A couple of weekends I attended yet another glorious tasting event – a local, reasonably priced tasting from the Wethersfield Historical Society called Taste of Wethersfield! Anyone who’s been reading my blog for awhile can surely tell that I love going to these things. I’m all about trying small samples of as much as I can. There is so much out there to taste! Other events I’ve gone to include:
- Mohegan Sun Wine Fest (Food, Drinks, and Oyster Shucking!)
- Taste of the Nation: New Haven (Savory Eats, Sweets & Drinks)
- CT Wine & Food Festival
Top: Forever 21
Necklace: J. Crew outlet
Pants: Urban Outfitters
Heels: Steve Madden
My good friend Kim is a Wethersfield native, and she agreed to join me on this lovely Saturday evening. She was definitely familiar with a lot of the places in attendance!
We were greeted right away with a selection of beers: Shock Top Raspberry Wheat, Wheat IPA, and Lemon, as well as good old Sam Adams Summer. As a beer experimenter I went with the beer I thought it was most likely I’d like, the Lemon. It tasted like…Shock Top tasted the last time I tried it. Donde esta la lemon?
Let’s move onto the wine – now that’s more like it! At the below table I sampled Edna Valley Vineyard Merlot, described as complete with “aromas of cocoa powder, black cherry, & plum balanced with fine tannins and acidity”. I don’t know about the cocoa, but it was certainly well balanced and tasty.
The below Amarula Cream Liqueur was one of the most delicious liqueurs I’ve ever tried! It was like an amaretto coffee. It’d pair so well with a dessert pastry. Or poured over a huge piece of tiramisu. Someone try it and get back to me!
Wethersfield’s Starbucks was there too – not exactly local/slow food, but still yummy. They were serving coffee, including their new Blonde Roast (which is too light for this blonde) and pastries! I’ve had the below chocolate chip walnut banana bread in the past at my previous favorite study location from my days at UConn, the Starbucks on campus.
I’ve also seen the below double chocolate brownies and lemon loafs in the display case of many a Starbucks location.
I elected to sample their newest petite pastry offerings (I’ve never even seen these in stores before since I started passing up Starbucks for local cafes), the brown sugar walnut (left) and chocolate hazelnut (right) tarts. To my surprise, I preferred the brown sugar walnut. Perhaps that’s because the chocolate hazelnut tart had no hazelnut taste to it whatsoever – it just tasted like a Milano cookie.
Let’s get to some area restaurants! City Steam is a really cool brewery/cafe/restaurant in Hartford with daily bar specials, comedy shows, a diverse menu, and its own brand of beers. I’ve eaten there once before and it was a pretty good meal! Not amazing, but not bad by any means. There is definitely something for everyone on the menu.
The Naughty Nurse Amber Ale, the original beer from City Steam, is available in bottles in liquor stores. During my Integrated Marketing Communications class last spring, one of the owners of City Steam even brought a six-pack in (to pass around, not drink…) and spoke with us about marketing. I wasn’t as interested in marketing and branding in the food and drinks world then – wish I could go back in time now and listen all over!
Naughty Nurse is the variety of beer I opted to try, since the newer option, Blonde on Blonde, is a “very hoppy pale ale” (seriously, the label even says that word-for-word) which is almost sure to equal me disliking it. Kim and I both liked the Naughty Nurse (ha) a lot! We detected a chocolate/caramel taste, and the employee working the booth did confirm our suspicions about the caramel.
My eye wandered immediately to the right, toward the next booth over, Carmela’s Pasta Shop of Wethersfield. I hadn’t heard of it, but Kim confirmed for me that they are thought of by many as the best source of homemade pasta in Hartford! Thankfully the staff was serving up freshly made ravioli. Their sauce was to die for and the ravioli were perfect! Some of the best I’ve ever had. I’d love to try a squash or pumpkin ravioli from Carmela’s…I wonder if they make any in the fall? I hope to get to Carmela’s sometime this summer to bust open a bottle of wine and enjoy some good old-fashioned Italian cooking!
I was happy to have the chance to sample another specialty cocktail from Onyx Moonshine, after having tried their delicious cider-based cocktail last fall. This grassroots liquor company has a factory right near me in Manchester, CT! Onyx is being served at more and more bars and restaurants not only in its home state, but in RI and MA as well. The cards at the bottom of the below photo detail a different Onyx Moonshine cocktail for each season!
The pitcher below was filled with a refreshing concoction indeed – the summer cocktail Shinin’ Tea: one part Onyx, two parts sweet iced tea, and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. I didn’t detect a hint of the moonshine, but not because there wasn’t any in there – it sneaks up on you! Danger! The founders, Adam and Peter, also informed me that their moonshine is a great component in many recipes, like steak tips. That sounds amazing!
