Tag Archives: ballo

Mohegan Sun BrewFest

Mohegan Sun is at it again! On Saturday night I attended their first annual Mohegan Sun BrewFest. I was excited to attend not only because I love foodie/tasting events, but also because I love the Mohegan Sun casino! I’ve visited Foxwoods and MGM Grand in CT (the latter is pretty good, the former not so much), but I always seem to come back to Mohegan. I’ve written about them a lot on the blog:

I was nervous because I’d been having off-and-on stomach issues since Wednesday, and they’d returned the morning of the event. However I took it easy all day long (it was kind of nice to sit around in my PJs watching TV…something I hadn’t done in awhile) and as a result felt well enough to get ready and head out in the early evening! Of course I attended the event with my foodie friend Jeff! Are you really that surprised? Funny enough, a couple of folks we ran into at BrewFest said they recognized him from my blog! What a celeb.

Ready to go with our media passes and tasting glasses!

The crowds at this event amazed me. The line for tickets at the box office completely blocked walking traffic, and so many patrons had already entered the tasting area in the Uncas Ballroom at the time of our arrival that a huge line had formed for those that already had tickets and were waiting to get in. Only a few people could be let in at a time – I’m guessing the Ballroom was already at capacity.

We decided to concentrate on beers we hadn’t tried before, especially since lines had already formed at each tasting booth and were only getting longer! Our tasting session started at 6PM and by 7PM, almost every booth (except Twisted Tea…ha) had a huge line and many tables were so close together that it was more like a cluster of people standing around, not sure what table they were waiting to taste from. I’m not surprised that the event was so packed since the event was extremely affordable ($20/session), but in the future I would recommend that Mohegan Sun either sell less tickets (by limiting them or raising prices…not an advocate of the latter) or change the layout of the tasting room. Altogether the tables probably took up a little less than half of the room and were arranged so closely! It was easy for lines to merge and become clusters.

Posin’ with my brew glass!

That’s where my recommendations for improvement end. It was still a great event, perfect for a beer newbie like myself! I can’t say that I can now see myself going to a restaurant and ordering a glass of beer, but that’s because I just love wine and cocktails so much more. But a beer tasting is perfect for an adventurarian like myself who just wants to sample as many different unique tastes as possible.

A toast with Sammy Adams!

Some hop-lights (haaaa)…

My two favorites of BrewFest!

Props to Hooker Brewery of Bloomfield, CT for bringing two beers on tap that ended up being my favorites of the night. Their Chocolate Truffle Stout is made with Munson’s cocoa powder/nibs and was truly incredible. It rivals the Southern Tier Choklat that I’ve always said was my favorite chocolate beer (always as in, since this past Easter). The Saison is a Belgian-style farmhouse ale and reminded me of a barleywine. Excellent subtle caramel flavor that impressed me with its complexity!

Henry Weinhard’s, a brand I’d never heard of.

Jeff and I sampled Henry Weinhard’s Redwood Flats Amber Ale and Private Reserve American Pale Lager. The brewery is located in the Pacific Northwest, which may explain why I had zero awareness, but Henry is on my radar now! I really enjoyed the Amber Ale.

City Steam Brewery’s Naughty Nurse, Innocence IPA, and Blonde on Blonde on tap.

I adore City Steam’s vintage label and poster designs!

City Steam Brewery is a Hartford mainstay. The establishment is not only a brewery, but a successful restaurant and comedy club as well. I’ve only visited the restaurant once, but enjoyed my experience. Sampling the beer has certainly made me want to get back there for dinner – maybe even a comedy show! My favorite of the three still remains Naughty Nurse (sampled at Taste of Wethersfield), but the Innocence IPA was so light and refreshing; I know my mom would adore it.

Fun name!

