Tag Archives: tacos

Cooking with CourseHorse

I received a complimentary ticket to this cooking class from CourseHorse in exchange for a blog post about my experience. However all opinions are my own, and my already-established enthusiasm for Tavern Road’s classes can be read here.

I remember a couple of years ago when, because I was still having a hard time working out less than seven times a week, my therapist suggested I look into taking some fun classes that weren’t fitness-related. I wish something like CourseHorse had existed in Boston back then, because it would have made me much more likely to take her advice (instead I just bought a new coloring book).

Photo by Paul Garmon

CourseHorse is a discovery and booking tool for local classes. Their community outreach manager recently contacted me about sharing an experience at one of the classes listed in their directory. Naturally I picked a cooking class at Tavern Road because I already knew I’d love it, but there were tons of other cooking classes in Boston listed. Cooking isn’t the only activity you can find. Though still in beta here in Boston, CourseHorse already has classes listed in arts, tech, fitness, language, and more. You can search by neighborhood, price point, time of day, and even skill level. Once they officially launch, the amount of classes listed will be even more extensive.

Photo by Paul Garmon

The theme of this particular cooking class was Taco Tuesday. We worked with Chef Louis DiBiccari to create the best taco bar I have ever experienced.

Photos by Paul Garmon

To kick off the class, we were treated to a cocktail demo by none other than Instagram superstar Tenzin. He showed us how to make a mezcal cocktail – the perfect taco pairing.

Photos by Paul Garmon

From there we set to work making taco shells, fresh salsa, guacamole, and the most delicious creamy corn.

“Be sure to get the perfect picture of me flattening this dough.”

Photos by Paul Garmon

As usual Louis worked in as many local ingredients as possible into our cooking, including artisanal hot sauce from Alex’s Ugly Sauce of Boston.

Photos by Paul Garmon

We ended up with shrimp, Brussels sprouts (!!!), hamburger, and pork tacos. I had an incredible time at this class and if you couldn’t tell from the picture below, everything was delicious.

A huge thanks to CourseHorse for making it possible for me to attend this class, and to Paul Garmon as well, a fellow class attendee, who took some incredible photos. If you’re interested in using CourseHorse to search for classes in Boston, be sure to sign up for their email list for updates on when they launch with more classes!

Have you ever taken classes for fun? On what?

What’s your favorite taco?

My Very Own BlogHer Food ’12

Finally we have come to my last recap of my 8/2-8/5 weekend in NYC for BlogHer ’12. I saved the best for last (obviously…would you expect anything less from me?) and you can catch up below:

You know me. I’m all about the restaurants. I like to experience new places through food (among other fun activities, but eating/drinking tend to take priority :-D). So how could I go to NYC and not try as many restaurants as humanly possible?! Folks, prepare to get hungry. I may not have been able to make it to BlogHer Food this year, but I turned BlogHer ’12 into my own BlogHer Food.

Josie’s East:

I had my first ever blogger meetup (with Katie and Danielle) at the Westside location of Josie’s, which was recommended to me via Twitter back in the fall by Web Girl Kathleen of the Elvis Duran Show. After falling in love, I knew I had to go back to try more fresh, healthy food and drink from their menu.

Enjoyed a glass of pinot grigio throughout the meal (quite a generous pour), and a couple pieces of bread (including cornbread) with homemade HUMMUS!

My long-time friend (we go back to middle school…and dates to homecoming freshman year of high school) Hong met me at Josie’s Eastside location for dinner in between working his crazy banker’s hours. It was wonderful to see him again!

Grilled Gulf Yellowfin tuna with wok sauteed julienne veggies, baby bok choy, shitake mushrooms, and a miso-wasabi sauce. Also had unpictured side of pinto beans.

Hong got a salad with the same tuna and we both appreciated the way the chef had gotten the outside to be crispy and the inside to be that lovely shade of rare-red. I ended up being too full to finish my side of Josie’s pinto beans, which I ordered last time and adored, but I of course cleaned my plate of all seafood and veggies.

So Hong clearly hates me, but what are ya gonna do?

