Tag Archives: red wine

Gerard Bertrand at Bistro du Midi

Thanks so much for your support in response to Wednesday’s post! I’m proud of how far I’ve come and your kind words mean the world to me. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, my readers rock.

Last Tuesday my new friend Jay treated me to dinner at a lovely restaurant called Bistro du Midi, located on Boylston (near Boston’s iconic Newbury Street). I met Jay at Wine Riot (through Jeannie), and we ran into each other again at the Nantucket Wine Festival. He works for Gerard Bertrand, a French wine company that I actually am already very familiar with! Upon meeting I informed Jay of my love for the Gerard Bertrand dessert wine called Banyuls, and also the fact that I was already an overall GB wines fan. He invited me out to a Boston restaurant that carries Gerard Bertrand wines so that we could talk all things wine, restaurants, food, events, and more.

Jay and I at Nantucket Wine Fest!

The two-floor restaurant has a bar on each level and the second floor has spectacular views of the Boston Common! Jay said that around Christmas time, a second floor seat makes for excellent cozy dining and viewing of lights. I’m not anxious for winter to return anytime soon though, and the green Boston Common view was pretty darn nice too.

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Last Hurrah at La Trattoria

La Trattoria provided me a complimentary glass of wine and my meal for this write-up. This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

La Trattoria (Canton, CT) contacted me about coming in to try out the menu and write a blog post about my experience. I truthfully had never heard of the restaurant before, so I did what I do best and started menu-stalking. I liked what I saw – lots of variety, and opportunity for healthy ordering (the restaurant partners with Snap Fitness in Avon to offer a menu of lighter options). So I accepted the offer and made plans to come in last Wednesday after a post-work Zumba class; the restaurant is located just over the Avon line, and my gym has a location in that town. Super convenient for a weeknight outing!

One of several dining areas inside the restaurant (there is also a nice outdoor patio).

One of several dining areas inside the restaurant (there is also a nice outdoor patio).

My menu-stalking also immediately gave me an idea of who to invite – my sister Hannah, who goes back to school this week. We needed a last hurrah, just the two of us, and she loves classic Italian food. I knew she’d be all about this trip! She was especially impressed when she did menu-stalking of her own and saw on the La Trattoria website that “If a favorite of yours doesn’t appear in the selections below just ask us and we will be happy to prepare it for you.” Talk about accommodating!

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Friday Flights at Esca!

Two of my foodie friends have started their own food blogs about their cooking creations! Devan has guest blogged for me before and she just started Devours by Devan Victoria. And Molly, my long-time best friend and neighbor, just started The Bite is Write. Make sure you read their blogs for drool-worthy foodgasmic photos and recipe ideas!

This past Friday night my mom and I hit up the Hartford Advocate Best of Hartford Readers’ Poll voting party at Esca Restaurant & Wine Bar in Middletown, CT. As part of the shindig, happy hour was extended until 8pm in the bar area. Interestingly enough, the bartender had no idea! However she was really nice about giving us the happy hour pricing on my mom’s $5 glass of Quattro Mani Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (2008). What a sizable glass!


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WIAW: Florida Vaca Eats!

Today is the last day to enter my giveaway for a copy of the Tone It Up Beach Babe DVD! Check out my thoughts on the post and enter if you are interested!

It’s time to do another notdailyeats take on Jen‘s What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW). I’ve already done that, and if I shared typical workday eats each WIAW, this blog would be Snoozeville, Population: ALL OF YOU.

After all, you’d much rather read/see a recap of the food & drink I enjoyed during my Christmas vacation to Florida, right? I thought so. I already shared my raw/vegan lunch experience at Christopher’s Kitchen with Brittany, and my apricot beer and TooJay’s takeout on Christmas Day, so start there if you haven’t seen those posts!

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Spicy Green Bean Makes a Mean Meal!

Remember to enter my giveaway for a pair of Sprigs Earbags before it ends tomorrow night!

We certainly live in a small world…I recently discovered that my friend Maria of the Glastonbury Rotary Club, who I met through blogging about events of theirs like the Lobster Fest, has a niece (Teresa) who just so happens to be an owner of The Spicy Green Bean here in town. She and her wife Kasha (the head chef) run this hole-in-the wall style restaurant/deli, which is open for lunch on weekdays, breakfast on weekends, and dinner Thursday-Saturday. The dinner menu changes every week, so it’s always fresh; it’s also called Kooky Konkoctions, so it’s always creative. Oh, and it’s always BYOB. This place has Caitlin written all over it!

I love the lights!

I actually have already been for dinner once before and had a great experience, but after Maria introduced me to Teresa on Facebook one day I offered to come in again so I could write a classic Cait Plus Ate restaurant review. Thankfully, Teresa and Kasha were open to having me – and my mom – for dinner this past Thursday night.

Just call her Vanna White!

We brought a bottle of Cameron Hughes Lot 258 Malbec (2010, Mendoza, Argentina).

Spicy Green Bean charges no cork fee!

Upon being seated in the adorable restaurant, my mom and I were served a special surprise from Kasha – her famous shortribs in a spicy BBQ sauce. My mom was hesitant to dig in at first – she does not normally join me on my adventurous foodie outings and while she is in love with her favorite foods, she isn’t used to trying new ones without someone to “reassure” her that she’ll like them. Well, I reassured her plenty.

Go Mom!

Mom loved these shortribs – and so did I! The meat practically fell off the bone and the BBQ sauce was the perfect amount of spicy. Yes my mouth was on fire after I finished my rib, but in a pleasant way, if that makes any sense.

Step one – be served amazing shortribs.

Second step…demolish.

