maybe some beverages too…

In love with this cute TENNESSEE ORANGE ice bucket and little scoop.

I enjoyed a few glasses of Cabernet throughout the evening. Joe had to help me out.

Thanks for the help!

First thing’s first (well, after drinks) – we had to get our Super Bowl bets in place.

I am Vanna White.

Dads getting in on the fun.

I helped my dad and Mr. Gerber draw numbers out of a hat to randomly assign them to squares.

OK, enough gambling. I’ve made you wait long enough to see the food, right?

Ham/turkey sandwiches + fixings, and cornbread.

I of course munched on some of the pickles on the condiments tray, and a corner piece of cornbread. 

Pita chips and wings.

I had a few of those wings – they were amazing! Not sure where they were from, d’oh.

May or may not have dipped a wing in that Sabra hummus. Yum.

Buffalo chicken cheese dip!

This famous dip makes a comeback!

Beef chili and toppings bar.

White bean and chicken chili.

 Both a beef and chicken chili option Рlove it! I had some of the chicken chili and it was fantastic. A famous Gerber recipe!

MEATBALLS.

I had one of the meatballs above – it was amazing, amazing, amazing. Joe had several IN his chili. Genius!

Pimento chicken stuffed bread. No more words needed.

I had a couple pieces of the above beauty and even dipped one in the buffalo cheese dip, oh yes I di-id.

FAVORITE.

Best dish of the evening – CHEESE PLATE obviously! I posted-up by this thing for about 30 minutes and gabbed to anyone who would stand still long enough about what pairings they had to try (blue cheese on Lorna Doone cookies, WOW) because a couple glasses of wine had gotten my cheese cravings going in full swing. Another one of the cheeses was a brie, and I’m not sure what the third was. I stuck mostly to the bleu, mmm.

TV #1!

We had two TVs going since this was quite an event. Joe and I split our time between upstairs and the basement.

Chillin' with chili in the basement. Had to say it.

My favorite commercial¬†was the one with the M&M’s – it had me CACKLING. No other words can describe my laugh when I think something is hilarious.

I also REALLY enjoyed Madonna’s halftime performance. I’m a sucker for cameos, so as soon as LMFAO made an appearance, I was sold. Then Nicki Minaj…then CeeLo…I was in cameo heaven! I actually really like her new song, it is just so damn catchy, as much as I dislike Madonna herself (she’s too snobby for my taste).


The below photos are brought to you by winemakers of the world…

And don’t forget dessert, which made its entrance around the same time Madonna did during halftime, though her entrance may have topped the dessert’s.

Oh. I take that back. The dessert table was bangin’ this year. I had a cheesecake brownie, oatmeal cookie, chocolate chip cookie, and scoop of apple crisp. A little taste of everything I really wanted, and enjoyed every bite.

FYI I did not win any money. Booo! Mr. Gerber won the first two quarters (see him above looking smug) and my dad won the big end-game money!

It was such a great party, though I have to admit, when I got home and the next day I was feeling guilty about the indulgent foods I ate. I don’t normally do wings and cheese dip, or cheesecake brownies. I also had plenty of whole foods like fresh cheeses and lean chili. But I felt focused on feeling bad for eating things I felt I shouldn’t have, especially with all the negative self-talk going on the morning after the Super Bowl, just like the morning after Thanksgiving. I hate it!

But I had my normal breakfast and went about my day eating the usual whole foods that I love, like fresh fruit, huge salad beasts, and my fave whole wheat English muffins. ¬†I went to the gym after work and had a kick-ass Step class (and the floor kicked my ass too – I fell – oops!) that left me sweaty. I’m not perfect when it comes to this whole balance thing, but dammit, I’m working on it!

What was the best thing you ate on Super Bowl Sunday? What do you think the best thing I ate was?

Did you deal with hearing others – or your own mind – express a lot of negativity about post-Super-Bowl indulgence?

Do you have any Super Bowl traditions? Any fun betting/gambling games?

CW’s Chops ‘n Catch: NewCastle Beer Dinner

Jeff, Evan, and I have been quite the busy foodies lately. A few weeks before our oyster and white wine adventures at Max Fish, we hit up CW’s Chops ‘n Catch, a Corey Wry restaurant Jeff and I already loved, for their NewCastle Ale Beer Dinner. Don’t worry, fellow winos – there was a wine option for the beer-averse patrons like me! The price was right at just $40/person, and with a Corey Wry meal always guaranteed to be amazing, I pounced and made a reservation the second I found out about this dinner.

