Tag Archives: cupcakes

Girl’s Night Out at GEM

It occurred to me after hitting “publish” this morning that I could’ve made today the day for an April Fool’s blog post. But those get old pretty quickly so I think I’d rather show this post to you guys today! ūüėČ

Last Thursday I was invited to a Girl’s Night Out event at GEM Kitchen & Lounge, a restaurant that was already on my Boston restaurant to-do list. Talk about convenient! And though I received an invite, the girly soiree was open to the public and even came with a free glass of bubbly or sangria, free blowouts and makeup tutorials, and a super awesome goodie bag!

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DJ Malyna O¬†provided music and plenty of local Boston businesses came out to make it an evening to remember. My coworker Jeannie joined me and after we’d grabbed some bubbles, we decided to check out the vendor offerings while waiting for our turn for blow drys.

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Marvelous Moonshine: The Onyx Gatsby Ball

I received free entry into this event via a press pass. This is not a sponsored post and all opinions of the event and what I sampled there are my own.

Where do I begin?! I mentioned in Friday’s post that I’d be attending an event that evening that I was extremely excited for. Well, the Onyx Moonshine Gatsby Ball and Onyx 111 Infusion Challenge lived up to my expectations. The marvelous event was one of the best I’ve ever attended.

Join Katie’s link-up to stay focused on the positive on your Monday!

I pulled up to the gorgeous venue, The Wadsworth Mansion at Long Hill (Middletown, CT), and immediately knew why Kaitlin has chosen this as the place she will be married next summer. The entry way is what I can only describe as “grand”, and the inside was lovely and perfect for a party meant to transport guests to the past.

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Check out that peacock feather in an Onyx bottle – great centerpiece!

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Farmers’ Market Sunday Funday

One of my first blog posts ever was about my finds from my first-ever trip to the Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market, the best farmers’ market I have ever been to (by far). I was lucky enough to go TWICE last summer with Heather and even participated in one of their events, as a judge for a cocktail competition. This past Sunday, I made my first (and hopefully not the last) trip of the 2013 season! I could not have asked for better company – my sister Hannah, my good friend Kat, and her daughter (the famous) Penelope.

Penelope visited with my mom before we left for the market!

Penelope visited with my mom before we left for the market!

Please notice Penelope’s fabulous foodie onesie,¬†appropriately gifted to her by Emily, Community Manager for Yelp Hartford!

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MIMM: School’s Out, Let’s Celebrate!

The winner of the Brilliant Options Wellness massage giveaway is Anna! You will be contacted about scheduling with Kellie your free 30 minute massage – congrats!

I have a lot of marvelous to share! I did a great job this weekend of balancing me-time with friend-time. I gave myself permission to celebrate my accomplishments and felt lots of love and gratitude for the people in my life who made them all possible. I’m continuing to de-grandma on weekends and stay out having a good time, and I’m determined to keep up that trend as long as the (slowly getting there) warm weather keeps giving me energy to stay up later and go go go! But I also spent plenty of time staying put put put, at the house on Saturday during the day and Sunday in the evening.

Thanks for hosting the marvelous party, Katie!

Marvelous is…FINISHING GRAD SCHOOL! Yes, I got A’s in both of my last semester courses and completed my MBA at University of Hartford¬†with a 3.94 cumulative GPA. It feels so good to be done but it won’t really hit me until a few more weekends/lunch breaks without homework I think…or until I get my diploma in the mail. No I am not walking in the ceremony because really, ain’t nobody got time for that.

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MIMM: Weekend Edition

It occurred to me yesterday while I was in a bit of a late afternoon funk that my weekend as pretty darn marvelous. So let’s focus on the positives on this Monday, with Katie‘s weekly celebration.

Marvelous is…Huffington Post Women‘s Twitter account tweeting my National Eating Disorders Awareness Week blog post on Friday morning. Um, holy. For them to think I’m worthy of a spot on their feed is a true honor. And all of your reactions in the comments and on Twitter were marvelous as well. Thank you!

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BlogHer ’12 Sponsor Silliness and Swag

Here goes my third recap post of my BlogHer ’12 NYC weekend…the sponsors at the conference itself, which took place Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. If you missed my last two recaps of my Physique 57, YogaWorks, and Chobani SoHo experiences, you can still go back and read them!

If I could sum up the BlogHer conference in a few nouns they’d be…information, inspiration, and sponsors. I know that a conference is meant to be a teaching tool, and BlogHer certainly served as that. However, you really can’t go to a blogging conference without expecting (and hoping for!) some fun sponsor action.¬†After all, who doesn’t like swag?

