Tag Archives: brunch

Father-Daughter Boston Trip

Thank you so very much for your kind words in response to yesterday’s post (no worries if you didn’t read, after all I’m the weirdo publishing on Christmas :-P) and my confessions about being NOT so kind to myself. I’m happy to report that so far since that night this past Saturday, I have been doing a much better job of enjoying this special time of year. After all, it’s not like I’m travelling and attending holiday events every day!

Each year, my family exercises a special holiday tradition (yup, another one!): my sister Hannah, my dad, and I travel to New York City from December 23rd to 24th for fabulous meals, shopping, and the Today Show (we get on TV every year!). But this year Hannah had to work, so my dad had the great idea to keep the tradition alive, just on a smaller scale. He and I set off for Boston this past Sunday morning to brunch, shop, cocktail-it, and stay in a fancy Marriott!

White wine and snacks for the Marriott rewards point holders! Unfortunately the apples were no bueno.

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Foodies Take RI – Part Two

If you missed part one of my RI foodie trip, which consists entirely of time spent in Newport, you can check it out here! I took this trip 8/10-8/12 and, true to Caitlin form, and just now getting around to recapping it. I hope you all had a good Labor Day weekend!

Sunday:

I awoke and was shocked to find that Jeff and I had slept TEN HOURS! AKA I’d slept til 8AM – which felt strange, yet appropriate, since the day before I’d slept until only 6:30AM. I felt full of energy and had the desire to expend some of that on a quick run. I didn’t feel like I had to run – I wanted to! So I laced up my Reebok ZigNano Fly 2 sneakers and headed out on a 26 minute jog. It got kinda ruined by side stitches at the end, and I was going for 30 minutes, but I decided I was done and headed back to the room. I don’t even know how far I went, but a spontaneous run of a random length and unknown distance was just what I needed to start my day on a chill, stress-free note.

FINALLY!!!

Any Carrots n Cake readers will recognize the place I am posing in front of in the photo above – a Mary Lou’s Iced Coffee!!! I spotted one in, of all places, a Shell station near our hotel. And Tina isn’t lying when she says this place has the best iced coffee ever. THEY DO! The flavor doesn’t come from syrups, but right from the bean! I had to get a photo in front of the counter!

Jeff got Banana Nut Creme, and I got Hawaiian Chocolate Nut – we both asked for our iced coffee to be served black, of course! Jeff’s flavor was the winner, but mine, with its coconut-chocolate flavor combo, still was heaven on ice. We drove into Newport’s town center to enjoy our beverages.

Jeff had no sunglasses and was having squinting issues, so I lent him a hand. Or a pair of sunglasses.

It was so nice to once again spend our morning chatting, caffeinating, and looking at the water! The people watching scene in Newport is great too – I could just sit for hours and be content. Not easy for me to say, since I am so often in go-go-go mode.

Third time the place remains a charm!

Of course we got hungry for breakfast soon and after much unsuccessful searching for a brunch spot, ended up back at Diego’s. Fine by us!

Haitian Swizzle – Jalapeno-Infused Haitian Rum Barbacourt, Velvet Falernum, Tiki Bitters, Fresh Lime

We also continued our drinks-before-noon trend. #sorrynotsorry How could I pass up a drink off this gem of a cocktail menu?!

The Beano – Bloody Mary with Black Bean Puree!

Jeff certainly went for a special beverage that I wish I’d ordered! By far the best Bloody Mary I’ve ever tasted – and I don’t usually like Bloodies!

Diego’s Huevos – White Corn Tortillas, Black Beans, 2 Sunny-Side Eggs, Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa, Ripe Avocado, Diced Veg, Baja Aioli

I made a stellar brunch choice, if I do say so myself! Not only was the above dish filled with all of my favorite things – runny eggs, black beans, avocado, salsa, aioli, veggies, carbs… 😉 – but it was ordered off the $5 portion of the menu!

These kinds of pics are becoming a Cait Plus Ate standard.

After our amazing brunch, we said a final goodbye to Diego’s (no we, didn’t go back a fourth time) and did some more Newport exploring!

Ohhhh lover, lover…

What is up with this giant T-shirted bear?

SAD!

