Tag Archives: max restaurant group

The Most-Needed Trip Ever

Sorry that I’m so late to the game in announcing the winner of my Tuttorosso Tomatoes giveaway! The winner of the prize pack is Amy – thank you for entering and I will be reaching out about getting you your winnings!


It’s been a busy holiday season with no time to blog much…followed by a vacation during which I did not feel like blogging much. Sorry about that! Long-time readers already know that I go to Florida every Christmas season with my family. We use to split our time between my grandma and grandpa’s apartment and hotels, but now we have a condo of our own in the Palm Beach Gardens area.

My grandparents and I

Continue reading

MIMM: Summer’s Wine-ding Down

Remember to enter my Marshall’s Bishop’s Corner giveaway – you have until tomorrow night to do so!

Another Monday, another marvelous weekend behind me, and a low-key one at that! Well, low-key in the sense that no drives longer than 40 minutes occurred. That’s really all I can ask for, especially since this coming weekend I’ll be off to Boston (and will see this marvelous lady). I over-use this word but it’s all about balance…balancing my weekends away with weekends at home has been key to making it through this marvelous summer (I can literally feel in the air that it’s ending, ugh!) and focusing on how grateful I should be to have so much marvelous to even FEEL stressed over.

Inspired by Katie, a blogger who is SO good at seeing the marvelous!

Marvelous is…my beloved StepMill #39 getting fixed at my gym. Long story, but that machine is the only one of my gym’s four StepMills that I like to/can use. My solo cardio sessions have been nothing without it (running and elliptical are not for me). Friday night I REALLY needed kickass cardio before a dinner out and StepMill #39 was good as new and definitely kicked my ass.

Continue reading

Max A Mia Italian Wine Dinner

I continued last Monday 6/17 to check each Max Restaurant Group location off my list of restaurants-to-visit, and got to attend a five-course wine dinner at the same time. Two birds (one a quail…) were killed with one stone with my participation in the Marchesi di Barolo Italian Wine Dinner at Max A Mia, the restaurant group’s location in Avon, CT.


Packed house!

Though originally scheduled for the patio, the dinner was moved inside after both an overwhelming amount of people wanting to attend (I’m sure partially due to the very reasonable $68 price tag) and a storm that rolled through shortly before the 6:30PM start time. I was disappointed to arrive and find I would not be dining outside since the weather cleared right up after the storm, but unlike most restaurants, Max A Mia’s interior was not frigid and actually delightfully warm. I attended the event with my good friend Jeff and we were seated with two super-nice business partners and friends, Bob and Tim. I told them about this blog and gave them my card so in case they are reading this, hello Bob and Tim!

Continue reading

Birthday Dinner at Max Downtown

Thanks for putting up with my spotty blogging the last couple of weeks! I hope now that the pre-vacation work rush and during-vacation relaxation has passed, I will get back into my routine, including regular blogging!

I still have some Max Restaurant Group establishments to cross off my list, but I selected their ritziest, Max Downtown, for my 24th birthday celebration dinner. My birthday was on 3/22 and this dinner occurred the weekend before that, but vacation and a last MBA semester typically result in late recaps such as this post, so forgive me!


I (obviously) invited my parents to this special dinner, as well as my best friend Lidia! My dad was kind enough to me and my mom off while he ventured out to find downtown Hartford parking (hey, we were cold!) so I had some time to take some shots of the restaurant’s lovely interior while we waited.

Continue reading

Great Tastes at Top Nosh

Remember the Jewish Teen Learning Center charity event, Top Nosh, that I mentioned a couple weeks ago? Well that 18th birthday celebration for the Center was held last Wednesday 2/27, and it was the cherry on top of my February!


Continue reading

Vision, Brilliance, and Trumbull Kitchen

My best friend Lidia and I had tickets to go see The Connecticut Forum‘s Vision and Brilliance panel at the Bushnell for a couple of months, and finally the big night arrived this past Saturday. Here’s the event description, from the Forum’s website:

“This live, unscripted panel conversation brings together a diverse group of popular experts, each with their own unique field of study and view of the world. The Forum will be fast paced and surprising, as [the panelists] discuss their own work, and so much more… technology, science, design, new ideas, our changing world and possibilities for our future. Bring your sense of wonder to this conversation with big thinkers and visionary minds.”