Laid out the haul on Sunday night when I got home.

Yeek, I need to settle down and stop going out-of-chronological-order in my recaps ūüėõ when I left my house on Thursday, I thought I had a lot of baggage.

Completely posed self-timer pic…

That is, until I ended up hauling these babies from taxi to train, and then from train to car. My shoulders fell off.

Damn you, swag. Yet I love you.

Room Awesome

I arrived and check-in at the New York Hilton was seamless, though elevator travel throughout the conference (it should not take 15 minutes to find an open elevator!) was not. My room was OK…the bathroom was a bit dingy, the humidity was kinda out of control, but what are you gonna do? I got an amazing deal and didn’t have to do anything to organize it all. I’m eternally grateful to “Room Awesome”‘s planner, Stephanie of The Froggy and the Mouse. What a sweetheart…all of my roomies were actually (Melissa of Growing Up Geeky and Linette of The Kid’s Fun Review).

Stephanie, a fellow planner/organizer!

Expo Hall Experience

I unfortunately arrived too late to see Obama give the opening address to BlogHer participants, but badge pickup went super quickly (thanks to BlogHer for offering an affordable student rate!)¬†and after a much needed post-travel shower, I made my way to the first conference party (apparently these are a BIG part of BlogHer, but I had no idea until a month beforehand and never ended up attending any others), Evening at the Expo. Essentially just the same Expo Hall that was open the entire conference…WITH WINE!

You mean these tickets I got with my badge buy WINE?!

I visited eons of sponsor booths throughout the conference’s three days, though Friday and Saturday had no wine (le bummer). My favorite sponsor experiences were those with people in silly costumes and/or the opportunity to dress up in silly costumes myself.

Me and the Dole banana!

One row back…another banana, this one from Jamba Juice!

Wendy of CT Bloggers would only be in photos in which she was “disguised”! So she was kind enough to pose with me at the Wholly Guacamole booth ūüôā

If you like it then you shoulda #PutAWheelOnIt at the Gorton’s Seafood booth! Bummed I never made it back to try some samples.

The folks at TMobile must’ve thought taking the above photo would be a pain for me because they gave me a massage afterward to say thank you. I mean, that’s awesome, but I would’ve done it for “free” ūüėõ

Oh yes, I’ve got milk. Wait, not really! But I do have these milkmen.

This guy was supposed to be a Smith Brother. I called him Abe Lincoln. Promoting the upcoming Spielberg biopic?! No? Oh.

I find it hilarious that Danny DeVito voiced the Lorax and literally has the same exact build as him/it.

Plenty of Perks

Fun photos were not the only activities available to bloggers at sponsor booths and suites. Since I listened to some T-Mobile reps’ shpeals on the latest apps (and put on a feather boa), I received the treat of one of my first massages…and I went to a very special place, I have to say. It was just pure heaven. Too bad I’m too cheap to ever purchase another massage, ha!

Starbucks gave private demos of their new home espresso beverage machine, Verismo, to small groups of bloggers. My demo guy was fabulous! I wasn’t a fan of the drinks produced by the Verismo machine, because I drink my coffee black. Just way too much milk (and 2%, which has a rich taste I’m not used to) and not enough espresso. Still, the machine did create some incredibly frothy, aromatic milk out of a powdered K-cup style insert. I think these machines will be really popular among those who prefer espresso beverages to coffee…think of it as the Keurig for the espresso drinker.

The Verismo brewed this beverage for us!

The perk of the Starbucks suite was the¬†$5 gift card I received on my way out.¬†I don’t go to Starbucks a lot anymore but when I have no local cafe options, they are definitely my go-to over Dunkin Donuts, so I know I will use this. They also have more convenient hours than many local cafes.

Me and my sample, my new friend, and the Verismo.

Bailey’s Creamers reps were passing out mini cupcakes…I selected red velvet, Ginawent with s’mores.

Love the tower ūüôā

Didn’t sample any of their products since I don’t like sweet drinks OR creamers, but I did sample some coffee-colored OPI nail polishes in the form of a complimentary manicure– already much needed!

My manicurist was so sweet and we chatted the whole time!

She was a bit baffled by my request for a “disco nail” but did a wonderful job! I’m now a disco nail addict.

I have no clue why Bankrupting America¬†(a non-profit with a mission to distribute easy to understand, creative educational materials about our nation’s economy, something we definitely need more of) was serving Skinnygirl‘s original and peach margarita flavors.I think they wanted to attract people to their booth. Shameless free-drink-if-you-talk-to-us, but I’ll take it. As in, I’ll take a peach on the rocks, please.