Yes, I know I’m super late recapping this. Would you expect anything less from a girl who still has some highlights of my December Florida trip to share? Someday…

Most of the beers being served at this dinner were part of the brand new seasonal line of New Castle and had never been tried in the state before. Good news for Jeff and Evan!

I was quite pleased with the fact that my name was written on our table’s place card (I made the reservation). It may or may not be hanging in my cubicle right now.

We started with passed appetizers: chimichurri beef skewers, which were served on an awesome cutting board with a map of Manchester (the restaurant’s location) carved into it! The beef was cooked very well and not too chewy.

We were also served Cabot Cheddar/New Castle Summer Soup Shooters, which were AMAZING and rich.

Pensive soup tasting.

Jeff and Evan were absolutely in love with these, but I think I liked the beef just a little bit more.

Dainty shooter sipping.

Our first course was a salad of steamed Cherrystone clams, arugula, lemon gremalata, EVOO, and shaved red onion. Unfortunately while eating this I got a chunk of arugula stuck in my throat that would NOT go down, so that kinda ruined my experience with this course. The arugula made a disappearance by the time it was over though.

The greens were delicious, when they weren’t getting stuck in my throat, and the clams were perfect. I LOVED that crunchy bread that came on the side – Jeff was kind enough to trade pieces with me since his bread was way more toasty than mine.

I was (finally – it had been a long day ;-)) served my vino pairing, a Pinot Grigio. Evan smugly guessed from one sip (before we knew what kind of white it was) that it was a Pinot. He was pretty proud of himself.

But the boys were more partial to the beer pairing, the same New Castle Summer IPA that was used as an ingredient in the soup shooters. The New Castle rep present at the dinner explained that this IPA had a citrus bite (I tried a sip and could taste it, but it was WAY too hoppy for me) and wasn’t quite as hoppy as other IPAs (could have fooled me but I have a SUPER low hop tolerance). It was paired with the salad because of the lemon and parsley ingredients, which did actually compliment the citrus in the beer well, I’ve gotta admit!

Oh bros and their beer…

The wine was a bit oddly spaced out during this meal. I arrived and they didn’t give us any drinks until after the salad came. Then, before the second course even came around, I was given my second glass of wine. This resulted in a double fisting situation.

I dealt with it.

Oops, first wine is gone!

The second course was served with Twisted Cabernet (a “good brand” of cheap wine that my parents know well) for wine and New Castle Brown Ale for beer.

This round of food was great! Buffalo style hot wings served with pickled cucumbers. Did somebody say pickles?!

Corey is a pickle god in my eyes – his Catsup and Mustard half-sours are excellent. These were no different.

The wings were perfect – not very spicy at all (a bit of a bummer for Jeff and Evan, who enjoy spicy food) and the bleu cheese sauce was some of the best I’ve ever had. Can you tell?

I actually really liked how the brown ale’s cool caramel undertones paired with the savory taste of the wings. I <3 contrast pairings.

In between this course and the entree, which was taking longer to prepare than the others since each person did not choose what he or she wanted until arrival, we were served CW’s signature garlic knots with garlic butter. OH WOW. This was amazing. The garlic freak in me was very, very pleased.

From left: cheddar brats, chorizo, knockwurst.

For the entree, all three of us passed up the Beef Tenderloin Tip Stew for the Housemade Sausage Mixed Grill with crushed Yukon potatoes, jalapeno jelly, and Cipollini onions. It’s safe to say we made the right choice. The jalapeno jelly was so, so amazing and natural tasting. The potatoes were awesome and every sausage was great, especially the chorizo. I loved how the knockwurst tasted with that mustard – I LOVE MUSTARD. Can’t have a Corey Wry dinner without catsup or mustard present right?

The beer served with the entree was New Castle’s newest, the Winter IPA, with a strong citrus taste that included notes of grapefruit. I was poured the Vina San Esteban Malbec, which was my least favorite wine of the evening. It was just very not-memorable? The sausage stood out and totally overshadowed it – not much of a pairing.

Last but not least…dessert! This one knocked my socks off: Chocolate Espresso Creme Brulee with Biscotti.

The biscotti was only OK – I definitely don’t prefer chocolate varieties – but the homemade whipped cream that topped them was to die for. I did not want the creme brulee to end. Eating the top was like eating a perfectly roasted, espresso-dusted, chocolate coated marshmallow.