Newbie Breakfast & Fika:

I was concerned that Friday morning’s BlogHer Newbie Breakfast would be a donut-and-muffin fest. While there were no egg whites or turkey bacon present (breakfast items I enjoy both because they make me feel good and energized, and because they don’t have too much of that darn guilt associated with them), I was still able to put together a nice plate for myself…once said plates were finally replenished (chunks of time passed during which several essentials, like plates and fruit, ran out).

Photo taken while awaiting my plate 😛

Eggs, fruit, mini croissant, and potatoes. I’ll admit the croissant had me anxious but I finished almost all of it, and cleared out everything else!

Since I’m a coffee snob and former cafe manager (and currently am cafe obsessed), I of course turned my nose up at the Hilton‘s provided coffee and took a quick walk from the hotel to a spot recommended to me by New York blogger Meg of Harmonious Belly during a brunch we met at last fall. Coincidentally, Hong had also mentioned it at dinner the night before and called the cafe, Fika, a “very Caitlin” place. Sold, and such a short distance from the hotel too!

I went with my usual black coffee and wasn’t disappointed; each sip was savored during my sessions that morning. I do wish the staff had been more friendly and appreciative of my enthusiasm over visiting their shop, but hey, it’s New York on a Friday morning. Most of the patrons were regulars and seemed to just wanna get to work and get the day over with.

The small space allocated to most NYC cafes served Fika’s atmosphere well.

I like that they drink stoppers. Never seen anyone else aside from Starbucks have those. Interesting that theirs are green too.

FreeFoods NYC:

The line for Friday’s conference lunch and keynote with Martha Stewart was ridonkulous, and I was starving. Wait in line with a rumbling tummy for most likely only-OK conference food? It didn’t take me too long to decide to take matters into my own hands. With Yelp‘s help, I found FreeFoods NYC, a nearby mostly-take-out spot with a Whole Foods-like salad bar of epic, creative proportions.

This is what $18 looks like.

Deciding between any of the pay-by-the-weight bar’s options was NOT happening, so I picked up a little bit of it all. My favorite was a small slice of raw/vegan pizza on a spelt crust. I felt very New York as I sat in the cafe eating my salad and working on my summer school paper on my laptop.

Agave NYC:

I’d already mentioned that after our Well and Good Physique 57 event, we had margaritas and Southwestern fare at Agave NYC in the Village.

We were starvin’ Marvins after that workout and Sabrina had the fab idea to order two of these bad boys for the table. GUAC ME.

Watching blogger reactions to food being served never gets old. Despite what Cat appears to think.

I had my usual indecision anxiety over this margarita menu…

How to solve such a problem? Order two drinks. 

Agave Nectar (tequila, fresh lime juice, agave) on the rocks, extra salt. My all-time favorite kind of marg.

I honestly can’t decide which was my favorite. Both were very Caitlin AKA not at all sweet.

Cucumber Uno! margarita made with cuke, basil, fresh lime. Oops, sucked down half of it before I remembered to take a pic.

I’m not vegan, but damn do I love vegan food, and that love seems to grow with each vegan dish I put into my body. Again, a fantastic menu of many choices had me indecisive, but I ended up selecting the vegan tacos (tempeh with both wild & tame mushrooms) served with black beans, pico, and plenty more guac.

I polished off everything. The tempeh’s texture was amazing and I love the restaurant’s choice to use corn tortillas. Excellent black beans (made even more excellent when I dipped the leftover blue corn chips into them) and I welcomed the fresh pico and guac.

Hello, plate as big as my head.

Of course there had to be an eyebrow-raising photo taken.

What a meal. I’d go back to Agave again in a heartbeat. Too many dishes I haven’t had yet. And my two margaritas had me feeling fine enough to not go into a TOTAL and COMPLETE panic when my phone died before I could even get to the subway station after leaving dinner. #fail

Zibetto Espresso Bar & Conference Lunching:

I used my Yelp app to scout out another cafe just a couple of blocks from the hotel for Saturday morning’s caffeination. Natasha confirmed for me that my choice, Zibetto Espresso Bar, wouldn’t disappoint. I walked in and felt I was truly in Europe! The barista wore a bow tie and the shop was laid out as a long rectangle with standing room only for those who wanted to stay and sip espresso out of tiny mugs on saucers. Zibetto is certainly not a cozy study cafe, but it is one that will transport its patrons farther than they ever thought they’d go when they left their homes on a given day, that’s for sure.

