Tag Archives: farmer’s markets

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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Tuesday Treasures: Foodie Edition

I’m so happy that you all enjoyed my recap of the CT NOW Love Your Body 5K! Not only am I proud to have run it in less than 30 minutes, but I am still feeling inspired by the message behind the event. Being surrounded by so many others who share my passion for self love is pretty powerful.

I went to visit Heather a couple of weeks ago (you can read about some of our shenanigans on her blog) and came home with some amazing new memories created with her, her boyfriend Matty, and her best friend Raquel. But I also came home with far less money (lose) and a crapload of foodie treasures (win). Obviously I decided to share said treasures with you today just so I could use alliteration in this post title.

Of course whenever visiting Heather, we make it a point to visit Wildflour, a vegan bakery, cafe, and juice bar, while blogging in bliss. The vegan eats at this place are incredible and if you are ever in the Providence, RI area, I highly recommend passing on any of the restaurants by the mall and making the short drive to Pawtucket, RI to visit Wildflour (and the vegan restaurant next door, Garden Grille). Whenever I go there I leave with $30-$50 worth of goodies to take home and devour (as slowly as I can because I want it to last). This trip was no different. Here’s my haul:

  • a slice of whole wheat cheese-less butternut squash & broccoli flatbread
  • pineapple coconut jerky (YES)
  • raw garlic tomato kale chips (so far I’ve tried this flavor, garlic, and pizza…must try salt & vinegar and nacho still)
  • soba noodles with slaw (bottom left)
  • tofu tuna-style salad topped with carrots, served over greens (bottom right)

I threw MANY of these goodies into my lunch salad beasts and am in fact still working through the soba noodles (my first time having them and they are very interesting but it’s taking me awhile to use them since I’m not a huge noodle person). Pictured above is the entire container of the tofu “tuna” salad, thrown into a bowl and amped up with more greens and veggies. It was incredible!

I dreamed of dipping the pineapple coconut jerky into plain Chobani from the moment I purchased it, and that’s just what I did for a nighttime snack. However I was foolish to think the four pieces of jerky above would be enough with all that Chobani. I ended up polishing off the whole bag on that fine evening 🙂

The flatbread was a great carby option for me this past Saturday when my stomach wasn’t feeling well, and I enjoyed half the kale chips on the way home from Heather’s (great road trip snack) and half at work one day while at my desk typing away.

I’ve tried the Dino Smoothie (almond butter, banana, almond milk, spinach, kale, blueberry) at Wildflour before and though I ADORE it, I wanted to go for something new and had a mean green craving! So this time while blogging there I snacked on the Sillyantro (spinach, kale, parsley, cucumber, OJ, ginger). The ginger was just what my sensitive stomach  needed and the OJ was the perfect hint of fruit to balance out those greens. I wish a juice bar like this existed near me!

I always get a large black slow-pour coffee and vegan scone to keep me company as I blog with Heather, but they didn’t have my usual (spinach and mushroom) that day. No worries, another savory beauty awaited me…the above broccoli cheddar (vegan of course) scone. Holy moly! I always dip my scone in that heavenly coffee and was happy to try a new flavor.

Wildflour was also bustin’ out the free samples that day. I’m not a huge raspberry fan but the above gluten-free razberry cheesecake brownie sample rocked my world. The real star though was a sample of this beauty…

That seems like a steep price but I’d say it’s worth every penny. The above pumpkin cheesecake is made with tofu and Heather promised it’d make me swoon. My BB never breaks a promise!

The two of us also made a fun little trip to Whole Foods, where I happened upon a gem I’ve been anxiously awaiting to try since I first heard about it a month ago…the limited edition Cedar’s PUMPKIN SPICE HUMMUS! I also purchased two squeeze packs of Justin’s Honey and Vanilla Almond Butters – perfect for sampling these new-to-me flavors. Heather also gifted me with a jar of garlic-stuffed olives she had at her house, because she knows olive garlic (haaaaa).

I have been dipping many-a-vegetable into the hummus. So incredible. I love dipping savory food into a slightly-sweet dip. Last night I was even dipping chicken into it.

I was pretty proud of the below epic snack combo that I came up with at work one day last week. I peeled the banana, put vanilla almond butter on each bite, and topped it off a pretzel stick. Legendary! I just finished the vanilla yesterday and next up will be the honey AB.

Finally, Heather, Matty, and I ventured to Trader Joe’s right before I went home so that she could do some grocery shopping and I could shop for things I didn’t need.

  • BBQ Popped Potato Chips – SO MANY CHIPS IN A SERVING #win
  • Nacho Kale Chips – Only $4…the Wildflour bag I got was about $8. Just to give you an idea of how crazy this deal is.
  • Savory Thin Mini Edamame Crackers – These kinda remind me of rice crackers. We’ll see how they are!
  • Balela Middle Eastern Salad – All things Caitlin. Chickpeas, cilantro, tomatoes, black beans, and fabulous flavor. This stuff has made it into all my salads and I’ll be sad when it goes bye-bye.
  • Olive Tapenade – WOW I love olives and this has been great in my salads, on bread, on meat, you name it. Another sad face when this guy goes.
  • Hot & Sweet Mustard – I’ve heard so much about this gem from many favorite bloggers like Katie! I am a mustard fiend and am gonna bust this open when I finish my current jar.