Step three…no chance.

For our next “surprise”, my mom and I were served an app from the week’s dinner menu – Krazy Korean pancakes!

Asian-infused batter tossed with shrimp, crab, and tangy kimchi. Lightly fried and served with a soy rice vinegar sauce.

I had actually been dying to try this app but didn’t order it with my entree because I didn’t think I’d be able to finish both. So this sampler size portion was perfect! Again, the kimchi gave it a kick, but a fitting amount. I could definitely taste the shrimp and crab, so the dish certainly wasn’t too batter-dominated or overly fried. Some menus lie when they say dishes are “lightly fried”, but Spicy Green Bean is an Honest Abe…they cannot tell a lie!

Double fistin dishes!

I was savoring and enjoying each bite, a bit too slowly, because my entree’s starter salad came out before I knew it. And what a salad it was! I am always so very impressed by a restaurant that gives me a salad with some meat to it (only no actual meat..). Crispy sweet potato (I think) straws FTW! And the vinaigrette rocked!

My mom and I wanted to get in more veggies and go with some #plantPOWER-style sides, but there were not really many on the menu. No problem…Kasha kindly whipped us up a root veggie medley to go with each of our entrees. And let me tell you, it was one of the most wonderful veggie sides I have ever tasted! So much garlic, and wonderful EVOO.

DROOL. I miss it.

For her entree my mom chose a sandwich she got on her only other visit to the Spicy Green Bean; she loved it that much she had to have it again. She also shared some bites with me and I can see why! Behold the Bean’s veggie burger topped with pickles, tomato, lettuce, and red onions. With spicy brown mustard on the side of COURSE.

An interior with barely any filler, and a perfectly crisp, crunchy exterior.

I chose a seafood entree (duh): sole topped with spinach, with the sherried lemon butter on the side. The tomatoes also ended up coming on the side in the butter, but I picked them out and after dabbing off the excess, enjoyed them in all their red glory.

I do have to admit that I was a little put off by the fact that the sole came fried. I had asked our waitress at the start of the meal if it was a fried fish, and she told me it was not, just lightly sauteed. However it wasn’t really a big deal because I peeled off the fried portion and enjoyed the white, moist fish flesh within. It’s all good!

Cheers to family and food!

The Spicy Green Bean also caters and even does Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners! The order deadline for those has passed but my mom and I got a kick out of checking out the tasty (and quite affordable) menu. I wouldn’t mind having the Bean prepare my Turkey Day feast!

The walls are covered with locally made art by J. Silver Graphics. The originals on the walls are even for sale! Oh, and J. Silver does beer pong tables. You’re welcome for that info. Unique Christmas gift, holla!

The white boards on the right list the daily specials and soups. The selection of the latter sounded quite cozy and comforting!

Kasha offered us dessert (and even more foodie surprises…oof!) but my mom and I were too full and declined. We were overwhelmed by the kindness, genuine enthusiasm, and passion the Spicy Green Bean employees have for the restaurant, the menu, the people that come in…everything! I can’t recommend this restaurant enough and am so psyched to finally make it to a BYOB breakfast soon…thank you to Kasha, Teresa, Maria, and everyone else at the Spicy Green Bean who made my night out with my mom possible – and positively palatable!

Though I received a couple of samples during this meal free of charge, all thoughts and opinions are completely my own.

Which of the foodie features in this post would you most want to try?

Do you have any local “hole in the wall” style restaurants like this in your home town? How about BYOB?

Not-So-Tea-Infused Veggie Burgers

Don’t forget to enter the Mohegan Sun giveaway for an autographed copy of Real Housewives of New Jersey’s Teresa Giudice’s newest cookbook! If you live near the casino, you can even meet her to get your autograph. You have until tomorrow (Friday) night at 11:59PM EST.

I have a ridiculously packed, planned-in-advance calendar. I’ve actually been making a conscious effort to make LESS plans. But for now, the next couple months’ worth of weekends are chock-full of summer class, trips, and local events and outings that I’ve already scheduled, some as far back as February or March. This past Saturday evening’s girls night with Kim, for example, has been on my calendar for almost two months. Not a joke – that’s how long it took to find a Saturday night that worked for both of us! But we planned, we waited, and we (finally) cooked. It was time for another tea-infused cooking adventure with the Alice’s Tea Cup cookbook.

Oh…and vino.

This time, Kim and I decided to make the tea-infused Alice’s Veggie Burgers. The book has a recipe for both beef and veggie burgers, but the veggie variety sounded way more interesting! The tea to be used was supposed to be a variety called pu-erh, but we both had no idea what that was and Wikipedia didn’t offer any ideas for a comparative type, so we just used an earthy loose-leaf tea from Daybreak. Kim handled boiling the water in her cute tea pot and steeping the tea.

Kim probably has one of my favorite kitchens ever. I adore cooking there. And you guys know I don’t really cook.

Kitchen cuteness.

Kim finely diced some of the above garlic, along with five or six small mushrooms, and sauteed them in EVOO. I handled cracking two eggs to separate the whites (used in the burgers) from the yolks, microwaving and mashing the frozen cauliflower (awkwardly packaged in a bag that asked me to “massage” before heating and to not “penetrate” the bag in any way), and rinsing and draining the black eyed peas. I combined all of that in a bowl with sea salt and ground black pepper, instant oatmeal, the tea, and the sauteed mushrooms and garlic.

The recipe called for us to mix the above with our bare hands, but it seemed to us that this method would not produce a sticky-enough product. So, I took to the bowl’s contents with the “masher”. After a few minutes, I had a nice mushy combo that was ready for patty-forming.

