Tag Archives: scones

Healthy Living Summit 2012 – Part One

I suppose I could have come up with a more creative title than that. I’m pretty sure a zillion other bloggers have been publishing posts this week that say the exact same thing. But #sorrynotsorry, I hope (I KNOW) the content of my posts make up for any lame titles I throw your way ūüôā and remember if you missed my recap of the Chobani dinner I attended while in Boston for the 2012 Healthy Living Summit, you can check it out here!

Thursday:

Please keep reading. Don’t be afraid!

My HLS ’12 weekend actually started in a different MA town, home of my BB (best blend) Heather. Since her house is on my way to Boston, I decided to stay over with her Thursday night to make the drive in on Friday shorter. AND oh yeah, because I love hanging out with her. I took a half day at work on Thursday and got to her house before rush hour traffic hit (win) and we immediately hit the road for one of my favorite restaurants ever, Garden Grille…after we took some pics, of course.

We chatted away during that rush hour/accident-caused traffic I’d missed before, and arrived at Garden Grille about to eat each others’ arms off. Appetizers were necessary.

Instagram them apps.

I finally got to try the famous Garden Grille sweet potato fries, and was so impressed. I have to admit I prefer ION’s because those are crispier (more fried ūüėČ hehe) but these were still amazing, especially paired with that housemade BBQ sauce. We also went with the special side, garlicky sauteed greens. My Garden Party beverage (vodka, basil, mint, lime) matched perfectly!

I was so happy that we got to sit outside and savored my refreshing cocktail throughout the meal, which blew my MIND: blackened Cajun-spiced tofu with pepper jam, charred corn & black beans, squashes, and smoked paprika aioli. HEAVEN. I’m so glad I’ve gotten over my tofu-texture aversion.

I never wanted this to end! Unfortunately it did. I was tres sad.

A walk down Thayer Street and shopping trip in its Urban Outfitters location cheered me right up! I adore the artsy vibe from this college town. Every person and business I pass seems so open to new ideas and ready to learn. I could probably sit outside with a cup of coffee and people watch for a good while. Or maybe with a cup of fro-yo?

I knew the second I finished dinner that I was going to want a dessert. Do you ever have those evenings? I honored my craving (and am proud to say I did so) at a self-serve frozen yogurt shop whose name now escapes me. As usual I did mostly toppings. After I finished, we did a bit more walking and called it a night.

Friday:

I woke up at 8AM the next morning (I was shocked – that’s late for me!) and did two Tone It Up Beach Babe DVD workouts recommended to me by Heather, who happens to be a TIU enthusiast. The Surfer Girl and Summer Arms segments combined to give me a pretty good 45-minute workout, which felt pretty GREAT since I’d had two lackluster gym days previously. I only have one more segment to try out and then I will finally be able to review the DVD – and give you guys a GIVEAWAY! Oh I’m a tease.

I LOVE YOU.

After the workout I had one thing on my mind – my beloved vegan spinach and mushroom Wildflour scone. I don’t normally eat baked goods for breakfast. They don’t give me that energy I need to power through my morning. However, this savory scone does not have the same “crash” effects as most cafe offerings. I treat myself to one of these bad boys each time I visit Heather. Last time I went I went through a guilt-ridden debate over whether or not I should get it, but this time I just WENT for it without questioning whether or not I “should” get the scone – something I noticed and took pride in!

About to head to Boston with my Dino.

We blogged and I did encounter a challenge of “shoulds” and “should-nots” before we departed for HLS. I wanted a Wildflour green smoothie that Jenny had let me try last time the three of us went there and she ordered one. The Dino is made with good-for-you ingredients – spinach, kale, blueberry, banana, almond milk, almond butter – but I have always had a stigma in my brain about smoothies that says they don’t fill me up yet are still many calories, which can then result in me intaking too many calories. Heather was there for me as usual and offered to share the Dino with me on the ride to Boston. Deal! I was in heaven with each sip and am so glad that I fought the guilt and ordered it. And thankful too, because we got stuck in traffic and didn’t make it to our originally planned lunch at Flour Bakery & Cafe until an hour past schedule!

Salad as big as my head? Yes please!

I again went through a bit of an embarrassing debate in my mind – and at the counter – over what to order. The poor Flour employee had to deal with my questions about how much mayo was in the curried tuna salad I had my eye on. Even after trying a sample and LOVING it, it was hard to let myself choose that as my salad’s protein. Another stigma I have stored away…tuna/chicken/seafood salads are full of hidden calories from too much mayo. Finally I mentally said “fuck it” to the guilt and ordered the curried tuna salad on my greens. And then I threw in a side of homemade hummus for good measure, and ate every last bite. WHAT WHAT.