I really expanded my beer horizons during this event and sampled my first Hooker Brewery beer (made right nearby in Bloomfield, CT), the Watermelon Ale. I’d heard less than favorable opinions of it and was fairly surprised to find that I enjoyed it! So refreshing and as Kim said, “it tastes like I just sucked on a Jolly Rancher and chased it with beer”. Yup, that’s about right, but it wasn’t a bad thing.
Tschudin Chocolate & Confections of the wonderful Middletown, CT had some impressive sculptures in the making! I don’t exactly know what the one below is because clearly it was in-process when I got the photo, but check out that construction hardware!
I can’t believe the bamboo in the photo below (on the right) is ALL CHOCOLATE! How cute is the googly-eyed iPhone? Kim and I each took a nibble of some dark chocolate discs from this booth. Mmm, it paired SO well with red wine from the next table over!
That table was run by some lovely ladies of Cork & Brew in Southington, CT, the only place in the state where you can make your own beer and wine! They even have free classes Saturdays 10am or 1pm by appointment! I’m not sure what kind of wine the red was that I tried, but it was VERY fruity. The white was a Green Apple Riesling – SO SWEET. Way too sweet for me, but yummy for a couple of sips from the small cup.
Cork & Brew seems to be the PERFECT destination for a girl’s night, bachelorette party, 21st birthday, and more! I love the idea. Guys can even get into the whole beer thing! You can also buy the supplies from them, take them home, and make your beer and wine all the time!
How amazing and cute are those cork holders?! They have them available in the store (not online yet unfortunately) and have Mother’s Day Gift written all over them!
Kim and I had successfully hit up almost all the downstairs booths, so we went upstairs and were greeted with a much livelier atmosphere! An excellent live band was playing and plenty of patrons were dancing; it was so cute!
There was also a silent auction happening upstairs. I actually didn’t see this in my event program until the next day, but look at this auction item – such a cool idea!
We tackled the upstairs drinks first – plenty to choose from at the below table. I sampled Lunae Moscato, the first Moscato ever to be infused with natural fruit “essence”, whatever that means! It was way too sweet for me and didn’t taste that natural, to be honest. And then we had Chopin Vodka, which I didn’t have a chance to try at Taste of the Nation: New Haven (their booth was shoved into a random corner that I didn’t notice at first), so I was excited to have the chance to sample it here. Each variety of Chopin is made with different “grains”, which in turn determine how much it tastes like…well…vodka. I went for the most potent, the potato vodka. I LOVE potatoes after all, so how appropriate! Yup, this definitely tasted like vodka. Not something I’d order straight up but I’m sure it’d make a smooth cocktail! Kim thought I was crazy for even trying a sample of it straight.
Next I tried Finca La Linda Carte Reservado, a Syrah and Malbec blend from Mendoza, Argentina. There was also some Merlot in there. I love blends so much – you don’t really know what to expect until the first sip. And I especially love all the wines used in the blend, so it was no surprise when this wine put a BIG smile on my face, and I don’t mean because it got me a-buzzin’.
Another noteable red I sampled was the below El Coto Rioja. Rioja is a grape that I am relatively new to knowing about, but it was love at first sip since I first sampled some at Esca. This wine also seemed very CT-appropriate with its The-Hartford-like logo!
Reps from one of the newest spirits to hit the market, American Harvest, were giving out cocktails made of OJ, Sprite, and their organic vodka. I wish I could tell you whether or not this vodka was any good, but the cocktail completely masked its taste and was mostly juice and soda. Boo!
The good red wines kept on comin’…my last sip of alcohol for the evening, and it was a good last one, came from the bottle on the left in the below photo. It was Dreaming Tree Crush, a smoky red that really impressed me – and I felt that way before I was told by the booth’s operator that Dreaming Tree is the wine company owned by Dave Matthews! Dave sure can make good music AND good wine.
OK, I am not a drunkard, let’s get back to the food shall we? And what makes a girl crave pizza more than red wine? Answer: nothing. Good thing Village Pizza was posted up next to the booth with the Dreaming Tree!
It may not look the prettiest but the above pie with spinach and sausage, though not in possession of as thin a crust as I normally like, was so delicious. So was the below pie, fresh out of the oven (literally – Village Pizza is right across the street from the event venue, talk about local!) and complete with beefy, juicy tomatoes and perfect seasonings.
Next Kim and I found an unexpected booth – one run by grocery chain ShopRite. I honestly have always associated that grocery store with heavily discounted, low-quality items. However, I was pleasantly surprised by their offerings! The cheesecakes below were fantastic…it’d been way too long since I had a bite of cheesecake. That used to be my “reward” to myself after each calc exam I suffered through at UConn!
The melba toasts with fresh olive oil and balsamic vinegar made me feel quite classy!
So did the olive tapenade spread on these melba toasts – even though it may look a bit gross (I won’t say what it looks like…), trust me, it was delicious.
