Happy Birthday Kelly Olexa!

Monday, April 2, will be Kelly Olexa’s birthday. Who’s Kelly? She’s the CEO of FitFluential, the awesome community for which I am a FitFluential Ambassador. She’s also a fabulous go-getter, an amazing people person, and a confident businesswoman – all things that I work towards becoming every day!

Danielle Liss (CMO of FitFluential and Kelly’s road trip partner-in-crime) came up with the excellent idea to do a¬†blog carnival, or a big link-up post that guides its readers to tons of links about one topic. In this case, that topic is HAPPY BIRTHDAY KELLY!

So join me in wishing this very FitFluential lady a happy, fabulous day ūüôā

March Foodie Pen Pals!

Lindsay‘s Foodie Pen Pals program continues to impress me each month. Not only is she doing a great job running the growing exchange, but this month I was matched with someone much older than me, which I thought was fabulous because I am all about meeting new people of all ages, especially since I entered the working world and started this blog.

Previous Foodie Pen Pals posts:

My pen-pal was Loy of From Grandma Loy’s Kitchen. She is almost 70 and really is a grandmother! So I completely trusted her taste before I even opened the above box. After all, she’s got tons of food experience! The recipes on her blog look amazing.

What an amazing package! The pink notepad is my favorite color (Loy asked me what that was before she put my package together) and I can’t wait to use it at work to make lists (I’m a chronic list-maker). The yellow cloth towels that the goodies are resting on were another piece of the package that Loy picked out with a specific color in mind. She asked for the color of my kitchen wallpaper, and it’s yellow with flowers. Turns out she wanted the towels to match the kitchen – so sweet! My mom appreciated that too.

She also appreciated the¬†sweet chili dipping sauce, savory roast rub, and garlic & herb mix. Why is that? Well, we are having an Easter party with our usual group of formerly-Florida-resident pals, and all three of these items are DEFINITELY going to be utilized in both appetizers (garlic & herb dip with crackers and veggies, along with the dipping sauce for shrimp cocktail) and dinner (the roast rub for our chicken and pork tenderloin). Can’t wait to share how it all turns out!

Heather was visiting the night I received and opened my box, and she squealed with delight when she saw the¬†salted¬†snapea crisps.¬†Apparently they’re awesome – I can’t wait to break into them! Side note: the company that makes them, Calbee America, also makes baked shrimp-flavored chips. Um, baffling, and yet I REALLY want to try them?!

I’ve been dying to try the Thomas’ 100% Whole Wheat Bagel Thins! I usually stick to their english muffins with my daily dose of Laughing Cow, but now I can try something new, ESPECIALLY since I discovered just yesterday that Laughing Cow now makes Light Cinnamon Cream Cheese wedges – um, yes please, thanks. The Cranberry Nut Goodness granola is honestly not my thing – I’m just not into cranberry, or granola for that matter. However, no food goes to waste! I passed it on to a good friend who loves granola!

Thank you again to Loy for putting together such a great package for me, and customizing it so well! If you want to sign up for Foodie Pen Pals, check out Lindsay’s info page on The Lean Green Bean to find out more!

Also check out what I got my pen pal Brittany of Go The Xtra Mile!

Have you ever tried any of these products? Which would you most want to try?

Sweat and Food

Please take a moment to vote for me (up to 10 times…a day…) in round one of the¬†Hartford Courant 2012 Websters¬†for CT’s Best Blogs! I’m nominated for Best Overall Blog, Best Health Blog, Best Food Blog, and Best Social Media Account! Thank you to those who nominated me, and voting for round one closes this Friday 3/30 at 11:59PM EST.

I’m glad that so many of you seemed to enjoy yesterday’s post about my appreciation for the friendships my blog has brought me! Sounds like a lot of you can relate – and that’s a great thing!

My makeshift home yoga "area"…computer booting up to play P90X Yoga this morn! My #PROOF.

I feel like it’s been forever since I just wrote about what was on my mind (instead of recapping the latest and greatest restaurants and events). I love doing that, but I also find it really therapeutic and cleansing, cheesy as that sounds, to just write whatever is on my mind! And based off of comments and feedback from my readers, it seems those posts are often enjoyed MORE than the ones where I share my delectable eats. Perhaps I’m giving you guys too much food porn? Do I need to take it away for awhile? ūüėČ OBVIOUSLY I’m kidding.

Typical healthy eats food porn…some may drool, some may wrinkle their noses.

I had a great workout yesterday. I have to share it with you guys! I did an hour-long spin class that totally kicked my butt and had me pouring sweat. I just LOVE how sweating makes me feel. It’s more refreshing than jumping into a pool on a hot day. Downside of sweating, just like getting out of a pool sometimes – I was FREEZING after that spin class. Complete icicle. Even 20 minutes of arm-breaking (don’t worry, not literally) weights after the class couldn’t warm me up. Once I got home I realized why – my sports bra, AKA undergarment completely 100% in contact with my skin, was totally drenched through. I don’t remember the last time it was like that after a workout. I TOLD you I sweated like a mad woman!