Lindsay, Chelsea, Meg, Heather, me, Lisa

Once Heather and I checked in at our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Cambridge, we grabbed our HLS swag and lugged it up to our room so we could get settled and ready for dinner. It was around this time that the weekend became all about connecting with so many of the bloggers I’d been following, chatting with, and relating to for as long as years in some cases. At BlogHer I learned so much about myself and experienced NYC through food, drink, and workouts. At HLS I forged bonds with girls I never truly thought I’d get the chance to meet. That was the main takeaway for me from this conference.

Meg, Lisa, and me at dinner at Figs.

Two girls I was most excited to meet were my Canadian blends Meg and Lisa. The three of us have bonded over our struggles, past for some and present for others, with our relationships with food. We support and guide each other in the journey to balance every single day. When I first saw Meg at the door of my hotel room, I hugged her so hard that I think I crushed her…and pushed her into a wall. Every single word we said to each other was just so US and we already knew that. Does that make any sense?! We just seamlessly transition from blend to friend. Of course I had to snap a picture of her with her MUSSELS and her MUSCLES, since she adores seafood and we are always sending each other photos of seafood we’re eating.

That broth was so good. I stole my fair share.

And I attacked Lisa the moment I saw her too! She is just as beautiful in person as she is on her blog – always looks SO put together and has the best wavy hair! And she was wearing a brightly colored dress, which I can always count on her for. I truly never imagined we’d meet one day, so I am just so thankful that I could hang out with the girl who encourages me anytime I open up on this blog about my guilt issues.

Our dinner group!

Oh yeah – the food at dinner! Well I had a late lunch so I just got a roasted beet salad with goat cheese. Very average, but Chelsea and Linz shared a slice of their fig and prosciutto pizza with me, and THAT was impressive.

Can I have a vanity moment here – arms?

After dinner it was time to head to the hotel for the HLS Cocktail Party. I wish the music had been louder – there was no dancing! I was too busy chatting and being a goofy ham anyway, though.

First stop: photobooth with costume props.

How funky is your chicken?

Call me DEFINITELY.

Who doesn’t love a good selfie?

There were apps and desserts there, but I skipped out on the latter. When there is cheese available, and when I am drinking wine, that is ALLLL I want.

CHEESE ME.

I’ll have some crackers with my cheese.

Kettle corn and Taza dark chocolate.

Regular, red velvet, and poppy (?!) whoopie pies.

Meghann, Julie, and the rest of those who put on HLS did a really great job. I cannot imagine undertaking such a task!

Kicking things off.

This girl does it all!

My BB has totally turned me into a Pinot Grigio fan!

I say YES to her dress.

What a fun evening of reuniting, meeting for the first time, and lots of PICS.

Meg, my love, you are so tiny!

I could squeeze her all day long.

I am forever in awe of Tina‘s amazing upper body. Hello Crossfit!

It was good to see Theodora again, in her trademark Lilly attire.

Courtney is so beautiful!

What a thrill to finally meet Sara. I could chat with her for hours!

The best moment of the evening (of HLS…of the week…the month…you get it) came courtesy of Becki. She approached me and introduced herself. I smiled and said hello back, but honestly didn’t at first make the connection that this was one of the girls who had written her own #AmazingMe post after I had written mine. However as soon as Becki said that she had to come introduce herself to “the girl who wrote #AmazingMe”, I immediately realized who she was…and felt tears come to my eyes. The comments and feedback I have gotten on that post have touched me several times over, but THIS was the culmination of it all. THIS was the chance for me to meet, in person, someone that I directly inspired and someone I made feel good about herself.

Two amazing girls.

Becki’s post about her accomplishments and why she is a wonderful human being was heartwarming to read, but to literally FEEL how genuinely thankful she was to have been inspired to write it was a feeling I really can’t even begin to describe. I am so thankful in turn to her for helping me see how beneficial it is to put myself out there as a blogger and be honest and myself in my posts, because not only will I get feedback from readers that will aid me in my journey to balance, but I also will continue to be someone readers can relate to and remember whenever they are fighting that negative voice themselves. THANK YOU BECKI for introducing yourself, and I hope that we can have a good long chat next time I am in town!

What is the most touching moment blogging has brought to you?

If you were at the HLS cocktail party, what was your fave photobooth prop? Your fave food item?

Out of all the eats in this post, what looks best to you? ūüôā

How to Save a Weekend + CT GIVEAWAY!

