Tag Archives: chefs

March of Dimes CT Signature Chefs Auction

I attended this event free of charge as a media volunteer. All opinions of the evening are my own.

You’ve heard me talk about the 75th Anniversary March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction Gala a few times now. The event seemed so far away when I first connected with Leigh-Anne Lefurge, State Director of Communications for the Connecticut chapter. She, Marc Spencer (Senior Community Director), Kaitlin, and I worked together to spread the word via social media and get more restaurants involved. I could hardly believe it when I woke up this past Thursday morning knowing the event was already here!


Right before kicking things off.


Some of the evening’s chefs, assembled for a group shot.

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Hartford Magazine October Launch with Hoffman Auto

This past Wednesday I was invited by my good friend Kat (of the Hartford Advocate) to attend the October issue launch party of Hartford Magazine.


The event began promptly at 5:30PM at Farmington Gardens, a lovely event venue located in (obviously) Farmington, CT. Thankfully it was a fairly warm day so the patio was decked out in charming lights for guests’ enjoyment.


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Rizzuto’s at the March of Dimes Gala

I (unexpectedly) received the food and drinks in this post free of charge. All opinions of the experience are my own.

Next month (on Thursday 10/17), the Connecticut chapter of March of Dimes will host the 75th Anniversary Signature Chefs Auction Gala at The Riverview in Simsbury in celebration of 75 years of the organization fighting for stronger, healthier babies. Guests will have the opportunity to dine on food prepared by the chefs of some of the area’s best (and some of my favorite) restaurants such as Barcelona Wine Bar, Pond House Grille, Rizzuto’s, and more. Locally produced libations will be poured by Jonathan Edwards WineryPeel, and Olde Burnside Brewing. One of the hosts, Scot Haney, is definitely someone I’d consider a CT celeb!

All participants

Individual tickets are $175 each and tables of 10 are up for grabs at $1,750. Though the price may seem steep and perhaps is not realistic for some, those who are able to spend the funds can be assured that a) they won’t walk away hungry and b) their money is going to a great cause. The money raised by the gala will benefit research and programs like CenteringPregnancy, Healthy Babies Are Worth The Wait, and NICU Family Support. 1 in 10 babies born in CT are born premature, and the March of Dimes needs fundraisers like these to take steps to both improve that number and support affected preemies and their families. If you can’t make it to the event but are able to make a donation, I highly encourage you to visit the event page and do so. Attendees will also have the chance to contribute outside of ticket costs, via both live and silent auctions featuring fabulous items.

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Hot Summer Night at Pond House Grille

Pond House Grille provided me complimentary admission to this cooking class. This is not a sponsored post, and all opinions on my experience are my own.

Pond House Grille has revitalized not just its appearance (examples: shiny website, tablet menu format) but also its food. Executive Chef Jordan Stein is placing a huge emphasis on seasonally appropriate and creative cuisine which makes heavy use of local ingredients. I had the privilege of receiving a chef’s tasting there not long ago, and was truly blown away by the dishes this talented and humble guy served up.

Love his signature fedora!

Love his signature fedora!

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TON of Fun at Taste of the Nation Hartford – Part 2

In case you missed it, my Taste of the Nation (Hartford) overall intro and libation recap post went up yesterday! I’m now going to move on to my two favorite parts of the event (and they’ll probably be yours too) – the food and the PEOPLE!

The Food

Some restaurants go with simple white-tablecloth-covered booths, and others go all out. Mill Restaurant Group (responsible for one of my favorite cocktail spots, Market Grille in Manchester) was at the all-out end of the display spectrum!


MRG’s food quality was all-out as well in both aesthetics and taste! Check out these awesome chilled soup shooters served on slate…

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Sun Wine-Fest: It’s On

This Sunday, I will have the chance to attend what is probably Connecticut’s biggest food-and-drink event of the year – the Sun WineFest at Mohegan Sun Casino! The festivities begin tomorrow (Friday), 1/27/12, at 6pm with the Beam Global Spirits & Wine Bourbon Tasting and end Sunday, 1/29/12, at 9pm with some Bubbles & Bon-Bons.

Tickets are a little pricey (and largely sold-out), at $70 for a one-day pass and $120 for a weekend-pass (a $20 savings). However, a portion of the proceeds are benefiting both The American Diabetes Association and the Channel 3 Kids Camp, the latter of which I’m sure many of my local readers have heard of.

