Tag Archives: desserts

Judging Crazy Concoctions at CHS Cookoff

I can’t wait to attend Taste of the Nation Hartford tonight with my blends Kaitlin & Kelly! You can still get tickets at the door – general admission is $75, but I’ve been to this event before and it is WORTH IT. Best food tasting event I’ve ever experienced!

I’m so excited to share my experience judging the Connecticut Historical Society‘s first Community Cookoff! Held last Friday from 5:30-7:30pm (nice and early!), the event attracted a good crowd and had the work day craaaaawling by as I anxiously waited for the clock to hit 5 so I could hit the road for Hartford.

I wore my latest splurge – a Lilly Pulitzer top that I got on sale in FL – for such an important event! Little did I know Lilly herself would pass away in a couple of days.

I walked into CHS and was greeted by the smiling, excited faces of Jenny Steadman and Ed Main. They are the ones who came up with this idea, included me, and even planned the event’s timing around my vacation schedule. I couldn’t have felt any more special thanks to them!

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4th of July and Foodie Photos

You still have time to enter the giveaway for two lawn seats to Hartford Symphony Orchestra‘s outdoor summer concert series! Hurry hurry!

I hope you all had a fabulous 4th of July! I was so bummed when I woke up and heard rain pattering on my window, but a quick check of the weather reassured me that it would be movin’ on out soon. I hopped out of bed and hit the gym for 30 minutes of high-intensity speed intervals on the StepMill, followed by a good upper-body lifting session. I have really seen increases in my strength in all areas of my upper-body, which has been awesome and a great reward to receive after the more consistent lifting I have been doing! I’m having so much fun both during and after lifting weights because I feel like a rock-star the entire time. I have no shame in making some pretty ugly weight-lifting faces too as I struggle to complete that last curl or shoulder press. That means I’m challenging myself!

I then proceeded to spend 10am to 8pm at my usual summer hot-spot, Pinebrook. It was AMAZING. I drank Whole Foods iced coffee, spent girl time with Kim, read Elle (surprisingly great selection of articles that go beyond fashion, by the way), and took occasional dips to cool off. Around the late afternoon the Florida crew as well as my usual pals showed up and we had a fantastic evening of food and wine.

I was definitely struggling with feeling guilty both during and after the event, though. I doubled up on dessert (how could I not have both my mom’s famous banana pudding, a healthified recipe too, and red velvet cake?!) and did a lot of munching on various dips and chips/crackers. Sometimes it feels like all these “indulgent days” are piling up and happening ALL the time! To de-stress when I got home, I listened to my beloved NPR and colored with Sharpies in a coloring book that I like to keep on hand for these exact occasions. It really helps to relax me and quiet my mind! And I had an amazing time – that’s the bottom line.

I don’t really feel like writing much more, so I’m just going to leave you with a few photos from a wine dinner I attended awhile back at CW’s Chops n Catch. Their next event is this coming Monday, so let’s just call these anticipatory photos!

Deviled eggs served on their classic wooden Manchester map cutting board.

Estancia Chardonnay – a favorite brand of Jenny’s!

Parmesan-crusted local asparagus, Stonington sea scallops, shaved Cato Corner (of Colchester, CT) Vivace

Always-amazing garlic knot.

Roasted chicken pho, poached eggs, udon noodles, scallion, mint.

Pho garnishes.

With the main course – crispy sliced duck breast; apple, sweet potato, duck bacon hash; brown sugar mostrada.

Georgia peach cobbler! With Royal vanilla bean ice cream, streusel topping, and almond tuile. Served with Prosecco.

What’d you do for the 4th? Eat anything amazing? Any great workouts?

Which of the plates showcased above looks best to you?

Glastonbury Rotary Club Lobster Fest 2012!

I went to bed at midnight on Saturday. If you know me, then you know this is a big deal. The last time I was up past midnight was the night of a trip to Mohegan Sun with my friends. So, what occasion had me awake past my usual 10PM bedtime? None other than an event I have looked forward to every year since I first started attending a few years ago, the Glastonbury Rotary Club’s Lobster Fest.

Outfit for the Evening:

Necklace, Bracelet: Charlotte Russe

Watch: Fossil

Top: Ahh! I don’t know! It’s my sister’s 😀

Jeans, Belt: American Eagle

Shoes: Forever 21 (Heather borrowed them when she visited!)