I made friends (aka was a Chatty Kathy with) the Bankrupting America rep and asked her to pose with the drink server (he was in a James Bond costume, I’m pretty sure).

And CouponCabin.com clearly knew who they were dealing with when they gave me this shirt…

Coupon Caitlin FTW!

T-Mobile¬†also gave me¬†cake pops and Terra chips.¬†They really spoiled me! I spent about 5 minutes searching through the cake pops trying to¬†decipher which was a red velvet, then gave up. I have yet to eat the one I selected but when I do I’ll update you all as to what flavor I got (because you’re riveted).

These were later devoured during a session. Shared with Theodora and Ashley, who immediately asked where they could get some too.

Plethora of Products

Meg, are you liking the alliteration this post is pumping out?! I talked to a boatload of brands, and a few of them stood out to me.

Monthly subscription services for food samples are usually above my budget, though they do offer tasty and high-quality products. From what I saw, Love with Food offers the same quality for an excellent price point – $10 a month! I hope to do a full review on the blog soon! Even better…for each box bought, they donate a meal to a hungry child. The website’s product page features beautiful photographs and SO many treats I want to try.

I already know I’d like to try the dried sweet corn and the cute whale tail shaped chips!

Dannon had the sweetest rep, Janelle, working at their booth. Maybe I just thought that because she recognized me instantly and said she loves my blog?! ūüėõ They also put up with me when I frantically ran to them before my writing clinic session, sputtering that I was staaaaarving, and could they spare a snack? Why yes they could!

Light ‘n Fit Vanilla used to be a daily snack for me in college. Now the line is too sweet for my tastebuds and also tastes less real than I’m used to…but in this situation, the Light ‘n Fit Greek variety held me over til lunch and did its job. I also sampled the Oikos Blueberry – yummy, but again too sweet for me. I picked up a coupon so I can get one of the plain tubs though!

Imagining I’m eating the yogurt with its rep John Stamos…

The Michael Angelo’s reps let me try some of their¬†prepared meals and I really enjoyed talking with them (and eating their Italian food with red wine, duh).

Their products are made with natural ingredients, many of them are very light (unlike most pre-prepared foods), and were created with the influence of Michael’s mother, Sara’s, recipes.

The eggplant parm (left) and lasagna (right) were amazing and tasted homemade.

I got a coupon for a free item and asked my mom to add it to her grocery list asap!

Of course I needed a photo of me eating.

Someone left a giant box of Popchips outside her hotel room and declared that they were first-come, first-serve. I got served…with a snack for the train ride home on Sunday (and brain fuel for my paper).

They were SO GOOD. I try not to count calories but I have to admit the fact that the whole bag was only 100 immediately caught my attention.

The Dole booth was super elaborate, complete with a tiki hut and fruit carvers. And that banana you saw earlier.

I felt smug that my shoe choice at the Expo Hall party on Thursday night was a perfect match for their booth.

That is a bowl of banana USB drive keychains.

I obviously took one home. I doubt I’ll ever use it as anything other than a keychain but come on, it’s a banana, and now my keys are #Fitfluential with one keychain each for #EAT, #MOVE, and #ENJOY. I just need a #SLEEP keychain!

Reebok sneaker, Dole banana, and a Life is Good keychain (hiding).

Wait, Dole makes food?! Just kidding. I pounded these Pineapple Real Fruit Bites before Saturday morning’s Physique 57 class. They made for good fuel and I had a great workout, and again the calorie-noticer (not counter…trying not to!) in me liked the 90 calorie serving size. However, these still have more artificial ingredients than I am used to (though there is some real pineapple in there) and I’ve seen recipes for similar products on sites like Lean Green Bean. If anything, enjoying the Real Fruit Bites has inspired me to make my own, more natural version at home.

Finally, I got to test out the Bowflex CoreBody Reformer, which looked pretty silly to me until I stepped up onto it and felt my core engage as I struggled to balance. And to think the Olympic gymnasts do flips on beams a million times higher and a zillion times thinner?! The helpful rep also showed me the book of exercises it comes with – soooo many, and much of them I never would have thought of on my own!

Not exactly workout attire!

It’s really portable too and can be packed up and carried on one’s back with a strap. CoreBody workout DVDs are also available to pair with your reformer. An ideal piece of home workout equipment for someone living in a small apartment or working with a tiny workout space!

Best For Last

I met a very special someone at the Coupon Cabin booth…as Fitfluential’s Community Manager¬†Robin Elton put it, inception happened¬†at BlogHer 2012.

