Tag Archives: mojitos

FitFluential Hits Mohegan!

Blogging just continues to bring me new friends! Saturday night I had a long-awaited meetup with two fellow FitFluential Ambassadors, Samantha of Running and Cupcakes and Jennifer of Savor the Thyme. They’re both from RI and after we realized we were all a reasonable distance from Mohegan Sun Casino, we planned a get-together at a couple of the restaurants I interact with regularly on Twitter, Michael Jordan’s Steak House and Michael Jordan’s 23 Sport Cafe (I also like chatting with SolToro, where I ate on St. Patty’s day).

Before I hit the road!

Sweater: Urban Outfitters

Halter: Ann Taylor Loft

Jeggings: American Eagle

Boots: Payless

Watch: Fossil

I arrived first at Michael Jordan’s Steak House, a very good thing because I had an amazing drink menu to peruse! I finally decided on the French Mojito: Bacardi, mint, lime, prosecco, and St. Germain elderflower. 

It was so delicious, especially with the addition of the prosecco, but I was a little bummed out by the presentation! I was hoping for a sleeker glass at such a fancy place, with such pricey drinks. Taste is most important though, and they nailed that one.

Samantha and Jennifer arrived and the three of us hit it off immediately. We found so much that we all had in common – no surprise, right? Jennifer even used to be a manager at one of my favorite places I used to go to as a UConn student, Willimantic Brewery. Samantha and I share a skill too – a skill we like to call, how to go to the beach the right way. It was hilarious to bond over the fact that we both shake our heads at the people who show up at the beach in the summer at 11AM and are shocked that they can’t find a parking spot. Helloooo, we are there by 9AM! I could tell we were both raised near the beach (she in RI, me in FL).

Samantha and her drink!

Samantha’s drink’s presentation definitely trumped mine! She got the Caramel Apple Martini: Van Gogh Dutch caramel vodka, apple pucker, and caramel drizzle. As you can see, it came with a bonus cherry! She said it was really delicious.

Of course we had to tweet the above picture to our favorite lady Kelly Olexa! Our Twitter feeds were blowing up with #fitfluential love!

After several unsuccessful attempts to make reservations at already-booked restaurants, 23 Sport Cafe was kind enough to make an exception to their “no reservations” policy for us and set aside a table for three for our dinner. The gracious staff even put up with us being about 10 minutes late for said reservation. I can’t say enough good things about everyone we encountered at that restaurant – our waitress was really nice about taking pictures of the three of us!

Jennifer, me, and Samantha at our reserved table!

23 Sport Cafe also boasts a cool cocktail menu, but none of them were my thing AKA they all seemed too sweet.

Never fear – there is always wine! I of course had to choose one I’d never tried, Razor’s Edge Shiraz. It was wonderful!

Samantha recommended the Garlic “Go-Go” Bread with bleu cheese fondue (she’s dined at 23 Sport Cafe before). I wasn’t sure if I wanted any for fear of spoiling my dinner, but as soon as this tower of tastiness arrived, I was sold and had to have a couple pieces.

Oh YUM. Is there anything better than crispy bread? Why yes, there is – crispy bread in bleu cheese sauce. Jennifer the recipe expert tasted some of the sauce and she detected mostly cheddar, but I was sure to select two pieces of bread with the most bleu cheese crumbles! More bleu for my buck.

The appetizer steals the show in this photo. And Samantha’s 23oz Blue Moon!

Unfortunately Jennifer’s stomach was not feeling too good that evening, so she had to opt out of any adult beverages or heavier foods. Talk about bad timing! She played it safe for dinner and ordered the house salad with a side of mashed potatoes. When your stomach is off, something there is NOTHING better than potato!

No, that is not ice cream!

I was quite impressed by this house salad. At most restaurants it comes as a plate of dinky iceberg lettuce with one or two cucumber slices. But look at those greens and those tomatoes!

I immediately honed in on the Spinach Steak Salad listed above. Samantha and I wondered what tobacco onions were, but my question was answered as soon as I caught a glimpse of the plate.