I spy…a floating lobster!

Every June, citizens of Glastonbury and surrounding towns gather under a huge tent with their own snacks, desserts, and drinks. Tickets are $50 apiece and will get you a meal of corn on the cob, salad, a roll, and lobster or steak. Steamers are also available.

My dad’s tray, which I so lovingly waited in line for 😉

The lines for food this year were the longest I’d ever seen! It had been cloudy earlier in the day, but thankfully it cleared right up and, for the first time in a few years, the Fest didn’t end up getting rained on later in the evening!

I got an exclusive behind-the-scenes peek at the Rotary Club volunteers in dinner prep mode!

Prepping those steamers.

Plenty of water for lobster cooking.

Now that’s a grill!

The table of lobster “crackers” was definitely the most intense work station. These folks weren’t stopping for anything! And I could see why – the pressure was on with the huge food lines, which were wrapping around in a couple “layers” of people at the busiest point.

Maria is the tweeter behind @GlastRotaryClub!

She’s also QUITE the lobster cracker.

Each group of ticket holders was assigned to one of the tables under this HUGE tent!

Our family friend Mrs. Trett brought her famous guacamole, and my mom contributed her delicious black bean and pico de gallo salad.

Another couple at our table, the Peerys, brought my favorite food of the evening, a shrimp curry dip topped with crunchy cracker crumbs and almonds! It had a cream cheese base and the curry flavor made it so unique. All of that crunch was pure satisfaction.

For dessert, our table didn’t have a lot, but the below bowl of Cool Whip, blueberries, strawberries, and pound cake went fast! I skipped out though – I’d been eating fruit ALL day and was quite fruited out.

My beverage of choice was a bottle of wine I’d received from my intro package of reds from the Wall Street Journal Wine Club, called Saracosa Toscana 2009. I don’t usually dislike red wines, but I was just not a fan of this! It just tasted…blah. Nothing special, not dry, not robust, a weak body…someone ended up drinking it but it certainly wasn’t me. Luckily my mom had brought her standby favorite wine, Avalon Cabernet 2009, and was up for sharing it with me. With my dessert (a chocolate chip cookie and the top of a FABULOUS coconut rum cupcake), I also had a glass of Relax Riesling, one of the few sweet whites that I enjoy.

Showin’ off that Reeeeelax.

Some tables REALLY go all out with the food, drinks, and decorations. I saw light-up drink glasses, frosty dispensers filled with sangria, huge summer-themed balloons, and…tiki huts?

I made laps around the tent all night and ran into neighbors, high school classmates (it wasn’t as awkward as you’d think it’d be!), and…Olivia! Not a coincidence, I knew she’d be there, but we hung out periodically throughout the night and it was great to see her again. Side note, I’m obsessed with the dress she wore, only $22 from Nordstrom Rack!

Check out the flip flop balloon behind us!

I sit with my parents and our family friends every year (if you couldn’t already tell from my food descriptions), and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


And he loves me 🙂

In addition to loving this lovely mama of mine.

My favorite part of the Lobster Fest every year isn’t the food and drinks (I swear). No, it’s the DANCING! I haven’t had a place to go and dance like I did last night, just losing myself in amazing music, since graduating from college a year ago.

I spy my mom…

There were your hit or miss songs, but the DJ did a pretty good job. Every year at the Lobster Fest, attendees go crazy for the music and dancing, no matter what generation the dancer or the song is from. I LOVE IT! Seriously, I can’t get over how much fun this night was, I keep smiling to myself like an idiot whenever I think about it. I danced with both of my parents, Olivia and her boyfriend, and high school friends throughout the night.

You know there’s trouble when the kissy face comes out.

And the duck face!

Too busy dancing for focus!

May or may not have been glow stick raving occurring.

When my parents and I got in the car to head home, I could hardly believe my eyes. It was past 11PM! The amount of surprise I had over this just goes to show you what a grandma at heart I am. But I felt so full of energy and so, so happy! I’d had a stressful day previously and the Lobster Fest was just what I needed. Thanks to the Glastonbury Rotary Club for putting on the best Lobster Fest yet!

Have you ever attended an outdoor summer festival like this?

When was the last time you went all-out and had a night of crazy dancing?

How late do you stay up on weekend nights?