Thanks to dutchpoint.org for the image.

The above-mentioned passes are applicable to what I’m going to be attending (AKA the main event), the Grand Tasting in Mohegan Sun’s Convention Center, featuring over a thousand different brands of wine, beer, and spirits. That’s right, a THOUSAND. Good thing the event is from 12-5pm – I’m going to need to spread this out! And hey, if I have to wait it out to achieve my “drive-home-safe” state, no better place than a casino, right?

There will also be food from tons of different restaurants – gotta have something to soak up my wine, right? The Main Culinary Stage will have celebrity chefs doing demos. I’m not talking the chefs I saw at the CT Wine & Food Fest (though don’t get me wrong, they were amazingly talented). I’m talking the likes of Bobby Flay (who unfortunately isn’t taking the stage on the day I’m going…dammit!) and Todd English, creator of one of the best NYC restaurants I’ve ever been to (he also won’t be there the day I’m going, come on)!

Thanks to foodnetwork.com for the image.

A couple of events will also be taking place during the Grand Tastings that have admission included with the Grand Tasting pass. On Saturday, Ciroc’s Grape Stomp will challenge participants to stomp the most juice possible out of a pile of grapes – sounds messy, and fun! The winner will get a HUGE prize: $1,500, an overnight stay at Mohegan, dinner for two at Todd English’s restaurant there, and free pedicures (someone’s wife will be mighty happy if he wins).

Thanks to missmalini.com for the image.

I have to be honest, even if I was going on Saturday, I don’t think I’d participate in that one. A bit too messy for me and my legs haven’t reached their strongest grape-stomping status possible yet. Someday – I guess that’s what squats are for!

Thanks to olafitness.wordpress.com for the image.

The complimentary event taking place on Sunday, when I’ll be at the WineFest, is another event that I’ll be watching instead of doing: The Bud Light Lime 8th Annual Oyster Open. I am vastly uncoordinated, so an event to determine who can shuck the most oysters is probably one that would render me useless. Props to whoever wins though, because he or she will take home $5,000! Chef Jasper White (I met him last weekend) will be at this event, so I am definitely going to be there.

Thanks to delish.com for the image.

As I mentioned before, the Beam Global Spirits & Wine Bourbon Tasting will start things off on Friday in the Leffingwells Martini Lounge (class, class, class, see pic below, and I was there last Saturday!), home of the largest indoor planetarium dome in the entire world. My town’s very own Plan B will be there mixing up inspired cocktails or serving bourbons on the rocks. Trust me, I’ve had their bourbon, and it is AMAZING. Fig-and-vanilla-infused on the rocks, anyone? After sampling drinks, guests can head upstairs and smoke gourmet Avo cigars while listening to jazz music. I LOVE the old-timey feel of this event, despite the fact that it includes smoking (skip it and have more bourbon! ;-)).

Thanks to xerlia of flickr.com for the image.

Something I would have LOVED to attend, if only I were loaded (and if it weren’t sold out), is the Moet & Chandon Celebrity Chef Dine-Around. It’ll be exactly what it sounds like – celebrity chefs (Bobby Flay and Todd English, pictured below, back again!) doing live-demos at cooking stations as guests walk around, sample their creations, and pair them with a wine or beer. $175 is indeed a fair amount of money, especially nowadays. But for the foodie who would cherish the chance to talk with some of the most famous chefs around, I’m sure it’ll be well worth every penny. And seriously…look at all that food.

Thanks to esquire.com for the image.

For $200, the real wine-os can experience the Elite Cru Tasting of some of the highest-quality vintage wines available on the market today, at the Mohegan Sun Cabaret Theatre. The wines will be paired with oysters, shrimp, and specialty cheeses. The participants also get to take home a $50 igourmet.com gift certificate, and the regular Grand Tasting is included with admission too. So I guess you could say you’re only spending about $80 more to be part of this extra tasting!

For those who like to pair more education with their libation, the igourmet.com Seminar Series is a great chance to increase your food-and-drink smarts. Seminars range from $50-$65 each, and take place on both Saturday and Sunday. Which ones would I like to try? How about From Angus to Pinot or Things You Never Knew About Bourbon? Where is my unlimited money tree?

Thanks to peacelovewings.com for the image.