Clearly he’s less experienced with goofy pics.

These sea creatures have human legs!

I knew I wanted to visit another Tina recommendation, The Lawn at Castle Hill. The Castle Hill Inn is a beautiful hotel tucked away from the busy center of Newport. To get there, one has to drive (or bike!) through rural, scenic roads – but it’s worth the slightly out-of-the-way trip. And guess who I got to experience it with?!

That’s the Castle Hill Inn in the background!

My CT blend (and practically neighbor) Bethany, of More Fruit Please, was visiting Newport with her now-fiance, Farhan. Thankfully, the fates aligned and Jeff and I were able to meet up with them for our visit to the Lawn! Bethany and I have been trying to get together since we went to the CT Veg Fest and Wesleyan Foodstock together, and it was such a treat to not only do so, but to do so in such a gorgeous setting!

The Lawn at Castle Hill’s cute Adirondack chairs – and their breathtaking view – are open to the public. Of course, classy and refreshing cocktails are available!

Cucumber Collins – New Amsterdam Gin, Cuke Puree, Lemon Juice, Seltzer Water

I could actually see the cucumber seeds floating about in the puree at the bottom of my drink. It didn’t taste as strong as I usually like, but was perfectly refreshing for such a warm day and I appreciated its simplicity.

Jeff’s choice, the Rum Swizzle (I think), was definitely sweeter.

Of course Bethany and I put our blogging hats on, and were taking photos with our iPhones and cameras!

Caught mid-tweet, I’m sure.

I’m sure Bethany’s big, fancy cam got some amazing shots!

I’m so very happy that I got to see Bethany and Farhan again, as well as introduce them to Jeff!

After dropping the two of them near their car, Jeff and I headed to Narragansett for the destination that started our plans for the entire weekend – Crazy BurgerA reader, Tom, had recommended the vegan hotspot for me on my blog’s Facebook page, and one look at the menu told me this place was meant to be visited by me. Funny enough, after Jeff and I had planned out our weekend, Heather even blogged about Crazy Burger, adding to the torture of waiting so long to finally try the place!

Jeff and I took a quick walk by the Narragansett shore, but we were disappointed when we didn’t find many – or shall I say any – little shops to visit! Oh well…I was hungry for dinner already, so we decided to go ahead and get Crazy.

Instagramming like a fiend.

Obsessed with the back of that Urban Outfitters shirt. Got it on sale in Baltimore.

As Jeff and I walked into Crazy Burger’s outdoor seating area, I literally gasped.

Could I have asked for a more serene place to conclude my weekend of trying to BE a serene foodie? I don’t think so.

The mis-matched cloth napkins were a cute touch.

We brought a bottle of red wine I’d gotten from a lovely Groupon deal from Radford Dale – AKA “The Winery of Good Hope” 🙂

Impossible decisions…

Even after beginning to sip on my glass of red, I still wasn’t feeling any less anxiety over making the impossible decision of what to order for dinner! I went back and forth between MANY options, and finally decided on a vegan burger with a curry flair, because I have been LOVING curry lately.

Chana Masala: Celery, tomato, mushroom, onion, ginger, chickpeas slowly stewed in curry, garam masala, allspice, then bound in rice. Served on grilled naan!

I cannot tell you how wonderful my Chana Masala sandwich, housemade pickles, and slaw were. So I’ll show you.

Lucky for me, Jeff isn’t a ketchup fan, so I stole his homemade ketchup to add to my burger! He actually chose a vegan burger that I’d been contemplating getting.

Birdie Mae: Grilled tempeh, purple sticky rice, sweet tater, roasted sunflower seeds, rosemary-pumpkin pesto grilled in a tomato tortilla.

The Birdie Mae was certainly an option I know I would have enjoyed if I’d ordered it – Jeff let me have a bite, and also some of his sweet potato fries. They were super yummy – but no ION 😉

After having no dessert Friday OR Saturday night, when I really kind of wanted it, I was not about to let this chance to not only have dessert, but have VEGAN dessert paired with red wine, pass me by. Dessert and red wine is my favorite food and wine pairing ever.

Wine…

It was kind of a no-brainer. I love carrot cake. So when I saw a vegan version on the menu, I had to have a taste!