The menu’s and cup’s simplicity really fit well.

No coffee to be found here…just espresso. The barista was jovial and glad to help me decide on a simple Americano. No dairy or sweetener needed! I enjoyed the espresso’s pure taste and wish it’d lasted longer. Another NYC cafe win!

Wish I’d ordered a bigger size!

Thankfully Saturday’s lunch line at the conference was practically non-existent. I’m not sure what made the difference…were more stations set up? Were there just more Friday-only attendees? I was actually quite impressed by the food offerings, and also thought it was pretty funny that almost every tray of watermelon & feta salad set out was almost completely depleted of watermelon, but had plenty of feta cubes remaining.

Clockwise from top left: BBQ chicken sandwich, watermelon/feta salad, wheatberry salad, curried seafood sandwich, fruit tarts.

I didn’t finish all my sandwich buns (they were just blah to me – sandwiches always are made with too much bread at these kinds of events!) but gobbled up everything else. Man I loved those fruit tarts! So fancy shmancy!

Super psyched! These tarts were so yummy!

Plunge at Hotel Gansevoort, The Standard Plaza, and 5 Ninth:

My most fun foodie experience of the trip spread itself across three spots in the Meatpacking District on Saturday evening. Hong and I love feeling like classy New Yorkers, so we met up at a special destination he’d suggested, the Plunge Rooftop Bar & Lounge at the Hotel Gansevoort. During my commute there, I found out via tweets that Kim Kardashian lived at that hotel with Kris Humphries on “Kourtney and Kim Take New York”. YES, that got me excited. #sorrynotsorry

View from our hightop.

We miraculously found an open hightop table with a gorgeous view immediately after grabbing drinks at the bar – #jadorelavie, my friends!

Bliss.

See that drink? That’s a Manhattan. It cost $18. When in Rome, my friends. Or when in Meatpacking?

Whaaat?!

What a beauty. Oh, the view is OK too.

How could I not drink at least one Manhattan while in Manhattan?! How could I not drink it while on a rooftop bar being sooo New York?! Yes I’m aware that I’m a tourist. I’m as far from authentic Carrie Bradshaw as it gets. But at least the bartender was heavy-handed with the bourbon in my expensive drink. I probably only finished about…$15 of it though? It was so strong that I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy a cocktail at our next location if I’d sucked down all $18-worth 😛

Which is prettier Meg, the view or what’s on my plate?

I decided to be a responsible foodie/drinkie and order an app to go with my alcohol. Plunge had some really cool and unique items on its menu! I obviously went with the funkiest dish I saw – the BBQ eel sushi. This was my first time having eel. Jeff has raved about it for awhile now and I’m glad I finally got the opportunity to try it. I will be ordering it again!

See the avocaaaado?

We walked around to check out our many, many dinner options and decided on The Standard Plaza, which met all the Caitlin Criteria (interesting drinks, unique dishes I’ve never tried before, outdoor seating…you know the drill…I am so high maintenance). The menu consisted of small tapas-style plates, many of which contain seafood! The decor was also quite beautiful.

For drinks we got the Rose Sangria (Hong) and the Cava Fresca (me). Mine was vodka muddled with berries and mint, topped with cava. Loved that ever-so-slight fizz.

Oops Hong, way to order the girlier drink 😉

This is the only way I can get Hong to look like he enjoys being in photos/likes being near me…feed him drinks.

SELFIE STATUS!

Unfortunately by the time our food came it was way too dark to take any photos that wouldn’t be a) impossible to make out or b) ugly due to flash. So I opted to go camera-less for the meal itself, and that was actually quite enjoyable.