Kate Plus 8, meet Cait Plus Ate! Kate Gosselin officially knows of this blog’s existence, loves the name, and is actually really cool and chill to talk to. WOO HOO!

I didn’t even find out Kate Gosselin would be appearing at BlogHer on Friday until the night before while waiting to get into the Evening at the Expo Hall. Another brush with fate! I never imagined that when Rachel gave me the idea for my blog’s name, one day I’d actually be TELLING Kate Plus 8 about it!

Would you have been as down as I was to take silly photos at the sponsor booths?

Do any of the products I tried or perks I received strike your fancy? I had to find a creative way to ask that question!

Have you ever gotten the chance to do something you truly NEVER thought you’d get to do?

Easter 2012: Party at Mi Casa!

We have a great group of family friends that get together for every major holiday (every major excuse we can find to get together, more like it) to eat, drink, chat, laugh, play, and just enjoy each other. We all moved up to CT from Florida, so we have that common bond, even if all the parents don’t still work at the same company like they used to.

Oh that moment before a photo is taken…

You may have read recaps of past shindigs:

There we go! Can you find me?

My family decided to host the Easter get-together (because we knew there’d be one) at our house. Perhaps that’s what inspired me to become a chef for a day and contribute a dish!

Mr. Pereda contributed the above (delicious) Chilean Merlot.

I also enjoyed several small glasses of different wines, and even a sampled a few beers (more on that to come…)

Hanging out on the deck with my wine! Isn’t the little glass cute?

I also got to hang out with my friend Andrea, who I hadn’t seen in forever. We’ve known each other since our sophomore year of high school, when we were seatmates in AP Bio (shudder…I was so bad at that class). Her boyfriend’s aunt lives in my neighborhood (I used to babysit for the family, small world right?) and the two of them were there for his family’s Easter party, so I asked them to stop by.

Andrea and her boyfriend enjoying a dessert at the end of the party!

My mom had some tasty apps set out and ready for our guests’ arrivals!

I know I have a lot of guac-lovin’ readers!

The sweets were present from the beginning!

Our friends brought some good apps too!

Essential veggie/hummus plate – don’t you just LOVE the colors?!

Mrs. Aubuchon’s famous deviled eggs – I had one and it was all I could do to not fill up on them before dinner. AMAZING!

Time flew as I caught up with old friends and before I knew it, dinner was served.

My sister (right) leads a prayer.

Mashed potatoes and a cheesy corn casserole.

A mini-salad-bar on a plate of sorts, and a whole grain side salad!

Everyone dug in and was certainly hungry. We did not have that many leftovers, when you consider how much food we had!

Can you spy my mom overseeing it all?

We had many meats – grilled chicken and pork tenderloin! My mom accidentally bought 8 tenderloins instead of 6, so she froze 2 for our family to use later. Turns out she should’ve had my dad cook them all up…we ran out of meat completely!

My apologies to all non-meat-eating readers ūüėČ

My mom used the rub I got in my last foodie pen pals box when prepping the meats – so thank you so much, Loy! It was delicious!

My FAVORITE dish of the party, prepared by my madre, was the amazing cold salmon platter above with dill, capers, asparagus, red onions, and tzatziki on the size. Meg, I know you’d have died over this. I did too. It was the only thing I had seconds of because it was the only thing I wanted seconds of, I just loved it so much!

First plate!

Damn sun ruined this shot, but I went for everything except the mashed potatoes and corn casserole (those make me too sleeeeepy).

People brought a seemingly endless supply of cupcakes! Cupcakes are cool but I can take them or leave them. I was more interested in one of the things pictured below…

Above left is some kind of berry crisp, but above right is Mrs. Aubuchon’s famous chocolate Coca-Cola cake. Yes, Coca-Cola is an ingredient! This is the only time you will find me consuming soda ūüėõ I had one of those nice corner pieces (corners are the best!)

Great job, mama!

What a fun party – everyone had a blast and we only just finished the leftovers last night! Or shall I say, I only just finished them last night ūüėÄ oh, I also passed out after this thing at about 8:30PM. THANKS WINE.

Cupcakes – take them or leave them?

Pieces of cake – aren’t corners the best?!

What’s the best thing you ate on Easter Sunday? Even if you weren’t celebrating Easter!