…and dessert.

I was sure to not let a bite pass my lips without the company of a sip of red wine. Jeff and I shared the slice above and it was pure bliss. I finished the meal and felt perfectly satisfied…so glad I’d had room for dessert!

However, though I did revel in my eats, sips, and time with my friends as they happened on Sunday, I had trouble reveling after the fact. Almost the entire way home, my mind was consumed with thoughts that started with, “You shouldn’t have.” How could I have had several drinks each day for the last few days? How could I have topped it off with a dessert? I shouldn’t have done such a SHORT run that day. I shouldn’t have skipped working out the day before. In the last ten minutes of the ride home, I really felt like I was on the verge of tears.

The floodgates opened the second I walked through my front door. I know I’m 23 and I should be hating the fact that I still live at home, but I really don’t. And one of the many reasons I don’t is because when I come home and I’m stressed and scared and I need my mom – she’s usually right there for me. I let it all out to her, I just shared with her exactly why I felt guilty and like I’d done a whole lot of things I shouldn’t have done.

And then I followed that up with exactly why those things are OK, and how proud of myself I was (and still am) for experiencing Newport the way it’s meant to be experienced, and for having that fabulous meal at Crazy Burger, and for recognizing that a weekend away is just that – a weekend AWAY – and you always come BACK to your routine. The fact that I planned this trip in the first place was huge because I knew these thoughts would “attack” me and intrude at some point, but I was ready for it. I was ready to fight and to say, fuck this, I’m not going to let fear hold me back from going to one of my favorite places in the world!

Complete with my Max Fish Tiki Dinner lei 🙂

So I hung up those little wooden flip-flops my parents bought me on Saturday night at one of my favorite Newport shops, Frazzleberries, outside my cubicle at work. And every time I walk by them, even now almost a month later, I’m reminded of my courage and of my fun experience, and I can smile knowing that I have no regrets about missing out.

Have you ever felt guilty for taking a break from your normal, “safe” routine?

Have you ever been to a vegan cafe like Crazy Burger?

Foodies Take RI – Part One

Another better-late-than-never recap of one of the weekend trips I took this summer to one of my favorite places in the country – Newport, RI – as well as Narragansett, RI! As usual I’m Wordy Wendy and this will be long so I am splitting it into two posts!

Outdoor seating area of the Barking Crab at night.

The second weekend in August, my always fun and always ready to chow/drink foodie friend Jeff and I hit the road for Newport, RI. My mission? To let go and enjoy myself in one of my favorite places ever – and show him the magic of Newport! My family has been going to Newport once a year for as long as we have lived in CT, and when we didn’t make plans to go this year, I took matters into my own hands and planned this trip. I’d never been to Newport as a super-adventurous foodie blogger either, so I was ready to eat and drink what I wanted to as part of my mini-vacation, and get away from the guilt.

No room for guilt with this view!

Friday:

The trip started out on a stressful note for me because my town was hit with a REALLY bad thunderstorm right when we were scheduled to depart, so not only were we delayed, but we encountered tons of down trees on the way to the highway. That drive from my house took two or three times as long as it usually does, but once we got on the highway it was smooth sailing and we didn’t even hit any more traffic. I think fate was throwing me a challenge to see how I’d handle stress on the trip, and while I kiiiinda failed, I think it all turned out OK in the end.

If only we could have sat outside! The restaurant’s outdoor seating area wasn’t open up due to the rain.

We scored free parking outside my first restaurant pick, Perro Salado. If you’ve ever been to Newport before, you know this free parking thing is a huge deal. I couldn’t stop talking about how amazing it was, but Jeff just didn’t get it. So I reveled in my savings solo.

Finally made it – and in possession of beverages!

I started with a spicy cucumber margarita!

I was starved when we sat down, and when I found out they didn’t bring out chips and salsa unless they were asked (and paid) for, I made the decision to, well, ask and pay for them. It was hard to let myself be OK with going for it and ordering the chips, but I did it, and enjoyed every bite of the spicy red salsa and mild, slightly sweet and thick tomatillo salsa they came with. The latter was some of the best I’ve ever had. I was happy when Jeff gave me props for ordering the chips because I wanted them!