I was served a sparkling wine with dessert, but the carbonation hater in me ended up sending it back for another glass of the Twisted Cab. That wine was just TOO sparkling! The boys had a beer called New Castle Werewolf Red Ale, and I really liked how it paired with the dessert. This brew had notes of berries, blood orange, and spice. I had been curious as to how beer would taste with creme brulee, and since it was the most interesting pairing, I think that’s why I liked it. It was designed to cleanse the palate and the spice notes were a nice counter to the sweet dessert. The fruity notes gave the beer a flavor that also made it well suited as a dessert course choice.

Luck was on our side that evening – each attendee got a raffle ticket with entry, and Evan won a New Castle shirt!

I smugly (and wastefully) won the biggest prize of the evening – a Krups BeerTender!

I was pretty psyched. That thing was bigger than me – I could barely hold it! I was more psyched to have won than about the actual prize…a beer device is wasted on me.

So it turned into Evan’s REALLY lucky day…take good care of the BeerTender, Evan!

Jeff was clearly jealous.

We also received traditional New Castle Ale glasses with the check.

Hello, wine.

The event was wonderful and I hope that Corey does another one soon! The food and drinks were well worth the price and I had an amazing time. It was another special way to spend a Monday indeed.

Looking awkward.

The three of us have now established a tradition (OK we’ve only done it twice, but still) of taking a foodie pic after each event. Yay!

Which of the dishes I sampled would you want to try most? Would you have gone with beer or wine?

Max Fish Oysters & Willamette Wines

Around my area, Max Restaurant Group is king. Their eight independent restaurants are all extremely successful and known for some of the best-tasting food and highest-quality drinks in the state. MRG also puts on lots of foodie-and-wino-targeted events. Though I’ve only heard great things about what’s served, I also have noticed that most of the events have quite a price tag. So imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when I saw an event on the calendar for January that was only $35/person – the “2012 Oysters and…” tasting of oysters from Max Fish, one of the MRG restaurants specializing in seafood, and white wines from Willamette Valley Vineyards, brought by the founder of the vineyard himself, Jim Bernau.

A chef completing rapid setup between tastings – there were three times, and we came for the second!

My dining partners at this event were my go-to foodie guys, Jeff and Evan. In fact, I have another tasting we attended not-so-recently that I hope to recap this week, but that’s neither here nor there.

Both still and sparkling water were offered – fancy!

I was beyond pleasantly surprised to see Jim himself there representing Willamette Valley Vineyards, because I had actually met him the day before at the Sun WineFest! In fact, his Willamette Pinot Noir (yum) was my very last sip of alcohol of the day, right before I headed to the main stage to cover the Oyster Open. The WineFest, by the way, occurred the day before this oyster and white wine tasting, so I considered it an extension of my WineFest culinary adventure!

Bucket for oyster shells!

Oyster expert Kim Kockza taught us a lot about what we were about to eat, and continued to educate us about oysters as we slurped them down. So much goes into oyster farming! Southern oysters of the US take about 12-18 months to grow, whereas are some oysters grown around the world that take up to seven years. Oysters are often grown in a controlled environment to the size of a quarter, and then released into bodies of water so that they can nom on plankton all day and get nice and beefy for OUR consumption. They eat, then we eat, the circle of life!

When Evan tried to squeeze lemon onto his first oyster, Kim certainly gave him a talking to. She wouldn’t allow it! We had no sauces either – this event was all about tasting the oyster in its purest form.

Oysters taste different depending on what species they are, where they are farmed, the farmers’ methods, and more. I’m extremely inexperienced with oysters – in fact, this was my first time having them raw like this – but I could still tell that a difference existed between certain species. Some had subtle flavor variations that I preferred to others. However, all of the oysters (no matter what kind) had the unfortunate habit of shedding little pieces of shell that kept getting caught on my tongue and in my teeth!

All of the oysters we sampled at Max Fish were from British Columbia. Three species were paired with three different white wines. Another slightly adventurous event for me, since I am a red lover at heart (hearts are red, ha!), and I have been trying to explore whites and give them a chance. I did not like any of these whites as much as a red, but pairing them with the oysters was certainly fun!