I came home and after a refreshing, HOT shower, I went upstairs to see what was for dinner. I was craving CARBS like a mad lady. No surprise after 1.5 hours at the gym! Thank goodness, my mom had heated up the last of our free Dr. Oetker’s Organic Veggie Frozen Pizzas¬†that I received through a BzzAgent campaign, thanks to a coupon. She added garlic and leftover steamed broccoli to the pie, and heated it in the oven on a pizza stone. Perfection! After a few more minutes under the broiler, and with a pile of black beans for protein, this really hit the spot.

I also had half of a turkey burger, and later sampled some of my new Love Grown Foods granola (review/giveaway to come once I’ve tried every flavor!) with 0% plain Greek yogurt. I had it while reading the first 18 pages of my latest library find, “The Summer Without Men” by Siri (lol) Hustvedt. I already LOVE this book and am already gonna say that I recommend it to all of you , even though I’m 18 pages in.

I will leave you with this hilarious gem…someone playing a prank on my cubicle neighbor at work!

Do you ever get really cold after a workout, because of how much you sweat?

What did you have for dinner last night?

Have you ever read the book above, or any of Siri’s other books?

New Friends – One of Blogging’s Infinity Benefits

Please take a moment to vote for me (up to 10 times…a day…) in round one of the¬†Hartford Courant 2012 Websters¬†for CT’s Best Blogs! I’m nominated for Best Overall Blog, Best Health Blog, Best Food Blog, and Best Social Media Account! Thank you to those who nominated me, and voting for round one closes this Friday 3/30 at 11:59PM EST.

I have been feeling so grateful lately for the friends that this blog has brought me.¬†I tried out Tisane on Monday night with a found-through-Twitter friend Olivia, and am going to Cuvee this Thursday for drinks with Amanda, who I met through Twitter after I started mentioning La Petite France on the blog (she does PR for them). I’ve hung out with Bethany several times, both at her adorable apartment and at some amazing Corey Wry restaurants in Manchester. This sounds cheesy, but it’s SO hard to meet new people after graduating college and starting work. My co-workers are great, but I work at a small company. I’ve met everyone – in fact, I met them all within my first week! And I am always up for meeting NEW people. The problem is that I can only meet so many at work, and even at class.

Salted edamame, edamame hummus, veggies, and wonton chips that Oliva and I enjoyed at Tisane!

I’ve met Jasper White, the founder and owner of a restaurant that I love, the Summer Shack. I’ve been shown the hottest spots in Boston by Ken of Pete & Gerry’s after finding out about their heirloom eggs and sampling custard that used them at the Mohegan Sun WineFest.

And of course on that Boston trip I also met Heather for the first time! She has proven to be a true friend (who shares my brain) and even came to stay with me a couple of weeks ago for an evening. I can’t wait to visit her next!

FitFluential Ambassadors ready for dinner – in lace tops, totally unplanned.

Lovely lady after our walk/run through my town. She adored my favorite cafe, Daybreak!

You can read Heather’s two recaps of our time together here and here!

Heather elected to sip on black Snickerdoodle coffee with her Wildflour vegan spinach and mushroom scone.

I went for coffee with a splash of steamed skim and a rosemary and caramelized onion scone that Heather’s manfriend, Matty, was nice enough to pick out for me!

Yup, definitely two peas in a pod. We couldn’t let our time together go by without getting our sweat on either! I reintroduced Heather to a machine she hadn’t done in awhile, my go-to StepMill.

Because taking phone pics in the gym is completely normal.

Another blogger I’ve found a lot in common with is Kelly B. of Cupcake Kelly’s! She and her family play music in and volunteer at the same Greek Festival that my best friend Lidia and I attend every single summer. She married into a Greek family and, just like me, adores their food (well, except the moussaka – Kelly, let’s work on that! ;-)) and especially their desserts (she is Cupcake Kelly after all).

Where am I going with this? Well, a Greek baptism took place in Kelly’s family, and she generously offered to send me some of the leftover Greek desserts from the baptismal celebrations! I was blown away by her generosity. It means so much to me when someone offers to do something for me that I know they understand I will appreciate. People being thoughtful just makes me happy ūüôā

These photos don’t do the treats justice because they’re still in their labeled bags, but I wanted you all to see the names written out! Most of the desserts were new to me, which made me very psyched. The¬†melomakarona (above left) tasted similar to gingerbread. I used good old Wikipedia to discover that it’s usually made with cinnamon, which explained the gingerbread-like taste! The¬†kourabiethes (above right) were covered in powdered sugar! They’re made with almonds and even sometimes brandy ūüėČ

I bet a lot of you are familiar with¬†baklava,¬†a very rich but very amazing dessert that is made with layers of filo pastry and chopped nuts. It’s often sweetened with honey, and even my ridiculously pickly little brother, who usually won’t even touch anything that looks the least bit interesting (that’s my wording, not his), really liked it. I shared some with my dad too, the newfound Greek food fan.

The cookie above tasted similar to shortbread cookies to me. More specifically, Girl Scout shortbread!