Jeff made a beeline for the Olde Burnside Brewing table when we saw it! I’m surprised I liked the above Hop’t Scot Ale as much as I did, because I generally avoid hoppier beers and it’s an English IPA…gone Scottish! However it totally impressed me with its light, smooth, unique flavor. Definitely never tasted a beer like this before and that’s what made me gravitate toward it. The sign stated this beer was “balanced” and it didn’t lie!

Fitfluential media guests!

I spotted Jennifer of Savoring the Thyme right before I left the event – good timing! Must be that Fitfluential ESP! I feel like Jennifer and I came full-circle since the first time we did a meet-up, which was also at Mohegan.  But it won’t be the last meet-up! It was fun catching up with her and finally meeting her man. They’d just come from an anniversary dinner at Bar Americain that sounded like a dream! I also ran into a co-worker, Greg and Wendy of Connecticut Bloggers, Sarah of Adventures With My Boys, and the parents of one of my sister’s best friends.

Siena Sling (Grey Goose, lemon, basil) for me and Sicilian Julep for Jeff!

BrewFest was fun, but you know me. I’m a cocktail snob. And a cocktail snob needs a cocktail when she’s at the casino! Jeff and I decided to have dinner and a drink at Mohegan’s newest restaurant, Ballo. We love dining at the bar (as opposed to a table) and there were exactly two seats open – perfect. Our bartender, Stephanie, was great! She made us excellent drinks (see caption above); mine was strong yet smooth, thanks to the Goose 😛 so simple, so me. Jeff enjoyed his beverage as well – he’d had it once before (he’s been to Ballo for just drinks) so it was good enough to order a second time!

Boooo, even Instagram couldn’t make this pic work without a flash.

I was torn between salmon and swordfish (seafood, obviously!), but Stephanie helped me make the right call and recommended the Swordfish Livornaise with escarole and black olives. Umm, and the menu didn’t even mention that the dish also included CHICKPEAS. Heaven! I finished every last bite and had to scoop up the final drops of sauce with bread. Duh.

Flash was required in this place! Check out the hearty size of that swordfish!

Jeff was going to go the practical money-saving route and get a flatbread (a more affordable menu option for those who wish to try this place but are worried it’ll be too expensive), but then Stephanie told us about the evening’s special. She uttered the words “braised short rib with pumpkin polenta” and Jeff’s mouth dropped open. He was speechless. I stepped in and said, “He’ll take it.”

Check out that crusty bread! Not very crispy, but certainly delightful. The butter particularly impressed – it was sitting in a pool of herbs and olive oil!

I tried a bite and man oh man, that special was worth its $29 price tag. Though the speed at which it came out made Jeff wonder how long ago it had been cooked!

We ended our evening at the casino with a trip to the craps table. I love playing craps, but the way I play pisses off my friends. I will only bet the minimum bet on the pass line (the most basic way to play), and walk away as soon as I lose one round. I play $20 and if I lose it all, I just stop there. Yes, it’s a practical way to gamble. And no, it doesn’t bore me! I’m still playing and watching the action at the table, and thanks to my conservative strategy, I almost always walk away a winner. For example, last night I won $40. And Jeff joined in on my strategy for once, and he walked away with winnings too! He was certainly glad that he won back dinner.

What a fun evening. So glad I’ve crossed another restaurant off my (mental)  list of Mohegan restaurants to try, experienced some cool brews, and got to hang out with so many friends. I felt so in my element and at peace throughout the evening and whenever I started feeling any anxiety about the food and drinks, I focused on the company I was keeping and the fact that my hard work on my blog had led to Mohegan Sun inviting me to come to BrewFest. Then I felt proud and grateful! Too blessed to be stressed indeed.

Thank you Mohegan Sun for having me at the BrewFest! I received complimentary passes to attend, but all opinions are my own.

Have you ever heard of any of the beers I sampled? Which do you think you’d enjoy?

Is there a casino near you? Have you ever been to one?