The entrees were so AMAZING! Jeff had the agave & chipotle-glazed pork belly with pinto beans and pickled veggies. I tried a bit and I can seriously tell you that the pork belly melted the moment it hit my tongue.

When I saw the rare yellowfin tuna special, I knew it would be the best choice for me. I love rare tuna, but when it’s on special, you KNOW it’s at its freshest! On the side I had some fantastic local farmers’ market veggies and black bean/corn salsa.

Plate bigger than my head FTW.

We were too full for dessert, and I have to admit that later on in the evening I was craving one, but I just couldn’t let myself do it. I felt like I was going to be indulging all weekend and that I should give myself a “safety padding” of no dessert that night. I know…it sounds silly right now as I type it. In fact later that evening as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, I kept thinking about the regret I felt over not enjoying a Newport ice cream cone, and was kicking myself. I tried to take that regret to heart and use the desire to avoid it as motivation to enjoy myself for the rest of the trip.

Fashionistas!

And Jeff and I did have so much fun walking around the center of town after dinner! The rain had long since passed, it was a warm summer evening, and I babbled on and on about my favorite Newport spots, pointing out one place after another.

What is this head on a stick? What is this pirate thing?

Turns out that walking through little shops and boutiques is way fun when you’ve got a little marg buzz on 😛

New skirt – or is it a purse?

You fancy huh?

Bring in the dancin’ lobstas.

This cracked me up to no end.

Long live Lennon.

Jeff was a history major, hence me making him pose like this in front of this sign.

And we were sure to get a photo in front of a classic Newport landmark, the feet-disappearing-into-the-wave statue!

Saturday:

Our hotel of choice (due to being cheap) was a gem called the Pineapple Inn. Yes, the name is covered in cheese. But we embraced our motel accommodations, complete with shower drain that didn’t really work and the most strange shower faucet of all time, with smiles and silly Hawaiian shirt photos.

Jeff used to wear Hawaiian shirts like it was his job, so I asked him to bring some of his best.

The sign’s letters are even falling off…it’s too perfect.

But to be fair, the AC worked well, my bed was comfortable, and there was shampoo (though not conditioner) provided. All we wanted was a place to sleep, and that’s what we got. The price was right!

Coffee Grinder at Bowen’s Wharf

You know I scouted out a cute cafe for our morning Newport coffee!!!

Yes, those signs were on each outdoor table!

Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be able to sit at this cafe every morning and drink my coffee while looking out at the ocean.

Love how they served Jeff’s iced coffee in a glass.

We sat in comfortable silence while admiring the water, chatted with some silly kids who for some reason thought we were really interesting, and just soaked in the Newport atmosphere.

Coffee Grinder is located in one of my favorite area’s of Newport’s center, Bannister’s Wharf.

Our stomachs started to rumble and we set off in search of a yummy brunch, and didn’t have to look far.

Outside of Diego’s, which serves breakfast every Saturday/Sunday starting at 10AM.

Diego’s wasn’t on my pre-prepared Newport dining list that I’d made, with the help of Yelp. However, it had everything I look for in a restaurant! Outdoor seating…

Creative decor…

Ceiling of the bar!

Affordable prices…

…and of course, a killer cocktail menu.

My kind of place! Check out the “disclaimer” on the bottom in red.

My Sazerac – chilled Rittenhouse Rye 100 Proof Whiskey, Peychaud bitters, simple syrup, served neat in chilled absinthe-coated glass. SO me.

Don’t even get me started on the food. Every bite was interrupted with an “oh my God” or a “mmmm”. I ordered the smoked salmon quesadilla with a scallion cream cheese, grilled tomato, and zesty red onion & caper salsa. I asked for a wheat tortilla and a lighter amount of cream cheese; the dish turned out perfectly.

SAD.

Jeff and I exchanged bites and sips as always, and we gave each other’s dishes two thumbs up.

Jeff’s choice from the $5 menu, the Breakfast Torta – 2 fried eggs on Portuguese bolos (a bread) with ripe avocado, black beans, oaxaca cheese, spicy baja aioli.