And okay, I was in Massachusetts in the company of TJ’s wine. So much CHEAP wine. In CT, our grocery stores can’t sell wine (we only just got Sunday sales, talk about behind on the times). So I picked up the above three bottles of Charles Shaw (Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz) for $2.99 each and the Blue Fin 2011 Pinot Noir for $3.99. You may recall that I sampled the Cab recently and was super impressed. Can’t wait to give the Merlot and Shiraz a spin. Also had the Pinot Noir and wow, I sure can see why it was a whole dollar more expensive 😛 GREAT stuff and I don’t even usually like Pinot Noir (too light).

Mother-daughter wine glass sizes 🙂

FINALLY my last Tuesday treasure in foodie land is the below gem from my town’s farmers’ market. I spontaneously stopped by on Saturday after the 5K (notice my Team #AmazingMe tee!) since it’s right by my usual weekend study spot, Daybreak Coffee Roasters. Can you believe this guy was just $3?! He was in a bucket with a bunch of other smaller butternut squash that were the same price. NO brainer, I picked out the biggest squash in the pile! Just to make my girl Lisa proud of me. And apparently it was the last day of the market so good thing I stopped by! Hello fate.

Oh how I love a vegetable that’s bigger than my head.

My mom is away for the week but once she returns, we have big plans for this big squash. I hear that the skin tastes tres gross so does anyone have any tips on easy squash peeling-and-roasting? Who has some recipes I can try? I already know I want to do quesadillas but need more ideas because this is one big squash!

Which of my Wildflour goodies would you like to munch (or sip) on most?

What was your last gem of a find from Whole Foods and/or TJ’s?

Tell me about your most recent farmers’ market purchase!

Farm to Shaker: CT Bartender’s Challenge

You can check out parts one and two of my weekend with Heather visiting in case you missed them!

You may remember when I announced that I had been chosen to serve alongside the founders of Ripe (JD Altobello) and Onyx Moonshine (Adam von Gootkin) as a judge at the first Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market Farm-to-Shaker CT Bartender’s Challenge. There are really too many good things about this opportunity for me to gush about. The moment I was asked to take part in the event, I felt officially recognized as a knowledgeable source of information about my local area – and a source with good taste at that! It really validated all the hard work I’ve put into this blog, and also assured me that I am portraying an accurate version of myself each time I post. I am so enthusiastic and passionate about sampling interesting craft cocktails, and the fact that JD of Ripe knew this after only meeting me once (at Taste of the Nation) means my blog has been speaking the truth to its readers!

I’m also so happy that my parents and Heather were able to be present at an event that was so special to me! And every time I looked over at Heather chatting with my parents, I couldn’t help but smile. I just love seeing people I love getting along #sap. It particularly meant a lot to me that Heather came to the event and stuck it out the entire time, because while cocktails may be my thing and while she and I may get along famously, they certainly aren’t her thing as well and the food being served (by Morton’s!) was mostly not vegan-friendly!

Thanks BB!

Love ya, ‘rents!

I met up with my fellow judges before things got going, and was so happy to find that I’d ALSO be judging alongside a pretty amazing individual I met at the Mohegan Sun Wine FestSignature David, master mixologist! He frequently appears on FOX61 showing off his crazy concoctions.

David’s repping Onyx!

I’ve met Adam of Onyx at several events in the past! It was great to see him again and get to drink so many different cocktails with his wonderful, smooth moonshine.

He mixed up a very special blend for all the guests – Apple Cider Onyx Moonshine! Holy crap this was SO GOOD. And unlimited!

Heather and I were chatting with JD of Ripe and found out that he is a vegan! So when the watermelon, beet, and goat cheese salads over arugula came out, he was able to secure a cheeseless version for himself and Heather.

Vegan power – cheeseless salads! 😛

I also had the chance to work with the event’s emcee, Chion Wolf, of WNPR!I am a total NPR nerd – my addiction began after I graduated from college and started a job with a semi-lengthy commute. Now I listen even when I’m not in the car! In fact, playing NPR’s app on my iPhone and coloring in my bed are two activities that, combined, equal a number-one stress reliever for me. I was so happy to be able to share that with Chion at the event.

You can just tell from looking at her that she’s extremely cool.

And I’m so glad I did, because she was visibly touched to hear that fact and added that she doesn’t often get a chance to meet listeners and even sometimes forgets when in the studio that there are people out there listening. Well Chion, I know that I and many others are listening with great attention!

Sneaky shot – I love her style!

To hear her introducing me as a judge – and reading out loud my blog’s “sidebar” description, felt so epic!


Each competitor from an area CT restaurant would need to use in his/her cocktail the Onyx Moonshine, Ripe juice mix, and two of the many secret ingredients from the day’s farmers’ market that JD had picked out.