Yup, as you can see, I ‘m pretty damn lucky to have not only started this blog, but met so many amazing people as a result. I’m feeling particularly grateful for that today, so I wanted to share those feelings with all of you, and ask this:

What is an unexpected benefit that blogging or reading blogs has brought you?

March’s Birchbox

Please take a moment to vote for me (up to 10 times…a day…) in round one of the Hartford Courant 2012 Websters for CT’s Best Blogs! I’m nominated for Best Overall Blog, Best Health Blog, Best Food Blog, and Best Social Media Account! Thank you for those who nominated me, and voting for round one closes this Friday 3/30 at 11:59PM EST.

It’s that time again! I was going to say “it’s that time of the month”, but I didn’t want to alienate any male readers/any readers uncomfortable with that reference. ANYWAY, it’s time to recap what I got in my Birchbox this month!!¬†Did you miss the last Birchbox recaps??

This month’s box was a special Teen Vogue edition!¬†I don’t subscribe to Teen Vogue, but do enjoy reading it whenever it’s on my gym’s magazine rack and I need something to keep my mind off my high HR when I’m doing StepMill intervals. I was given the option of receiving a regular Birchbox (which is always catered to the preferences I filled out when I first signed up) or this special edition with products hand-picked by Beauty Director and Blogger Eva Chen. Eva did not disappoint!

Apparently some Teen Vogue boxes came with FRESH Lip Treatment that they sell at Sephora. I love that stuff and am kinda jealous that I didn’t get any in my box! #boxenvy

Don’t get me wrong – I still really liked this box! Not my favorite I’ve ever gotten, but quite high up there. Let’s check out the loot!

  • essie Luxeffects Nail Polish (silver glitter):¬†I like essie a lot (and I’m in LOVE with their branding), though I tend to choose OPI when I go into my favorite salon for a mani and/or pedi. Now I can try out essie at home, and I love how sparkly that silver polish is. Perfect for a party! I’m curious as to how it will look after I put it on though – glitter nail polish always has the potential to be a major fail. So we’ll have to see!
  • kate spade new york Twirl:¬†This smells SO GOOD. And thanks to a reader telling me in last month’s Birchbox post’s comments that the mini perfume bottles in my boxes DO in fact have sprayers on top (so I’ve been giving them to my mom for nothing, lucky mom), I deposited this little vial right into my purse. Now I always have perfume on the go and it smells fantastic. So then I smell fantastic. Everyone wins!
  • Kerastase Elixir Ultime:¬†I’m really excited to start using this (in the rectangular black box at the bottom) and see if it makes a difference in how healthy my hair looks and feels. It’s a small spray bottle (the gold one on the left inside the box) of a keratin oil treatment. I just keep forgetting to use it in the morning…once I get that routine down, I’ll hopefully be able to see and report back some long-term benefits!
  • Twistband Hair Ties:¬†I love this sky blue hair tie! However, I haven’t used it as a hair tie yet. I just slipped it on my right wrist immediately and haven’t taken it off since. Weird? Perhaps, but I like how it looks on my wrist! I want the sparkly ones…
  • tarte LipSurgence Lip Tint:¬†This was a bummer. I went to put it on and I really liked the light pink, natural color it left on my lips. However, the crayon-like applicator also broke immediately halfway through applying it! Completely lame.
Please ignore my chipped green St. Patty’s nails.
Despite the disappointing lip tint, I like the rest of the box enough to give it two thumbs up!
Which product would you like to try most? Have you already tried any of them?

Taste of the Nation New Haven: Sweets and Drinks

So continues my recap of Taste of the Nation: New Haven Рcheck out my first recap of the savory food, and an explanation of what the organization that threw the event, Share Our Strength, is all about.

The above delectable treats are from The SoNo Baking Company & Cafe, a South Norwalk small business that takes the time to visit farmer’s markets and sell their specialty cupcakes, biscotti, tarts, and other desserts.

I didn’t sample any of these because I passed by this table at the very beginning of the evening when I was searching for savory food for dinner, but aren’t they beautiful?

I was going to bypass these cupcakes from Sugar Bakery & Sweet Shop – until I learned that they were filled with cannoli filling. OK, had to have a couple bites of one after hearing that!

Passed on a sample from Karma Tequila since I mostly wanted to sample wines instead, and when I mix wine with liquor it often results in…unpleasant feelings. But I was pretty impressed with their table display.

Similar to Blue Bottle Coffee in Williamsburg, Willoughby’s Coffee & Tea was serving up individually brewed cups of joe. I didn’t have any (not a fan of coffee with dinner food!) but did grab one of those bags of chocolate covered coffee beans in the basket. I really want to try them stirred into plain Chobani¬†for a healthy dessert – how amazing would that be?!

The Farmer’s Cow (I’m a big fan, and have visited them at a couple other events) was serving their freshly-made ice cream in between two delectable, fresh-baked cookies. I tried the coffee ice cream in between two oatmeal cookies (not the one pictured above). They are thinking about selling these ice cream cookie sandwiches – Marissa and I gave them VERY positive feedback in hopes that we would convince them to do so. If you think it’s a good idea, tell them!