MELBA MANIA! The below toasts were spread with a spinach and artichoke hummus. YUM. However, I didn’t really taste the spinach or the artichoke. I just tasted salty hummus. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
My favorite combo, of course, was the cheese and fig jam pairing. I could eat sweet and savory things piled on top of bread ALL DAY.
Krause Catering passed out some delectable looking mini strawberry shortcakes. Instead of pound cake, they were made with BISCUITS! Biggest regret of the night: not deciding I wanted one until they had run out. And the event wasn’t even over yet! The picture below is Kim’s – she was a smart lady and grabbed one of these early.
Carbone’s, a Hartford landmark on “Little Italy” AKA Franklin Avenue, had some amazing meatballs. They didn’t look too pretty so I didn’t take a picture, nor did I get a picture of the prosciutto-wrapped melon we tried because the few pieces left on the tray looked lonely. However I did get a shot of this unique appetizer, cucumber slices topped with a salmon and tzatziki-like spread. So yummy! I had actually eaten dinner at Carbone’s the night before (hoping to have time to share THAT experience at some point…) and was glad the booth was passing out things I hadn’t already tried.
Next up, a place that I have been dying to try (I have a Living Social deal, but have been saving it for when the weather is warm enough to dine al fresco)…Puerto Vallarta! This Mexican mini-chain had a nice long table set up. Some of the offerings included this delectable app. It reminded me of a spring roll, except filled with shredded pork. YUM.
This sauteed chicken, pepper, and onion medley for fajitas was really good. I skipped the tortillas to avoid filling up on bland-ness (I already know what they taste like after all).
Costa del Sol of Hartford served up Mexican that was more my style – SEAFOOD-heavy stuff! On the left we have a gazpacho and on the right a cold ceviche with huge beans. I believe the ceviche was sitting in the gazpacho. The herbs on top had a strong flavor that wasn’t too overpowering. Two thumbs up to each sample!
One of my favorite places in Wethersfield is Lucky Lou’s Bar & Grill on Old Main Street. They have an amazing happy hour, fabulous seafood, and a gorgeous outdoor patio with live music that doesn’t piss me off with excessive volume. All these things are great, but what really puts the cherry on top is their ability to make a good sangria that doesn’t taste like a wine cooler. I had already tried their red last summer, so I sampled the pineapple coconut sangria on the left. I usually scoff at a white sangria, but WOW, I just wanted to take the pitcher down to Florida with me (because it was cold outside in CT) and drink it.
Like I said, they have fab food too. Didn’t fill up on any of that pasta, but I did have one of those balsamic-drizzled bruschettas. My mom and I ordered a full-size bruschetta last time we went, and it was to die for, so I had to have it again.
Ginza, a sushi and hibachi restaurant that I’ve dined at before, was JUST running out of sushi samples when Kim and I arrived at their table. Lots of places were out of stuff by this point! I tried a spicy tuna roll, and Kim had a California roll. Two thumbs up from both of us, though not the most creative or exciting thing ever (and white rice is blahhh). Their hibachi is very good though, I know this from past experience!
I drive by Aroma Bistro on Old Main Street all the time (it’s across the street from Lucky Lou’s) but have never been in. After trying their sandwiches, I think that will have to change ASAP. Check out the Grateful Pilgrim: turkey, caramelized onion, avocado, Dutch Fontina cheese, cranberry mayo. This goes above and beyond your classic “Gobbler” style sandwich with the addition of the avocado and a dynamite cheese. AND wheat bread!
The Garden Treasure was also awesome. I love a veggie panini that doesn’t skimp on the veggies. Sooo much veggie goodness, and basil pesto was a grand finale.
And finally, the Texas Roadhouse, which was MADE by the horseradish mayo and the perfectly crispy bacon.
LAST STOP! Did you think this night would never end? My stomach certainly hoped for just that. Alas, we got to the last table (that still had food left…), Comerio of Hartford. More pork! It was so amazing, slow-roasted to perfection.
And I honestly don’t remember what the dish below was. Something unique! But it was so good. Check out their menu – lots of interesting foodie finds like boiled bananas, gizzards, and stewed pig ears!
I have almost NO complaints about this event. It was great, and for only $35, so worth it! However, I would hope that next year the restaurants are more prepared with enough food. I know that they donate their time and resources and that’s very kind in the first place, but the event was advertised to last until 9:30PM, and even by 8:30PM some booths were out! Of course, it’s very possible that the turnout this year was WAY more than last year! It’s really not a big deal – overall, it was a great event that raised a lot of money for a good cause. The Wethersfield Historical Society should be proud – thanks for bringing an affordable tasting event to the Hartford area!
Which of these tasty treats and drinks would you have liked to try?!
Ever had strawberry shortcake made with a biscuit? How cool is that?!