Taste of the Nation New Haven: Sweets and Drinks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taste of New Haven: Canal Quarter

Holy moly. This is going to be quite a post. You’re in for a little history mixed with a lot of food and drink deliciousness. I’m so excited to share with you guys my second Taste of New Haven experience (I previously took a tour in the Westville neighborhood) in the Canal Quarter area of the city. As soon as I saw the Groupon, I chose a date with my foodie friend and blog-namer Rachel, and bought one for us right away.

From the Groupon description:¬†Experience a litany of other flavors on the Canal Quarter tour, which strolls through bucolic thoroughfares and visits locations nestled in an old iron foundry. After launching from the Audubon Street Bridge, the tour meanders through a loaded itinerary, sampling the globe at the Vietnamese Pot au Pho and the Cuban¬†Zafra RumBar, cavorting with cheesemongers at¬†Caseus, and landing in the beery Emerald Isle at¬†Anna Liffey’s.¬†

That’s not even all the places we went to – more stops were added after the Groupon came out. The New Haven historian, owner of Taste of New Haven, and tour guide, Colin, is always looking for new foodie stops to add to his tours!

Colin gives the historical scoop on New Haven throughout the tour.

Rachel and I ran into a little hiccup when the Groupon itself directed us to an address about 10 minutes from the actual meeting place for our tour group, leading us to park in the incorrect parking garage, but the weather was perfect¬†and we didn’t mind taking an extra little pre-tour stroll to work up our appetites! Plus, the hiccup turned out to be quite¬†fortuitous¬†when we went to leave later, and the garage was un-manned, so we never ended up having to pay for parking!

Colin gives the tour group the run-down.

The first stop on our tour was Koffee? (the use of K’s instead of C’s became quite the theme on the tour, as you’ll see), and I was beyond excited to check it out, seeing as I’m a bit of a cute-cafe-addict. This place certainly didn’t disappoint.

Excuse me while I pose cheesily with the signage.

Koffee is a favorite spot for Yale students to come get work done or just hang out. I’m a cafe-studier myself, and could totally see myself parking it in this place with a laptop and getting a ton of work done. If only it weren’t so far away, I’d come back to do blog and MBA work there!

After 5pm, Koffee After Dark begins! Wine, craft beers, cheese plates, and other sophisticated fare become available to patrons. I really love that! I’ve heard that some Starbucks have started trying to do craft beers or wine in select stores in the evening hours, and I’m not sure a massive chain like that can “pull it off”, but Koffee does so effortlessly because of its status as a local treasure. It’s a place where people who knows each other can meet and spend time together and build history!

Ethiopian coffee – the single origin brew of the day.

However the tour started at 3pm, so wine and beer wasn’t on the menu (yet), just coffee. No complaints here though – the flavor was excellent and it was good enough to sip on and drink black. That’s how you know it’s the good stuff!

Rachel's cup, with a bit of milk.

Koffee serves a different single origin blend daily, and the one we got to sample was from Ethiopia! All their coffees and teas are fair-trade, which is great since coffee shops can’t necessarily “go local” with their java since it isn’t grown around here. This is the next best thing!

The owner , Duncan Goodall, is¬†a Yale grad and “corporate refugee”. A fun employee, Bobby Tan,¬†talked with us about the coffee and brought out a beautiful thing – a tray of pastries, made by Koffee’s very own catering service.

Is that not the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?! I wanted to try everything!! I ended up trying several different pastries by having one or two bites of each.

Clockwise from top: a zebra bar, pumpkin bread with cream cheesy icing, peanut butter bar, and some kind of cinnamon/apple cake.

Rachel’s favorite was the zebra flavor, but I LOVED the pumpkin bread. The icing totally made it. The peanut butter bar was also to die for (Colin’s favorite) – so dense and made with so much pure-peanut butter that I could tell was all-natural. I’m kinda guessing on the last treat’s flavor but I tasted apple and cinnamon, and there was definitely some crumbled brown sugar on top. It was great – maybe there was gingerbread in there too?

You can see above a better view of the peanut butter bar and apple/cinnamon cake, before I took bites! Also pictured above is a chocolate cranberry cake with chopped nuts on top – it was OK but I am not a big cranberry fan so I’m biased there.

Quick pic before we headed out to the next stop.

By the way, I just checked out Koffee’s savory¬†food menu and am bowled over by both the Odd, But Good and the Leala sandwich, made with clover honey and other unique ingredients. OK, it’s settled, I’ll be back.

Our next stop was right across the street, and may be of interest to plenty of readers right off the bat, considering its name…

Pure Health Lounge

Canadian franchise Pure Health Lounge just opened this New Haven location a week or two ago! The menu includes fresh breakfast and lunch food, frozen yogurt, smoothies, and veggie/fruit juices. That’s what we got to try!