Making the patties with our hands was way-fun, just like when we mixed our tea-infused berry scones with our hands!

We struggled at first to fit four patties onto the pan, but man we were getting hungry, so we managed to do it!

We had a bit of a fail when we realized the reason the patties weren’t searing on each side after six minutes, like the recipe said they would, was because we had the burner set on the lowest heat setting. We were finally cookin’ (ha) once we fixed that.

Each side got nice and crispy (burnt in some cases, but I dibsed those, I love carcinogens). We also melted some smoked cheddar on top, and Kim fixed some Alexia frozen sweet potato fries in the oven. I decided last-minute to chop up some veggies after spying some olive hummus in her fridge! I also threw arbitrary amounts of garlic powder and ground black pepper on the rest of the cauliflower so that I could mash it all together and add extra bulk to my burger.

When the burgers and fries were almost ready, we poured some Noble Vines 337 Cabernet Sauvignon that Kim’s dad picked out for us. It was a really good Cab Sauv! I often don’t prefer them because they are sometimes too light for my tastes and are more similar to Pinot Noirs. But this Cab had a Chianti-like dryness to it. Plus, a lighter red like a Cab definitely was OK for a meal with no meat involved. As soon as the wine was poured, we had to take domestic housewife pictures.

Do housewives often cook in workout gear?

Finallyyyyy everything was ready. Kim and I were chomping at the bit (didn’t even let the cheese melt on the burgers) but somehow managed to be patient enough to take a “proud table display” photo before diving in.

After taking this, we decided it was awkward to sit across from each other, and she moved next to me.

So how’d the burgers turn out? I’m not going to bother telling you the sweet potato fries were awesome – well OK, I guess I just did. Love Alexia’s frozen fries, especially with both Grey Poupon and French’s yellow mustard! Our veggie burgers didn’t taste tea-infused at ALL. We may as well have just saved the tea for drinking. I feel like the Alice’s cookbook recipe creators just threw tea in there to say the burgers were tea-infused. I’m not sure why it was included because I’m sure they tasted the burgers before selecting them for the cookbook. Maybe if we’d used the actual Pu-erh tea?

Multiply this plate by two. And the wine by three. 😉

However, the veggie burgers were amazing. They tasted so hearty and were extremely satisfying. This was my first time having black-eyed peas and I loved them! I’d definitely like to cook more with them in the future. The smoked cheddar was of a really high quality and was fun to pair with the wine (along with everything else).

Despite the presence of the aforementioned food and wine, the best part of the evening was hanging out with Kim. We shared the girliest of girl talk and watched “I Love the 90’s”. We learned new things about each other and deepened our friendship, cheesy (smoked cheddar cheesy) as it sounds. And it all happened over preparing and enjoying a meal together. It was truly an evening of enjoyment.

Have you ever cooked with black eyed peas? Any recipes to share?

What was the last girl’s night you had? Or boy’s night for my male readers 😉

Have you ever heard of and/or had pu-erh tea?

WIAW: Photo Dump Edition

A very special happy birthday to an inspiring friend, Meg! Happy birthday dear, you make me smile and feel stronger every time I read your blog/tweets!

Can you believe I’ve never done a What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW) post?! I always thought they had to be about a day of eats. In fact, at first I thought it could only be about a Wednesday of eats. But I’ve seen lots of creative ways to do it, including posts in which people just share yummy things they’ve been eating all week, not just from one day. Now that’s more my style!

So now thanks to Jen of Peas & Crayons, I give you the first Cait Plus Ate WIAW: The Photo Dump Edition.

Warm-Roasted Eggplant & Wonton “Napoleon” from Arugula in West Hartford, CT.

Arugula delivered one of the best falafel plates I’ve ever seen!

Duck confit & chorizo sausage flatbread from Arugula. It was to die for!

Brookline Sour at Barcelona Wine Bar in West Hartford, CT

Instagram version! This drink is made with rye whiskey.

Barcelona has amazing bread & olive oil! It was piping hot when it arrived.

Suckling pig with red chimichurri and local radishes with butter and sea salt at Barcelona Wine Bar. Aaaand I just realized that pig has numbers on it!

Rioja wine flight at Barcelona Wine Bar

Left to right: Finca San Martin, Villarica, Cerro Anon

Barcelona Wine Bar tapas: Chorizo with Sweet & Sour Figs (Balsamic-Sherry Glaze) and Coca del Dia (Feta, English Peas, Garlic Scape Pesto)

The Aviation

An at-home dinner (yes they exist): turkey burger with sweet & spicy mustard, bean medley, broc, burnt (on purpose) cornbread.

Another at-home dinner, literally the exact same thing, ha! With a side of Rioja.

For Meg!! The Kill Bill roll from Min Ghung in Glastonbury, CT: spicy tuna on the inside with eel, salmon, and avocado on the outside. Drizzled with Vietnamese Chili.

Min Ghung Sake Sampler: Peach, Snow Maiden, Pear.

Sonoma beer tasting!

Clearly still a beer lover work-in-progress.

Guacamole at Maria Bonitas by West Point.

Bartender there made me the BEST marg I’ve EVER had! Natural style, on the rocks, extra salt.

My mom agreed!

Maria Bonitas black bean soup – tasty but WAY filling!

This hole in the wall style place had the best ceviche I’ve ever had! With crab, shrimp, and octopus.

I’d be lying if I said I had any of this.

Bread from Torches on the Hudson in NY. Pretty good, nothing to write home about.

Bitter-Sweet Citrus Martini: citrus fruits muddled in Stoli, with St. Germaine

BBQ Salmon, Broccoli, Asparagus, Black Bean & Corn Salsa at Torches. HEAVENLY.