Blending at the Coventry Farmer’s Market

Check out fellow FitFluential Ambassador Tara‘s recent link-up of body weight workouts! It includes my hotel room workout 🙂 perfect for your summer vacations!

Color Me Rad Giveaway WINNERS!

Thank you those who participated in the giveaway for two free race entries to a Color Me Rad 5K! I received 38 total comment “entries”, and used a random number generator to pick the two winners:

Congratulations to Valerie and Angela! Please email me at caitplusate@gmail.com so that I can send you your promo codes to use at checkout when you are registering for your race!

Now on to today’s post…

So you may read this post’s title and say…blending? Blending what?! Blending with my best blend, Heather! She came to visit me last weekend, and we had an amazing, fun-filled Sunday. It really turned out to be a fantastic time, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that it started pouring the rain when it was time for Heather to drive back to MA. The weather knew how I was feeling!

Matching shorts/dress colors were a total coincidence!

I took my flower child (she pulls off that look!) to her favorite Glastonbury spot, and one of mine, Daybreak Coffee Roasters! Last time Heather visited she fell in love with the local cafe, so a trip to get their coffee and blog AKA what I do many weekends was at the top of her list.

She selected Southern Pecan, made in the French press!

My usual coffee with a splash of steamed skim and sprinkle of cinnamon in a big old mug! I had the Creme Brulee, mm.

After a few hours of tech time and caffeinating (that should be a real verb) ourselves, we set off to a destination I’ve been dying to show Heather, the Coventry Farmers’ Market. This is by far the best farmers’ market I’ve EVER attended – and it must have been everyone else’s best as well, because we ended up waiting in traffic for about 30 minutes on the windy one-lane road leading to the parking area! Finally we found a spot on the side of the road and walked the remaining 1/2 mile…fine with us, it was a gorgeous day. A tip to any CT residents who want to attend – it starts at 11AM, but aim to arrive by 10:45AM at the LATEST!

Matching Oakley bags from the TIU Meet-Up to carry our stuff – pure coincidence!

One of my very first blog entries was actually about the products I found during my first trip to the Coventry Farmer’s Market! How funny – last time I went I was a new blogger, and now I have all these amazing experiences and new friends under my belt as a result of starting Cait Plus Ate. Who knows where I’ll be next time I go?!

BB takes pics and the crowd lines up at the Agave cart.

We were in heaven! The market was hoppin’ – it was opening day of the season after all.

Loved the wooden signs decorating the RIPE natural drink mixers booth. Unfortunately those were the names of mixers, not actual drinks.

There were many food carts! This cart even served up a tofu roll.

Heather enjoyed a fresh fruit smoothie from Raw YouNiverse, and I enjoyed a sample of their kale chips ($10 a bag though…)

The Fish Market is there each year with the freshest of seafood.

These stuffed breads sounded to die for!

Freshly baked pastries and loafs.

Gourmet truffles and coffee.

These nice folks from Norm’s Best let me sample marinated mushrooms, jalapeno jams, and award-winning BBQ sauces.

Loved the way these jams and jellies were packaged.

Sampled some amazing maple garlic salt (yup) and maple peanut brittle here.

Beautiful bottles of oils and vinegars!

Adorable tea packaging.

I’m such a salt fan that I had to pick up a tiny jar of smoked sea salts. Any new kind of salt is a must-try in my book! Can’t wait to try this on a meat or seafood from the grill.

Beeswax candles – they smelled amazing!

I purchased one the above votive beeswax candles from Swift Farm. The man working there gave Heather and I some very interesting info on candles. I burn them every morning and evening, and usually buy them from Bath & Body Works. Those are parafin candles. Apparently they are not only the most common, but also the most HARMFUL to the air. According to the Swift Farm rep, the second-best form of candle to burn is soy, but most are NOT non-GMO. That leaves us with the best kind to burn – 100% beeswax, completely natural. And they really do smell fantastic! I’m going to “burn through” the rest of my B&BW candles, but what he had to say was interesting and I’ll have to reconsider whether or not I want to purchase any more from there in the future.

I also bought a natural lip balm from Swift Farm. The ingredient list is amazing: almond oil, beeswax, cocoa butter, comfrey oil, vitamin E oil, and rosemary & peppermint essential oils. It feels so soft on my lips, smells great, and gives a slight, satisfying peppermint tingle. Crazy though how those with nut allergies would need to avoid this lip balm. I could easily forget about the almond oil and am worried I’m going to give some to a nut-allergic friend who asks to borrow some!