The owner was kind enough to come out and give us a quick intro, and let us watch him make a juice drink while serving us samples of one that had already been prepared, called the Detox: parsley, celery, spinach, and carrots. Shots, shots, shots…

It was delicious! Not sure if I could ever order a whole cup of it, but the shot was really great and quite needed after the wining I had done the night before.

An employee prepares our Power Punch beverage.

The pulp from the machine! It's recycled and used as compost around New Haven.

Pouring the second juice for us.

Our second sample, the Power Punch, contained carrots, apples, and oranges. It was great, even better than the Detox! Again, don’t think I could drink a whole cup, but the little samples were perfect.

Pinkies up!

I’d also be curious as to how their coffee tastes. I loved the choice of displaying the beans in those cute jars. Pure Health Lounge only just opened last week in New Haven, on 90 Audubon Street, so stop by and give them some support!

Now that we’d been properly detox-ed, it was time to get more sweets in our system. Katalina’s Kupcakes¬†is the first “cupcake shop” I’ve officially visited, believe it or not. We walked in and a display of samples was already set up for us!

Red velvet cupcakes, raspberry walnut tarts, raspberry scones.

I was psyched especially to see the raspberry scones, since I still had a little bit of leftover Koffee coffee in my cup. Scones and coffee are one of my most favorite combos. I dipped a piece of scone in the copy and couldn’t have been happier. I also adored these particular scones because they weren’t too sweet at all. Scones in general are one of my favorite pastries because they eat more like a breakfast cake than a breakfast sweet dessert, which usually leave me crashing after an hour.

It's not a Cait Plus Ate post without me being a cheeseball.

I didn’t try a raspberry walnut bar because I’m not a fan of jam-like raspberry, ¬†but the red velvet cupcake¬†was OUT OF THIS WORLD. The top portion was crispy, and the cream cheese icing was just so heavenly.

Winner of a Yale student baking contest.

Katalina herself was kind enough to bring out even more samples! Pictured above was the most unique creation I tasted, the Hot Chocolate: dark chocolate cake with cayenne pepper. The “bite” that came after the first few chews was definitely tasted, though not quite as much as I expected. I honestly could have used a little more cayenne!

Whoopie pies.

Definitely no comparison to the whoopie pies¬†I am used to eating in the dining hall. Rachel used Wikipedia (oh thank you, iPhone) to find out that the name of these treats comes from when Amish women would pack them in their husbands’ lunches and they would cry “Whoopie!” when they opened their lunchboxes and found one!

It should also be known that Katalina’s has plenty of gluten-free and vegan treats. They also host fun baking events that even include cocktails! Finally, their latest Facebook update states that they are gonna be serving savory cupcakes. We are talking goat cheese with fig cream cheese frosting and apple cake with gorgonzola frosting. And they make homemade pop-tarts….this place is worth a visit!

At the beginning of the tour, Colin told us that our trip to a Vietnamese restaurant, Pot au Pho, was unfortunately cut from the tour because they¬†were¬†unexpectedly closed. But as we left our last stop, he told us that, SURPRISE, they were open and back on the tour! Time for the savory portion to begin! We learned upon our arrival that it’s possible that the name “pho” comes from the French word for “fire”. Historically, the soup would be made starting with a VERY hot broth (the temperature of fire). Onions would be thrown in, and the broth’s heat alone would caramelize them. However, it’s also possible that the name comes from the name of the Pantamese rice noodle that is sometimes used in the dish.

We actually started with lychee¬†bubble tea, which I’m absolutely not a fan of. The tea itself is too sweetened and I am not a fan of the texture of those tapioca balls. I know some people love it though! I was however, a big fan of our meal, pictured above. Beef pho, a Vietnamese noodle dish (my friend Joe is obsessed with it so I’d tried it before with him), and Com Tay Cam, a chicken dish served on a bed of rice with ginger sauce and cilantro. The pho was pretty good – I’ve never been a huge fan – but the Com Tay Cam was out of this world! I didn’t have any rice because I just think white rice, and all rice in general, is the most boring food in the world. The chicken with all that cilantro though? PERFECT. I was starting to get full at this point…and we still had three more stops to go!

The exterior of Caseus, a cheese shop and bistro.

I loved the exterior of the next stop, Caseus Fromagerie and Bistro. I’ve actually had their cheese before at the CT Wine & Food Fest¬†¬†and was impressed, but luckily, the kind owner Jason Sobocinski (the self-proclaimed “Big Cheese”) had some different cheeses for us to try.