One of the most unique drinks ever. Vanilla Sage Crush: vanilla-infused tequila with fresh sage, honey, and lemon.

On the way to my friend’s West Point graduation with Starbucks in hand!

That is far from everything, but at least this Caitlin-style WIAW has given me a way to share many days’ worth of restaurant trips (with some home eats thrown in). Kinda ended up being a Wordess WIAW!

What looks best to you? I won’t make you choose one thing 😉

CW’s Chops ‘n Catch: 2fly Wine Dinner

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a free race entry to a Color Me Rad 5K – ends this Sunday 6/10 at 11:59PM EST!

I love my CW’s Chops ‘n Catch tasting dinners!!! I’m actually out of order here because I have yet to recap the last one I went to over a month ago, but this one was more impressive anyway (don’t worry, I’ll eventually share the other one as well) and also is special to me because the featured wines were from 2fly, a company owned by the former president of the pool club my family belongs to and a fellow Glastonbury resident, Chris Didden.

Tasting essentials – menu, 2fly’s wine makers, and wine tasting notes.

I attended the tasting with my foodie friend Jeff (he was at the BBQ Fest with me that weekend too), who has attended most of the other Chops n Catch dinners with me as well:

I was running low on time before the dinner, but still squeezed in the 20-minute HIIT the Beach workout from the Tone It Up Beach Babe DVD (signed copy #brag), followed by about 5 minutes of abs. A small workout is better than no workout at all folks, and that HIIT is efficient!

Duck spring rolls and local shitake, goat cheese, and spinach napoleons.

As usual we started with passed appetizers…

Better spring roll view, paired with a ginger soy miso sesame vinaigrette.

I was psyched to see the napoleons topped with such ginormous olives! The local shitake mushrooms AKA the bottom were the best layer. Such a meaty, hearty texture. I think I’m officially over my former mushroom aversion. The duck spring rolls were so, as Jeff put it, “duck-y”. I’ve never had duck meat in such a pure form, without any sauces, just letting its own flavor stand out. Of course I did try my second (and last) bite of my spring roll in the sesame vinaigrette, which was also delicious, and I came up with the genius idea to hoard the rest of the dressing for other courses. Our waiter got his hand slapped (kidding) when he tried to take it away.

2fly Chardonnay 2010

2fly sells wines from others, but they also have their own private label, which I’ve sampled before at Sonoma. The 2010 Chardonnay was given a nice, slightly sweet flavor from the soft citrus. That paired very well with the first course: spinach & local ricotta gnudi with artichoke tar tar and Parmesan broth. 

Served with a nice hunk o’ bread, drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

The broth and artichokes, in particular, were my favorite part of the dish to pair with the Chardonnay. The citrus contrasted well with the saltiness. The local ricotta was enjoyed mostly on its own or atop the bread, which sadly got soggy because it was served in the soup. Beautiful presentation, but I’d still prefer to have seen it served on the side since I’m such a crunch fan!

After the first course we were served the usual delicious CW’s garlic knots with a sweet and salty maple butter, which I wish had been more warm and soft for easy spreading! Still fantastic though. I preferred dipping my roll in both the sesame vinaigrette and the leftover Parmesan broth. Definitely the best broth I’d say I’ve ever tried – usually broth-based soups are so boring and blah to me.

I’ve been excited to try wine from the Gewurztraminer grape since CT Food and Wine recommended it to me on Twitter a few weeks ago. Even if it’s white wine, I’m excited to try it if it’s made from a new-to-me grape. I actually liked this guy! I really could taste the hints of lychee! And that makes sense, because the 2fly reps at the dinner told us this is a wine that pairs very well with most Asian dishes.

Korean glazed BBQ pork belly, dumpling croutons, plum dressing, daikon sprouts, mizuna, wasabi powder

I’m still getting used to even slightly spicy foods, so when I say the wasabi powder wasn’t even that spicy at all, you should believe me! I enjoyed coating the greens in it. The daikon sprouts were also very good dipped in that sesame vinaigrette from the passed apps – yes, we were STILL hoarding it at this point. The plum dressing on the mizuna greens wasn’t what I’d pictured (I guess I kept seeing a jam in my mind) but tasted SO perfect, really just the right amount. The croutons tasted like the exterior of a fried egg roll – mmm 🙂 of COURSE saving the pork belly for last, it was so so great, also good dipped in the vinaigrette. It really did feel completed by the Gewurztraminer.

One happy foodie/wino.

Jeff and I initially were torn between the two entree choices because one had a great main component and one had a to die for side component. Then I realized there was an easy solution – get one of each and share! As my sister would say, “Le duh.”

Gaucho-style skirt steak with Chimichurri, greens, and sweet potato/yucca/Manchego cheese gratin (the to die for side).

Swordfish au poivre (the great main component), greens, and roasted garlic/spinach smashed Yukon gold potatoes

Each dish was paired with a red wineConte Estate Gondola Grenache-Shiraz Blend for the steak and 2fly Shiraz for the fish. Now, I always drink red with my seafood, but that’s just because I’m a red wino. It’s often paired with whites. So I was pleased to see the swordfish with the Shiraz, but curious as to the reasoning behind the pairing. The 2fly rep called it one of the lightest Shirazes out there, and after taking one sip I immediately could see why it was served with the fish! Definitely light – I’d call this a Shiraz for someone who normally wouldn’t like Shiraz (and also one for those who do AKA me). I also liked the Grenache-Shiraz blend, definitely went better with the steak than the 2fly Shiraz would’ve.