Everyone’s favorite ingredients!

The ingredients spread!

Some were pretty typical (strawberries), and some were downright weird(brown cucumbers? tomatoes that looked like plums?)

That orange/tan thing is a cucumber!

Local honey…bitter melon…hot peppers…oh, and apples.

The winner was to receive this shaker trophy!

The competition got rolling so that we could find out who that winner would be! The competitors were listed for the event attendees, who were to submit their favorite drink at the end on a ballot so that we judges could take the Peoples’ Choice vote into consideration.

Competitors from the following restaurants (in order of above list): Morton’s, Max’s Oyster Bar, Zula, Firebox, Pond House Grille. I’ve been to every one!

First up, we had Suzanne of Morton’s (Hartford, CT) mixing up a cocktail of raspberry, peaches, and sugar muddled into a combo of Onyx and Ripe’s Pure-Squeezed Agave Punch. She shook it all up and added a splash of club soda.

I could tell just from the ingredient list that the drink would likely be too sweet for my sugar-sensitive taste buds, and I was right. While my mom enjoyed it (she doesn’t like any kick in her cocktails), I craved something more unique and was disappointed that Suzanne chose two very “normal” secret ingredients – raspberries and peaches. However, I still love that she incorporated muddled fresh fruit into her beverage and the presentation of the full-size version was flawless!

While Suzanne’s away, her drink will stay! 🙂

I totally loved the next cocktail, and that’s not just because it was prepared by Chef Scott Miller, Exec Chef of Max’s Oyster Bar and the maestro that prepared a gorgeous meal for Jeff, me, and many others at the Max Chef to Farm Tomato, Tomato dinner a couple of weeks ago.

Scott mixing it up.

A mason jar was an appropriate choice in which to display the full-size version of Millers’ Muddle Maple Moonshine cocktail, which consisted of maple syrup, Onyx, Ripe’s Agave Lemon Sour, blueberries, lemon, club soda, and a splash of beet juice!

Scott and his creation.

I’ve gotta give Scott props for not sacrificing taste for convenience. He was muddling blueberries into EACH sampler cup for each audience member, instead of muddling them and the syrup together in a big batch and pouring the results into all the cups. That’s dedication!

Syrup waiting to be joined by blueberries in sampler cups.

The drink was pretty incredible. I was worried that the syrup would make the drink too sweet for me again, but the use of a sour Ripe mix balanced out the syrup’s sweetness perfectly. I also like the sour added by the fresh lemon. And of course, the unexpected choice of beet juice as an ingredient totally impressed me. It was meant to add color to the cocktail, but also added a special something in the flavor department.

 Next up we had Albana of Zula, whose current cold inspired her to choose the soothing ingredients honey and cinnamon cloves to her cocktail, as well as fresh lemon! Mixed with the Onyx and Ripe’s Agave Margarita mix, and combined with a very careful presentation, Albana’s cold certainly ended up leading to a great drink.

Another participant who wasn’t going to let hard work get in the way of presenting a pretty drink!

Mmm. Calming and the cinnamon added a hint of autumn! The other judges loved it too. This was gonna be tough…

Albana and her creation! You can’t tell she has a cold!

The judges before taking their first sips of a drink!

I was way excited to see what Samantha of Firebox would have up her sleeve because I once had one of the best Manhattans EVER there! It’s a farm-to-table restaurant and its chefs and bartenders are very used to working with only the most local, fresh ingredients.

Strikin’ a pose!

Though simply presented, Samantha’s beverage tasted great enough to stand out among the competitors! True to Firebox form, she didn’t need many ingredients to make something great – just Onyx, Ripe’s Mojito Mix, and fresh ginger-peach iced tea. I commend her for the way she used her chosen local ingredients!

Finally, Michael of Pond House Grille added a touch of science to his cocktail submission! Pond House uses liquid nitrogen in its restaurant as part of the presentation of some menu items. They view food and drink as works of art – hey, me too!

Michael and his smokin’ drink.

He muddled cilantro, Anaheim peppers, and fresh lemon into Onyx and Ripe’s San Marzano Bloody Mary Mix. Oh, and a splash of liquid nitrogen – NBD.

We judges were fearful of taking our first sips because we didn’t want to get “burned” by the liquid nitrogen’s extremely cold temperature!

Adam illustrates his fear.

Intense discussion.

I ended up enjoying the Bloody Mary and its pepper-y kick. I also appreciated the addition of the lemon juice. However other than the presentation, it wasn’t set apart from other Bloody Marys I’ve had in the past.

Whooooo will win?

The judges huddled outside to deliberate while the crowd submitted its votes for Peoples’ Choice.

A clearly intense conversation.

The crowd inside the beautiful new barn which served as the competition’s location.

Don’t worry, the judges and the members of the crowd were still coherent enough to accurately critique the cocktails, since they’d paired them with food from Morton’s!

The previously mentioned watermelon, beet, goat cheese salads. My mom’s favorite part!

Oh. Em. Gee. Melt-in-your-mouth filets read for assembly onto sliders.