Jason hanging out with his ADORABLE mohawked son.

Caseus comes from the Latin root word for “cheese”. Jason’s mission is for his patrons to fill both their stomachs and their minds, something I can get behind. They were voted CT’s most sustainable restaurant by the Edible Nutmeg magazine too!

Time for cheese sampling! The first cheese we tried (the more mild of the two) was Brigid’s Abbey¬†from Cato Corner Farm of Colchester. The cheese’s name comes from Brigid Abbey, the patron milk maid of Ireland. It’s an excellent melting cheese and tasted delicious.

Eek! Sorry for the bad photo.

Cato Corner Farm will actually offer tours, something I’d love to look into. Their flagship cheese has a fun name – Hooligan, a signature “stinky cheese”. There’s even a drunken version of it, washed with wine! After looking at the whole cheese list, I’m dying to take a visit to Cato Corner Farm.

Next sample!

The next cheese, Cremont, was stronger and also made partially with goat’s milk. As soon as I heard that, I knew I’d like it more – and I did. Rachel is crazy and didn’t like, but I’ll forgive her. Its name comes from “cream of Vermont”.

Pre-cut cheeses and local beverage options are available for sale at the front of the store, as well as a station where cheese can be freshly chopped and purchased by the weight. Jason informed us that he has recently partnered up with Park Central Tavern of Hamden, CT, to help revitalize the menu. That place also uses bread from Whole G Bakery, which provided me with amazing bread at the farmer’s market during the Westville Taste of New Haven tour! Love seeing these local places pop up everywhere! Definitely want to visit Park Central Tavern sometime. Their martinis in particular look fabulous.

A quick walk through the front of Caseus (the fromagerie) brings you to the bistro portion, which reminded me of a wine cellar. LOVED the vibe! So Italian and cozy. The menu looked excellent and carries a humorous warning: “We use peanut oil…a lot.”

And much like fine wine is stored in a wine cellar with a specially-maintained temperature, fine cheese is stored in a special cooler! Behold the holy grail of cheese!

From Caseus, we took a historical walk¬†to our next location, past some old homes, a closed-down theater (that is going to be renovated, luckily!), a former carriage house (kinda like a garage in the middle of the city for horses!), and a Wells Fargo bank that is apparently the most haunted spot in New Haven! There have been MANY strange happenings there, especially in the basement, which is unfortunately where the only customer bathrooms are located. We did NOT go inside, thank goodness. I’m not up for that stuff…and by this time it was dark out!

Time for a place that isn’t scary at all, unless you want to be cheesy and say “it’s so good it’s scary”. CT’s first rum bar, Zafra, which also happens to house one of the best selections of rum in the country.

Mojitos in the making.

This place was easily my favorite stop¬†of the entire tour. I already am planning to return! The term “zafra” describes the sugar cane harvest, which was Cuba’s principle crop and of extreme importance to its people.

Being a Cuban rum bar, Zafra makes a famous mojito. Above you can see individual ones being made. The ones our group tried came from a big batch, so we were told we had to come back and have an individually made one to get the full, wonderful experience. I wasted no time doing that – but more on that later.

Each glass is individually wiped down before being served!

I couldn’t believe it when the bartender, Ed, told Rachel and I that the mojito samples we were drinking were not as good as his other mojitos, because it was seriously an AMAZING drink. Best mojito we’d ever had! And best bartender!

Ed, the man himself.

Delicious beverage (and a shaky hand?)

This place isn’t just about drinks. The food was out of this world good. Like I said, I already plan to return and sample more of it.

Mojito and cuban sandwich – quite a pairing.

The above cuban sandwich¬†was the best I’ve ever had, by far. The pulled pork was perfect, the bread was crunchy, the PICKLES made it. Next time I go, I want to try the cuban dumplings, filled with pork, ham, swiss, and pickles, with Malibu rum dipping sauce. Are you still alive after reading that? Because I may be only semi-conscious.

The above nachos¬†were also the best I’d ever had, thanks to the addition of fresh, home-made black beans and mango salsa. I’ve never seen nachos served with mango salsa on top, but honestly, why didn’t someone think of it sooner?!

Colin and I at Zafra!

Like I said, Ed is a bit of a maestro. He’s had mojitos in seven countries, so he’s definitely an expert. According to Ed, there are two reasons why people say they don’t like mojitos:¬†they are too sweet, or lime and mint beverages aren’t their favorites. If someone claims a mojito is too sweet, Ed insists that he or she let him make a real Cuban mojito, and the hater’s mind is almost always changed – because Ed makes them correctly! If someone doesn’t like mojitos because they don’t like lime or mint, then Ed lets them be, because they’re not gonna end up liking a mojito, no matter how well he can make it.