I don’t usually drink champagne, but really enjoyed the Mionetto champagne, my first beverage of the evening. I had the Prosecco Brut – it was nice and dry. Marissa really liked the Moscato Dolce.

These gorgeous lemon desserts from La Cuisine Cafe¬†didn’t taste as good as they looked. I think we hyped them up a bit too much – we passed the table in the beginning of the evening, and waited til the end to actually revisit and sample one. We were hoping for a more subtle lemon flavor among other flavors, but all we tasted was lemon. A bit of a bummer!

Gia Cellars poured me a red made with a grape I’d never tried beforeLagar do Castelo Albarino 2009. Very good!

The Henriot table was concentrating mostly on their champagnes, but I was way more interested in the wine! In particular, the Bouchard Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2009, pictured above left.

Cline Cellars had a lot of tasty wine options. I adored the Cashmere 2010, a silky red blend. Also sampled and enjoyed the Mourvedre Ancient Vines 2010.

Slocum & Sons didn’t have too much left by the time we made it to their table, but Marissa and I still tried one of our favorite wines of the entire evening, Johanesshof-Reinisch Pinot Noir vom Steinfeld 2008. One of the most unique Pinot Noirs I’ve ever tasted, from Germany!

This crispy rice pudding was really unique! I was impressed. The rice pudding itself wasn’t the most flavorful thing in the world, but kept my tastebuds interested. I mostly enjoyed how the crispy Triscuit-like shavings on top and how they contrasted so well with the texture of the pudding.

Don’t those look so cute?! They were being served up by a New Haven Public Schools “lunch lady” Cheryl Barbara, who actually was crowned champion on an episode of Food Network’s “Chopped”!

I don’t know what this is. I never found out. I never got to try it – when we came back to do so, these were gone. But I want them.

Hooker Brewery is located in Bloomfield, fairly close to my office, so a lot of my co-workers will get together on the first and third Fridays of each month to take a tour, because on these Fridays, they offer beer tasting.¬†I tried the less hoppy beer on tap, Irish Red. Still too hoppy for me…carbonation isn’t my friend.

I’ve seen one of the reps (on the left in the photo below) from Ripe Cocktail Mixers doing a sampling at Sonoma, but I was in a hurry that day and ran right by him with a quick “no thanks” (he totally called me on it). I don’t like a lot of juice in my cocktails, and part of the reason is because so many juices used at bars and restaurants are pure added sugar and other artificial ingredients. I was curious to see if I could taste the difference between those juices and Ripe juices, made with ingredients like pure fruit and veggie juices, spices, and agave.

I opted for a¬†gin cocktail. Still was too sweet for my tastes, but¬†not in a fake-tasting way. Just too sweet because I like my drinks strong, like an old man (or a cougar?) But for someone who likes juicy drinks, Ripe’s mixers are a¬†healthier mixing¬†option¬†that would surely leave the drinker less prone to the pounding headaches that mixers like added-sugar juices and diet sodas can cause. Trust me, I know. Since kicking my rum-and-diet go-to bar drink to the curb, I’ve been way less headache-y after a night out.

Aside from a really cool carved fruit display, Thali also sampled a unique-sounding Indian dessert, Gulab Jamun.¬†Unfortunately, it tasted a lot like what it looked like – a doughnut ball. Don’t get me wrong, it was really yummy! But I was hoping for a bit of flair that would set it apart from other desserts I’ve tried.

Not a root beer fan, but aren’t these¬†mini root beer floats from Box 63 insanely cute? They would be SO adorable at a summer party.

Westford Hill Distillers is a Connecticut distillery founded in 1997. The founders were inspired by the orchards of the region, and they produce tasty spirits like apple brandy. Marissa and I sampled one of their cocktail offerings.

This was a drink for me, not so much for Marissa. It was strong!!! But also very smooth. I can tell Westford Hill offers quality products.

No, the above photo is not here in error. It’s actually the display from Fig Cooking School, a place in Hamden for students of all skill levels to come and learn the culinary arts and sciences! The “solution” in the beakers and test tubes is actually a lemonade beverage. Way cooler than a pitcher!

It’s true, after all, that cooking IS all about science and chemical reactions!

The student responsible for creating, preparing, and serving the drink recipe did a great job and was nice enough to pose with her display for Marissa and I ūüôā

Another student was sampling different kinds of dark chocolate bark – yum! I went straight for the potato chip and pretzel crusted variety. Obviously, right?

I was excited to speak with the rep from Jonathan Edwards, a Connecticut vineyard that has been mentioned on this blog before by contributor Richard, the Editor of CTFoodAndWine.com. I learned a lot about events the vineyard has coming up too, including a Culinary Showdown between CT and RI chefs in May that I hope to attend. I was not only impressed by the activities offered at Jonathan Edwards, but by their wine as well. I really enjoyed the Stone Table Red and am anxious to try the 2008 Napa Valley Dark, a port-style wine (I LOVE PORT).