During the meal I noted to Jeff that I hadn’t worked out that morning, and didn’t plan to that day, since we’d be walking so much. Saying it out loud kind of cemented it in my head as a goal for the day – no workout, Caitlin. Just stroll through this beautiful place and enjoy yourself, guilt-free.

I stumbled upon some sunflowers!

And that’s really what I did the rest of the day!

I love the Newport Cliff Walk!

A classic goofy Caitlin photo.

This isn’t staged, I swear…

My #fitblognyc Birkenstocks held up so well even with all my walking!

A snack fit for kings from The Black Pearl‘s Waterside Patio: Country Pate!

Adorable colorful director’s chairs in an outdoor seating area!

In the evening, my family joined in the fun! Thankfully they were up for tagging along to whatever restaurants I’d picked out. I’ve gained a rep as an expert 😉 the Perro Salado bartender had even commented the night before that “he could tell what I was doing” when I was sharing with him places I was interested in visiting. Props from a local? Oh, NBD!

First stop – Fluke Wine Bar, home to a menu containing carefully crafted cocktails and super interesting food.

My amazing “man drink”, the Hanky Panky: Plymouth Gin, Carpano Antica Vermouth, Fernet Branca. It was so perfect.

Don’t worry Jeff, your pink Firedancer drink tasted pretty manly! Sauza Hornitos Tequila, Agavero Tequila Liqueur, Scorpion Mezcal, Lime & Pom Juices

The orange peel perched atop Jeff’s drink was set on FIRE at the “finale” of its creation!

This was my dad’s initial reaction to the octopus small plate Jeff and I chose, but after he took a bite, the sea creature got two thumbs up!

We also ordered Rabbit Pate. Freakin’ amazing! My first rabbit experience.

Sis and I! This is the Urban Outfitters dress I got in Baltimore. Her dress is J. Crew.

Was so proud of my sis for venturing out of her comfort zone and ordering the above Chick Pea, Roasted Red Pepper, Black Olive Crostini! And lucky for me she wasn’t the hugest fan so I got one.

After we were pre-dinner-imbibed and fed, it was time to head to the actual dinner – at Diego’s again! After all my raving, the fam just HAD to try their food, and I was all about getting to sample dishes off the lunch/dinner menu – and more off the amazing cocktail menu!

Mom with her Upgrade Margarita (Milagro Silver Tequila, Agave Nectar, Lime, OJ Splash) and me with my Corpse Reviver (Lillet Lanc, Plymouth Gin – yes again, Cointreau, Fresh Lemon, Pernod Absinthe).

Showing off my side of black beans and my Spicy Catch Pan-Seared Tuna Salad: over mixed greens with julienne veggies, tomato, fruit salsa, pomegranate-chipotle vinaigrette.

A photo meant to send Meg into a food coma.

I’m so thankful that I got to spend time not only with a good friend in Newport, but with my wonderful family (minus the little bro) as well. I have to admit that as I was walking back to the car with Jeff later that evening, I still felt panicky. The day’s eats and drinks seemed to be piling up in my mind and also seemed to be destined to never end in the future. My mind asked me, what if this becomes the norm? What if you do this EVERY WEEKEND? What will happen? Thankfully the combination of a busy day and my beverages made me super sleepy, so these thoughts did not keep me up late at all. Quite the opposite actually – I was passed out by 10pm.

The family, minus Michael, at our traditional pic spot.

Next up – a recap of finishing up in Newport and dinner in Narragansett on Sunday!

Have you ever been to Newport? If so, been to any of these spots?

Do you have a special vacation spot you visit each year with friends and/or family?

Which dish and/or drink in this post do you think you would’ve liked most?

Wordless Wednesday: Baltimore

I never had time between all my weekends away to share my photos from one of those weekends, in Baltimore, MD. I really felt at home and can totally see myself living there one day, though I know most parts of Baltimore are not as “cute” as the parts I was hanging out in! Enjoy my photos 🙂

Iced coffee, gross clothes, and #fitblognyc swag bag – travel standards.

Nomming on a packed salad while working on my paper during the car ride.

Right by our hotel!

Ridiculous amount of menus at Chazz.

Enjoying the Ginger Gin & Tonic made with ginger, cuke, and mint.

Better look at the drink. No it ain’t water.