Morton’s Executive Chef himself did the grilling!

My dad practically dive-bombed the filet slider platter!

Chocolate mousse cups – didn’t have a chance to grab one!

After hearing the Peoples’ Choice pick and considering our own opinions, the judges arrived at a decision on the winner. But he was MIA! JD and I knew where he was though, and nabbed a golf cart to go grab him.

It’d been forever since I’d taken a ride in a golf cart!

Our winner was actually across the way cooking up a dinner for over 100 people. Yup, it was Chef Scott Miller, and he was working on the Nathan Hale Homestead Chef to Farm dinner! Luckily we were able to “drag” him back over to the barn to accept his shaker trophy.

Scott and the event sponsors JD and Adam.

A well-deserved win for Chef Miller! And you can re-create his winning cocktail at home using the recipe below – or order it up yourself at Max’s Oyster Bar, because it’s going to be added to the cocktail menu! I hope it’s still served in the mason jar!

Miller’s Muddled Maple Moonshine (thanks Max Restaurant Group for the recipe!)


  • 1 Tbsp Connecticut Maple Syrup
  • 1 oz Native Blueberries
  • ½ Lemon, Squeezed
  • 1.5 oz Onyx Moonshine
  • .5 oz Ripe Agave Lemon Sour
  • .5  oz Club Soda
  • Splash of Beet Juice


  1. Muddle blueberries with maple syrup and freshly-squeezed lemon juice in a pint glass.
  2. Add Onyx Moonshine and Ripe Agave Lemon Sour mix.
  3. Add ice cubes and shake well.
  4. Pour into mason jar, splash with club soda and beet juice.
  5. Garnish with 4 blueberries on a pick and a lemon wedge. Drink up!

The 1st Coventry Farmers’ Market Farm-to-Shaker CT Bartender’s Challenge was a great success, and all in attendance seemed to have an enjoyable time. Adam was even joking that we should call this contest a summer edition so that the wait before the next edition wouldn’t be too long! I’m all in favor – especially if I can judge again!

Thank you to the Coventry Farmers’ Market, Ripe, and Onyx Spirits for involving me in such a unique event. It was right up the Cait Plus Ate alley!

Have you ever been to a cocktail competition?

Which cocktail would you most want to try?

Has your blog ever brought you any exciting local opportunities?

Weekend With My BB – Part Two

I’d like to take a moment to remember those who lost their lives and all those affected by 9/11. I cannot believe it’s been 11 years since that day in 7th grade when I came home from school to see the TV in my house displaying the day’s horrifying images. May we never forget!

Note: If you missed part one of my weekend with Heather visiting, you can check it out here!

I just love taking people places that are special to me. There’s nothing better. I’ve been wanting to bring Heather to Rooftop 120 for awhile now. It’s an all-seasons rooftop bar in my town (the all-seasons part is made possible by sliding glass doors that turn the rooftop from an outdoor bar to indoor in moments). They serve up unique food and drinks in a classy atmosphere. When I’m there, I don’t feel like I’m in Connecticut. I feel as if I’m in NYC or Vegas! I also have a favorite bartender there, Andres, who always treats me, any friends I bring in, and also my parents when they visit the bar (whether I’m there or not) SO well. I could go on forever – and hope to do a Rooftop 120 post one day that shares ALL the food and drink I’ve tried there. I did a post previously, but there’s so much MORE I’ve experienced since then that needs to be seen! For now I’ll just have to stick with sharing my night there with Heather. We had an incredible time!

Before we left.

My outfit was not very classy rooftop bar, but I was also super comfortable and it felt gross outside (humid, rain, etc). So I rocked the hippie shorts/tee, messy boho braid, and Birkenstocks on the rooftop. #sorrynotsorry

After being attacked with bobby pins by Heather 😛

I was thrilled to see Andres and we parked ourselves in seats at his side of the bar! I asked him if he had any interesting hard liquor to throw my way and boy did he ever.

Stoli Hot – ole!

I was a bit wary at first of the above Stoli Hot Jalapeno Vodka, especially since I am still getting accustomed to spicy food. Heather couldn’t even believe that I’d try it. But Andres fixed me a nice sample in a shot glass lined with sugar! The beverage itself had the vodka mixed with lime and white cran. I actually enjoyed it, and ordered up a full size – but asked for less white cran, more vodka, and extra salt!

Fill ‘er up!

And Andres already has dreamed up another concoction for me to try next time…jalapeno vodka mixed with CUCUMBER vodka, with an extra salty rim, and some other stuff I unfortunately can’t remember right now. Whatever, it’ll happen.

Heather ordered up her fave, Pinot Grigio, which was served in Rooftop’s standard wine glass size – As Big As Your Head.

You can see another example of this here.

One drink each is all it takes for these girls. We sipped and savored slowly. By the end of the evening, lots of giggles were coming from our general area.

And lots of mooooaaaans over our amazing food! I wouldn’t have brought Heather to a restaurant that had no vegan options, and we feasted on roasted Brussels sprouts prepared with miso olive oil (instead of butter – Rooftop was very accommodating)  as well as a veggie platter with hummus and baba ganoush. 