Mohegan Sun WineFest: The Food

In case you didn’t see, fellow FitFluential Ambassador Christine of Oatmeal in my Bowl made a pretty exciting announcement on Saturday that has a little something to do with me, so I suggest you check it out!

I am going to have to split my recap of this event into several posts – that’s how much fun I have to share with you all. Without further ado, please read on to find out what I ATE at Mohegan Sun WineFest 2012!

EDIT: I completed my Sun WineFest recaps, and you can also read about what I drank and the Oyster Open competition.

Oh my goodness. WHAT a day it was at the 2012 Mohegan SunWine Fest. It was totally worth all the build up. This morning I woke up nice and early (went to bed at about 9:30 or 10 last night…it felt so fantastic), went to Step (where I felt like I was going to die, for some reason), and got homework done at Daybreak with some Toasted Butternut coffee. Once home, I laid out all my “equipment” to ensure that I was prepared.

Purse, vendor list, notebook with pen, waters, cam, and IBUPROFEN.

Elliott of Sonoma Wines & Spirits was kind enough to mark up my lists of wine, beer, and spirits vendors to give me hints on where I should concentrate my “tasting efforts”. He highlighted in pink the “must-tries”, but I did end up getting to try everything he marked, even those that weren’t highlighted (and were only starred).

See the pink "must-try" highlighting?

 I was SO glad that I brought my own large bag with me – it was so useful during the tasting to hold all of the business cards, fliers, and pamphlets I received, along with my camera case and purse.

This dork is ready to roll.

I arrived, parked seemingly the farthest I could possibly park from the Convention Center, and made a beeline for the food token line once I was through the doors.

I was super hungry for lunch and knew I should get some food in my stomach before I started drinking! The line was a bit long but I had plenty to look at while I waited.

Gorgeous chandelier!

The food tickets were only $1/token and the proceeds were going to charity, so I didn’t mind paying $20 for 20 tokens. I only ended up not using three of them (I know, I was surprised I had any left over too).

Wine glasses, ready for the taking.

The wine glasses were very generously sized and the programs provided for guests were very helpful, with maps of numbered booths for both floors (beers were upstairs). There were also pens free for the taking.

I strolled inside and gravitated to the first food booth I saw! I was pleased to see it was from a local vendor.

Another fantastic relish, like my fave Mariah’s Chow Chow Relish, to add to my grocery list! Webber’s Original Pepper Relish is offered in mild, medium, and hot varieties. I tried the medium on a Tostitos Scoop chip. Looking back, I wish I’d bought a jar! It’d be easy to do so though, since Warren’s Foods is located in West Hartford. The relishes are gluten free, and just fifteen calories per tablespoon, making them a great option for flavoring meats or dipping crackers or chips at parties.

I next sampled extra virgin olive oil on crusty Italian bread at Aralia Olive Oils and was very impressed. The EVOO’s flavor was really something to appreciate and savor. I could definitely tell this was a higher quality EVOO than the stuff in my pantry at home!

The next booth was one of my favorites of the entire WineFestBrix Chocolate and their chocolate-and-wine pairings. Yes, that’s right, chocolate and wine! The chocolate was lined up from milk to extra dark, and each was listed with recommended pairings for types of wines. The nice girls at the booth told me that I was supposed to eat the chocolate, swallow it, and then sip the wine. Each pairing was sooo good, but my favorite was the extra dark chocolate.

Milk chocolate with Pinot Noir.

The suggested pairings were as follows:

  • Milk chocolate (40% cacao), pairs with: port, ice wine, rose, pinot noir
  • Smooth dark chocolate (54% cacao), pairs with: champagne, riesling, pinot noir, vintage port
  • Medium dark chocolate (60% cacao), pairs with: zinfandel, merlot, shiraz
  • Extra dark chocolate (70% cacao, my fave), pairs with: cabernet sauvignon, bordeaux, barola

And I officially want to spend Valentine’s Day holding a gourmet chocolate-and-wine tasting now. Single ladies, join me?