The steak was nice and pink! It was great in the Chimichurri. The show was SO completely stolen by the gratin though…it should have been illegal. Or not, because then I wouldn’t have gotten to eat it. The sweet potato and Manchego combo – there are just no words!!! Everyone should try this side once in his or her life. I couldn’t get enough.

Agh! Sauce about to spill!

As I predicted when I saw the menu for this dinner, the potatoes were…potatoes. They were delicious but definitely the least unique part of the entire dinner. I’ve had way better mashed potatoes – I just feel like I could’ve easily recreated these at home, and I was not at CW’s to try that kind of stuff! However, the swordfish made up for that by being crusted in a perfect pepper portion (say that 3x fast!) that put the perfect kick into each bite. Jeff said it was the best cooked swordfish he’d EVER had! The sauce on this plate was OK, but reminded me a little too much of gravy. I felt like a great effort was made to pair the sauce with the potatoes, when I would have much rather tried a sauce that was selected with the swordfish in mind.

The 2fly guys at this dinner were so friendly, informative, and heavy-handed with the pouring (BIG fan). At some of these functions, the reps don’t really know when is an appropriate time to speak about and “sell” the wines, and when they should just leave the diners alone. These guys knew though! They even took the time to sit down with Jeff and I both during and after the dinner for chatting about food, wine, Connecticut, life…whatever it was, it was great fun (and a good way to wait things out and sober up a bit before driving home).

My second CW’s prize!

They even did a quick trivia giveaway for a bottle of the 2fly Shiraz – which I won! That makes my second big win at a CW’s tasting dinner!

I felt like I was being eased into different types of wines during this dinner. For example, during the entree I tried a Shiraz (an old favorite) and a Shiraz-Grenache (a blend of an old favorite and a new one). Then I was hit with the Grenache all on its own for the dessert course! I expected some kind of port (I was actually hoping for that) or an ice wine (I hate those, NOT hoping for it) and the Grenache was a surprise to be paired with dessert. However, it was a red wine, so nevertheless I enjoyed it. I think it was the most arbitrary pairing of the meal though.

Choc-covered cherries jubilee, local Royal vanilla bean ice cream.

The dessert was sooo good. I liked how it came out already melt-y, like a cheeries jubilee soup. They’ve used this local brand of ice cream, Royal, at other CW’s dinners and it gets me every time how GOOD their plain vanilla is. No wonder that was the only flavor of ice cream I’d eat until, oh I don’t know, age 12?

Don’t remember why Jeff was doing this. Many glasses of wine had been had by that point.

Like I mentioned before, Jeff and I stuck around after we paid the check ($45 each – SOOOO affordable for all the food and wine we received), and we were well-rewarded in several ways. One of the 2fly reps ended up gifting me a 2fly hat, which I gave to my dad!

Can you see the wine in my eyes? Ha.

Trying to look like a cute chick in a hat, not successful.

So then I got up to go to the bathroom, and on my way ran into the man, the myth, the legend – Corey Wry himself! 

A foodie idol!

I’ve spoken briefly with Corey before, but this time I got to really thank him for doing these tasting dinners at such an affordable price, and also for being accommodating to non-beer-drinkers like myself and offering wine pairings during his beer dinners. He even said I could pair the courses during the next beer dinner with different whiskeys and bourbon instead! Um, OK!

Didn’t plan the whole striped thing.

Jeff and I left with huge smiles on our faces! Thanks to Corey and CW’s Chops ‘n Catch for hosting another great event, and to 2fly Wines for creating such complimentary wine pairings for Corey’s food!

Have you ever tried Grenache or Gewurztraminer? 

Have you ever met one of your foodie idols?

Which course would you have enjoyed most? (Meg, don’t bother answering, I know it’s the swordfish.)

Rain Can’t Stop BBQ at Mohegan Sun

There’s a great discussion about preferences, use, opinions, and more regarding SOY PROTEIN in the comments of yesterday’s post. Don’t miss it!

Check out my pre-BBQ-fest post here for info on this event and my thoughts before attending!

I woke up on Saturday and was quite bummed to see that the weather was NOT cooperating for the outdoor Mohegan Sun BBQ Fest. I received an email notifying me that the start time was being delayed until 3PM, since the weather was calling for the rain to stop by late afternoon. All day long it kept pouring down, and I have to admit I was doubtful, but I still hit the road for the casino with my foodie-friend Jeff by my side. We planned to get a drink and play a little craps before the festivities began.

Anyone who has ever been to Mohegan Sun Casino is surely familiar with the gorgeous waterfall by Todd English’s Tuscany. We sat at the bar outside the waterfall and ordered unique cocktails from Tuscany’s drink menu, which I was very pleased with because I’d already stalked that menu online and knew it was right up my alley.

Jeff’s Black & Blue Mojito and my Pisco Pumelo

The cinnamon sea salt rim on the Pisco Pumelo called to me! I ordered it sans grapefruit juice, so it was just Pisco Porton, lime juice, and ginger-spiced syrup (which I sadly couldn’t taste at all). It was essentially like a margarita with a cinnamon kick. I loved it, so refreshing!

Jeff’s loved his Black & Blue Mojito: Malibu Black and Passion Fruit, Absolut Berry Acai, pomegranate juice, lime, and a TON of mint and blueberries. Seriously, there were so many left after he’d finished it, and we transferred them to my drink and “muddled” them into it with a straw, which gave it a nice addition!

After winning $15 on the craps table ($10 of which I turned over to Jeff to pay him back for my beverage), we went to get my media pass and Jeff’s will-call ticket. (Un)fortunately I found out Jeff didn’t need to buy a ticket in the first place because I got a guest pass too, but since I didn’t know that initially, and he’d already paid for his ticket, we just decided to see the silver lining – which was that we did get 8 extra food tickets out of it!