  • Gigamoto oysters with 2009 Pinot Gris: I enjoyed the wine portion of this pairing more than the oysters. They tasted very, well, raw. The taste was a bit more harsh and in-your-face seafood (if that makes any sense) than I would have preferred. The Pinot Gris and its clean taste did pair well with them and each sip was a satisfying cleanse to the palate. These oysters, though, were not really for me.
  • Miyagi oysters with 2010 Riesling: These oysters definitely tasted better thanks to their creamier texture. Kim showed us that the oyster’s white belly could tip us off before even tasting it that creaminess would come into play here. At first sip, the Riesling was way too sweet for me (they usually are). However as I continued to pair the miyagi oysters with the wine, I enjoyed the Riesling more and more.
  • Pacific rim oysters with 2009 Chardonnay: I was not the biggest fan of the Chardonnay paired with these oysters. I’m not sure if it was the oysters, or the wine (it’s hard for me to like a Chardonnay) but I definitely preferred the other two whites to this wine. These oysters were more similar to the gigamotos to me (less creamy than the miyagis).

Jim is a great guy, so down-to-earth, and he gave us lots of good wine education while we slurped and sipped! Willamette Valley is in Oregan, and Jim has owned the land for 29 years. His key wine making principle is stewardship of the land, so anyone buying Willamette Valley wines can be confident that the beauty of the valley is preserved and the land is well cared for before, during, and after harvest.

Jim’s passion for his wines really shines through.

Our last portion of the tasting involved some oysters that had been “tinkered” with – in the best way! Instead of served raw, these were served with some tasty garnishes.

On the left are two oysters topped with a chard gilee and chives. On the right are two oysters topped with an apple-bacon relish! I liked those the most out of the two (kinda obvious, it’s bacon), but the chard gilee oysters were great as well, and both went well with some leftover Chardonnay I still had. In fact, I liked the Chardonnay a little more after I paired it with these beauties! I have to say, raw oysters are not exactly for me r. I don’t think I’d ever order them out, but when it comes to garnished or stuffed oysters, I’m game!

Evan and I took turns snapping photos of each other eating the oysters. I went with the shot-glass-method:

I think Jeff is judging me.

Evan went with the slurping method, and I hate to say it, but I think he wins this round. He looks fancy! Or like he’s making out with the oyster.

Before we left, the three of us had to get a photo with the lobster tank. Too bad we failed and stood directly in front of it.

Classy foodies forever!

After leaving, we proceeded to J. Gilbert’s to take advantage of a free appetizer FourSquare deal and oh yeah, split a bottle of wine. Then back to Max Fish for late night happy hour bites. Yes, it was a bit of a spontaneous Monday out, but we kept it both cheap and sophisticated.

Our free J. Gilbert’s Maytag bleu cheese chips, and red wine (not free)!

J. Gilbert’s bartender talked us into a bottle…

My Max Fish happy hour cheese plate (wine = cheese plate cravings, always).

Max Fish happy hour Thai Shrimp Toast. Jeff continues his hand modeling career.

Thanks to Max Fish for hosting a cool event and to Jim for sharing his wines with us!

How much experience do you have with oysters? What about white wines?

Boston: New Eats, New Drinks, and Both Old and New Friends

Happy post-Super Bowl Monday! I definitely have a lost of Super Bowl party photos to share, but don’t want to get too ahead of myself because I’ve got great stuff that happened earlier in the weekend to share too. Good problems to have, yes?

But I just want to say quickly, I am already getting a bit sick of hearing people beat themselves up for indulging last night. I was doing some of that and still kinda am, but it’s the last thing I want to see and hear all over the place this morning. So let’s together try to make this a #mirrorlessmonday and just reflect on the good times. I’m working on it, and I hope you can too!

Saturday was quite an excellent day that started with a trip to the gym for Group Step. I had attended the exact same class the night before (Friday night “happy hour”!), but since the current release is still quite new, I wasn’t bored with the choreography at all. Some of the songs are so awesome! I’m always talking about this exercise program (by Body Training Systems) but have never actually SHOWED you guys what it’s about. Here is a trailer that shows you exactly what moves I’ve been doing in class, and you can hear the music too! I got the video from the BTS website.

I headed home, took a refreshing shower, and hit the road for Boston. It was great sunny driving weather, and I enjoyed some music and, once I lost radio reception to my favorite stations, listened to “The Tiger’s Wife” on audio book. I had big plans for the day. So big in fact, that they warranted a ridiculously-long-titled post like this one! ūüôā I first met up with Greg and Kramer, two good friends that I’ve known for awhile. Greg even spent Thanksgiving with my family (his parents are my godparents and vice versa). We walked to Newbury Street to have lunch at Stephanie’s on Newbury, a place that Kramer (a fellow restaurant fanatic) and I had been wanting to try for awhile. From the way my Twitter followers responded to my check-in there on Foursquare, I can see that many of my readers are already fans!