Being the seafood lover that I am, I had to also order some tilapia ceviche. Complete with extra plantain chips on the side for us to share!


Our plan to get a good photo by Rooftop 120’s gorgeous multi-colored glass bottle wall didn’t quite pan out, but the effects were still pretty cool!

We headed home to do the obvious – watch more of “The Hills!” Then we both hit the hay at our nice bedtimes of 11PM-ish.

Love you!

I awoke on Sunday itching for a cardio and weight lifting lovefest! Heather was doing good to her bod pod (her trademark saying) and completed some stretching while I went to the gym and knocked out 35 minutes of spin and 25 minutes of abs and ARM DAY. I love lifting arms!

Wearing a matchy-matchy Reebok outfit. Obviously.

I got cleaned up after my sweaty workout and Heather and I went to – where else? – Daybreak to blog and try out more French pressed coffee flavors!

Mocha Butter Crunch for her.

Toasted Butternut for me!

Once we were caffeinated, blogged out, and fed our lunches, it was time to hit the road for the destination we experienced together on one of her last visits…the Coventry Farmers’ Market! I was ready to judge their Farm to Shaker Cocktail Competition after the market’s closing, but we were sure to get there before that so that we could spend lots of money. DUH.

Just a scarecrow in shades and a pumpkin bumpkin. That bushel of apples has a KNEE in it!

Heather and I made a beeline for one of our favorite CT vendors, Yummy Hummy! These folks were kind enough to not only set aside our desired unique hummus flavors for us to ensure that we would be able to purchase them before they sold out, but they also were offering $1 off Heather’s choice, Curry hummus, for their Facebook fans. It was our lucky day too since my frequency card with them filled up, so we got one hummus free!

LOVE the label 😀

I opted for Pretty Beet and Honey Garlic hummus varieties. I can’t wait to sample them! I also decided to get a tub of Peach Basil Salsa, made with all CT ingredients. At $7 for the tub it was pretty pricey, but I’ve purchased other fruit salsas from Yummy Hummy before (strawberry and blueberry) and have NEVER been disappointed. Pleased to report that the case still holds! I had some of this with my dinner last night and it rocked my world!

After hearing Heather hadn’t tried their plain Pico de Gallo yet, she was gifted with a free sample to bring home. So very kind of Lexy and Ian, Yummy Hummy’s founders, to take good care of their return customers!

And I even started a new frequency card when I bought my salsa, so obviously I’ll be back soon.

Thank you Yummy Hummy!

We also visited Shayna B’s and The Pickle, a local bakery of wheat/gluten-free vegan goodies! Last time Heather and I were both overwhelmed by the owner’s kindness when we met her at her booth. Heather was missing just a bit of cash to pay for a container of delectable Wendy Bites, and she was allowed to purchase them for what money she had on her!

Well, Shayna B’s astounded us again. First, they sold Heather the above coconut apple tart. The ingredient list was incredible, and just check out her reaction upon first bite.


That’s genuine, folks.

Just too good…

After seeing us admire the two pear ginger scones remaining, the staff of Shayna B’s offered to let us take them home for FREE! I just know it was because they could feel our enthusiasm and appreciation for the simple, pure baked goods they put out every single day. It’s great to share a passion with someone you’ve only just met, and know that they clearly acknowledge and are grateful for it! Can’t wait to tell you all how the scone is. I’m saving it for a special evening snack…or maybe two evening snacks to make it last longer. I have a feeling plain Chobani may be involved.

Dammit goat, stop eating.

And what’s a Coventry Farmers’ Market visit without photos of me being awkward with animals…and children?!

Thumbs up, it’s a goat!

Staring down this child. Back off my goat.

I also purchased three jarred items from Christine’s Country Kitchen, another favorite local vendor of mine, as they were finishing packing up. HUGE thanks to them for putting up with my annoying lateness and still selling me some full sour pickles, jalapeno mustard, and sugar-free (sweetened with STEVIA!) beets! Unfortunately half of the beets and their jar did not survive the car ride home, and I drove to work yesterday morning sniffing beet smell the whole time, but that’s the life of a local foodie!

The day was FAR from over, but my judging of the Farm to Shaker cocktail competition deserves a post all its own, and that’s what it’ll get. So I’ll leave you guys in suspense for now.

Do you have a special local restaurant where you are known and treated well by the staff as a “regular”?

What are your favorite items to pick up at the farmers’ market?

What’s the coolest hummus flavor you’ve ever encountered?

BIG News and Knoshbox Giveaway!

Don’t forget to check out yesterday’s post if you’re a CT resident – it contains some special instructions about how to possibly get into the VIP portion of Cuvee‘s 3rd Anniversary Party in West Hartford next Thursday 8/30!