Timothy Cipriano, Event Director (and man responsible for me being able to attend the event) told Marissa and I when we met him in person that we absolutely HAD to check out the Copper Beech Inn table. By the time we got there, the above tray was all that was left, but MAN was Tim right. Those PB & Jelly Bites blew us away. I popped one into my mouth and felt like I was eating a mom-made PB&J. The entire experience reminded me of the scene in Charlie & The Chocolate Factory (the older, amazing one) when Violet eats the gum that tastes like an entire meal. Anyone else remember that?

There used to be a Gelato Giuliana in my town. I only went once or twice, and have to admit that I prefer the TCBY that has since taken its place, especially since our Whole Foods offers a ton of delicious gelato flavors within walking distance of the old location. But I do love me some gelato, and even though I was just quite full at this point, I had to have some. This was the only line Marissa and I waited in all evening, but was very worth it! I had half PB chocolate and half coffee. I definitely finished more of it than I had initially intended to! Mmm.

Ha, finally you see me in a photo. This was the only one I was in all night!

Thanks again to Timothy for giving me the chance to attend this event. It was truly a dream come true!

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

Taste of the Nation New Haven: The Savory Food

Another event like the Mohegan Sun Wine Festival has come along that was so awesome, I cannot possibly recap it in one post. Well, I could, but you’d get sick of reading about it halfway through. That’s the beauty of this blog – I can do things my own way, so I will be dividing my recap into a couple of posts – savory food today, and sweets and drinks tomorrow.

Taste of the Nation is an event I have been wanting to attend ever since I started reading blogs. I have seen my favorite bloggers attend their local cities’ Share our Strength food and drink tastings and have been jealous of the eats each and every time! Taste of the Nation holds tastings throughout the country (Connecticut has one in New Haven and Hartford, at different times of the year) to raise money (through ticket sales and silent auctions) that goes toward¬†ending childhood hunger in America. Local food and drink vendors donate their time and resources, and each one sets up its own table and serves unlimited samples to hungry attendees. Event organizer Timothy Cipriano, who is in charge of the food at all New Haven Public Schools, was kind enough to give me the opportunity to go to Taste of the Nation: New Haven and cover the event for this blog! I was even joined by fellow CT blogger Marissa of Style Cusp. Don’t be fooled by her blog’s fashion-focus – she may be a Lucky Magazine blogger, but she’s also a true foodie!

The organizers did a great job creating a visually stunning display in Yale Commons, a Yale dining hall. After the decorators were done with it, it most certainly didn’t look like one.

I felt a little overwhelmed at first! But I’m an experienced tasting-goer, so I adopted my go-to strategy that aids me in trying as many different things as possible – only finish a FULL sample if the item is out-of-this-world. If I take a bite and dislike it, or like it and it’s just OK, ditch the rest to save room for more!

I picked up my press bracelet…

Grabbed a glass…

…and promptly headed into the tasting room. Today’s post is about the savory food though, so let’s save the drinks (and desserts) until tomorrow!

The above eggplant pancakes topped with cilantro yogurt from Barcelona Wine Bar were so good. I’d totally eat these for breakfast.

But Marissa and I both liked their other offering better these cauliflower “tarts” were topped with bacon and crispy onions. Now this tasted just like breakfast! It reminded us of bacon and eggs.

Marissa tried and liked the above scallops from Yale Dining Services. I wonder if students ever actually get these in the dining halls!

They were also serving the above stuffed chicken with risotto ¬†– how pretty is it?! – but I didn’t snag a sample of this for some reason that I do not understand.

Whole Foods Milford served chips and guac (I passed on that) and a spinach and mushroom quesadilla with jalapeno cream sauce. It was really good! We both enjoyed that one.

Ballin’ presentation right? Unfortunately the presentation was the better than the rum-topped carrot ginger soup in these shooters from La Cuisine Cafe. I liked the first sip, and the rum tasted really interesting with the ginger. But the following sips were a bit lackluster.

Their potatoes topped with short rib, though, were super good. I LOVE potatoes!!!

OMG. Caseus – I love them so much. I discovered them on a Taste of New Haven tour of Canal Quarter (seriously, hidden gems EVERYWHERE on those tours). And I had no idea that Marissa was as much of a cheese freak as I am (good thing she’s gluten-free and not dairy-free!) The above Brigid’s Abbey cheese is actually one of the two I’ve tried from Caseus before, but I was sure to grab another bite. Mmmm.

Those are bleu-cheese stuffed dates and I could have eaten them all night long.

This fabulous cheddar was Marissa’s favorite cheese.

I was partial to the Coupole goat cheese (obviously – and doesn’t it look like a brain?!) spread on a cracker with local preserves. Marissa and I agreed we could’ve just stayed at the Caseus table all night long. We even hit it for a second time later on.

We wanted to try the Oysters Rockefeller above, but this one was the only one left, so we decided to double back when there would be two available for us to try. Too bad that when we did, they had run out completely!

This shrimp cous cous was quite satisfying! The herbs used were so strong, maybe even a little too strong.

Certainly the most “exotic” thing I tried was this foie gras – AKA duck liver – from Bella Bella Gourmet. I did not like it, and not just because I knew it was duck liver. Couldn’t stand the texture!

This was one of my favorite things I tried the entire night Рtheir duck pastrami sandwich on buttery, crispy rye bread. Pure heaven.