The moderator and panel, ready to discuss vision and brilliance.

The moderator and panel, ready to discuss vision and brilliance.

Continue reading

Max Amore Monday

Happy Monday! Yes, happy. Let’s try to make it that way. I had a great weekend and a lot of marvelous things to share with you over the next couple of days. Let’s get down to it.

It’s no secret to regular readers that I am a huge fan of the restaurants of Max Restaurant Group. Two locations, Max Fish and Max Amore, are even in my hometown. Talk about convenient! But can you believe it – I had only been to Max Amore one time, back in June 2007, for my high school graduation dinner. And to be honest I don’t even count that visit, because I wasn’t a foodie and was still an extremely picky eater. I’m pretty sure I ordered pasta with butter. Maybe there was plain grilled chicken involved.

Continue reading

Max Chef to Farm: Tomato, Tomato at Rosedale Farms

Don’t forget to enter the Love With Food giveaway if you haven’t already – it ends tonight at 11:59PM EST!

The Max Restaurant Group of CT and MA is no stranger to putting on fabulous foodie events. I myself have attended a couple different ones at Max Fish in Glastonbury, CT. They’ve certainly outdone themselves with their Chef to Farm dinner series, though. Fodor’s Travel even declared the series to be one of the top five chef-to-farm dinner programs in the country.

This past Friday night, Jeff (he also accompanied me to the other two Max events I’ve been to) and I attended the Tomato, Tomato dinner, one of several that have been and will be held at Rosedale Farms & Vineyards in Simsbury, CT.

I was extra excited to go because I have been wanting to visit Rosedale Farms for awhile now since I’m a total wino. They are part of the CT Wine Trail and I even have a tasting Groupon that I still need to redeem.

A tent was set up with a tasting table underneath, and Jeff and I wasted no time in grabbing a glass of vino. Jeff chose the white, 2011 Simsbury Celebration (100% estate-grown Seyval Blanc), and I chose the Farmington River Red (California Petite Sirah). We are very predictable.

The Farmington River Red was wonderful! I love Petite Sirah. Jeff is still getting “used” to red wines and he really liked how smoothly it went down. I in turn am learning to enjoy whites and I was skeptical of the Seyval Blanc since I sometimes don’t enjoy other whites like Sauvignon Blanc, but I was actually pleasantly surprised. It seemed to me to be a refreshing balance between a Pinot Grigio and a Chardonnay.

HAD to get a John Deere pic!

Rosedale is truly a beautiful place. The evening sun cast a calming aura as it slowly set over the vineyard vines, flowers sprouted out of the ground almost everywhere I looked, and the barns’ exteriors displayed whimsical artwork (as seen in photos above).

While some patrons sipped their wine and enjoyed passed appetizers at tables adjacent to the wine tasting tent, others took rides around the farm in a tractor-pulled wagon with their glasses and snacks.

There were not quite enough tables set up for the pre-dinner fare, but Jeff and I made do and ended up sitting down with a really nice couple that so happened to be at our assigned dinner table later – funny how that works out! It also seemed that there was an abundance of certain appetizers (I must have been offered an oyster about a thousand times) being walked around by waitstaff, yet not enough of others (I had to eventually seek out waitresses carrying a couple of items and ask that they come by our table so that we could try those apps).

Stonington Red Shrimp Ceviche: Prudens Purple Tomato, Lemon Verbena

However no one went hungry (far from it) and the waitresses were friendly and responsive! Jeff and I did end up getting to sample each small taste during the reception. The presentations on some of the dishes, particularly the oysters, were beautiful.

Noank Oysters with Cherokee Tomato Black Pepper Mignonette

I am still stuck off-board the oyster train. I have tasted pretty much only expertly-prepared varieties, yet have never really enjoyed any of them! I give credit to myself for continuously trying but I don’t think I’m an oyster girl.