Ready to hit the fest with our passes!

As you can see I was proudly using my Oakley Women bag from the Tone It Up Meet ‘n Greet to carry my event-coverage-essentials!

Despite the rain, the crowds were lined up at the booths, both those from Mohegan Sun restaurants and those from outside vendors, to get in some tasty BBQ eats. Jeff and I wanted to peruse everything first before deciding where to spend our food tickets. We started out at the farmers’ market.

The nuts we sampled from The Nut Lady were super tasty, but we wanted to save room for BBQ and I wanted to save my money for another farmers’ market trip I had coming up!

Some of the market booths weren’t open yet because we arrived right at the 3PM start. That included this extremely sad-looking Italian ice cart…I thought the Porta-Potties made it look extra lonely, ha!

Around this time we received word that members of the media had a tent they could go to for eats, and some custom-mixed drinks (in exchange for some tickets). Yes, please! Especially nice since it was still drizzling off and on and the benches outside were slightly damp.

Seriously nearly died over how smooth and delicious our drinks turned out – made with a little ginger ale and Spiced Cinnamon Red Stag Whiskey by Jim Beam.

The food spread in the tent was pretty impressive!

Cheddar biscuits and cornbread.

Macaroni salad and potato salad.


Vinaigrette coleslaw.

RIBS – what we came for!

We felt pretty smug when we set up our plates and cups and chowed down in the media tent. It’s fun to be a media member 🙂

Me on the left, Jeff on the right.

The verdict? The biscuits were OK, but could have been crispier and warmer. I had the kinda-crunchy exterior but left the rest. Jeff said the cornbread was northern-style – sweet and soft. NOT a fan, glad I didn’t waste stomach space on that, I needed all I could get (you’ll see). My mom’s cornbread is perfect, so savory and I have it burnt to a crisp.

Obviously I loved the veggies, but I have to mention the vinaigrette coleslaw because it really stood out to me, especially since I had expected every booth’s coleslaw offering to be mayo-smothered. This coleslaw was light, fresh, and different than any other kind offered at the BBQ Fest. I legit could’ve had a whole plate of it!

Jeff and I agreed that the ribs were tasty, but not fall-off-the-bone impressive. I liked the sauce on them! But we had some more booths to attack…we surveyed the outside vendors and searched for the one with the cheapest sampler platter, which we ended up saving for last. I love the fun carnival vibe the outside vendor displays gave to the BBQ Fest!

I was psyched to see Tennessee BBQ represented at the event, complete with UT decor. GO VOLS!

You can barely see me! Even though I’m labeled “big”? Ha!

Eek – vegetarians/vegans may want to look away now! Jeff and I were jealous of those with access to the VIP tent, who were apparently the only ones who got the chance to sample the BBQ fresh off this roasted pig!

Something exactly like this is actually what I eat on Christmas Eve every year.

Proud lovers of all meat.

There was a special rib-cooking demo going on around this time!

We hit up the Mohegan Sun food and drink booths and their affordable offerings.

I just thought this packaging was kinda hilarious…and that is seriously a TON of munchkins.

Belvedere “skinny” iced tea and lemonade cocktails!

A healthy looking slider and nice display from Margaritaville.

Our first Mohegan munchie (Meg, do you love that alliteration?) came in the form of two fabulously flaky BBQ Spring Rolls from Michael Jordan’s 23 Sport Cafe. Only 1 ticket for 2 rolls, and there were 2 foodies present…perfect! And that green aioli they were served with? TO DIE FOR.

My drink co-modeling with the food.

The offerings at the below booth from the Mohegan Sun Banquet & Catering Team were so low-priced and so delicious looking. We simply could not pass up 2 of the 3…the Grilled Chilled Jumbo Shrimp and CT Oyster Poboy with Cucumber Slaw and Herb Aioli! I LOVE AIOLI (*cough* mayo *cough*)

My kind of prices!

This shrimp was lookin’ satisfying even in a plastic bag!

That is one gorgeous poboy!

Despite the fact that our tickets purchased three shrimp, the vendors noticed we were two people sharing them, and gave us four. Jeff was the one who pointed that out, and it really impressed me. All it takes is a little something like that to feel true appreciation! And it’s true that I had been wondering how splitting that third shrimpie would go for us #foodieproblems

1 shrimp, 2 shrimp, 3 shrimp, 4! Can you tell I was super enthusiastic about my drink? It keeps showing up.

The shrimp were really good! The cocktail sauce was…well, it was cocktail sauce. I preferred eating the shrimp on its own and enjoying the flavor.

De-tailing my shrimp.

Story behind the above photo…the first time I ever ordered shrimp at a restaurant (yes, I remember), I was at Catsup and Mustard with my boyfriend at the time as well as Jeff, who was there on his inaugural Corey Wry restaurant visit after I insisted that any real Hartford area foodie couldn’t be called a foodie until trying Catsup and Mustard (which has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives). Anyway, Jeff had to get a burger since that’s what they’re famous for, but I’d already tried them and ordered shrimp after recently discovering that I liked some seafood (I was still branching out). I proceeded to eat my first two shrimps off the skewer – including the tails. Joe and Jeff realized I was, well, crunching my shrimp and asked what the HECK I was doing. I was quite embarrassed when I found out I was supposed to remove the tail before eating it.

