I received the food and drink of this post free of charge. All opinions are my own.
I’ve been wanting to visit The Capital Grilleever since my dear friend Kat started mentioning the Hartford, CT location on her blog and social media. Since I came home this past Friday night for a family weekend trip, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to visit for a sampling of bar bites and holiday champagne.
Bubbles and bites interspersed with selfies.
A table was ready for us upon our arrival, but we opted to sit in the bar (as I so often do). The restaurant was quite busy with couples on dates, friends out on the town together, and large parties celebrating the holiday season. We were waited on by a bartender Carrie – she did a wonderful job.
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…” tastingof 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?
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! 🙂 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 gravyover 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 eggshere, 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?
I’m a 28 year old full-time working girl living in Boston (previously lived in Connecticut). I’m passionate about food/drink, restaurants, self-love, fitness, and the ever-present search for balance. I write about that journey on this blog – I hope you enjoy!
My header was originally designed by Mai Le and later tweaked by Chris Roggi to match this theme, which he helped me customize. He also moved me over to self-hosting! Both can be contacted through their sites for design & development work!
I am not an RD and do not have any official training, certifications, or degrees in nutrition or fitness. This blog is a way to write about my life. Any views I express are mine alone, based on what works for me, and should never be taken as medical advice. Always talk to your doctor or a trained professional before starting a new diet or fitness plan. In addition, this blog and its content are in no way affiliated with Kate Gosselin, “Kate Plus 8”, TLC, or any related affiliates.
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