Before I get into today’s review and giveaway, I have big news for you guys that I’ve been holding off on sharing until after I  was done recapping the 2012 Healthy Living Summit. On Monday I was contacted by Ripe, a local company that makes 100% natural drink mixer juices. They, along with Onyx Moonshine (another favorite local company of mine) and Morton’s of Hartford, are sponsoring a Farm-to-Shaker Bartender Challenge at my favorite CT farmer’s market, the Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market, on Sunday 9/9 at 2:30PM. Area mixologists will be asked to use ingredients from the day’s farmers’ market offerings to make unique cocktail creations. Adding a local twist to fancy beverages?! This has ME written all over it!

And Ripe thought so too, because the reason I was approached on Monday was so they could ask me to be a JUDGE at this event! I enthusiastically, immediately accepted the “job”. I am not only excited to get a chance to sample all these cocktails, but beyond honored and pleased that my blog has accurately portrayed my passion for the most out-there, skillfully crafted, and simply tasty cocktails. The fact that I was thought of as a good person to judge this kind of event means that I am doing a good job of being ME when I publish posts! And after having just tuned into the “I Am the Blogger in Your Neighborhood” session at HLS and feeling encouraged and reassured about my involvement as a CT blogger, this is only further proof that I am on the right path!

My BB Heather just so HAPPENS to be visiting that weekend too (this keeps getting better) so she will be able to join my parents in watching me judge – and take photos/videos to show you all!!!

Knoshbox Review & Giveaway

Now let’s get into the goods. As in, good for you guys!

My friend Richard has utilized his local food expertise and started Knoshbox, a monthly subscription service that delivers local treasures to foodies nationwide. There are other food sample subscription services out there, but Knoshbox differs in a couple of ways.

Firstly, the products Richard selects to send out each month are not produced by “big business” by any means. Knoshbox recipients can rest assured that the food they’re receiving is coming from sources such as start-up ventures or farms.

So simple and classy!

Secondly, Richard is not sending subscribers sample items. Instead, he sends out full-size items so that foodies have plenty to enjoy. Also, farms or start-ups might not already be producing sample sizes, so I think it makes sense and is considerate of the producers to not restrict Knoshbox items to those that come in sample sizes only.

I was so excited when Richard sent me the company’s first box and even included a note explaining just how fresh the box’s contents were. The words “a few days ago”…”this past Friday”…”first bounty of the season”…totally stood out to me and made me all the more excited to see what was inside.

No, I’m just kidding, the box did NOT only include packing “potpourri”. But I thought it was way fun.

Like my do?

But seriously, my Knoshbox contained a variety of high-quality foodie treasures.

  • Ashlawn Farm Coffee: This bold blend contains fair trade and organic beans! I haven’t had a chance to use it yet since I typically don’t drink coffee I make at home, but my mom is excited to try it. The only reason she hasn’t yet is because the bag came with whole coffee beans instead of ground. This was a bit inconvenient, but I also understand it was necessary to preserve the freshness. I love that it came right from a farm in Lyme, CT. I’d love to visit their cafe sometime.
  • Zen Tara Tea: The Golden Meyer Lemon Black Tea is the perfect basic flavor, made with lemon peel and lemongrass. Zen Tara is a company based in Bethesda, MD.
  • Two Cousins Biscotti: You probably have seen me tweeting away about having this as a late-night snack with my beloved plain Chobani. An Italian couple in Clinton, CT makes this authentic, complexly flavored biscotti. It’s the perfect mix of sweet and savory and each bite was like a surprise because I didn’t know if I’d hit a cranberry, a pistachio, or an apricot. Any of the three was welcome! Love that satisfying crunch too.

  • Taza Chocolate: I raved about Taza when I tried their stone ground chocolate at CT Veg Fest and I’ll rave about it again here. Once again, plain Chobani provided an excellent place to mix in this salt and pepper dark chocolate. Such a rich flavor and the difference between Taza and other dark chocolate brands is totally noticeable. I was so excited to see it in the Knoshbox.
  • Full Bloom Apiaries: It doesn’t get more legit than honey straight from those that do it best, like this apiary in Franklin, CT. I have to admit I don’t use honey often but would love to find some baked good recipes to incorporate this into.

Me and ma honey 😉

All of these items and those that appear in any Knoshbox are available for purchase on the site’s Market. Your next question, I’m sure, is “How much will this cost me?” You can guess that with full-size local products, the price point of a Knoshbox is not as low as the $10/month I was paying for my Birchboxes. However for $30/month, you can get your own Knoshbox without having to pay shipping. And if you aren’t sure whether or not you want to commit, you can order just one box (with shipping) – that would even make a great gift, since Richard shares on the website ahead of time what kind of goods will be in the upcoming month’s box! For example, September will bring the Wine Trail Box with goodies like Vermont wheat crackers and Portland, Oregan chorizo – perfect for the wino on your gift list (*cough*)

My nighttime routine (for four nights since I had four biscotti) was having the biscotti crumbled in plain Chobani while I read my book!