Pita pizza and the fated last tabbouleh!

Last year I visited Iffat, a hilarious, friendly man who runs the Lazizah Bakery in Yantic, CT. They are famous in the state for their falafel, but don’t sell it at the farmers’ market because Iffat would have to make it in Yantic and bring it to Coventry since the fryer isn’t portable. He’d rather NOT sell a lower quality version of his most famous product than make the money he could probably make if he sold pre-made falafel. I admire that!

Iffat was just as fun as he was last year, calling Heather and I “beautiful girls”, and answering my questions about the above herbed pita, which I purchased and made into a FAB shrimp pizza for dinner a few nights later with my mom.

 There was just one case of tabbouleh left, one of Heather and I’s favorite Mediterannean foods, so we decided it was fate that we split it!

It was impossible not to take the Strawberry Salsa and Dandelion Green & Carrot Top Pesto home with me!

I had told her all about Yummy Hummy, another booth that impressed me last year. We sadly arrived too late to get the carrot & ginger hummus we’d heard would be offered (of course, it was sold out!) but there were still some unique products left that I snatched immediately – strawberry salsa and dandelion green & carrot top pesto!

Heather called this the best hummus she’s ever had – says a lot coming from someone who considers it a food group.

Heather purchased some hummus and swooned over it. Yummy Hummy is a great, humble company and they make so many unique hummus flavors! Others that I hope to find at a farmers’ market to purchase someday: spicy sesame, lemon cilantro, summer squash & curry, beets & scallions, pumpkin spice, acorn squash & black pepper, and MOJITO!


Last season I purchased dill pickle chips from Christine’s Country Kitchen, so I knew I wanted to try to get different selections this time around. Plus I’ve only grown MORE adventurous with food in the last year, so it makes sense that I ended up expanding outside of my pickled horizons. Of course I selected a jar of garlic pickles first, but I followed it up with sugar-free pickled beets and sweet & spicy mustard! I’ve been rocking the pickles and beets in my salads…I still don’t think I enjoy eating beets alone, but am now at the point that I’m loving them in my salads. I’m a mustard fanatic and sampled many at this booth, but ended up choosing the sweet & spicy.

The most touching moment of the day came courtesy of Shayna B’s Gluten-Free Bakery. All their treats are also VEGAN, which was great news for Heather, who had not had the best of luck at the farmers’ market finding baked goods or any breads that fit the vegan bill.

Quinoa, bunt cakes, and strawberry tarts.

We started chatting with the owner and she was so kind and appreciative of our passion and desire for healthy, natural, wholesome food. We each received a sample of the Wendy Bites, in the bottom row of the picture below, made with fantastic vegan and gluten-free-friendly ingredients like garbanzo bean flour. A nut-free version without the almonds was even available, though I have to admit the bites I had with the almonds were the best ones 🙂 Heather decided to buy a package of Wendy Bites, and when we came up 50 cents short, they let us purchase the Wendies anyway! We couldn’t believe how kind the folks of Shayna B’s were and could tell that they really, really just wanted their treats to reach as many happy people as possible.

Fresh vegan and gluten-free granola and Wendy’s Bites.

After visiting Shayna’s we decided we’d spent enough of our life savings for one day. My bag sure was heavy!

SOOO much loot. Shoulder raisin’ it!

On our way back to the car we remembered that there were BABY ANIMALS at the market that day! We passed them at the entrance and stopped for some playtime.

Making the same face as this llama, inadvertently.

The kind of picture that could get me on a most wanted list.

Self-taken Caitlin and a llama photo fail.

I wanted to take him home with me!

Just a goat on a leash!

He kept trying to eat my shorts!

He really wanted to eat my Forever21 rose ring!

A little more success taking self-taken photos with the goat.

See, I’ve been known to rock the poses with farm animals before. Behold, my last trip to the Central Park Petting Zoo…

Come on alpaca, didn’t you get the kissy face memo?

Photo-bombing this sheep pic.

After I was done making a fool of myself, we walked back to the car and went to West Hartford’s quaint Blueback Square, another CT gem I wanted Heather to visit, to meet up with our girl Jenny. I met her through Heather and am so grateful – she rocks and we’ve already become fast friends.