We ordered three tapas, then realized that four would be way better. The online menu doesn’t have them all but does include these two that we ordered, both of which were fantastic seafood sensations:

  • Pez Espada – grilled swordfish, summer squash, peas, castel vetrano olivada
  • Gambas – grilled sweet shrimp, chorizo, zucchini, meyer lemon

My usual dessert craving – a delectable sweet something paired with a not-sparkling dessert wine – struck hardcore. We decided to search for a third restaurant for course three, because like I said at the beginning of this post, when in NYC I wanted to experience as much as possible.

Awkwardly posed in a beautiful indoor/outdoor patio. I felt like I was in a Shakespearean play!

After sitting down at one restaurant and immediately getting right back up and leaving once I saw they no longer had any port or sherry (poor, baffled waiter…and Hong), we found a whimsical spot called Five 9th and continued the trend of dining al fresco. Hong and I narrowed down our choice to one of my favorite cakes…coconut! And I got my tawny port. Maybe I’m a grandpa, not a grandma, after all 🙂

THIS IS HAPPENING.

The cake itself was a bit dry but the heavenly icing made up for that. I think  Hong let me eat more than my share of this and for that I am grateful 😉 I’m so glad I got to spend a second evening with him absorbing and experiencing the magic and energy of NYC!

I’m sure now you can definitely see why I was so proud of myself for handling the weekend well. I surely went outside of my comfort zone with drinks and eats, but I also know that I missed out on nothing. I’m someone who enjoys the experience of a meal, and exploring a foodie city in that manner was completely appropriate, despite what my pesky brain was trying to tell me. I can look back at all these photos and the fun I had and feel grateful and fulfilled. I can excitedly share all of this with you and not let the guilty voice be triggered into action by doing so. I think that a major factor in helping me to lose myself in all these moments and take risks was the inspiration I felt being around all the bloggers that were teaching me or have more to teach me about myself and what I am capable of. Not only did BlogHer inspire me to be a better blogger, but it inspired me to appreciate all I have accomplished and allow myself to feel my passions – even if that passion is for dessert wine and coconut cake.

Have you ever been to NYC and if so, what is the best dining experience you’ve ever had there?

Have you ever eaten meals at a conference of any kind? How were they?

What is the most you have ever paid for a cocktail? Was it worth it?

Pure Food and Wine – NYC

And so my adventures from NYC on Wednesday, 5/9/12 continue! Don’t forget to check out my recaps of the Fitness Magazine Meet & Tweet and Tone It Up event at Oakley in Times Square as well!

I adore vegan and vegetarian restaurants (despite the fact that I am not either), but they are hard to come by in CT. The only one I have visited near me (It’s Only Natural) is delicious and I’ve been there several times, but I like to try new restaurants…you all know that! So I’m sure you aren’t shocked that I was beyond-words excited when Heather and I realized during the Fitness Magazine Meet & Tweet, while conversing with Danielle over lunch, that one of NYC’s premier raw cuisine restaurants, Pure Food & Wine, was not only right in that very city, but a few blocks from our parking garage!

Dinner on the patio!

Heather and I took this as SERIOUS destiny. We were starved for dinner after leaving the Tone It Up event in Times Square, so we hailed a cab (that took awhile) to lug our sweaty butts and swag to the restaurant, which had JUST re-opened for dinner (many raw food restaurants close between lunch and dinner because of the work involved in prepping the freshest of food for delivery to customers’ bellies). We started the meal with the patio all to ourselves, and a kind stranger outside offered to snap a photo of us posing in front of the restaurant with all our stuff, like nomads!

Bag lady blends!

I love my unique cocktails, so I was all over that menu, which featured a line-up of drinks made with specialty sakes. I love me a good sake cocktail! I selected the Himalayan Paradise: ginger, lemon, and goji-berry infused sake.

The cocktail was everything I hoped it’d be – and more, since its presentation blew me away. The flower floating in the drink fit perfectly with the peaceful vibe that had already settled over the meal – before we’d even ordered.

I savored every last drop throughout the meal and tried to make the drink last, but it went down very fast 😉

Speaking of which, does anyone else get annoyed when the food at a restaurant comes out TOO quickly? I know it doesn’t happen often, and perhaps since everything at the restaurant was raw it cut down on the time to prepare our meals, but our dinner came out literally about ten minutes after we ordered. I like to take my time with my drink and sip it solo, apart from the food, for a bit before I start pairing it with my plate. I suppose I also value the restaurant experience so much that I want it to last as long as possible, and the sooner the food comes out, the closer the visit is to being over. The fact that dinner was served so quickly wasn’t really a big deal at all though in the scheme of things, and Heather and I settled in to feast.