The Oakley Women bag and hairtie are honestly complete coincidences! Haha

But I knew what I was doing this time – see how psyched I look? I also realize that it took me way longer than it should have to tell that story above, but I was enjoying my path down memory lane 🙂

Jeff looking smug to be at Catsup and Mustard that day, I just realized he looks so different! Can’t believe this was over two years ago.

I’d just turned 21 and insisted ordering a margarita at every meal.

I’m also notorious for raising my eyebrows hardcore when I bite into anything. It’s a weird reflex, as if I think it’ll help get my mouth open wider (that’s what she said).

Not on purpose.

Other evidence of this habit…

Chillin’ with a wing at a Chops ‘n Catch beer dinner.

Apparently I even think raising my eyebrows will make me drink faster!

Clearly the habit was contagious to Jeff.

Raised brows or not, the poboy didn’t stand a chance. The oyster was so well fried, but not too much so that I couldn’t taste the seafood. The cucumber slaw added such a satisfying crunch to the fried exterior and the aioli was, again, dynamite.

Damage, done. Finally the drinks make their exit.

Next up, Jeff and I decided to split a brisket slider from Big Bubba’s BBQ and a spicy pork slider from Geno’s Fast Break. The brisket slider had some tasty meat but the bun was plain, white, and big, which is my usual beef (hardy-har) with sliders. I enjoyed the spicy pork slider much more because it was served on a nice flatbread with a soft, pita-like texture and also contained some crunchy, fresh veggie action.

Brisket on the left, spicy pork on the right.

We decided to take a food break (pacing is required at these kinds of events) and go to the main stage to watch the rib-eating contest!

The contest was headed up by an announcer dressed in his Southern best, including a fancy straw hat, which had its own hat box. We know because we spotted it in the media tent later!

Spotted: hat box.

Jeff liked the crazy high-energy of the announcer and thought he was very charismatic, but I just found him a bit ridiculous and long-winded! Still, it was funny to listen to his out-there intro for each contestant, accompanied by “get your game on” music like “Lose Yourself” by Eminem.

I think it took him about thirty minutes to intro all the contestants.

The judges lined up and then the contestants took the stage, including one randomly-chosen member of the crowd named Mitch.

Interviewing the judges.

Stare-down between contestants.

Game face is on as he unpacks his various liquids.

Most competitors showed up with a ton of different liquids! I would not want to fill up on any of those if I was participating in an eating contest, but I Googled it and I guess they help lubricate the throat. Still, I’m not sure what the purpose was behind all the different liquids this guy had! The article I linked here also only mentions water, but most competitors opted for something different.

Mitch, the contestant from the crowd, is on the far left.

Mitch ended up taking a slow pace in the contest and looked very content the whole time. Jeff and I joked that he was using it as a free dinner and seemed quite smug about it.

The only female in the competition.

When this girl came on stage, there were gasps from the crowd and cries of, “She’s so skinny!!!” But don’t judge a book by its cover – I had a feeling she was going to be tough to keep up with.

A rather hilarious candid of Joey Chestnut.

Of course the famous competitive eater and current Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest champion, Joey Chestnut, came on stage last and received the biggest cheers (and most long-winded, hyped-up intro from Mr. Announcer).

And then they were off! The competition was so graphic that we could NOT look away. And I really mean graphic in some parts…one of the contestants ended up projectile-vomiting on the announcer, who had been standing right in front of him at the time!

The culprit? The guy on the left.

It was also graphic and hard to look away in the sense that these guys were just SO into their rib eating. Joey especially didn’t have a care in the world except getting down as many ribs as possible, no matter how gross he looked doing it or how messy he got!


Had to take a pic of this little girl – blogger in the making?!

In the end, Joey Chestnut was crowned champion of the Sun BBQ Fest Rib-Eating Competition, though the female contestant came in second place and lost by only about 1/4 lb of ribs!

Yeah, I won, so what?

Watching all that rib-eating made Jeff and I not hungry, but also not stuffed any longer, so we decided to get a sampler plate from one of the outside BBQ vendors. My readers know I love my sampler plates!

I think this was called The Panhandler? Only 6 food tickets!

We ended up being completely unable to finish this, but at least Jeff had leftovers to take home. The platter came with pulled pork, ribs, coleslaw, beans, and Texas toast. The mayo-laden coleslaw paled in comparison to that light and fresh vinaigrette coleslaw served in the media tent, and the Texas toast wasn’t toasted at all – but Texas-sized hunks of bread! However, the protein of the platter – the beans, pork, and ribs – was all very good. Definitely better ribs than in the media tent, and a better BBQ sauce. Still, despite how good the meat was, there was a lot left after we filled up!

My napkin pile…

We shared a cup of red wine and a cup of white since it was only 2 tickets per cup, but we didn’t even have room in our stomachs to finish that! Competitive eaters, we are not. The Authentic Red was pretty good but I actually preferred the Pinot Grigio, probably because I just wanted something REALLY light.

We left with fun memories and full bellies – just what we were hoping for. Congrats to Mohegan Sun for putting on a great event despite the rain, and thanks for having us!

What was the best BBQ meal you ever had? How about the best BBQ sauce?

Have you ever had a REALLY good bourbon or whiskey? I’m becoming a big fan lately!

Have you ever watched a competitive eating contest? What do you think of them overall?

CW’s Chops ‘n Catch: Lamb & Wine Dinner

Firstly, I know it’s not Wednesday anymore (thank God), but happy belated Wonky Wednesday – please head over to Heather’s blog to see what I mean, and see me making a fool of myself. You’re welcome.

Secondly, tonight is my last day of night school for the semester. Hallelujah! I am taking summer classes but that doesn’t start until mid-June, so I’m going to enjoy the upcoming 1.5 months of not having to go to class after work. It really, really sucks.