We all shared a bunch of apps at Chazz’s happy hour – this was the Gorgonzola Beef Carpaccio.

Good old calamari with a fab aioli.

The super tentacley ones with less breading are my fave – more seafood!

Standard tomato bruschetta with goat cheese.

Veal meatball sliders with housemade chips.

My second drink, which my dad had to help me finish…the Pikesville Manhatta using a Maryland classic rye whiskey, with a brandied cherry. One of the best Manhattans I’ve ever tasted.

This Nutella jar on display was HUUUUGE!

Sis and I at da ba.

Sis, dad, and I outside of Chazz, ready to head to an Orioles game!

My most hated chain!

Buzzin’ in the Inner Harbor walking to the baseball game.

I love the Inner Harbor!

The coolest building I saw there.

We got these free bucket hats at the Orioles game!

Dad’s got his rally cap on.

BBQ at the ball game! Surprised by the options at the stadium for food. But that drink I’m holding was freaking gross.

Shared BBQ pulled pork sammie and sides for sis and I.

Way typical.

Next morning’s brunch bev of choice at Teavolve – Strawberry Basil Fizz.

But I had some of their coffee too!

Wheat toast, egg white omelette with CRAB and muchos veggies.

Purchased on SALE at South Moon Under 🙂

Haul from a cute boutique! Because I definitely need designer highlighters.

Hannah and I stumbled upon this gorgeous bar with cocktails comparable to Drink’s, called Wit & Wisdom, in the Four Seasons.

Perfect afternoon to sit outside with my drink, which included walnut bitters.

Hiding behind some fake dunes?

Hello, you.

Snagged this for just $20 at Urban Outfitters – it’ll pop up in a Fashion Friday soon enough!

My go-to margarita – natural, on the rocks, with EXTRA salt at Roy’s happy hour.

Marvelous marg!

Edamame in the beginning of the meal?! My kind of place!

Dad’s face when I clued him into the fact that edamame is full of soy protein!

Skinny Cosmo 😀 so pretty!

Mini smoked mahi tacos in a crunchy shell!

Mini shortrib tacos!

3 cheers for ICE CREAM from Haagen Dazs! Spiced caramel biscuit…AMAZING.

Pour-over coffee from Lamill for the ride home. So delicous (and it better be, it was like $4!)

And a Whole Foods salad BEAST for the ride home too. Can’t resist visiting other locations’ Whole Foods bars!

Have you ever been to Baltimore?

Do you usually pack food for road trips, or buy on the way?

Which nommm looks best to you?

Also, the winner of the Love with Food giveaway is my friend Alex of The Run Within. Congrats girl! I will be sending  you the code to get your FREE September Love with Food box. Remember, everyone else has until 8/31 to use the code CAITVIP for $2 off if you want to order your own box! Thanks to all who entered!

Holiday Activities Abound!

STOP! have you entered my Maybelline giveaway yet? And have you seen my cookies on Part 1 of the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap Recipe RoundupOK, now you can move on 🙂

‘Tis the season for holiday events – and I love it! Family, friends, food, drink, music, decor…I could go on and on. So far this holiday, I’ve been lucky enough to attend both a fancy Winter Festival at a banquet hall and a cozy, intimate holiday brunch at a blogger buddy‘s apartment!

My fellow marketing/fitness/foodie nerd friend, Alexis, and I.

My mom and I accompanied my dad to his holiday work party as his “+1s”. I was more than happy to oblige! I started the evening off with a couple glasses of Cabernet. There were apps set out, but I was too busy chatting and wine-ing to really notice them! By the time it was our turn to approach the Italian buffet line, I was totally starved (we were one of the last tables sent up). The food was worth the wait, though. For a banquet hall, Maneeley’s of South Windsor did a pretty good job!

Your basic salad.

Steamed veggies (not too much butter either!)

Mmm potato starch.

My plate! The meat is Chicken Marsala, but it looked too ugly in the tray for a pic.

I enjoyed hanging out with Alexis, my parents, and their friends. I met a lot of great people and even handed out a few cards – hello to any new readers from Winter Fest!

The mom and I.