But I’m getting ahead of myself! We had a tough time deciding – I so wish I had enough money and a big enough stomach to order EVERYTHING – but the combination of our helpful waitress and recommendations we’d received earlier in the day from Danielle helped us decide…eventually.

Heather chose the Hen of the Woods Tacos el Pastor: smoked guac, hearts of palm, chayote squash, guajillo crema fresca, and pickled onions. She looooves da guac, so this was a choice that was right up her alley. And just look at how beautiful it is! However, it tasted BETTER than it looked. So unique and flavorful. We both took our time with this food, because we didn’t and still don’t know when we’ll have a chance to eat a meal like this again!

Getting every last bit of sauce!

I ordered the Sweet Corn & Cashew Tamales with Chili-Spiced Portabella, which came with salsa verde, cashew coconut sour cream, avocado, and raw cacao mole! Another gorgeous presentation (that incorporated a flower) from the staff of Pure Food & Wine.

I had the idea of asking Heather to capture my face at first-bite.

At peace with my meal!

Yup – one of the best meals of my life. I was speechless! And it’s NOT because my mouth was stuffed…I was taking this slow. I didn’t want it to end!

But alas, it did! Heather the avocado-lover helped me with that portion, but I dominated the rest, and all that was left was that sad-looking empty tamale. Thanks to Danielle for mentioning this dish to me!

I wasn’t sure if I had any room for dessert after dominating my main plate, but Heather helped me realize that I definitely needed to live in the NYC-moment, because I don’t visit the city or restaurants like this every day! So, we ordered something VERY special.

It was the last day the seasonal pumpkin cheesecake would be on the menu, so that made our decision a bit easier. This dessert induced plenty of inappropriate-sounding moans and groans from both of us! There actually was NO pumpkin in it. Instead, the “body” of the cheesecake was composed of a squash and carrot puree. The crust was almond meal and the ice cream was of the cashew variety…I got my fill of cashew “dairy” at this meal and loved every bite! I wish I could remember specifically what the syrup, icing, and crispy cookie were made of, but let’s just say it was something akin to puppies and rainbows and all kinds of other wonderful things.

No. Shame.

I gave Heather the last bite. In exchange, she let me lick the plate. That’s what foodie friends are for!

Sad that it’s the last bite!

We were so, so very sad when the meal came to an end, but our bellies, bodies, and hearts were certainly pleased.

Love the way the check was “served”!

Since it was such a bloggy day, we left our business cards with the check!

Courtesy of Matty!

Thank you to Pure Food & Wine for providing an unforgettable experience to Heather and I! The restaurant surpassed our expectations and I only hope we can dine there again some day.

Have you ever been to a raw food restaurant?

Have you ever encountered a meal that you can truly say is one of the best you’ve EVER had?

If you’ve ever been to NYC, what’s your favorite restaurant you’ve been to there?

Mohegan Sun WineFest: The Food

In case you didn’t see, fellow FitFluential Ambassador Christine of Oatmeal in my Bowl made a pretty exciting announcement on Saturday that has a little something to do with me, so I suggest you check it out!

I am going to have to split my recap of this event into several posts – that’s how much fun I have to share with you all. Without further ado, please read on to find out what I ATE at Mohegan Sun WineFest 2012!

EDIT: I completed my Sun WineFest recaps, and you can also read about what I drank and the Oyster Open competition.

Oh my goodness. WHAT a day it was at the 2012 Mohegan SunWine Fest. It was totally worth all the build up. This morning I woke up nice and early (went to bed at about 9:30 or 10 last night…it felt so fantastic), went to Step (where I felt like I was going to die, for some reason), and got homework done at Daybreak with some Toasted Butternut coffee. Once home, I laid out all my “equipment” to ensure that I was prepared.