Each table at Stephanie’s was set with the cute little clipboard above that enables guests to customize their very own Stephanie’s Famous Bloody Mary for $11.50. The ingredients sounded really cool, but I have never been the biggest Bloody Mary fan (but more on that later…soon to be shown that this may have changed) and was going to be having some cocktails later, so we all just ordered food. Boston.com has called these bloody marys some of Boston’s best though, for those who are fans.

The cocktail menu was pretty darn impressive. It was hard for me to resist indulging in one of these! But really, I was hungry and food was at the top of my brain.

A girl at the table next to use ordered the Seared Yellow Fin Tuna Salad, and as soon as I saw the waiter set it down in front of her, all I could think was…I WANT. It wasn’t too hard for me to decide on that, though the menu did have plenty of appetizing options. Kramer and Greg had a way harder time choosing than I did.

Kramer ordered the Oversized Stephi Burger: ground sirloin, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, bacon, sauteed mushrooms, and french fries. It was definitely oversized! And also over-cheesed and over-fatted – Kramer commented that the cheese was way too much, and the sirloin itself was too fatty. There was definitely a¬†sizable¬†pool of grease that crowded and ruined the last few fries on his plate. He liked the burger, but said next time he’d go light on the cheese or nix it completely.

Greg’s choice was definitely more unique and delicious, though not enough food for him! He has been loving¬†shepherd’s¬†pie that Kramer cooks in their apartment, and ordered Stephanie’s version, which came inside an acorn squash¬†and with a side of deliciously salty sauteed¬†collard greens. Fortunately for Kramer and I, Greg didn’t want the greens. After I snapped this photo, Greg poured gravy¬†over the whipped potatoes on top, and it looked even better. He said it was so delicious, but again, not enough food for him.

My salad was fantastic, with perfectly seared tuna and plenty of yummy ingredients like marinated green beans and olives, just the way I like it. The lemon caper dressing was the star – one of the best salad dressings I’ve ever tasted. I dipped my fork in it lightly before each tuna bite and the combo was out of this world.

After lunch, we walked around Newbury a bit and did some shopping. I finally got some Toms at Urban Outfitters thanks to Christmas gift cards, and also had some luck at Forever 21!

Next on my agenda was a meet-up with my pal Ken of Pete & Gerry’s Heirloom Eggs. Don’t forget, you can still access coupons for their eggs¬†here, and FYI, their eggs are available to buy (and use the coupons on) at Northeast grocery store chains like Shaw’s, Stop and Shop, and Whole Foods!

This small sign was literally the only indication that we had arrived at Drink, Boston’s premier destination for specialty cocktails. The bartenders here are more like mixologists or artists. There is no drink menu¬†– just tell them what you like or what you’re in the mood for, and a special, unique beverage will be made just for you. Each drink takes awhile to make¬†but it’s well worth the wait.

The place runs like a well-oiled machine. That girl in the photo above was preparing citrus fruits for drinks the whole time we were there. Another girl was completely in charge of washing off any tools/shakers/cups used to make the beverages. That way, the mixologists could concentrate on what they did best. Each drink was quite a production! It looked like our bartender, Will, was performing an operation while he made our first beverage.

Luckily the booze was not only flowin’ at Drink, but water was too – served in shot glasses! Very cool, and despite how busy it got not long at all after the place opened at 4pm, the employees were very attentive about keeping the glasses full.

Our first drink was a Mai Tai, but not one you’ve ever seen before.

Yes, the drink is on FIRE! This was amazing. Ken and I informed Will that we wanted something with rum, citrus-y, more tart than sweet…and this is what he came up with. The thing on fire in the lime skin is a brandied cherry, and the cherries in this drink were actually the best I’ve ever tasted. The Mai Tai contained two rums: El Dorado 12 Year and one other that I cannot for the life of me find the name of – bad blogger. Other ingredients included house-made grenadine, freshly squeezed lime juice, orange curacao, and the obvious fresh fruit and crushed ice.

Drink may not have a drink menu, but the food menu was incredible. Ken chose a couple of bar bites for us – warm olives and candied bacon cashews. OH. MY. GOSH. The olives were good, don’t get me wrong. But those cashews? Fantastic, amazing, wonderful, not enough positive words exist to describe these cashews.

It was time for another drink, and Ken had brought along a very special ingredient – his Pete and Gerry’s eggs! Will gladly accepted them and offered to whip us up some cocktails. He and some other Drink employees were definitely admiring the brilliant yellow of those cage-free yolks as he worked.