And I clearly can’t “smoothly” take an oyster shot.

Other appetizers were not as gallantly presented, but their tastes spoke for them plenty, like the below mini-BLTs. Crusty bread and juicy tomato made for a dynamite combination. The tomatoes were so very flavorful that I could’ve eaten these without the bacon. But of course, bacon makes everything better.

BLT with House Bacon, Hydro-Bibb Lettuce, and Heirloom Tomatoes

I was trying not to taste more than one of each appetizer since I wanted to save plenty of room for the upcoming multi-course dinner, but the one bite I made an exception for was the below grilled flatbread. After all, pizza is my favorite food.

Grilled Flatbread with Housemade Ricotta, Pesto, Basil, Confit Tomato

The ricotta, made in-house at Max’s Oyster Bar, was some of the freshest and most flavorful I’ve ever sampled. It was actually made WITH basil, which was subsequently strained out of the finished-product, explaining how strongly basil-flavored the flatbread was. To the naked eye it appeared to only have a few shaved pieces of basil providing that flavor, perched atop the rest of the fantastic ingredients. I happily had two slices.

Cato Corners Veal & Cheese Meatballs with Sungold Tomato Nage

I adored the presentation of the above veal meatballs, and adored their taste even MORE, thanks to the decision by Chef Scott Miller (Max Oyster Bar’s Exec Chef and the chef behind this dinner) to use both lamb and cheese fresh from Cato Corner Farm in Colchester, CT. The sungold tomato nage was not only made with tomatoes straight from Rosedale Farms, but with their white wine as well! As soon as I learned that, I knew I really wasn’t going to get a meal more local than this unless I literally went out to farms, purchased the ingredients, and prepared the dishes myself.

The jar on the left contains what I’ll call a Tomato Aioli.

The veggie crudites had been set up self-serve style on a beautifully decorated garden-themed table. The tomato aioli paired with them was fantastic! I grabbed one veg plate and one aioli plate for Jeff and I to share.

The wooden plates on the right fit extremely well with the evening’s farm-fresh theme, and were nice and light for easy carrying.

I was more than ready to chow down by the time the crowd was ushered through the vineyard’s aisles, abundant with perfect purple grapes. By this point Jeff and I had shared another glass of the Simsbury Celebration white wine.

The meal was literally being prepped before our very eyes, and long tables were set up under a white tent, giving attendees gorgeous views of the farm fields at sunset.

Chef Scott Miller and his team at work.

Plates at the ready for assembly.

View from my spot – head of the table! 😀

At each seat, a creative cocktail was already waiting – now that’s my kind of table setting!

The rest of the touches at each setting – linen napkins, mason jar centerpieces – weren’t too shabby either.

The cocktail, dubbed by its creator (Beverage Director Brian Mitchell) to be called the Mojitomato, was actually a twist on one of his favorite classic beverages, the gin and tonic. Yup, those are Rosedale Farm tomatoes floating in that mason jar (MASON JAR LOVE), which also contained herbs like basil and tarragon. And a salt-and-pepper rim was the perfect touch! My only regret is that I didn’t drink that guy faster since by the end of the evening it had become quite watered-down by the ice, but I refused to give it up each time the waitresses came around to collect glasses.

We were seated adjacent to the beverage station…I swear I didn’t plan that! 😛

Beverage Director Brian Mitchell got to work prepping the mini dessert cocktails very early on in the dinner.

Both the owner of Rosedale Farms & Vineyards and Chef Scott Miller welcomed the crowd before the amuse bouche was served. We learned that Rosedale goes back five generations, and produces six different wines. Chef Miller explained how his desire to know where his food comes from, and how much better he feels when he does know, have driven him to design and create these Max Chef to Farm Dinners.

I love when chefs jazz up a classic comfort dish like Chef Miller did with the amuse-bouche!