And thirdly, I attended yet another wine and food pairing dinner at CW’s Chops n Catch two Mondays ago (and one Monday ago, but that recap will have to wait). You can read about the last two I attended here and here.

A fellow Glastonbury blogger and foodie, Kevin, joined me for an evening of lamb paired with Cameron Hughes wines. Being a Greek food lover, the over-abundance of lamb didn’t bother me one bit.

First fashion, then food.

Sweater: Forever 21

Earrings/Bracelet: Charlotte Russe

Jeggings: American Eagle

Watch: Fossil

Boots: some really cheap store in Buckland Hills Mall (across from Express, for locals)

Passed appetizer course on my favorite CW’s cutting board

Kevin was kind enough to put up with me being 15 minutes late because I had to shower after sneaking in 30 minutes of Spin! Not bad post-workout-fuel, eh? Homemade tzatziki sauce with warm pita and beer-braised lamb sausage with a brown mustard! I don’t think this pita was homemade, it tasted very store-bought, but the tzatziki was unique and unlike any kind I’ve purchased in a grocery store. Sausage was cooked to perfection, you may see that phrase a lot in this review.

First course

Next up was a pulled lamb shank slider on a house-made Parker House roll with feta fondue, preserved lemon (on the left) and harissa aioli (on the right).  The small plate was paired with Cameron Hughes Lot 266 Los Carneros Pinot Noir (2009), which was quite good but a little lighter than what I was craving with such a hearty course.

The aioli was dynamite and the lemon was a unique accent but the real star of the show was of course the pulled lamb. We were served mint jelly with this course, to be used throughout the meal, and I tried it on a few bites. Quite interesting – not sure if it’s my thing, though I was glad to finally sample the epic lamb and mint pairing I’ve heard so much about. Despite the fact that the roll was freshly baked, crispy on the outside, and not too much bread that it overpowered the lamb, I didn’t finish it all because I wanted to save room for what I figured was coming next…

Between courses

Even with all this food, there is usually bread served at these Chops n Catch dinners to help space out the courses. What I like about the bread is that it and the butter often change with each visit, so you never know what you’ll get. The above crispy sourdough was new, but the butter was not – just plain, though served nice and warm for easy spreading. Kevin and I got into a very long discussion about our pet peeve, cold butter. This was probably fueled by the fact that earlier that day I had written about that very annoyance. Anyways, I had one piece.

Second course

The most unique dish of the evening was the above leg of lamb satay with a green goddess dressing and tempura asparagus. Not exactly sure what was in that dressing (and hearing the name reminded me of Annie’s Goddess dressing, a blog world gem) but it was AMAZING! As you can probably see above, the lamb satay was drizzled with balsamic, which was an amazing flavor combo with every other component of the plate. I adored the crispy exterior of the lamb too – but it was still so nice, pink, and juicy inside. Finally, the asparagus impressed me the most because though it was fried, I could still TELL that I was eating asparagus. So often with fried food, the taste of the food itself is drowned out by oil and breading. Not here!

The course was paired with Cameron Hughes Lot 261 Alexander Valley Cabernet (2009). This vineyard’s bottle prices start at $35, but through Cameron Hughes one can purchase it for $13! I loved this cab far more than others I’ve tried because it had such a strong flavor and wasn’t too light.

Main course

Compared to the other dishes, the presentation of the main course of a simply grilled lamb loin and chop duo with Manchego and potato croquettes looks a bit sad, doesn’t it? But it tasted anything but. Firstly, you can see that the lamb was once again cooked very well – nice and juicy with a slightly charred exterior, just the way I like it. I honestly couldn’t taste a huge difference between the chop and the loin, but it was fun to have a couple of different “forms” of lamb on my plate in one dish anyway. The croquettes were so out of this world…think a gourmet tater-tot filled with fancy cheese. And crispier than a normal tater tot. Yeah, that’s heaven.

This course’s wine pairing, a Cameron Hughes Lot 245 North Coast Zinfandel (2009), had me weary. Typically I don’t like red zin because a) I can’t get white zin out of my head and I openly admit that negatively biases me and b) it’s usually too light. Again, the hearty lamb seemed destined to be paired with a full-bodied red. However, I was pleasantly surprised. It was actually my favorite wine of the evening, and it paired well with both the lamb and the croquettes.

Dessert course

Finally, we have dessert. I didn’t find out what kind of wine was served with it specifically, but there’s not much to talk about because it was a Cameron Hughes Moscato that I did not enjoy at ALL. Not their fault…moscato is far too sweet and far too carbonated for my taste. Bleh! I only took a couple sips, paired with a bite of each part of the above dessert plate, to see how the flavor combos were. Alas, the wine and my dislike for it crowded my judgement of the pairings.

I was wined out by that point anyway (the rep was VERY generous about topping off glasses between courses) and was fine with focusing on the food. And oh man, what a good batch of food it was! On the top is a Greek dessert galaktoboureko and home-made whipped cream. The latter was soo rich, like the Starbucks whipped cream. The Greek pastry was made with the classic phyllo dough of Greek desserts, filled with a tasty custard. Amazing! On the lower part of the plate is Easter bread with yogurt, sprinkled with powdered sugar. The yogurt was plain Greek, my favorite kind! The bread was not too sweet, which is good because the powdered sugar would have been too much.

And we capped off the whole meal with a shooter of ouzo. OPA!!!

Thanks to the always-magnificent Chef Corey Wry for designing and cooking up a fantastic menu!

Do you like lamb? Have you ever tried ouzo? Which of these courses would you want to try most?