In the same weekend (I know, right, how lucky am I?) I got to attend a holiday Sunday brunch hosted by Bethany of More Fruit Please. I walked into her apartment and was immediately in awe of how well-decorated and organized it is.

A coordinated Christmas tree greeted me when I stepped inside.

Fabulous coffee and tea "station"!

Adorable foyer table arrangement.

I spy Jennifer!

Bethany draws her decor inspiration from Pinterest, of course! And no, I have not yet caved and signed up.

In love with this concept. Each heart is a place she's lived!

As a cinnamon freak, I have much love for this candle.

To continue the cinnamon love, I had the best tea I’ve ever had. No joke – thank you Trader Joe’s for making this cinnamon and vanilla black tea! I made two teabags last through about three mugfuls of hot water. Has anyone else tried this?

Bethany and some of her awesome friends worked away in the kitchen. I swear I offered some help! 😛 Bethany was running all over the place, and I was and still am in awe of her hostess skills!

Potatoes and veggies for quiche getting some saute action.

A quiche setting, just after coming out of the oven.

Some appetizers were set out for munching. I eventually could wait no longer and had to dive into Bethany’s to-die-for sun-dried tomato olive tapenade with Stacy’s pita chips. Make this for your next party. Immediately.

Also available to tide us over until meal time: assorted cookies and pretzels, some of which I contributed from my Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap stash, and a beautiful Harvest Loaf baked by an amazing, spunky fashion blogger I met at the brunch, Lydia. Check out her fashion blog – it’s awesome!

My mug is too the left – I loved all of Bethany's mugs! My plate of cookies is the red one.

Harvest Loaf ready for slicing!

Soon, brunch was ready! Mimosas were poured, but I sat out since I was still feeling the half bottle of wine I’d had the night before

Oops, looks like pouring led to a little spillage.

Bethany’s dining table was transformed into a Sunday smorgasbord (I needed spellcheck on that one).

The tree is just too much – I LOVE IT.

A little tour of the table for you…

Fruit salad (with kiwi – YES) and honey yogurt dip.

Broc, tomato, and pesto quiche.

Turkey sausage and potato quiche.

Whole wheat blackberry-lemon and apple scones from Jennifer.

Plain, chocolate, and almond croissants from La Petit France of West Hartford.

"Carb tower" all together (bagels and yoga bread from Bethany on bottom).

Apple butter and cranberry orange cream cheese spreads for bread. How cute are the spreaders?!

I wanted to try as much as possible! I filled my first plate with a plain croissant, half an apple scone, slice of veggie quiche with reduced sugar ketchup, and fruit salad with yogurt dip.

Plate one of two. Very hard to be patient enough to take pics before diving in.

The scone was wonderful (I don’t care what you say Jennifer!) and so was the dip. But the real stars were the croissant, which was so authentic-tasting, and the quiche, which was MADE thanks to the pesto.

Dying over the plate. Dying of cuteness the entire brunch.

After finishing this plate, I went back for a slice of the turkey sausage and potato quiche. The veggie quiche was still my favorite because the pesto biases me, but the meat and potato quiche was fantastic as well. Perfectly cooked!

After writing this post, I am now ready to eat my entire fridge. I want to go back and re-taste everything! Thank you Bethany for being an amazing hostess, cook, and home decorator 😉

Which component of the brunch would you most want to try? What would you have seconds of?

Cafes do Brasil Week in NYC

If you are in the NYC area this week (November 12-19), I highly recommend checking out Cafes do Brasil Week! Twenty restaurants will be serving high-quality Brazilian coffees, which I had the pleasure of sampling yesterday at a brunch at Casa Restaurant in NYC.

My greeting upon entering the restaurant.

I was greeting by the friendly woman who invited me to the event, Elena, and received a cute little bag which contained a Cafes do Brasil pin and a brochure which mapped out and described each Brazilian coffee, where it came from, and what distinguished each variety from the others. The brochure was extremely informative and helpful during the coffee tasting because it helped us visualize exactly where in the country the beans of the coffee were were drinking that very morning were grown!

Other attendees of the event included freelance writers, blog owners, photographers, and web journalists. I met some amazing people and the conversation was fantastic!

I adored the simple place settings and classic cloth place mats. Those salt and pepper shakers are cute too!