I always enjoy Cabot Creamery’s samples when I have the chance to try them at events. Their cheese is so wonderful!

A Classic Cheddar and a Pepper Jack.

My favorite cheeses from Cabot were actually those not pictured – Chipotle Cheddar and Hot Habenero. Both had the perfect amount of kick!

igourmet.com also had some delicious cheese offerings! The Aged Cheddar pictured below was fantastic. I also sampled a gentle, young Bleu Cheese. igourmet.com was a big part of the Sun WineFest – they sponsored the special Seminar Series that I mentioned in my lead-up post to the festival.

Even vendors not typically in the business of food were giving out food! A company giving away (and selling) Cayman Islands vacation packages had authentic rum bread. It was quite sweet (just one piece was enough for me) but a delicious new food that I was excited to try!

I used my first three food tokens at Pete & Gerry’s Organic Eggs of Monroe, NH. Their booth was very well set-up and I loved the addition of cracked eggs in the little bowls below, so that visitors could see just how high-quality the yolks of Pete & Gerry’s heirloom eggs are. The hens are all Certified Humane (the first farm in the country with this status, in fact) and every egg is shipped the morning after it is gathered, and remains chilled at 45 degrees from farm to dairy case. These particular eggs contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, since the hens are fed organic flax seeds as part of their diet. Even the egg cartons are made from 100% recycled materials! Something I didn’t know – the white eggs come from Ameraucana hens and the brown come from Marans hens!

I want those bowls!

Pete & Gerry’s food offering was well worth those three tokens – a raspberry egg custard made from their eggs, topped with homemade whipped cream and a raspberry garnish. This custard was out of this world. Not too sweet, with a pure flavor. I could tell that this custard was made from some pretty special eggs! I wasn’t a big fan of the raspberry jelly on the bottom of the cup, but was glad that it stuck to the bottom so that I could enjoy the custard (and whipped cream…) in its own glory. You can find recipes on the Pete & Gerry’s website, including one for a chocolate version of the custard!

You can tell that whipped cream is homemade!

Jasper White’s Summer Shack had quite an impressive raw bar line-up! I didn’t get anything from this booth because I’m actually attending an event tonight at Max Fish in which oysters are the stars, but the presentation was very nice and perfect for photos!

Oh yum!

I saw many plates in the ballroom filled with oysters – they seemed to be a hit!

Love their motto – "food is love".

One of the Mohegan Sun Summer Shack’s shuckers was multi-tasking by shucking oysters for guests AND practicing for the soon-to-come 8th Annual Oyster Open.

Next I headed over to the booth of Esca Wine Bar of Middletown, where I saw and tasted by far the most unique food offering of the entire WineFest – a lobster cappuccino!

I had a chance to talk with its creator and find out exactly what the lobster cappuccino was made of – a lot of you were curious when I was tweeting about it! It turns out it’s made with fortified lobster stocklecithin, 2% milk, and heavy cream, among other ingredients. The orange mix above went in the bottom of a little cup, and then was topped with the white foam. The flavor was amazing! I could not believe that the foamy drink I was about to consume would taste like lobster, but then it did – it was EXACTLY the flavor one would expect from a lobster dish. My compliments to the chef for creating such a unique dish!


Esca is really a diamond in the rough, located on the recently-revived Main Street of Middletown, CT. That area continues to impress me with its restaurant and nightlife offerings – first Mondo, and now a sophisticated wine bar with excellent food, an endless wine list, classy cocktails, and Thursday Happy Hour til 10pm! You may have seen me tweeting up a storm about it when I was there this past Thursday. I can’t wait to go back again soon with my mom. I know she’d LOVE it there.

Flavored cheesecakes, and some very classy napkins!

At this point I started sampling beverages…but that’s going to come in Wednesday’s post. For now, I’m skipping to my next food experience, which was much needed as I started feeling the alcohol’s effects! If I was going to drive home safely, I needed to take a break and get some food in my belly. Enter Plan B

Ah, the Leaning Tower of Burger!