If you have a moment, head on over to the fashion company Free Endearment’s blog, which today is listing out bikini-ready tips for summer. The last one is from yours truly! And while you’re at it, check out my darling friend Jenny’s new blog, Tofu Swag. The fabulous title clues you in to what you can expect – vegan food porn and sassy commentary. Need I say more?

My weekend started out kind of crappy. I was feeling really, really down ever since Wednesday, and despite the fact that I had plenty of fun planned for Friday through Sunday, I was not feeling good. Blame my usual issues. However, I managed to slowly salvage the weekend – and my mood – thanks to family, friends, and the power of positive thinking.

Jenny, me, and Heather – three blonde triplets!

So without further ado, I give you – how to save a weekend:

1. Wear a new shirt that makes you feel fabulous. Express surprise when your best blend wears a brightly colored shirt with an interesting back as well. Proceed to bring sexy back.

2. Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself. Otherwise photographic gems like these wouldn’t exist.

Oh HEY cardboard fox!

3. Go with your gut. If your first instinct drink order is a cucumber martini and the ginormous Greek dip platter is calling your name…do it. If you’re dreaming of a Wildflour vegan scone…order it.

Greek dips and Effen Good cucumber martini at Bar Louie in Foxborough, MA.

Still dreaming of this mushroom and spinach scone.

4. Drink wine. Preferably with family friends, your parents, and your best friend by your side. And preferably local wine.

Lidia and I at the gorgeous Chamard Vineyards in Clinton, CT.

BFF

5. Don’t be afraid to ask your mom for a hug if you’re feeling down. Cry on her shoulder. It doesn’t help anyone to feel guilty for putting your worries on her or to hold your sadness inside. Just let it out so you can get to the smiling.

Height diff much?

6. Wear a flowy dress. Spin around. Jump. Channel your inner flower child.

7. Have the best dad in the world. Need I say more?

8. Drink tequila out of a wine glass at the vineyard. It looks like white wine – they’ll never know!

That is NOT Pinot Grigio.

Classy pairing.

9. Go to the beach. Yeah, that’s it. Just go.

I’ve fallen…and I can’t get up!

10. When selecting a restaurant for a Sunday dinner, look no further than the local spot where your sister is a waitress. She’ll pour you LOTS of red wine, give you slow service because she knows she can, and make sure you leave smiling (and not just due to the wine).

Sis and I at Giovanni’s, her place of work, in Glastonbury, CT.

This is NOT one glass.

I ended my weekend feeling WAY better than I had going in. I think I can give credit to every part of the ten steps above for how much better I felt, and am continuing to feel. Oh, and I don’t have work tomorrow. YAY.

And now it’s time for a giveaway for my Connecticut readers. The Hartford Symphony Orchestra is sponsoring an excellent outdoor summer concert series at the Performing Arts Center at Simsbury Meadows. This Friday, July 6, receive a free dance lesson at Dancing Under the Stars. Or next Friday, July 13, listen to Music of Elton John at Rocket Man. Finally, on Friday July 20, get your fill of Big Country. Lawn tickets are only $20 in advance, and table tickets are just $40 (both prices go up $5 if you purchase at the door). Child lawn tickets are always $5!

But you have the chance to go for free by entering a giveaway for two lawn tickets for one lucky winner! The tickets work for any of the 3 shows in July mentioned above. To enter, just comment telling me which show you’d most want to attend (mandatory). Entries close this Thursday 7/5 at 12PM EST!

For extra entries (leave a comment for each) you can:

  1. Follow me on Twitter
  2. Follow Hartford Symphony Orchestra on Twitter
  3. Follow me on Pinterest

Good luck to all who enter!

Bakin’ and Drankin’ with Tea

Happy Monday! I’m not feeling too happy that it’s Monday but maybe if I repeat that greeting enough, it’ll actually rub off on me. Enjoy today’s baking (gasp!) post and also be sure to check out my Healthy Page interview!

Have you ever heard of Alice’s Tea Cup? It’s an NYC restaurant (it seems all the best are there!) with a few locations. This place serves up both food and drinks made with tea (the closest thing we have to that here in CT is Tisane in Hartford, which is certainly excellent). Of course, they also serve tea on its own, but if I can make loose leaf tea at home then I’d much rather have a unique infusion creation!

All-star ingredient lineup.

Luckily the founders, Haley and Lauren Scott, have made it possible to have more than just Alice’s Tea Cup teas in your own home. They published the Alice’s Tea Cup: Delectable Recipes for Scones, Cakes, Sandwiches, & More from New York’s Most Whimsical Tea Spot, a cookbook full of recipes drinks and food fit for all meals, some with tea and some without.

I used Splenda instead of sugar and fat-free buttermilk instead of regular to lighten the recipe up a bit! We also skipped the heavy cream and sugar topping.