No pork belly tacos from Oaxaca Kitchen were available when we passed by their table, but I liked the presentation of their guacamole on the above cucumber, with radish and shredded carrot. Guac is whatever to me so I passed on this.

How cool is this cantelope from Thali?!

Box 63 was serving up some amazing eats Рjust look at that menu!

I sampled bites from a couple different sliders – the Hawaiian and the Coney Island. Both were amazing. The Hawaiian had grilled pineapple and the Coney Island had chili!

These were called Greek salads with grilled chicken, but Melissa and I were just interested in the grilled chicken skewers. We split one of these plates and each had one. Loved the sauce on there!

Marissa was so pumped to try this lobster risotto. I’m not a big risotto person but had a couple bites, quite good!

The above table’s presentation was amazing. This meat was topped with an apple chutney-like sauce. The apple paired so well with the medium to medium-rare meat. I could eat a whole entree’s worth!

Mmmm – bread and olive oil! Nothing better, right? This crusty good stuff from Chabaso Bakery was garlic-flavored – perfect for me!

Oh Plan B. I continue to be not a big fan, but I did like this goat cheese steak crostini¬†(passed on a slider, already had one at the Mohegan Sun WineFest). Gotta love medium rare steak!!! And Plan B’s Glastonbury Twitter has been receptive to my issues with their lack of healthy sides – maybe some grilled veggies will make an appearance there someday!

I was starstruck by both this delicious veggie quinoa dish and its creator – Claire Criscuolo, RN and founder of Claire’s Corner Copia, an amazing healthy restaurant in New Haven that’s been a mainstay by the town green since its opening in 1975. I’ve eaten there before and adored it. It was so amazing to meet Claire and tell her how much I adore her restaurant. I had to “favorite” the below tweet from her a couple days later!

My favorite food is pizza, and I was wondering when I would get to sample some. After all, New Haven is a huge pizza town in America! I didn’t get to try any real New Haven pizza unfortunately (can’t believe there wasn’t any there!) but Skinny Pines Catering satisfied my pizza craving with some delicious brick oven, thin-crust slices. They don’t have an actual brick-and-mortar location, unless you count their truck that travels from event-to-event a brick-and-mortar location – that won’t stand still! I think it’s a really cool concept.

There weren’t a lot of slices available when I stopped by, but I had one that included caramelized onions and it was wonderful. Cater my wedding, please?!

Brownson Country Club of Shelton, CT has a pretty impressive culinary staff. Both of the dishes described above were amazing.

The monkfish with lobster essence mousse, frisse, sea beans, lobster, and truffle salt pictured above was one of the best dishes of the entire Taste of the Nation event – Marissa and I both agreed on that.

The steak¬†tartar¬†above was the last savory dish of the evening that we tried. Very good, but by then our tastebuds were getting worn out, so I don’t know if my review can do this justice!

And to think…I still have to tell you about dessert!

Which savory sensation would you have wanted to try the most?

How I Spent My 23rd Birthday!

Yesterday was my 23rd birthday! I ended up having a great day (so great that I didn’t have time to blog :-P) and want to thank all of you that wished me happy birthday on Twitter and/or Facebook! So how did I spend my special day? Haven’t had time to upload cam pics yet, but I was tweeting a play-by-play of life, as per usual.

The day got off to a great start when I woke up to this. I love my mom!

My co-workers continued to make the day fabulous. My friend Steve got me these gorgeous tulips. The bow matches my St. Patty’s Day nails!

The fellow ladies of our sales row (of cubicles, ha) know me well. They gave me a bottle of local CT red wine from Sharpe Hill Vineyards! I haven’t had their wine yet and am super excited to try it.

Holy moly, look at this gem! It’s from Jim, a co-worker who has access to a pretty awesome bakery (he got another co-worker an equally awesome cupcake for her birthday last month). That chocolate-cake looking part is actually ALL icing. I am an icing freak. So let’s just say I’m gonna enjoy this. Saving it for tonight after dinner maybe!

I’m a lucky girl!

My boss was kind enough to give me a half day on my birthday, and good thing, because it was about 80 degrees without a cloud in the sky yesterday. Is this the new CT March? I’ll TAKE IT!

Obsessed with Vera towels.

No, this is not a summer ’11 photo, this is YESTERDAY. Amazing! I chilled with my best friend Lidia as we drank iced beverages (coffee for me, green tea for her), read magazines/books, and chatted. She was also kind enough to use my Goodreads to-read list to pick out a couple of new books for me as a gift – it used to be we were gifting each other off our Forever 21 wish lists, and now it’s Goodreads! Oh, how adult we are!

Now I can see what all that hype is about!

A classic that I’ve been curious about.

Call me weird, but I wanted to go to the gym despite the fact that it was my birthday. I completed 4.08 miles on the StepMill, Level 16, speed intervals AKA some kick-butt HIIT. Felt FABULOUS after! Read the issue of SHAPE with Kate Walsh on the cover. She is one amazing lady.