I wasn’t sure what that cornucopia of veggies on the table display was all about. It didn’t really fit well with the burger theme (burger tower, ketchup, mustard…) and when I go to Plan B, veggies are the last thing on my mind. In fact, I know that even if they were the first thing on my mind, I couldn’t get much of them. I’m honestly not a big fan of Plan B, unlike the rest of the CT-burger-enthusiasts out there. I think that for the quality you get, and the options for sides you are given, the food is very overpriced. I do, however, respect their cocktails, spirits, and beer list. I certainly enjoy sipping on some fig-and-vanilla-infused bourbon, don’t get me wrong.

That being said, I did enjoy the cheeseburger slider I purchased for three tokens at Plan B’s booth. My beef with sliders (ha..ha..had to do it) is that the buns are always way too big on them and overpower the meat. These were no different, with a puffy, plain bun that was nothing remarkable. The meat was, however, cooked very well and the cheese was excellent. Still didn’t make me want to go have dinner at Plan B though.

Something that did impress me? The sushi by Feng Asian Bistro. I’ve heard this place has the best sushi in CT, and wanted to try the most creative roll they offered. I’m seriously SO glad I like sushi now!

I thought 6 tokens was a little steep, but the Feng Chef Roll was extremely delicious! If only it had been made with brown rice, which I find to be so much more flavorful AND healthier. The spicy mayo and eel sauce was excellent and I enjoyed my roll with fresh ginger.


Not done with food yet, nope nope nope. After sampling some more beverages and watching the oyster shucking contest (that’ll be another separate post), I ventured back to the food vendors to use the last of my tokens. Unfortunately, it was 4:45pm and most were closing up or out of many offerings! No worries, I managed.

SolToro Tequila Grill had a lovely booth (employees were wearing sombreros with stripes that matched the tablecloth) but only had chicken tacos left. I was hoping for pork, but chicken was my next choice, and I definitely LOVED this taco. First of all, SolToro used a corn tortilla – LOVE it! Corn tortillas are to brown rice as flour tortillas are to white rice for me – so much more hearty and satisfying (and healthier). It may not look like it from the photo, but the portion of shredded chicken was pretty generous and I also loved that it was shredded, as opposed to chunks of grilled chicken, which never work as well in tacos for me. The onions were great too, and at just 2 tokens, this taco was a steal! I want to go and eat at SolToro again!

Next came a porchetta slider from Mohegan’s newest restaurant, Ballo, which I already and now DEFINITELY want to try. The menu offers a full-size version of this oven-roasted sandwich of pork, broccoli rabe, and provolone. I got my pork fix in after all (who needs it on a taco?) and was very impressed! Once again, too much bread on this slider, but its fillings were fresh enough to stand out.

Last but not least for the food…this may not be the prettiest photo in the world, but trust me when I say that this brisket with buttermilk biscuit (it’s  under there somewhere) from Esca was out of this world. I am a HUGE biscuit fan, so I ate that first, and it was so delicious soaked in all those brisket-y juices. The brisket itself was cooked perfectly and was very rich. I got such a generous portion from the kind chef there that I didn’t have room to finish it all! I wouldn’t expect awesome brisket-and-biscuits from a wine bar, but it looks like Esca can do it all!

Gonna say oh my goodness again just like I did in the beginning of this post. What a day, and that was JUST the food! I cannot wait to share the beverage portion of my experience with you all on Wednesday. I have to say though, today it feels pretty good to get back into my usual “weekday routine” after a weekend of imbibing. I am so psyched for today’s salad beast at lunch. That’s what happens after an indulgence – I tend to crave more “clean” stuff. But don’t get me wrong – I DEFINITELY enjoyed the food I ate yesterday. Mmmm.

Which of the items I sampled would you have most liked to try?