I can thank my friend Kim for the small amount of tea knowledge I possess…of course, the above¬†copy of the cookbook is hers! She told me about it and we immediately made plans to get coffee at Daybreak and select one dish and one drink to whip up at a later date. Our requirements? A) Delicious (oops, according to my Foodstock education I just made an error in using that word!) and b) tea-infused. Perhaps being in Daybreak, a place with wonderful scones, inspired us to pick out the above recipe for Berry Bunch Tisane-Infused Scones. Or perhaps we just picked them out because we love scones and tea. Whatever the reason, a date was set, groceries were purchased (see the first photo), and we met up at Kim’s house to do some cookin’! (Please, don’t be TOO surprised to see me in the kitchen.)

Hello, I want that mug.

Kim didn’t have any tisane on hand, but her mom recommended a Celestial Seasonings Blueberry Breeze Green Tea¬†(sadly looks like it’s been discontinued, but the website offers suggested replacements). As soon as we put it into the hot water to let it steep, we knew she’d chosen a winner! A pleasant blueberry smell filled the room and was a nice “background” to our scone-making.

Dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt) were combined in one bowl…

…and wet ingredients (buttermilk, vanilla extract, and the blueberry tea) were combined in another.

Oh lookin’ SOOO domestic!

Keeping the wet away from the dry for now, we had to work the butter and blueberries into the batter carefully with our hands (to avoid too much berry-squashing). Um, don’t have to ask me twice! This was so much fun.

NOW it was time to make a well in the dry ingredients, butter, and berries and add the wet ingredients.

Attacked it all with a¬†rubber spatula…don’t worry, hands would get to come into play again. The rubber spatula was gentle enough to keep most berries un-squashed.

Fun dough playtime! We sprinkled a cutting board with flour and got to work cutting the dough into scone shapes.

Couldn’t resist.

There were no photos taken of the scone-cutting because it got VERY sloppy. The Scone Monster made an appearance though.

Even with her around, we still managed to get a few trays of only slightly haphazard-looking scones into the oven.

The scones baked and we got down to the drankin’ portion of our tea party. Tea and a little something else that is…

This couldn’t have been easier to make! Kim brewed the peach tea before we even started on the scones, and then we added the Splenda (instead of sugar) and stirred. It made a nice simple (literally) syrup that we were able to let cool and coagulate (fun word!) in the fridge while we worked on the food.

Once the syrup was done, all we had to do was add it to a pitcher of Prosecco with a splash of OJ, and we had Peach Tea Bellinis! We also had the idea to add our leftover berries to our drinks!

Despite a few incidents with the oven timer (AKA forgetting to set it, that’s what happens when your mind is stuck on bellinis…), our scones came out looking like REAL scones! So proud.

Pretty darn close, right?!

Side-by-side comparison.

We each took a bite and literally swooned. They turned out so well!!

Kim’s mom joined our little tea party, but her dad was too busy being a manly-man and attacking trees with a chainsaw to notice. Typical dad behavior!

We also asked Kim’s cat Cali to join us, but she not-so-politely declined.

“Too cool for tea parties. Don’t talk to me.”

Don’t worry, our meal wasn’t just carbs and alcohol and fruit. Kim’s mom donated some tasty rotisserie chicken she had on hand in the fridge. I had completely forgotten how much I love rotisserie chicken. A super random, but super lean and protein-filled, addition to our meal!

But maybe not as pretty as the rest of the meal….

Now you can continue to be impressed…it was a nice day, so we got a cute setup going outside.¬†Complete with background music AKA Mr. Bronson’s chainsaw.

You like?

Baking buddies!

It was really rewarding to sit down with Kim and her mom, savor our drinks and scones, and enjoy and appreciate our work in the kitchen. OK, so I may be too lazy to cook, and I do still prefer to pay others to do it for me, but I understand the pride one gets from putting something special together!

I helped myself to a few scones, some chicken, and a few bellinis…when in Rome, right? Or, when in Kim’s backyard on a Sunday afternoon. And since I’m more likely to be there than Rome, I’m gonna roll with that.

Have you ever made a food item or alcoholic beverage that used tea as an ingredient? Or been to a restaurant that does the same?

What is your favorite kind of scone?

What’s the last baked good you made? The last cocktail?

New Friends – One of Blogging’s Infinity Benefits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because taking phone pics in the gym is completely normal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taste of 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!

Gorgeous!

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 Рthis 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 ūüėČ 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?

Holiday Activities Abound!