Crispy onion straws! I didn’t finish all of them but the ones I had sure were excellent. So was the entire salad. The filet was cooked medium just as I asked for – nice and pink. I loved the red and yellow tomatoes. They tasted extremely fresh. It’s hard for me to be intrigued enough by a restaurant salad to actually order it, because I am spoiled by the ones I make at home, but this was a winner.

Samantha ordered a sandwich called the Tall Guy: open-faced prime rib steak on ciabatta with garlic aioli, lettuce, tomato, swiss cheese, and those tobacco onions. She opted for a side of sweet potato fries. Her meal looked so good and she confirmed – it was! Samantha doesn’t eat red meat often but she said she was glad she opted to with this dish. No regrets!

Jennifer gives her meal a photoshoot.

The three of us loved that we were able to take photos and tweet to our heart’s content without seeming like total weirdos! Dining with other bloggers felt like dining with “my own kind”, ha.

Come on salad, work it!

Overall it was an amazing evening. I loved meeting Samantha and Jennifer, even though it didn’t seem like we were meeting, just meeting up to hang out like girls who are already friends! Again, thank you to 23 Sport Cafe for being so accommodating and helping us out with getting a table!

Make sure to check out Jennifer’s recap of the evening on her blog too!

What did you do on Saturday night?

Do your dining companions ever call you out on doing “blogging activities” like tweeting or taking photos during meals?

Zafra Rum Bar – New Haven, CT

Remember nominations for Hartford Courant’s CT blog awards, the Websters, close this Wednesday 3/21!

Until I have time to blog about my visit with the amazing Heather of For the Love of Kale, check out her two posts on our endeavors 🙂 Today I bring you a fantastic restaurant review!

I have written about Zafra before, because I visited and discovered the restaurant while on a Taste of New Haven tour of the Canal Quarter area of New Haven, CT. This place is the first rum bar in Connecticut and also the largest rum bar in the United States, with choice of over 125 different rums!

Cocktails on the left, rums on the right, and the rum menu has a back too!

During my inaugural visit I was blown away by the hospitality of the staff, especially Ed Zynko, the bar manager. Last Saturday I took another trip to Zafra, and was treated just as well, if not better. Ed even reserved spots at the bar for my friends and I to ensure that he would be taking care of us and showing us a good time.

We certainly felt special!

I ordered us a round of Ed’s famous mojitos immediately – one cannot visit Zafra without trying a 10 Cane Mojito, honestly the best I have ever had.

Ain’t it pretty?

My companions for the evening were Joe and his brother, Chris, who I recently discovered is a fellow food, drink, and restaurant fanatic!

Joe and his mojito.

Me and Chris!

We perused the appetizers and decided to order a couple to share – the Cuban Dumplings and the Coconut Ceviche for 2.

When the menu said “beautifully arranged”, it was NOT kidding!

The Cuban Dumplings – inside of a coconut!

The dumplings were so yummy, especially with the inclusion of PICKLES, and the dipping sauce was tasty too. What a pretty arrangement!! These went VERY quickly between the three of us.

AAHHH! Look at that!

Yes, THAT is the Coconut Ceviche for 2. Oh goodness! You can’t tell from the photo, but it was even lit up from inside with a red light! The orange sauce on the wooden spoon was a chipotle sauce that was to DIE for, we had to ask for some more because Joe demolished it (he’s a condiment king). The seafood was amazing, just look at those HUGE shrimp, and the avocado paired with them was a nice touch. On the lower right you’ll see tostones, or green plantains, tucked into the white napkin. They were absolutely wonderful dipped in the chipotle sauce. I could have eaten a million more!

Chris was a big fan.

Time for another round of drinks – I learned about Ed’s famous and award-winning Caribbean Dream, made with egg whites, on the Taste of New Haven visit. It’s been called “vacation in a glass”, and though it is too sweet for my martini-loving taste buds, I knew Joe would be ALL about it.

He gets to work – this drink takes awhile to make.

Ed crafts a masterpiece.

The finished product, and a happy customer.

Just like I thought – Joe LOVED it! I did steal a sip or two 😉 and so did Chris, but his next drink was of the more dangerous variety.