Yes, those are egg whites¬†that he’s putting into the drink above! The Caribbean Dream¬†is a beverage he created, and it was featured in the New Haven Advocate. I of course cannot reveal an exact recipe, but there’s plenty involved: three different rums (guava, pineapple, vanilla), bitters, many different fruit juices, and those crazy egg whites! The couple next to Rachel and I were so curious that they each ordered a Caribbean Dream, and Ed was kind enough to let Rachel and I sample some leftovers. De-lish, though I don’t know if I could finish a whole one because it was huge and I like my drinks less sweet!

Gorgeous!

Did you know that egg whites in drinks are actually not all that crazy? Sour mix gets its foamy-ness from egg whites, and you find that in tons of drinks – more common than ya think!

Ed also created a drink for Colin that I had a sip of, called La Diablita. I don’t remember what was in it but it was SPICY! I could only handle one sip. Colin, Rachel, and I also had a sampler of three rums: Hurricane, distilled in Nantucket, Plantation, from Jamaica, and the Lash, a heavily spiced rum (VERY heavily spiced). Note:¬†The Caribbean Dream, rum sampler, and Diablita were not included on the tour, but are definitely worth checking out!

Ed also handed out $5 gift cards to all of us on our way out! What a perk!

Next stop: Irish pub¬†Anna Liffey’s¬†for classic bar food and more drinks!

The name “Anna Liffey” was used in Irish political songs as a code word for “Dublin”. The code words were necessary to hide the real messages of political music from the British, who ruled the Irish at the time. So, any old Irish songs about a woman named Anna Liffey were actually talking about Dublin!

Our table was set with really pretty stained glass candle holders, and really not-tasty (in my opinion, I’m a beer hater) Guinness.

Caitlin's beer face.

Everyone except me LOVED it, but I of course swapped mine out for my old dependable, a glass of house red (Malbec, to be specific). And by swapped, I mean I gave my beer to Rachel and she got to double-up, just like she did during the Westville tour’s beer portion. Thank you to Colin and Anna Liffey’s for being so¬†accommodating¬†to this beer hater!

Wine and beer can get along!

At this last stop I was really quite full and was going to stick to just my wine. But then I decided I was being crazy Рthis is Taste of New Haven after all! Among the items to sample: french fries, beer-battered stuffed mushrooms, coconut shrimp, wings, mozz/tomato, and spring rolls!

Tomato and mozz paired well with my red wine!

Some of the food at Anna Liffey’s was unique, but most of it was pretty typical pub fare. Definitely delicious and definitely worth a visit, but probably the least unique stop¬†on the tour. It’s tough competition out there with Colin always choosing such great places!

The most unique dish I tried.

The above photo is NOT pretty, but I really wanted to mention this Guinness soup¬†because I could really taste the beer in the soup, and that was so cool. Since the carbonation from the beer was of course not there in the soup, I enjoyed the taste. I’d definitely recommend it for someone visiting Anna Liffey’s who wants a unique dish!

Getting a bit silly.

As someone who is always cold, I definitely appreciated the fact that there was a little wood-burning stove right by the table we were seated at. And after my several libations, I was feeling up for posing for a photo of me “warming myself” by the fire.

Colin's published works.

So concluded our Taste of New Haven: Canal Quarter tour! Colin was kind enough to bring copies of the four books he’s authored about the history of New Haven, and offered to sign copies too for anyone who wanted to purchase some.

Hanging at Koffee After Dark

After the tour, Colin, Rachel, and I made one last trip to Zafra, and that’s where I got to try a real Ed-made mojito. Um, amazing. Simply amazing. You have not tasted a mojito until you’ve tasted Ed’s. That’s all I can say – just go to Zafra NOW!

A great way to go to Zafra is to sign up for your own Taste of New Haven: Canal Quarter¬†tour. Better yet, sign up for that, AND the Westville¬†tour. Despite the fact that I used a Groupon, I can say for sure that next time a new tour comes out (there are six more¬†in the works), I will pay full price. It’s beyond worth it and also makes a perfect present¬†for that foodie snob friend that you can never satisfy with your restaurant choices – AKA your friends like me ūüėČ Colin will also do customized private group tours¬†– another amazing birthday idea! Food party!

Thank you to Colin for bringing the tastes and history of New Haven to those who have so much to learn about this amazing city!

Which stop would you be most excited to try?