Yes, that’s a light Will is working with. I’m telling you, each drink was like an operation! An operation that involves lots of heavy drink shaking.

Will made Ken and I two drinks to share, one with egg whites and one that used the egg yolk. First up, was a Good Humor, made with egg yolk, aperol cream, and topped with nutmeg.

Interesting story behind the Good Humor – it was invented by a couple who owned a farm and used to make drinks with egg whites. They had so many leftover yolks that they knew they had to come up with a drink to put those into, and that’s when experimenting was done and the Good Humor was invented.

The next drink, which was the favorite of both Ken and I because it tasted stronger, was the Pink Lady made with egg whites, apple brandy, gin, pomegranate, and lemon. YUM!

Ken and I toasting to Pete and Gerry's egg cocktails!

Ken and I had to cut ourselves off, because we had another destination to hit! Chef Jason Santos of Hell’s Kitchen’s seventh season is the executive chef at Blue Inc. and he has an affinity for Pete and Gerry’s eggs! He uses them in his kitchen and had nothing but good feedback for Ken. That’s right, I got to meet Chef Jason Santos!

The interior of Blue Inc. is gorgeous, with a really cool blue and orange color scheme and a very retro appearance. The restaurant was designed with help from Taniya Nayak, an interior designer and HGTV/Food Network personality!

Jason was kind enough to send out shooters of his celery root and Fuji apple soup. This was creamy and not too rich. The apple taste was extremely subtle – good for someone like me who doesn’t really like apples! What an amazing soup.

The unique foodie fare didn’t stop there. The bartenders were also very generous and gave Ken and I a sample of one of the crazy cocktails from Blue Inc’s Crazy Cocktails menu. Tricia LaCount, the Bar Manager and “Mad Scientist”, has done an amazing job coming up with some really unique concoctions, like a dirty martini made with black sea salt. Oh, and she’s also a sweetheart! The above shot glass is filled with a rum and Coke made with butter-popcorn-infused rum. Yes, that’s right, they literally take rum and let it soak in buttered popcorn! Not exactly my cup of tea (I don’t like soda…) but what an idea. I can always appreciate creativity like that. I had to try a couple sips!

For my next cocktail of the evening, I was daring and selected the Angry Tomato: gazpacho vodka, pickled green beans, and a double-secret bloody recipe.

The rim was garnished with some kind of red-pepper and the green beans were EXCELLENT dunked in the drink. This was a daring choice for me because like I said before, I’m not really a Bloody Mary fan. I could actually only finish about half of this. However it was the best one I’ve ever tried and I’m glad I stepped out of my box!

Not pictured are the Spicy Red Curry Mussels (with Thai crab cakes, scallion salad, and fresh coconut) and Pretzel Rolls that Ken and I shared as well. The broth of the mussels was FANTASTIC when soaked up with the pretzel roll. Mmmm. Unfortunately at this point, it was time to part ways with Ken. I had another meet-up on my agenda, a very special one indeed.

Yes, that’s Heather from For the Love of Kale!¬†She already blogged about our meet-up and had so many nice things to say, and I’m happy to say the feeling is mutual. I feel like I’ve known her for forever and she’s one of my twinnies! We had a great time in the city and I loved meeting her friends too.

We were going to hit up The Other Side Cafe, and I was so psyched for a unique meal, but they were at capacity and showing no signs of emptying out anytime soon. Bummer! A lot of the restaurants in the area were also “full-up” for those with no reservations, so by process of elimination we ended up at Mass Ave Tavern.

Good thing I wasn’t even really hungry at all after all the munching and imbibing I’d been doing the last several hours, but the Bee Keeper¬†cocktail sounded simple and delicious, so I did order one of those. When in Rome?

The drink was definitely excellent, and the four of us shared a Hummus Plate. It was yummy and the perfect light snack for my hunger level, but Heather the hummus-expert confirmed for us that this hummus was not homemade, but Tribe. Still good, but something easily recreated at home!

Our waitress also had an attitude and there weren’t many options at all for a vegan like Heather (what do you expect from a Tavern we ended up at because we didn’t have many other choices…), but we went with the flow and had a blast with each other anyway, of course! How could we not?

It was such an amazing Saturday. I headed home after dinner and was in bed and passed out by 11:15PM. Not too shabby! Still was able to get up the next morning and have a super productive Sunday.

Have you ever met someone you met through blogging in “real life”?