Brodetto of Heirloom Tomatoes with Cato Corners Farmstead Cheese Panini

Yeah yeah, I know, it’s a grilled cheese and tomato soup. And it was way better than mom used to make #sorrynotsorry

Feelin’ dainty!

See the leaf garnish on the plate? Jeff and I decided that it looked like a tree star from “Land Before Time”. Anybody? Well, it turns out that garnish was not a tree star, but a grape leaf from the vineyard! Straight from vine to Jeff’s palate!

So Little Foot.

The first wine served with the main meal was Rosedale Farms (all the wines were) Three Sisters made from 100% grapes grown in the Rosedale Vineyards (77% Cayuga, 23% Seyval Blanc again). The Cayuga grapes made this a sweeter white than the first we sampled, but I actually liked it more. It seemed closer to the Pinot Grigio end of the spectrum to me, and thanks to Heather, I’ve been becoming Pinot-obsessed.

Each time the waitstaff refilled the cute wooden bread boxes, they did so using a different variety of bread from Hartford Baking Company, the West Hartford cafe and bakery that I visited with Heather and Jenny last month. My carb cravings were in full swing at this dinner. I kept feeling like I needed some starch to absorb the alcohol in my stomach, since the meal’s courses were not very starch-heavy!

Tomato & Watermelon with Sankows Aged Feta, Basil, Olive Oil Powder, Spherical Olives

The above first course actually used both regular AND golden watermelon, which I had no idea even existed! That black olive on the plate isn’t your average olive at all, but an encapsulated version. Chef Scott Miller created something that looked and tasted like an olive, but was not an olive. Instead, he pureed kalamata olives and combined them with a mixture of xanthum gum (a popular smoothie addition in the blog world!) and calcium lactate. Then he bathed it all in a bath of water and sodium alginate. The result? The above encapsulated olive! So. Cool.

And the baby watermelons were cuties too!

The second course starred seafood, so I was so very excited! And not just any seafood…seafood that was harvested TWO days prior from Stonington, CT!

Little Neck Clams, Monkfish Fritter, Calamari with Lobster Broth, Porgi with EVOO

The monkfish fritter was definitely my favorite part of this dish, and the lobster broth was a close second. Mopping it up with thick, white Hartford Baking Co. bread (complete with an asiago cheese crust) was beyond words perfect.

The crowd under the tent later in the evening.

The wine paired with the seafood was appropriately another white, a Riesling called Serendipity. Just a touch sweeter than the Three Sisters, and I loved it. I have been Riesling-crazy this summer!

Grass-fed Beef with Sauce Choron & Torpedo Onion, Fried Green Tomatoes, Charred Corn Relish, Rosedale’s Ratatouille

Don’t worry, the above main course was served with a red wine, a pleasant pairing indeed. This food didn’t need any wine to make it taste good though. The beef was reddish-pink when I cut into it (just how I like it) and that sauce – ah! I could taste the freshness of the Rosedale Farms in the ratatouille and in the torpedo onion, which I would have loved even if it hadn’t been presented in such a cool fashion, with the widest rings on the bottom and gradually building to the thinnest on top. I have also been waiting to try fried green tomatoes for so long, and was glad to do so! However I’d say they were the least memorable part of the dish – I hoped I’d be able to taste the tomato, but the savory (albeit tasty) breading overpowered the veggie.  Maybe I got a thinner pair of tomatoes!

Cato Corners Cheese with Tomato Tarte Tatin

Forgive the photo above – it was taken with an iPhone using the most-hated FLASH! Instead of a cheese plate, Chef Miller took it one step further (though i was hoping for a good old fashioned plate of varied cheeses, I have to admit) and crafted the above small plate. The tomato flavor of the tarte was so very rich and paired excellently with the fresh Cato Corners cheese…and the red wine.

Tequila dessert cocktail!

We were informed of the proper way to drink to above dessert cocktail (El Jimador tequila, Ripe, chartreuse)…bite in the tomato, then sip it down! It was a delicious concoction and I love that Brian Mitchell used what he called a “saltier” tequila, because I love me some salt!