If beer and/or hard liquor isn’t your thing, or if you have plans during the day on Sunday (errands, anyone?), no problem. Perrier-Jouet’s Bubbles & Bon-Bons from 6-9pm will pair champagne with desserts for those wanting to cap off (or start) their evening with, well, bubbles and bon-bons. Attendees will even get to mingle with three amazingly talented chefs, including a Food Network host and Mohegan’s executive pastry chef herself, and talk to them about their amazing creations – as they eat them! I love it when I have the chance to directly compliment a chef on his or her work – it’s a fantastic opportunity.

Thanks to joyofjello.com for the image.

Holy moly – there’s certainly a lot to be seen, smelled, and tasted this coming weekend at Mohegan Sun! I can’t believe I have to wait until Sunday to join in the fun, but I think somehow I’ll survive (got a lot lined up this weekend as per usual ;-)) It’s been a few years since I first heard about the Sun WineFest, and have wanted to attend ever since, so it’s a bit of a dream-come-true for me! I’ll be tweeting during the event with plenty of photos, and I’ll be writing a recap  post afterward for sure! It’s gonna be a big one!

Which of the “sub-events” I mentioned at the Sun WineFest would you most want to attend?

EDIT: You can read about my experience eating, drinking, and event-watching at the Fest on my recap posts!

Starstruck at Mohegan Sun

Like I said yesterday…and the day before…I’ve got an exciting evening to share! So exciting I had to give it a build-up of several days, I suppose. I wasn’t going to let a snowy Saturday get me down this past weekend. I had exciting plans to reunite with college friends at Mohegan Sun Casino, and thankfully by the time I left around 6pm, the highways were pretty much all cleared and it was (fairly) smooth sailing during my trip.

I arrived, found some of our group playing video poker at a bar, and settled in with an Absolut Pear Martini while we waited for more friends to arrive so that we could grab dinner. The martini was delicious, just the pear-flavored vodka with a touch of vermouth, shaken with ice so that it was niiiice and chilly. I love a smooth, strong drink!

We grew to a party of six and set out to find a dining destination. The first two options we stopped at, Sol Toro and 23 Sports Cafe (both Michael Jordan restaurants), had waits. I had been hoping to try something new, but also didn’t want to delay dinner. Luckily, there were plenty of tables for large parties available at Jasper White’s Summer Shack, and old favorite of mine that I’ve visited a couple of times before, most recently during the Winter Storm Alfred power outage.

Specials are written on chalkboards throughout the restaurant.

The Summer Shack has the casual beach vibe of so many of the authentic seafood restaurants back in Florida that I adore. The seafood here is always fresh, and that’s the reason for the chalkboards throughout the restaurant that list the numerous special starters, entrees, and desserts.  So much of the menu is always changing, depending on what will taste the best based on availability!

Jeff and I, always foodie partners in crime.

I started off with a Dark & Stormy, or ginger beer with rum. This has become one of my favorite drinks to order whenever I see it on a drink menu when I’m out, ever since sampling it several times at Rooftop120. Their version, the Dark & Stormier, is definitely stromier aka STRONGER! However this Dark & Stormy was still delicious and I savored it throughout my meal…which resulted in me having to chug it so the rest of the party could leave and get-to-gamblin’, oops.

Reunited at the casino, at the end of our evening.

When the hostess was seating us, she informed me that Chef Jasper White himself (yes, it’s Jasper White’s Summer Shack) was actually in the restaurant that very evening! I became a bit of a babbling mess and blurted out that I would love the chance to meet him or talk to him, and tell him how much I enjoy his restaurant. I never ACTUALLY expected that Jasper White would come to our table to meet me!

Celeb chef sighting!

You know you’re a foodie when you’re fangirling over meeting the chef of a great restaurant, much like one would fangirl over meeting the singer of their favorite songs (oh yeah, I’ve done that before too). It was great to have the chance to tell Jasper about my blog, and how my family came to his restaurant during one of our nights without power during Winter Storm Alfred, and that I’d written about the experience and shared it with my readers. I  was so excited to give him my card – the idea of Jasper reading my blog was (and is) very exciting!

I was in for an even bigger surprise when Jasper sent over some appetizers for the table to sample! We received the stuffed oysters pictured above, as well as seafood potstickers. Both were beyond amazing, but I’d have to say my favorite of the two were the oysters. The crunchy breading atop the stuffing was so flaky, and the lemon juice squeezed atop each one really made it.