One lucky Cait Plus Ate reader will WIN that September Wine Trail Box! Giveaway is open to US residents only (except Alaska and Hawaii) and will close Saturday night at 11:59PM ET. The winner will be announced Sunday. There are several ways to enter, and make sure you leave a comment for each:

  1. Head to the Knoshbox Market and comment telling me which local treasure you’d most want to try (mandatory).
  2. Follow me on Twitter and comment saying you did.
  3. Follow Knoshbox on Twitter and comment saying you did.
  4. Tweet “I entered to win a @Knoshbox full of local foods from @CaitPlusAte! http://wp.me/p1SfTW-1nX” and comment with the link to the tweet.
  5. Follow me on Pinterest and comment saying you did.
  6. Follow Knoshbox on Pinterest and repin something from there. Comment with the link to the repin.

Good luck to all!

Taste of New Haven: Westville

I often find that Sunday afternoons bring about a lull in which I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. It’s too early to start getting ready for the next day (lunch packing, outfit organizing, etc) but I’ve already been doing HW for a few hours and need to do something to unwind. That’s just one of the many reasons why I was so happy to find a Groupon for Taste of New Haven, a company that hosts walking tours of different neighborhoods of New Haven and integrates food, culture, and history into a few delicious, interesting hours, starting at a local farmer’s market at Edgewood Park.

Rose's Berry Farm of Glastonbury and their apples

The particular neighborhood of Sunday’s tour, starting at noon, was Westville. I had never heard of this part of New Haven. All I think of when I hear “New Haven” is the downtown area – bars, pizza places, Urban Outfitters. This area was quaint, full of charming restaurants and walk-able streets, as well as cute, old houses. The farmer’s market itself was quite impressive! I was pleased to see that our first stop there was Glastonbury’s own Rose’s Berry Farm’s booth to sample apples. I don’t like apples, but I grabbed a Pink Lady for my mom!

Honey and maple syrup.

The next booth featured samples of real honey and maple syrup from Bodhichitta Farms. I had never had fresh, raw honey before – and I can’t say I was a fan! To each his own though – I LOVED the fresh maple syrup. I could really taste the difference between that and Aunt Jemima.

We were also able to sample dehydrated maitake mushrooms, which can be used in cooking. Their taste alone was very “earthy”, and of course they aren’t meant to be eaten alone, but were still interesting to try. I can definitely see them being good in recipes.

Pesto, feta pesto, and sundried tomato and roasted garlic spread, accompanied by both raw and pasteurized cheeses.

The award for Caitlin’s Favorite Farmer’s Market Booth (equivalent to the Oscar, as you know) goes to Sankow’s Beaver Brook Farm. They are advocates of the benefits of dairy products made from raw (unpasteurized) milk. I found it interesting that there are many local town laws in CT against the sale of raw dairy. In certain towns when they attend a farmer’s market, they are not allowed to sell their raw dairy goods. There definitely seem to be arguments out there over whether or not it is safe to drink or eat raw milk dairy.

The booth was my favorite because of the food itself, both raw and pasteurized. I thought both types of cheese tasted equally delicious, but the real winners in my book were the three dips in the above photo. If you read the caption, you will see they were made up of all foods that I LOVE (not like), so this was a given.

Next we heard from CitySeed, an organization looking to use local food to connect communities – something I can definitely get behind. After all, everyone eats, and food definitely has the ability to bring communities together. They are responsible for Westville’s farmer’s market, as well as others in the New Haven area. In the above photo, blogger Alexandra Grizas is holding what is actually the stalk that Brussels sprouts come from! Thanks to Christina, I had actually learned that a week prior to attending this event, but it was still cool to see what the veggie I ate for dinner last night (on any given night…) looks like before it hits the grocery stores.

I usually roast my Brussels, but Alexandra whipped up an amazing recipe which involved steaming them and mixing them in an herb dressing of Dijon mustard, EVOO, capers, lemon juice, mint, basil, oregano, and garlic! Oh yes, that happened, and it was insanely delicious.

Can you believe that at this point, we had not even begun the restaurant portion of the tour?!

Nate is noticeably absent from his chair!

Nate’s Naturals offered up some of the tastiest granola I’ve ever had. He has four varieties, all of which are made with no added sugar:

  • Granolus Rex: basic granola
  • Toasted Orchard: more fruity, very aromatic – Rachel sampled this one.
  • Declaration: heartiest, made with flax seeds and barley malt syrup – I went with this.
  • Crunchy Yankee: lightest and sweetest, though still naturally sweetened, blend
  • Happy Jack: pumpkin special
Nate also sold balls of his granola covered in chocolate (Cocoa Orchard) or white chocolate (Yankee Lace). I really like the name of that last one!
Ahhh bread. After sampling some landbrot (a wheat rye bread) from German bread bakers Whole G, pictured at right, I had to buy a loaf! I love both wheat and rye bread, and it’s very hard to find a combo of the two, especially baked fresh. I didn’t even know there existed a name for it! I was pleasantly surprised when the girl at the booth told me that it was a buy one, get one free day. So I made out like a bandit with another loaf – kalamata olive bread!

My final haul from the farmer's market.

We were done with the farmer’s market portion of the tour, and our tour guide, Colin, led us over to a cool little place called Lyric Hall. Colin is, in addition to being a culinary tour guide, a historian, architect, actor, author, and about a zillion other things. So, he was very prepared to help his friend John in restoring the old silent film theater, where events are still held today.