Delicious, but indeed dangerous, the Jamaican Motherfucker (yup, that’s the name) has a bite to it that indicates that it’s one powerful beverage. Ed declared it to be the strongest drink on the menu. I helped Chris finish some of this. After all, didn’t want to leave him to handle it alone, right? 😀

Ed and his partner in crime working on drinks.

Doesn’t that sugar-rimmed martini look mighty tasty?

Ed prepares a Captain Jack Sparrow – notice the concentration.

Captain Jack (Pyrat Rum XO Reserve, pineapple, passion fruit, and lime juices, and blue curacao) is ready to be consumed, and Ed makes like a blur to go make the next drink.

Joe headed out for the evening, and Chris and I decided to order two entrees to share so that we could try as many things as possible. We did a bit of surf and a bit of turf. First up, the Lechon Asado: slow-roasted pork (marinated 24 hours), sauteed onions, white rice, black beans, a broiled yucca.

The pork was beyond excellent, Chris and I could not stop raving about it. The 24-hour marinading DEFINITELY makes a difference. I also adored the yucca. It was my first time having it! The black beans were very good (I’m a fanatic when it comes to those). I left the rice alone because I’m just not a rice person – so boring compared to the many other interesting, flavorful eats!

As for the surf, we went with Jumbo Diver Scallops: pan-seared scallops, black beans, and maduros (sweet plantains).

Again, I left the rice alone and the beans were yummy. The scallops were cooked very well, but I got a few crunchy bites – Chris guessed it was leftover sand? I’ve heard that it’s very difficult to get scallops completely cleaned of it. Not sure, but they were still nice and juicy and seasoned very well! I was all OVER the sweet plantains, I just love them.

If you’re a vegetarian and wish to visit Zafra, you’re in luck – there are plenty of options on the menu that you can still enjoy! Just check out the Latin Caprese below, made with fresh mozz, roasted red peppers, tomato, cilantro oil, and balsamic vinegar:

Zafra regular Colin, owner of Taste of New Haven, was kind enough to let me snap this photo of his meal.

Ed insisted that Chris and I try one of his favorite drinks to make, an espresso martini, AKA a java chip frap with alcohol! Well, we had to have dessert in some form, right?

He started by lining a martini glass with chocolate syrup – I already liked where this was going.

I could hardly wait to take the first sip!

Chris and I LOVED this. Four thumbs up total! Unfortunately we could not finish it because a) we were full and b) we both had to drive over 45 minutes to get to our respective homes.

We had an amazing time at Zafra and I couldn’t be happier about my new-found love for New Haven and its restaurant scene. Just goes to show you that you need to experience something before you can judge it – no longer do I think of this city as “shoot-em-up New Haven”. No, now I see it for the diverse, exciting hotspot that it is, with tons to offer in terms of food, drinks, sights, and history!

Thank you Ed, and all of Zafra’s staff, for a fun and delicious night!

Have you ever been to a rum bar or tried Cuban food and/or drinks?

Have you ever realized that you were judging something without experiencing it first? Once you experienced it, what was your take? Did your opinion change?

Mohegan Sun WineFest: The Drinks

So glad you guys enjoyed my recap of the food I munched on at the Mohegan Sun WineFest this past Sunday! Some of my favorite bloggers also attended, but on Saturday, so I didn’t have a chance to meet up with them and say hi. Bummer, but I wanted to share their recaps too:

You can also see my recap of the Oyster Open event here!

I also wanted to take a moment to first direct you back to my food recap so that you can read about my experience at the Pete & Gerry’s Organic Eggs booth. Their Events and Promotion Manager, Ken, was kind enough to drop me an email thanking me for sharing my opinions on their booth and custard – he is trying to get the recipe from Mohegan’s pastry and dessert chef, so keep your fingers crossed! Ken also provided me with the same flyers I picked up at the booth, in PDF format, to share with you all!

Even better? He shared COUPONS as well! Click here to access the PDF file (it’s intended to be printed on one sheet of paper, double-sided). Let me know if you try their eggs!