Ever the adventurous foodies, Jeff and I decided to split two of the more unique appetizer specials. First was the baby octopus with crushed tomatoes and white beans. This was fantastic! The octopus had a really nice flavor and the beans and tomatoes tasted SO good served atop that crunchy bread on the side – kinda like a little bruschetta! I squeezed a lot of the lemon wedge’s juice onto the greens too.

Unfortunately, our second choice, grilled sardines with a spicy marinara, were a little bit of a fail due to the bones! The fish that I did taste was good – I have been curious to try sardines ever since reading about them in the blog world, first on Kath Eats. It wasn’t too salty like I’d feared. The issue was the skeleton – the tiny sardine bones were impossible to pick out! This just comes with the territory of eating sardines I guess, but I am not a fan of high-maintenance dishes like that. Jeff and I both kinda gave up eventually, which was unfortunate because the fish was yummy! I guess bone fish just is not for me. The marinara didn’t taste that spicy to us, but I did enjoy its flavor and scooped some onto more of that crunchy bread, and put more lemon juice on this app’s greens as well. I like how each app comes with greens – the maple-glazed scallops I ordered last time did as well!

In contrast to the interesting apps Jeff and I sampled, our friend Charlie, the king of the plainest foods of all time, ordered buffalo wings. He was more than eager to give me his review, declaring that the meat was delicious, but the wings lacked any buffalo flavor (he also wanted me to include that he is, indeed, from the Buffalo area). He also declared the bleu cheese sauce to be excellent. My friend Prasant tried a wing, and gave the same consensus as Charlie. Sounds good to me, since I cannot deal with anything spicy, but these may not be the best choice if you are looking for a spicy wing!

Prasant and my other friend, Alex, ordered the same thing…the cheeseburger. Can’t go wrong with a good old burger every now and then, but as you can see, Jeff’s tastes align more with mine when it comes to what to order at a seafood restaurant! Prasant and Alex both liked their burgers though, and that grilled onion in the photo above looks really good to me!

Clearly I was so psyched about the pickles I received with my food (always gotta order pickles on the side, right Christina?) that I couldn’t sit still enough to let Jeff take a photo that wasn’t blurry.

The service we received at Jasper White’s Summer Shack was also excellent. Our waiter was really nice and, after initially bringing me 2 pickles, brought me a few more after he found out he would have to charge me $1 for them. Thanks, man!

And a huge thanks to Jasper White for being kind enough to check out my blog and send some delicious seafood my way!

While the boys in our crew headed to the craps table (where Jeff went on a heater and proceeded to win the tables’ players amounts ranging from tens to thousands of dollars), my friend Kelly (this is a third Kelly I know, so now I have mentioned all three of them on the blog at some point, yay!) and I decided to class it up, pass by the free casino beverages, and spend a little money to enjoy a more unique cocktail at Leffingwell’s Martini Lounge.

Such a gorgeous place! The bar was full, so we settled into some giant red comfy chairs (that were a little too large and seemed to swallow us) and perused the martini menu.

I was worried I’d have a hard time deciding on a drink, but immediately spotted the French Pear martini, remembered the first pear martini I’d had from earlier that evening, and decided that trying a version of it that included eldeflower liqueur and a twist was just what I wanted!

Kelly satisfied her sweet tooth AND grape tooth with a Grape Snow Cone martini.

How cute is her hair? Jealous.

And my awkward photo-posing-with-a-martini, which you saw briefly on Sunday…

Drinks can be so pretty!

After we finished our drinks and had wonderful girl-time, Kelly and I met up with the boys at the craps table. There wasn’t room for me to jump in until Jeff’s heater had ended, but I still managed to leave the casino $20 richer!

Dammit Brookstone, ruining my lighting.

We hung out for a little while longer and I decided to give into a craving that I always get when I go to Mohegan…

Oh Half-Baked Fro Yo from Ben & Jerry’s, how I love you so. And how I LOVE sugar cones. Got a kid’s cone for a nice treat!

Taken by a random man who may or may not have been drunk. Open your eyes, Caitlin.

What a fantastic evening, which went quite well with the rest of my wonderful weekend. It was so great to see so many of my friends together in one place for the first time since graduation – and meet Jasper White!

Have you ever met the head chef of a restaurant? Do you ever visit the casino – and do you ever win?