I wrapped things up with the below workout created by the amazing Heather of For the Love of Kale¬†(who gave me a birthday shoutout yesterday, THANKS LOVE). I’m not doing any upper body today so wanted to get some in yesterday. Quick and effective!

After showering my sweaty self off, I went to meet my friend Colin (of Taste of New Haven) at Mustard Seed Cafe, a cute local breakfast-and-lunch place, for a French Wine Tasting Class event put on by my favorite liquor store EVER, Sonoma Wines & Spirits. Apps were served to start and I put together a little tasting plate, but kept it light because I wanted to go out to a late dinner afterward.

Went back for seconds on the veg (obviously).

For a wine lover like myself, this was definitely an informative event, in terms of both tasting wine and its origins. I have to admit I found myself drifting a bit during the historical parts of the presentation, but I think that was because I was so excited to get-to-sippin…

Flight #1 (three total).

The most fascinating part for me was learning how to both properly smell and taste wine. Did you know that you’re supposed to cover the glass with your hand, swirl the wine around, and then just take a slight sniff from under your hand when smelling a wine? The whole swirl and stick my nose in the glass thing that I’ve had going on is NOT correct. Too bad I put on hand lotion right before the event!

The proper method of tasting wine is really cool and made a HUGE difference. I’m having no luck finding a video or series of photos on Google (I know, what?) demonstrating the method, but it involves taking a sip, tilting your head forward and letting the wine rest in the front of your “palate”, and then tilting your head back (it reminded me of taking a shot…) and letting the wine slide over the middle and back parts of your tongue before swallowing (or spitting, something I am not fond of, and I know, that’s what she said). The taste was SO much more intense. I kinda loved it.

My favorite flight obviously – three reds, how can you go wrong?

I had a few favorites, which I marked with stars on our info/ordering sheets, and ended up decided to purchase the Chateau Picque Caillou Graves Pessac-Leognan. I know – what?? Just know that it tasted sooo oak-y and fabulous. I also received a $25 credit with my admission, and the bottle was $30.59. How often do I have a chance to buy a $30 bottle of wine for $5?! Answer: never, so I leapt at it. I’m going to save this bottle for something very special!

After the tasting wrapped up, Colin and I headed out to get some FOOD. It was almost 9pm, so we hit up the late night happy hour at Max Fish! I love going to these kinds of happy hours at nice restaurants because I get the chance to order and sample food that would normally be out of my price range.

Recycled image from my last visit but obviously I had to get the cheese plate again.

Colin offers a useful hand-size comparison for this ahi tuna with jasmine rice and lemongrass sauce.

Frozen not fresh (as our waitress honestly told us when we asked), but still so good.

Does anyone else dip fries into their ice cream and/or milkshakes? Colin thought I was a weirdo for that one!

I’m asking about ice cream because Colin not-so-secretly (I noticed immediately…) approached our waitress and asked her to send over a birthday dessert for me. I was still surprised because I had no clue what it’d be! I wish this picture hadn’t come out so blurry:

CARAMELIZED BANANA SPLIT

SO DELICIOUS. I realized it had been too long since I last had ice cream. And it had been way WAY too long since I’d made that an ice cream SUNDAE. The caramelized bananas and slightly-salty nuts on that whipped cream made it extra special.

Fabulous, fabulous birthday. And it doesn’t stop there – off to J. Gilbert’s with my family tonight!

How did you celebrate your last birthday? Do you have any go-to traditions?

Worldess Wednesday – St. Patty’s Day

I spent St. Patrick’s Day evening last Saturday at Mohegan Sun, having a drink at Leffingwell’s Martini Bar, and then dining at SolToro Grill. Enjoy the photos!

Sweet tea vodka martini with a sugar rim!

Patron XO Dark Chocolate Shots

Lidia and her Strawbarita (El Charo Blanco, strawberry sorbet, lime juice).

My original margarita, extra salt (not as good as last time’s).

Evan and Prasant’s Quesadilla Picante: macho salsa, jalapenos, panela cheese (menu’s highest heat level).

Processing…

Evan’s pork belly tacos – one of the best meals of his life.

My shrimp fajitas with corn tortillas, black beans, and corn – amazing!

See you tomorrow with some words!

Did you eat any Irish food on St. Patty’s or did you make like me and go for something that had NADA to do with the holiday?

CW’s Chops ‘n Catch: Gerard Bertrand Wine Dinner

I had such a great experience at the first special Chops n Catch Dinner last month! I definitely knew I wanted to attend the next one, and was excited to find out that there would be another held in March, this time with focus on wine – sign me up! The wines were provided by Gerard Bertrand, a French winemaker that was recently voted European Winery of the Year.

Evan did not join in this time, but Jeff still was up for some wining and dining, even though he is not the biggest wine fan. Kudos to him for being adventurous!

With the dessert course…be patient, we’ll get there.

I was running late but it was still “cocktail hour” time when I arrived. Jeff was a loyal foodie and waited for me before digging into, and by that I mean eating-in-one-bite, the first passed appetizer, the shiraz-braised shortrib. ¬†I definitely suck because I didn’t take a photo. My camera was taking forever to get into the correct settings (I don’t even think I ever got it there) and I was impatient and wanted to dig in!