Onto what the Sun WineFest is all about in the end…the beverages! All drinks were included in my Grand Tasting ticket. Like I said Monday, Elliott of Sonoma Wine & Spirits helped me out by starring drinks I should make a priority, and highlighting those I absolutely had to try. It was SO helpful to go in with a plan because no one could EVER try every single offering!

I spy a must-see!

The first product I sampled was located right by the entrance, so I was attracted to the booth immediately since when I first walked in, I was quite hungry and the Connecticut-based company Peel had some amazing-sounding (and tasting, it turns out) liqueur flavors: cremoncello, bananacello, and limoncello.

The bananacello tasted just like dessert, but I actually enjoyed the limoncello way more because it had a lemon flavor that wasn’t so strong that it overpowered the taste of the alcohol. Call me weird but I like a drink that tastes strong, and lets the quality of the alcohol stand out. I hate getting a drink that’s so sweet and muddled with so many other flavors that I can’t even determine what it’s made with or how good the liquor is. The limoncello was really perfect and though it was smooth, it had a bite to it.

My parents are big fans of J. Lohr, it’s served by the restaurant my sister works at, and Elliott had marked several on my list, so I made that my first wine stop. I also picked up a recipe booklet (complete with suggested wine pairings, of course) that has yummy recipes in it like seafood penne with jalapeno pesto – wow! I sampled Falcon’s Perch Pinot Noir (2010) and October Night Chardonnay (2010), both of which were highlighted in pink! (Random comment: it is so cool how detailed winery websites are – I can find out anything I want to know about what I tasted! End comment.)

Thank you, James of J. Lohr, for taking my photo!

  • Falcon’s Perch Pinot Noir: Described online a “food friendly” wine, I really enjoyed this red. I love Pinot Noir and this one was nice and a bit oak-y. I can definitely see myself pairing this with a nice steak!
  • October Nigh Chardonnay: I could definitely taste the orange and lime notes noted on the website, though did not get the vanilla. It’s hard for me to really enjoy a white and this one was just pretty good to me.

I have a thing for pear cocktails, so I immediately selected Grey Goose‘s new flavor, La Poire AKA pear! Another side comment, their website is gorgeous. The vodka was excellent (of course, it’s Grey Goose). So smooth! I would LOVE to just have a simple martini made with their pear vodka. Maybe I’ll indulge sometime, but I’m usually too cheap for that 😛

Jim Beam had their booth set up just like a bar, with Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark cocktails all ready to go! I selected the strongest one, the Makers Mark Manhattan, because like I said, I like to taste the good stuff. So glad that I did! The drink was amazing and would certainly be easy to mix up at home. My dad is a big fan of Maker’s Mark and I bet he would like it! Father and daughter, sharin’ a Manhattan, how cute.

I definitely had the most fun at the above table, courtesy of Sassy Bitch Wines! I’m the one who marked this one on the list of wines – with a name like that, how could I not?! These Chilean wines are super affordable and were actually pretty darn good. I completely adore the packaging as well – I have a little obsession with creative wine labels. I sampled all three of their reds: Cabernet, Pinot Noir, and Merlot. Despite the lower price tag, these wines were all delicious and I can definitely see myself buying a bottle for a fun girl’s night – I’m thinking maybe when Rachel and I have our Grammy’s-watching party!

The reason I had so much fun with Sassy Bitch Wines is featured in the photo above – my fun temporary tattoo that I received from Master Mixologist Dave A. Brogan. We had a great time chatting and bonded over the fact that he has a blog too – take a second to check out his site because the Twitter icon at the bottom of his page is ADORABLE. And appropriate – you’ll see!

Around this time I ran into a co-worker and his friend, and the three of us decided to hang out for the rest of the WineFest and explore the wine and beer Elliott had marked on my list. I was glad to have some WineFest companions!

And some more yummy wines for your viewing…

Beringer Knights Vally Meritage Red not only had a really mysterious, dark, appealing package design that impressed me, but also an impressive flavor. At $35/bottle this was definitely a nice wine that I’m glad I got to try, because I am not usually buying bottles of wine at that price, or glasses of wine like that at restaurants.