We snagged iced tea from the Green Tea House and took it outside to enjoy the last rays of sunshine before the impending downpour.

The blend I selected – not as good as the Banana Split/Monkey’s Chocolate combo from last time!

So fabulous to chat and sip with these girls. Great end to the day – actually, the day ended with Heather and I literally jumping into my car and closing the sunroof right as the downpour began, but you know. Good friends, good timing.

Babes in Blueback.

After Heather (sadly) departed, I laid out my farmers’ market finds and immediately started planning how I’d incorporate some into that evening’s dinner.

I topped a leftover salmon burger with the strawberry salsa, and my mom roasted up the zucchini and squash (I got a ton for just $3.50). OMG! An amazing, amazing meal. I was in heaven the whole time.

Capped off with a glass of rioja. Also had a turkey burger and beans.

What’s the best find you’ve gotten at a farmers’ market?

Farm animals…love ’em or hate ’em?

New Friends – One of Blogging’s Infinity Benefits

Please take a moment to vote for me (up to 10 times…a day…) in round one of the Hartford Courant 2012 Websters for CT’s Best Blogs! I’m nominated for Best Overall Blog, Best Health Blog, Best Food Blog, and Best Social Media Account! Thank you to those who nominated me, and voting for round one closes this Friday 3/30 at 11:59PM EST.

I have been feeling so grateful lately for the friends that this blog has brought me. I tried out Tisane on Monday night with a found-through-Twitter friend Olivia, and am going to Cuvee this Thursday for drinks with Amanda, who I met through Twitter after I started mentioning La Petite France on the blog (she does PR for them). I’ve hung out with Bethany several times, both at her adorable apartment and at some amazing Corey Wry restaurants in Manchester. This sounds cheesy, but it’s SO hard to meet new people after graduating college and starting work. My co-workers are great, but I work at a small company. I’ve met everyone – in fact, I met them all within my first week! And I am always up for meeting NEW people. The problem is that I can only meet so many at work, and even at class.

Salted edamame, edamame hummus, veggies, and wonton chips that Oliva and I enjoyed at Tisane!

I’ve met Jasper White, the founder and owner of a restaurant that I love, the Summer Shack. I’ve been shown the hottest spots in Boston by Ken of Pete & Gerry’s after finding out about their heirloom eggs and sampling custard that used them at the Mohegan Sun WineFest.

And of course on that Boston trip I also met Heather for the first time! She has proven to be a true friend (who shares my brain) and even came to stay with me a couple of weeks ago for an evening. I can’t wait to visit her next!

FitFluential Ambassadors ready for dinner – in lace tops, totally unplanned.

Lovely lady after our walk/run through my town. She adored my favorite cafe, Daybreak!

You can read Heather’s two recaps of our time together here and here!

Heather elected to sip on black Snickerdoodle coffee with her Wildflour vegan spinach and mushroom scone.

I went for coffee with a splash of steamed skim and a rosemary and caramelized onion scone that Heather’s manfriend, Matty, was nice enough to pick out for me!

Yup, definitely two peas in a pod. We couldn’t let our time together go by without getting our sweat on either! I reintroduced Heather to a machine she hadn’t done in awhile, my go-to StepMill.

Because taking phone pics in the gym is completely normal.

Another blogger I’ve found a lot in common with is Kelly B. of Cupcake Kelly’s! She and her family play music in and volunteer at the same Greek Festival that my best friend Lidia and I attend every single summer. She married into a Greek family and, just like me, adores their food (well, except the moussaka – Kelly, let’s work on that! ;-)) and especially their desserts (she is Cupcake Kelly after all).

Where am I going with this? Well, a Greek baptism took place in Kelly’s family, and she generously offered to send me some of the leftover Greek desserts from the baptismal celebrations! I was blown away by her generosity. It means so much to me when someone offers to do something for me that I know they understand I will appreciate. People being thoughtful just makes me happy 🙂

These photos don’t do the treats justice because they’re still in their labeled bags, but I wanted you all to see the names written out! Most of the desserts were new to me, which made me very psyched. The melomakarona (above left) tasted similar to gingerbread. I used good old Wikipedia to discover that it’s usually made with cinnamon, which explained the gingerbread-like taste! The kourabiethes (above right) were covered in powdered sugar! They’re made with almonds and even sometimes brandy 😉

I bet a lot of you are familiar with baklava, a very rich but very amazing dessert that is made with layers of filo pastry and chopped nuts. It’s often sweetened with honey, and even my ridiculously pickly little brother, who usually won’t even touch anything that looks the least bit interesting (that’s my wording, not his), really liked it. I shared some with my dad too, the newfound Greek food fan.