Colin showing off the stage – was unable to get a pic without a ghost arm.

What amazed me most about the place was that it really did look extremely old, and full of antiques, but everything in it was actually new and made (very effectively) to look old!

Definitely have this as my phone background.

It was nice to get not just food samples, but also samples of history in our own backyards.

Colin next led us to another room of Lyric Hall, where more samples awaited us!
Yay – more bread! He selected for us food from some of his favorite local places with the best quality products – sourdough from Bread and Chocolate of Hamden, and fresh mozzarella from Liuzzi of New Haven.
It had been so long since I’d had fresh mozzarella like this and it blew me away. So simple, but SO flavorful.
We left Lyric Hall and headed over to one of Colin’s go-to spots, Delaney’s. At this point I was glad we’d gotten such a gorgeous day for the tour!
Inside, I got a really chill vibe from Delaney’s, but I also wished I had come at a time when it was busier, because I have a feeling this place draws quite the crowds in the evening. They are, after all, famous for their beers – but still, brunch comes with a free drink! That’s pretty cool too.

Belgian ale, wheat ale, and double pumpkin ale.

We, and by that I mean Rachel only, were given three beers to try. I’m not a beer fan, so all three of these ended up going to her, which left her enjoying the second half of the tour more than the first half.

Harvest Salad

Our first course was a very tasty starter salad with grilled chicken, veggies, gorgonzola, walnuts, dried cranberries, and balsamic vinaigrette. That dressing was amazing – not too sweet (could’ve easily been with those cranberries in there), and the gorgonzola contrasted so well with it, as it usually does in these types of salads. The Harvest Salad was definitely not anything I haven’t seen before, but was high quality and tasty.

Pesto cream pasta with artichokes and tomatoes.

I never order pasta out (it’s not unique enough for me and I don’t think it’s ever any better than my mom’s), especially dishes with creamy sauces, so it was nice to get a small tasting portion of this heavier pasta. The size was perfectly satisfying because the sauce was so rich and flavorful. The artichokes were a delicious addition!

Two varying levels of sobriety.

Rachel might kill me for putting up this picture, but I think it’s cute and it was unfortunately one of our only ones together from the whole day! Oh, but our best pic together is yet to come…in the mean time, we strolled through Westville and got some more interesting history lessons from Colin about the buildings we passed on our way to our last stop, Manjares.

The moment I walked in, I was in love with the quaint, cafe feelings I was getting from this place. They serve a famous brunch on weekends, and open some nights of the week for tapas and drinks! Manjares is also known for its fresh-baked pastries.

Awkwardly posing with pastries is what I do best.

The food we tried here was easily my favorite of what I sampled all day – and I’m not just saying that because it was last on the tour!

Nice nails, Rachel!

Rachel and I drooled over the full menu and sipped on fresh Barrington’s coffee while waiting. Even Rachel, a chronic Dunkin drinker, enjoyed her cup black! And it has certainly been quite the fall of coffee sampling for me!

Looking so psyched.

Grilled cheese and Paglia pancake sandwiches.

Yes you heard me right – a pancake sandwich! The top sandwich on the plate is the Paglia, or a bacon egg and cheese between two homecooked pancakes. Oh. My. Goodness. The saltiness of the bacon and cheese was a match made in heaven for the slightly, but not overly, sweet pancake.

The grilled cheese was excellent too. One of my very favorite simple food pleasures is toasty multigrain bread. It gave the sandwich a super satisfying crunch, which contrasted well with the soft cheeses, avocado, and tomato on the inside. I have to say that the Paglia sandwich stole the show though, and I polished off what Rachel couldn’t finish of hers too.

Dessert was fabulous – my first experience with flan! And I’m so glad that first experience was with something authentic and homemade. I don’t think I could have chosen a better place to try it, and I really liked it a lot. Rachel said it reminded her of creme brulee, which I can definitely see. It reminded me more of a less-rich cheesecake. The sauce covering it was so good and made me think about the Peace Tree Desserts caramel sauce that I sampled at the Beltane Farms Cheese Fest!

I was bummed that our tour was over, but have already purchased my next Groupon for a tour of the Canal Quarter neighborhood of New Haven – can’t wait! It’s not until January, but Rachel will be joining me again and I already know we will be visiting the bar with the largest rum collection in the world. Who knew that was even in CT?! If you are interested, the Groupon is still on sale until the end of the day today (Wednesday), so pick one up if you are in the area!

We capped off our tour with a photo of a fabulous find outside Frio, the gelateria owned by Manjares.

What is this, a center for ants?

There were literally no normal sized benches out there!

Thank you, Taste of New Haven!

I had a great time and couldn’t think of a better way to spend that Sunday afternoon. Thanks to Colin and Taste of New Haven for showing me some of the many, many tastes that New Haven has to offer! It’s not just bars and pizza folks – though that stuff is good too!

Have you ever been on a culinary tour in any city?