Just picture a bite of beautiful brown shortrib sitting on a silver spoon – at first I was confused as to why it was served that way, but got the reasoning once I finished the bite of meat and saw shiraz left pooled in the spoon. The app was VERY shiraz-braised, and I loved it. The presentation showed, along with the taste, just how much wine was used in the recipe. It was definitely the fruitiest shiraz I have EVER tried. I don’t think I would like drinking a glass of it, but with the meat, it tasted wonderful. I’m also sure there were other ingredients mixed in with it that made it taste fruitier than it would as a glass of wine alone.

We were soon poured our first glasses of wine (paired with that ever-important H2O) that were meant to be paired with the first course, but there was quite a delay between the pouring of the wine and that course being served, signaling the end of the “cocktail hour”. It was a little tough to hold back from drinking our wine, but we wanted to save it to have with the food, as it was meant to be drank. I would hope that at future Chops ‘n Catch dinners, the time period of passed appetizers would not be so long.

We also never received the second passed app, the blackened ahi tuna with cucumber relish. I mentioned this to our waiter, and after checking in the kitchen, he returned with a promise that he would bring one out to us after the first course, asparagus and goat cheese bisque with tri-colored cherry tomatoes, was served. Fine with me!

The bisque was really excellent, but Jeff and I both agreed it could have been presented better. I would have liked to see the tomatoes and asparagus stalk less “buried”, especially since the tomatoes’ interesting colors were essentially hidden under the thick soup. The taste was very impressive though. The goat cheese could have easily overpowered the asparagus, but both flavors were very well balanced and the soup was not too heavy like some bisques are.

It paired pretty well with the white wine pictured above, the Reserve Speciale Viognier. The hostesses from Gerard Bertrand called it fresh and floral. I liked this white because it was very dry. I’m not usually a white person but I was able to enjoy this one, it had notes of apricot but was not too sweet.

After the first course, just as the waiter promised, we were delivered the second pass appetizer, the blackened ahi tuna with cucumber relish. WOW. It was cooked perfectly, slight crispiness on the outside and nice and rare in the middle. The relish was so fresh!

The next wine was a red – yay! And a Pinot Noir too – double yay! The Reserve Speciale Pinot Noir is Gerard Bertrand’s best-seller in New England. It had a lot of soft fruit notes and though it wasn’t as robust or dry as I usually like my reds, I did enjoy it.

I definitely enjoyed the second course’s food component more though – BBQ pork belly with vinegar slaw and fried hot peppers. I LOVE PORK BELLY. It cut like butter and had nice crispy corners – those were my favorite bites. The slaw tasted just like the classic slaw that comes with all the burgers at Catsup & Mustard, one of Corey Wry’s other restaurants. The fried hot peppers were so good, but then again what fried anything isn’t good?

For the entree, we were given a choice of two entrees –¬†housemade salt ‘n vinegar potato chip crusted crab cakes with sweet ‘n spicy broth or¬†herb-seared boneless lamb loin with manchego cheese and potato croquette. For Jeff and I it was a no brainer –¬†crab cakes all the way! The crab cake was served with the white pictured above, the Cremant de Limoux, a sparkling wine similar to champagne. Cremant is actually the original sparkling wine of France, and preceded champagne! The lamb was served with the above-pictured red, the Grand Terroir Tautavel, a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan grapes. I love red blends because every one tastes unique and they often contain some of the less common grapes (I had only heard of Syrah in this blend, for example).

I actually ended up requesting that my crab cake entree be served with the red wine, because not only am I not a white wine person, but I am REALLY not a sparkling wine person. I have issues with carbonation (as in I usually can’t stand it). I know that may have “thrown off” the pairing, but I often drink red wine with my seafood. Jeff the not-wine-lover however, jumped at the chance to try a sparkling wine. He liked it, and I liked my red as well. Not so sure about how well it paired with the crab cake – didn’t pair badly, but just didn’t strike me as an interesting combination of flavors.

The crab cakes were so good though. While we were a little bummed that the crab cake was not completely encrusted in potato chips, as the entree’s title led us to believe, we were both extremely impressed by the abundance of crab (and subsequently, lack of filler, a good thing). The sweet ‘n spicy broth was indeed both sweet and spicy and had a great balance of the two flavors. I wish I had gotten to take a big potato chip encrusted bite of crab cake, but I got a similar effect when I had some of it with the potato chips at the same time, perched on top. Yummy!

Our favorite pairing was yet to come though! Dessert was a pistachio souffle and vanilla bean sauce served with vanilla ice cream, along with a glass of port-style dessert wine, Banyuls. I ADORE ports, and was so excited that the dessert wine wasn’t a sparkling white. It was so, so amazing with the ice cream. I just wanted to take a scoop of it, drown it in port, and eat that out of a bowl. The souffle was pretty awesome as well, but the port-ice cream combo stole the show. I didn’t want it to end!

It was another tasty experience at CW’s Chops ‘n Catch, and my calendar is already marked for their next event on Monday, April 30. I await the menu with bated breath!

Which course would you have wanted to try most?