The cookie above tasted similar to shortbread cookies to me. More specifically, Girl Scout shortbread!

Yup, as you can see, I ‘m pretty damn lucky to have not only started this blog, but met so many amazing people as a result. I’m feeling particularly grateful for that today, so I wanted to share those feelings with all of you, and ask this:

What is an unexpected benefit that blogging or reading blogs has brought you?

Taste of the Nation New Haven: Sweets and Drinks

So continues my recap of Taste of the Nation: New Haven – check 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 🙂

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?

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!

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!


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 – this 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 😉 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?

A Long Overdue Reunion

I’m still enjoying my Florida vacation, but unfortunately today is our last day here! I’ll eventually be sharing my Florida food adventures with you guys, but for now I still need to share my holiday adventures too! This is definitely a good problem to have 🙂 too many good times!

Back when us “kids” were younger, my family and two other families we are close with, the Andersons and the Gerbers (they hosted us for Thanksgiving), used to get together for what we called Gerber-Anderson-Croswell parties.

Clearly a good time (see my mom at left).

After we started going off to college, these gatherings became sparse. The Andersons decided to take advantage of everyone being home for the holidays and host a long overdue reunion. Good times, food, and wine were aplenty!

The oldest Croswell, Anderson, and Gerber girls.

I honestly have no idea what kind of wine I was drinking. It was red and it was delicious! I had one glass before I got hungry.

My favorite wine partner, the mom.

 My family jokingly calls Mrs. Anderson “Monica Stewart” (her first name is Monica) because no one can keep a home, cook, and host a party like she can! Even as I was walking up the driveway (this shindig also conveniently took place down the street from me), I was greeted by quaint holiday pine, holly, and pine cones arranged in the flower box.

The inside of the house was no less well-decorated.

Molly actually is responsible for this arrangement (props, Molly).

I used to be notorious for going over to the Andersons’ and eating them out of house and home in middle/high school. But really, how could I not when they are always providing so much wonderful food?

Not exactly sure what that dip was, but it was so good. Went to town on those cucumbers.

Swedish meatballs, these were fantastic.

I pretty much died when I saw this cheese spread! And check out the dried fruit!

Amazing sweet and savory flatbread.

We didn’t make Mrs. Anderson do all the cooking, don’t worry! My mom contributed a delicious layered Mexican dip of fat-free refried black beans, guacamole, and pico de gallo, paired with Stop n Shop’s blue corn tortilla chips.

Managed to take this shot before people dug in!

Megan gives us an action shot.

Mrs. Gerber brought what I can only say is the best buffalo chicken dip I’ve ever had. There was so much chunky, fresh pulled chicken in this dip and the sauce was not overwhelming at all. A dip that doesn’t skip on the meat is my kind of dip. I would eat this with a spoon, all day.

We chatted, caught up, and joked as if no time at all had passed.  I love nights like this!

The boys were a little less chatty.

No one could wait very long to dive into dessert. Everyone contributed to an amazing spread.

Hershey Kiss PB cookies, chocolate chip cookie squares, and ginger snaps.

I had one of each of the first two cookies, and then half of a ginger snap. Mrs. Anderson’s cookie squares are a classic. I have been known to eat up to ten at family fiestas back in the day. This time I was able to reel it back a bit, but they were just as good as usual. The Hershey Kiss PB cookies are also one of my favorite cookies of all time!

For the sweet n' salty lovers!

Sugar cookies with icing and sprinkles.

Peppermint bark!

The chocolate covered saltines pictured on top of the photo above were OUT OF THIS WORLD. I nearly died after the first bite –  so so good for a salty n’ sweet junkie like me. I’m honestly not sure what those candies are at the bottom of the photo!

What a fantastic night. I had a great time! I had to pack for my various trips (recaps to come, I swear…) and go to work the next morning, so I headed home around 10 (past my bed time!) But I had a great time and loved reuniting with my old friends. It all felt so cozy and familiar!

Which of the featured foods in this post would you most want to try?