Which of the cocktails I sampled would you most want to try?

Mohegan Sun WineFest: The Oyster Open

Finally, we’ve got the last recap of the Mohegan Sun WineFest! In case you missed it, I’ve already recapped both the food and the drinks I tried.

More specifically, this post is about an event I mentioned in my lead-up post, the 8th Annual Mohegan Sun Oyster Open. I was fortunate enough to meet Chef¬†Jasper White of Jasper White’s Summer Shack during my last trip to Mohegan, and he told me this event was one that I would not want to miss. I found him at the WineFest, and he was kind enough to help me out by telling me more about the competition. He also helped me get as close as possible to the stage – and even ON the stage at one point – so that I could get some great photos!

Jasper kicked off the event and thanked everyone for coming out. I had no idea that so much went into just getting a chance to compete in the Oyster Open – after all, first prize was $5,000! All competitors (a couple were from Mohegan’s Summer Shack restaurant location) had to qualify and have a history of winning past, smaller competitions.

The MC explained to us that oyster shucking competitions are not just about speed – presentation also matters! Competitors could gain or lose points based on of the quality of the shucking job, which was demonstrated when the judges performed tests like checking to see how easily the oyster meat disconnected from the shell.

Before the first round got going, the newest judge, William “Chopper” Young, who has dominated the last several competitions, accepted a Hall of Fame Award for his achievements in oyster shucking. Chopper won the World Championship in Ireland two years ago. This is the most prestigious oyster shucking event in the entire world!

Soon it was time for the competition to get under way. The competitors stood poised, hands up, ready to be told they could start.

AND…GO!!!

At this point, Jasper helped me out by getting me close enough to get some great shots of one of his restaurants’ oyster shucking chefs in action. It’s amazing what these guys can do!

The chef pictured above is Eladio Jadiria, a Boston Summer Shack shucker. He ended up placing 4th, but has been winning every Boston competition for the last several years!

Once time was up (some finished before that), all candidates raised their hands in the air again, and the judges took the trays away to be analyzed for shucking quality.

Another kind of competition took place while the judges did their work – a beer shucking contest! That’s right, who can open a case of beer the quickest?¬†Best of all, the audience received the opened bottles after the contest was over!

Jasper and I were rooting for one of Mohegan Sun’s own, a bartender at Ultra 88 nightclub. Unfortunately she did not win, but the competition was sure fun to watch. The energy was great!

The judging was certainly thorough! There was still one more round to go, but the first round scores were still crucial.

At this point, I realized it was 4:47PM (the Fest closed at 5PM) and I had about 10 food tokens left. I bid Jasper goodbye and went off in search of places to spend them, so I did not catch the next round.

However, I found out that the winner ended up being George “Hannibal” Hastings of Virginia. He is a national champion at least two times over, and has competed at the World Championship in Ireland!

The Sun WineFest Facebook page has more great photos up from the entire weekend, including photos from the last round of the competition that I missed out on.

It was a fantastic way to end my trip to the Sun WineFest. Thank you so much to Jasper White for helping me make this the best post possible!

Have you ever heard of oyster shucking competitions? I honestly had no idea this sport existed until I read about it before the WineFest!

Unique Foodie Fare at Casona – Hartford, CT

Casona, located in Hartford, CT, may sound more familiar to my CT readers than most new restaurants would. There’s a reason for that – Casona used to be La Casona, an establishment operated in the same location (Wethersfield Avenue in Hartford). In 2009, the owner, Fabio Caro, sold La Casona and moved to Miami. The restaurant’s new owner unfortunately let cuisine fall by the wayside as he poured resources into promoting the place as a nightclub. As a result, La Casona shut down – but not for good!

Casona's newly renovated dining room.

Fabio returned to Connecticut, and brought with him his experiences in Miami at restaurants that focused on ethnic tapas. He renovated La Casona and turned it into simply Casona, a gorgeous space that serves up truly unique, authentic dishes for both lunch and dinner.

Love the lamps!

Fabio and his daughter, Stephanie, were kind enough to invite me to Casona to sample some of their specialty offerings. I accepted the invite immediately and brought the namer of this blog, Rachel, with me. I knew she’d appreciate the opportunity because she’s a fellow foodie!