CTomato LN2 Gelato with Dark Chocolate Torte & Encapsulated Basil

Dessert was food science at its best because not only did we get more encapsulation action, but we also got tomato gelato, which was rock-hard when served. So rock-hard in fact that when Jeff tried to slice his scoop in half with his spoon, it squirted right off his plate and into the grass! Luckily he has a good foodie friend like me to split my scoop with him – though Chef Miller was kind enough to offer him a replacement scoop too! I adored the unique taste of the gelato, because its cold ice-cream-like texture screamed “sweet” to me, yet the flavor was shouting “savory”. The ensuing battle between the two made for a food experience that I’m sure cannot be easily replicated. The dark chocolate torte however, though the most traditional component, was certainly my favorite. So rich, so simple. It’s hard to beat chocolate!

Chef Scott Miller and I! What a view behind us!

Chef Scott Miller and Beverage Director Brian Mitchell were both kind enough to pop in at our table throughout the meal and answer any questions I had about what I was trying. I wouldn’t have been able to give you the details on the encapsulated olive, Mojitomato, and other tastes without their input, so thank you!

Breathtaking view from my seat.

At the end of the evening, the crowd applauded for the chef and his team, Rosedale Farms, and the attentive waitstaff. On the way out, each patron got a set of goodies to take home – bibb lettuce and tomatoes also fresh from Rosedale, and a bottle of Ripe Bar Juice‘s San Marzano Bloody Mary Mix! Score – I can see this coming in handy during TN football game parties this season!

Great job, team!

Showing off my goodies once I got home!

What a magical evening. Local food, good friends, fabulous drinks…it was the perfect evening for an everythingarian foodie like myself. Thank you, Max Restaurant Group!

If this post made you hungry for some Max Restaurant fare, you’re in luck – from 8/27-9/2, the Glastonbury locations Max AMore and Max Fish are celebrating Taste of the Suburbs East of the River with prix-fixe $20.12 menus. From 9/3-9/9, Max A Mia will be offering a $20.12 menu for Taste of the Suburbs Farmington Valley!

Have you ever been to a dinner on a farm or vineyard?

What’s the freshest farm-to-table meal you’ve ever had?

Which dish would you have wanted to try the most?

Max Fish Oysters & Willamette Wines

Around my area, Max Restaurant Group is king. Their eight independent restaurants are all extremely successful and known for some of the best-tasting food and highest-quality drinks in the state. MRG also puts on lots of foodie-and-wino-targeted events. Though I’ve only heard great things about what’s served, I also have noticed that most of the events have quite a price tag. So imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when I saw an event on the calendar for January that was only $35/person – the “2012 Oysters and…” tasting of oysters from Max Fish, one of the MRG restaurants specializing in seafood, and white wines from Willamette Valley Vineyards, brought by the founder of the vineyard himself, Jim Bernau.

A chef completing rapid setup between tastings – there were three times, and we came for the second!

My dining partners at this event were my go-to foodie guys, Jeff and Evan. In fact, I have another tasting we attended not-so-recently that I hope to recap this week, but that’s neither here nor there.

Both still and sparkling water were offered – fancy!

I was beyond pleasantly surprised to see Jim himself there representing Willamette Valley Vineyards, because I had actually met him the day before at the Sun WineFest! In fact, his Willamette Pinot Noir (yum) was my very last sip of alcohol of the day, right before I headed to the main stage to cover the Oyster Open. The WineFest, by the way, occurred the day before this oyster and white wine tasting, so I considered it an extension of my WineFest culinary adventure!

Bucket for oyster shells!

Oyster expert Kim Kockza taught us a lot about what we were about to eat, and continued to educate us about oysters as we slurped them down. So much goes into oyster farming! Southern oysters of the US take about 12-18 months to grow, whereas are some oysters grown around the world that take up to seven years. Oysters are often grown in a controlled environment to the size of a quarter, and then released into bodies of water so that they can nom on plankton all day and get nice and beefy for OUR consumption. They eat, then we eat, the circle of life!