The interior was also gorgeous. During the meal, one of the writers I met, Alex DiBlasi, told me that the street we were on was supposedly one of the oldest in the entire city. I can definitely see that, because the restaurant had an old charm with a touch of authentic Brazilian decor. The plentiful sunshine coming in through the windows brightened up the white walls and ceiling even more too.

We had the chance to sit down and taste three types of Brazilian coffees with Christian Santiago of the Brazilian Roasters Association and Alberto Bicca of the Brazilian Trade Promotion Agency. I feel lucky to have been able to learn about the coffees I was trying from Brazilians with such a passion for what the farmers of their country grow – Brazil is the world’s top coffee producer! I’m a self-proclaimed coffee addict, but honestly do not know much about its origins or different types beyond simple flavor differences. Now I can honestly say I am a more educated coffee drinker, and I love knowing more about what I love!

Some of the cool stuff I learned from Christian and Alberto:

  • Deregulation of Brazilian coffee in the 1990’s aided in putting quality over quantity and increased the varieties of premium coffee grown, as well as the incidence of “green” growing practices.
  • Since the coffee grows best in certain altitudes, and so much farming is done in the mountains, there is a lack of flat land available to lay out the beans and let them naturally dry in the sun after harvest. That is why coffees made from beans that were dried are more rare.
  • Coffee is a fruit! Well, the bean that is.
  • Just like in Europe, there is not much iced coffee to be found in Brazil. Coffee-based alcoholic beverages are also not as popular there as in America.
  • In Brazil, it is common to do tastings of coffee and wine at the same time. SIGN ME UP!

I absolutely loved each coffee I tried. We sampled them solo first, from lightest to darkest (Mogiana, Cerrado, Planalto, as seen in the menu above). And trying them back-to-back highlighted the subtle flavor differences so well. My favorite type was the Cerrado, because the subtle orange flavor the menu promised was really there. I had never tasted something like that in coffee before, and I do tend to gravitate toward the unique!

My kind of shots…

I loved the atmosphere of this brunch. The people were friendly, the pace of sampling was slow, and I felt so relaxed and at ease. I’ve been feeling pretty stressed lately, so the entire day in the city yesterday was a welcome release.

Food time! Each sample was provided by Jeff Santos of Brazilian Specialty Foods, Inc and we were definitely impressed.

We started with a basket of cheese bread, yucca and coconut cake, and sugar and cinnamon doughnuts. Everything was wonderful. The doughnuts, while delicious, did not taste unique in any way that would make me think they were Brazilian. However, the yucca and coconut cake was unlike any breakfast bread I’d tried before – the perfect sweetness. I dipped both that and the doughnuts in another cup of the Cerrado.

Perfect pairing.

I love both sweet and savory breakfast treats, so the cheese bread was really something. It smelled like an asiago bagel, but had a soft, pillowy texture that I enjoyed. Each little “puff” was not chewy at all, but flaky and a pleasing warm temperature. They were my favorite part of the basket.

CHEESE!

The main course was eggs florentine paired with roasted potatoes and Brazilian sausage. Each of us enjoyed a cup of the Planalto coffee with this dish, because it is considered the most breakfast-like coffee of the three we tried. It did complement the food well! I usually drink coffee solo, and rarely with food, so this was a nice change of pace for me. Again, the relaxed brunch vibe was really flowing at this point and I was having a blast.

The sausage was honestly the best I have ever had. The potatoes were also perfect – not greasy, and soft with the exception of perfect, crisp edges.

The egg was poached perfectly and my favorite part of the meal was saved for last – the yolk-soaked, spinach-covered english muffin. YUM. I cleaned my entire plate.

This was my first official blogger event and it far surpassed my expectations. I made amazing connections and learned so much about New York City from the other attendees and about Brazilian coffees from the event hosts.

Again, anyone in the NYC area this week should really head to one of the restaurants participating in Cafes do Brasil Week and try some Brazilian coffees – and some Brazilian food too, because why not, right? Some of these coffees are even in our country for the first time ever!

Thank you to Cafes do Brasil for having me and for teaching me so much about my favorite beverage!

How much do you know about coffee? What’s your favorite brunch dish?