Block Nine Pinot Noir was another bottle with an impressive label design and also impressive taste. I love Pinot Noir and Elliott was correct in recommending it to me. Block Nine only makes this variety but I’d be curious to see what other wines they will make in the future.

Longboard Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc was only OK – I’m not a white lover, but this wine was not good enough to make me enjoy whites either. I’d be curious as to how their reds taste, but Elliott did not mark them, and my tolerance can only handle so much – I couldn’t be trying wines that weren’t worth it!

The man working the Rombauer Vineyards table was so nice – we started chatting about balancing working out and eating right, and he said he wanted to give some of my workouts a try! If you are reading…go for it and tell me how it goes! 😉 He also had some yummy wines for us to sip on. the Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Select were really fun to try back-to-back because I could taste the higher quality in the Diamond Select vs. the regular. Lately I have been finding most Cabs to be too sweet compared to other reds, but the Diamond Select was nice and oak-y and I would love to sip on it some other time. I’m not sure how likely that is to happen seeing as it is $60/bottle (guess that’s why they call it Diamond) but it was exciting to be able to try a wine like that. The Zinfandel (a red zin!) was interesting, but I didn’t like it much. I’ve never had much luck with red Zinfandels – and I don’t even touch whites. I noticed on Rombauer’s website that they have a port – I LOVE port (I’m an old man) and would be dying to try that sometime.

I honestly saw Ferrari-Carano Vineyards on the list and assumed it was the car-maker trying to market wines. Jeff Gordon and Ed Hardy were giving out samples at this event – why wouldn’t Ferrari maybe be there too?! I thought twice about it after I saw that Elliott had starred a couple of their offerings for me. Suspicion confirmed – the vineyard is NOT associated with the car maker! Another confirmed fact – Ferrari-Carano wines are tasty! The Tresor (2007, a library wine!) and Siena (2009) were both delicious, and again, I could taste the price difference between the $58 Tresor bottle and the $25 Siena bottle.

Duckhorn Wines, my absolute favorite wine table of the day, had four of the best wines I tried – and one was even a white! I can’t believe I don’t have photos of the bottles – I’m kicking myself – but they honestly weren’t that pretty/unique so I guess that’s why. Doesn’t matter though, these tasted excellent. The Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir was highlighted in pink on my list, so I knew it was going to be good. Even with my high expectations, I loved it. Its $55 price point doesn’t even bias that opinion, because I literally just looked it up. Decoy, described on Twitter as “the everyday wine for the well-informed, accomplished an amazing feat – they created a Chardonnay that I liked more than their Pinot Noir. I’m telling you folks, pigs are flying. My co-worker and I were blown away by this white, and its price point is pretty good at $54 for a three-bottle pack! Finally, the Paraduxx Napa Valley Red Blend was really good, but it was also the last wine I tried at Duckhorn and by that point I was going less impressed because I just expected every one of their wines to be amazing. OK, have I said enough about Duckhorn yet?

Though not as good as Ed’s mojitos at Zafra, 10 Cane Rum can make a pretty good mojito. Needed more rum though, less lime! I really enjoyed their display though. I want a glass container filled with mint leaves in my house!

Though it certainly didn’t taste like wine at all, Cocoa di Vine’s Chocolate and Espresso Wines were FANTASTIC. I don’t think I could drink a whole glass without feeling very full, but damn, the Espresso flavor was so good.

We did eventually head up to the beer rooms, but even after sampling some of the kinds Elliott recommended, I still could not find a single beer I enjoyed. I’ll keep trying though! Carbonation hatred is just a very strong thing.

The Heavy Seas Beer Loose Cannon pictured above left was pretty good, but my nose was a-burning after a sip or two.

I was definitely more impressed with this cool duck tap than the Goose Island Honkers Ale and IPA.

After giving up on the beer rooms, we went back downstairs. I parted ways with my co-worker to cover the 8th Annual Oyster Open…that post is coming soon! To be continued…

Which of the beverages I sampled would you most like to try? Which do you know you’d HATE?

What do you think of Pete & Gerry’s? Any plan to use their coupons?

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?