STOP! have you entered my Maybelline giveaway yet?¬†And have you seen my cookies on Part 1 of the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap Recipe Roundup?¬†OK, now you can move on ūüôā

‘Tis the season for holiday events – and I love it! Family, friends, food, drink, music, decor…I could go on and on. So far this holiday, I’ve been lucky enough to attend both a fancy Winter Festival at a banquet hall and a cozy, intimate holiday brunch at a blogger buddy‘s apartment!

My fellow marketing/fitness/foodie nerd friend, Alexis, and I.

My mom and I accompanied my dad to his holiday work party as his “+1s”. I was more than happy to oblige! I started the evening off with a couple glasses of Cabernet. There were apps set out, but I was too busy chatting and wine-ing to really notice them! By the time it was our turn to approach the Italian buffet line,¬†I was totally starved (we were one of the last tables sent up). The food was worth the wait, though. For a banquet hall, Maneeley’s of South Windsor¬†did a pretty good job!

Your basic salad.

Steamed veggies (not too much butter either!)

Mmm potato starch.

My plate! The meat is Chicken Marsala, but it looked too ugly in the tray for a pic.

I enjoyed hanging out with Alexis, my parents, and their friends. I met a lot of great people and even handed out a few cards – hello to any new readers from Winter Fest!

The mom and I.

In the same weekend (I know, right, how lucky am I?) I got to attend a holiday Sunday brunch hosted by Bethany of More Fruit Please. I walked into her apartment and was immediately in awe of how well-decorated and organized it is.

A coordinated Christmas tree greeted me when I stepped inside.

Fabulous coffee and tea "station"!

Adorable foyer table arrangement.

I spy Jennifer!

Bethany draws her decor inspiration from Pinterest, of course! And no, I have not yet caved and signed up.

In love with this concept. Each heart is a place she's lived!

As a cinnamon freak, I have much love for this candle.

To continue the cinnamon love, I had the best tea I’ve ever had. No joke – thank you Trader Joe’s for making this cinnamon and vanilla black tea! I made two teabags last through about three mugfuls of hot water. Has anyone else tried this?

Bethany and some of her awesome friends worked away in the kitchen. I swear I offered some help! ūüėõ Bethany was running all over the place, and I was and still am in awe of her hostess skills!

Potatoes and veggies for quiche getting some saute action.

A quiche setting, just after coming out of the oven.

Some appetizers were set out for munching. I eventually could wait no longer and had to dive into Bethany’s to-die-for sun-dried tomato olive tapenade with Stacy’s pita chips. Make this for your next party. Immediately.

Also available to tide us over until meal time: assorted cookies and pretzels, some of which I contributed from my Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap stash, and a beautiful Harvest Loaf¬†baked by an amazing, spunky fashion blogger I met at the brunch, Lydia. Check out her fashion blog – it’s awesome!

My mug is too the left – I loved all of Bethany's mugs! My plate of cookies is the red one.

Harvest Loaf ready for slicing!

Soon, brunch was ready! Mimosas were poured, but I sat out since I was still feeling the half bottle of wine I’d had the night before

Oops, looks like pouring led to a little spillage.

Bethany’s dining table was transformed into a Sunday¬†smorgasbord¬†(I needed spellcheck on that one).

The tree is just too much – I LOVE IT.

A little tour of the table for you…

Fruit salad (with kiwi – YES) and honey yogurt dip.

Broc, tomato, and pesto quiche.

Turkey sausage and potato quiche.

Whole wheat blackberry-lemon and apple scones from Jennifer.

Plain, chocolate, and almond croissants from La Petit France of West Hartford.

"Carb tower" all together (bagels and yoga bread from Bethany on bottom).

Apple butter and cranberry orange cream cheese spreads for bread. How cute are the spreaders?!

I wanted to try as much as possible! I filled my first plate with a plain croissant, half an apple scone, slice of veggie quiche with reduced sugar ketchup, and fruit salad with yogurt dip.

Plate one of two. Very hard to be patient enough to take pics before diving in.

The scone was wonderful (I don’t care what you say Jennifer!) and so was the dip. But the real stars were the croissant, which was so authentic-tasting, and the quiche, which was MADE thanks to the pesto.

Dying over the plate. Dying of cuteness the entire brunch.

After finishing this plate, I went back for a slice of the turkey sausage and potato quiche. The veggie quiche was still my favorite because the pesto biases me, but the meat and potato quiche was fantastic as well. Perfectly cooked!

After writing this post, I am now ready to eat my entire fridge. I want to go back and re-taste everything! Thank you Bethany for being an amazing hostess, cook, and home decorator ūüėČ

Which component of the brunch would you most want to try? What would you have seconds of?