We arrived to find the dance floor (Casona still moonlights as a popular nightclub) occupied by a salsa teacher and his students! That’s right, Casona offers salsa lessons on both Wednesday nights (6, 7:15, and 8pm) and Saturday mornings (9:30pm). Don’t be shy, all levels are invited, and prices are extremely reasonable at just $10/class on Wednesdays and FREE on Saturday (what a fun, affordable date idea!). If salsa isn’t your thing, Tuesdays at 6:30pm there is ridiculously cheap $5 Zumba!

A salsa group before class.

Rachel and I were seated in the dining room next to two huge booths, which Fabio informed us are filled on weekends with young customers utilizing Casona’s bottle service.

I'm in love with those lamps too. So modern!

The table was set beautifully and our waitress immediately brought over glasses and a bottle of water to keep at the table. I love that – I go through water like mad at restaurants, and it’s great when I can just serve it myself.

Um yes, that’s wine! Fabio was kind enough to offer us some, so Rachel and I both selected an Argentinian Merlot. It was WONDERFUL and paired beautifully with all of our food.

Fabio continued his generosity throughout the evening, giving us so many courses of amazing, delicious food. We started with toasty, crunchy bread with Casona’s signature “sexy sauce”. The taste of this sauce was certainly a sexy thing indeed.

Our next course, Piononos, was Rachel’s favorite (she went back and ordered it for lunch this week in fact) and, after much deliberation, I’ve decided it was my favorite as well: sweet plantains stuffed with ground beef and Latin spices, topped with sexy sauce.

First of all, I loved the presentation of each of the tapas, especially on the above plate. Secondly, WOW. The sweet plantains were a fantastic contract to the spiced ground beef, and the sexy sauce made them even more amazing. What a unique, well-prepared dish!

Next up was a dish the seafood-lover in me was extremely excited to try (and the seafood-hater Rachel was extremely apprehensive about it as well), the ceviche,¬†made with tilapia! Or as Fabio calls it…Peruvian sushi.¬†Each section of the tray had a different sauce: yellow pepper sauce, rocoto, and virgin sauce. All were wonderful and had a bit of a spicy kick that got to me a bit by the time we’d finished this dish (yes, Rachel had some too and enjoyed it, a true testament to its deliciousness), but it wasn’t so much spiciness that it made eating the ceviche unpleasant in any way. The funny looking things you see on the left and right side of the tray are Peruvian corn – how cool is that? It was so yummy and wasn’t even salted, buttered, or anything! The huge kernels packed a flavorful punch. The middle compartment of the tray was garnished with a sweet potato, which tasted so good in that spicy sauce. More yummy contrast!

Out of anything I tried at Casona, I’d say the above beef and chicken empanadas tasted most similar to other dishes I’ve tried before, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t stand-outs. The crunchy outer shell was fried to perfection and not greasy at all. The chicken was shredded, which I prefer so much more to chunks, and that perfectly-spiced ground beef was back again. Fabio called the salsa a pico de gallo, which was a bit odd to me since every other pico I’ve seen is more chunky and has the least liquid of any salsa variety, whereas this salsa was mostly liquid. I definitely prefer ¬†a chunkier salsa, but since the empanadas shape is definitely more conducive to soaking than scooping, the liquid salsa was a good choice.

Our last dish (we had no idea we had another one coming, at this point Rachel and I were quite full, but how could we turn this down?) were the Tostones Rellenos, or fried green plantains¬†stuffed with chicken and shrimp (chicken for Rachel, shrimp for me) and garnished with homemade plantain chips. The plantain chips were the best I’ve ever tasted (Casona should bag them and sell them!) and the rellenos were again not greasy and absolute perfection. We were too full to finish this plate, and that did not make us happy, but we were going to explode with any more food!

Fabio was kind enough to share with us the dining room’s best-kept secret. At night, it becomes a dance floor, complete with a DJ. He asked us where we thought the DJ’s setup was located, and after many failed guesses, he happily gave us the grand reveal.

What’s he doing with that gorgeous painting?!

Awesome! The painting (which is pretty enough to just serve as its intended function AKA a piece of decor) is pulled away to reveal the DJ’s window! Now that’s what I call a space saver – very impressive! Fabio seemed proud of his design, and I don’t blame him.

Rachel and I are definitely going to be back to Casona (in fact, Rachel’s already been back), and it’s so exciting to hear that they are having success so far in their revitalization. We wish them the best and are so grateful to Fabio and Stephanie for inviting us out!

If you are in the area, you also have one last chance tonight to participate in Taste of Hartford Restaurant Week 2012 at Casona! You can view the special menu here (three of the dishes in this post are featured)!

What is your favorite tapas-style dish? What do you think of the tapas we sampled?