When Evan tried to squeeze lemon onto his first oyster, Kim certainly gave him a talking to. She wouldn’t allow it! We had no sauces either – this event was all about tasting the oyster in its purest form.

Oysters taste different depending on what species they are, where they are farmed, the farmers’ methods, and more. I’m extremely inexperienced with oysters – in fact, this was my first time having them raw like this – but I could still tell that a difference existed between certain species. Some had subtle flavor variations that I preferred to others. However, all of the oysters (no matter what kind) had the unfortunate habit of shedding little pieces of shell that kept getting caught on my tongue and in my teeth!

All of the oysters we sampled at Max Fish were from British Columbia. Three species were paired with three different white wines. Another slightly adventurous event for me, since I am a red lover at heart (hearts are red, ha!), and I have been trying to explore whites and give them a chance. I did not like any of these whites as much as a red, but pairing them with the oysters was certainly fun!

  • Gigamoto oysters with 2009 Pinot Gris: I enjoyed the wine portion of this pairing more than the oysters. They tasted very, well, raw. The taste was a bit more harsh and in-your-face seafood (if that makes any sense) than I would have preferred. The Pinot Gris and its clean taste did pair well with them and each sip was a satisfying cleanse to the palate. These oysters, though, were not really for me.
  • Miyagi oysters with 2010 Riesling: These oysters definitely tasted better thanks to their creamier texture. Kim showed us that the oyster’s white belly could tip us off before even tasting it that creaminess would come into play here. At first sip, the Riesling was way too sweet for me (they usually are). However as I continued to pair the miyagi oysters with the wine, I enjoyed the Riesling more and more.
  • Pacific rim oysters with 2009 Chardonnay: I was not the biggest fan of the Chardonnay paired with these oysters. I’m not sure if it was the oysters, or the wine (it’s hard for me to like a Chardonnay) but I definitely preferred the other two whites to this wine. These oysters were more similar to the gigamotos to me (less creamy than the miyagis).

Jim is a great guy, so down-to-earth, and he gave us lots of good wine education while we slurped and sipped! Willamette Valley is in Oregan, and Jim has owned the land for 29 years. His key wine making principle is stewardship of the land, so anyone buying Willamette Valley wines can be confident that the beauty of the valley is preserved and the land is well cared for before, during, and after harvest.

Jim’s passion for his wines really shines through.

Our last portion of the tasting involved some oysters that had been “tinkered” with – in the best way! Instead of served raw, these were served with some tasty garnishes.

On the left are two oysters topped with a chard gilee and chives. On the right are two oysters topped with an apple-bacon relish! I liked those the most out of the two (kinda obvious, it’s bacon), but the chard gilee oysters were great as well, and both went well with some leftover Chardonnay I still had. In fact, I liked the Chardonnay a little more after I paired it with these beauties! I have to say, raw oysters are not exactly for me r. I don’t think I’d ever order them out, but when it comes to garnished or stuffed oysters, I’m game!

Evan and I took turns snapping photos of each other eating the oysters. I went with the shot-glass-method:

I think Jeff is judging me.

Evan went with the slurping method, and I hate to say it, but I think he wins this round. He looks fancy! Or like he’s making out with the oyster.

Before we left, the three of us had to get a photo with the lobster tank. Too bad we failed and stood directly in front of it.

Classy foodies forever!

After leaving, we proceeded to J. Gilbert’s to take advantage of a free appetizer FourSquare deal and oh yeah, split a bottle of wine. Then back to Max Fish for late night happy hour bites. Yes, it was a bit of a spontaneous Monday out, but we kept it both cheap and sophisticated.

Our free J. Gilbert’s Maytag bleu cheese chips, and red wine (not free)!

J. Gilbert’s bartender talked us into a bottle…

My Max Fish happy hour cheese plate (wine = cheese plate cravings, always).

Max Fish happy hour Thai Shrimp Toast. Jeff continues his hand modeling career.

Thanks to Max Fish for hosting a cool event and to Jim for sharing his wines with us!

How much experience do you have with oysters? What about white wines?