Purse, vendor list, notebook with pen, waters, cam, and IBUPROFEN.

Elliott of Sonoma Wines & Spirits was kind enough to mark up my lists of wine, beer, and spirits vendors to give me hints on where I should concentrate my “tasting efforts”. He highlighted in pink the “must-tries”, but I did end up getting to try everything he marked, even those that weren’t highlighted (and were only starred).

See the pink "must-try" highlighting?

 I was SO glad that I brought my own large bag with me – it was so useful during the tasting to hold all of the business cards, fliers, and pamphlets I received, along with my camera case and purse.

This dork is ready to roll.

I arrived, parked seemingly the farthest I could possibly park from the Convention Center, and made a beeline for the food token line once I was through the doors.

I was super hungry for lunch and knew I should get some food in my stomach before I started drinking! The line was a bit long but I had plenty to look at while I waited.

Gorgeous chandelier!

The food tickets were only $1/token and the proceeds were going to charity, so I didn’t mind paying $20 for 20 tokens. I only ended up not using three of them (I know, I was surprised I had any left over too).

Wine glasses, ready for the taking.

The wine glasses were very generously sized and the programs provided for guests were very helpful, with maps of numbered booths for both floors (beers were upstairs). There were also pens free for the taking.

I strolled inside and gravitated to the first food booth I saw! I was pleased to see it was from a local vendor.

Another fantastic relish, like my fave Mariah’s Chow Chow Relish, to add to my grocery list! Webber’s Original Pepper Relish is offered in mild, medium, and hot varieties. I tried the medium on a Tostitos Scoop chip. Looking back, I wish I’d bought a jar! It’d be easy to do so though, since Warren’s Foods is located in West Hartford. The relishes are gluten free, and just fifteen calories per tablespoon, making them a great option for flavoring meats or dipping crackers or chips at parties.

I next sampled extra virgin olive oil on crusty Italian bread at Aralia Olive Oils and was very impressed. The EVOO’s flavor was really something to appreciate and savor. I could definitely tell this was a higher quality EVOO than the stuff in my pantry at home!

The next booth was one of my favorites of the entire WineFestBrix Chocolate and their chocolate-and-wine pairings. Yes, that’s right, chocolate and wine! The chocolate was lined up from milk to extra dark, and each was listed with recommended pairings for types of wines. The nice girls at the booth told me that I was supposed to eat the chocolate, swallow it, and then sip the wine. Each pairing was sooo good, but my favorite was the extra dark chocolate.

Milk chocolate with Pinot Noir.

The suggested pairings were as follows:

  • Milk chocolate (40% cacao), pairs with: port, ice wine, rose, pinot noir
  • Smooth dark chocolate (54% cacao), pairs with: champagne, riesling, pinot noir, vintage port
  • Medium dark chocolate (60% cacao), pairs with: zinfandel, merlot, shiraz
  • Extra dark chocolate (70% cacao, my fave), pairs with: cabernet sauvignon, bordeaux, barola

And I officially want to spend Valentine’s Day holding a gourmet chocolate-and-wine tasting now. Single ladies, join me?

I always enjoy Cabot Creamery’s samples when I have the chance to try them at events. Their cheese is so wonderful!

A Classic Cheddar and a Pepper Jack.

My favorite cheeses from Cabot were actually those not pictured – Chipotle Cheddar and Hot Habenero. Both had the perfect amount of kick!

igourmet.com also had some delicious cheese offerings! The Aged Cheddar pictured below was fantastic. I also sampled a gentle, young Bleu Cheese. igourmet.com was a big part of the Sun WineFest – they sponsored the special Seminar Series that I mentioned in my lead-up post to the festival.

Even vendors not typically in the business of food were giving out food! A company giving away (and selling) Cayman Islands vacation packages had authentic rum bread. It was quite sweet (just one piece was enough for me) but a delicious new food that I was excited to try!

I used my first three food tokens at Pete & Gerry’s Organic Eggs of Monroe, NH. Their booth was very well set-up and I loved the addition of cracked eggs in the little bowls below, so that visitors could see just how high-quality the yolks of Pete & Gerry’s heirloom eggs are. The hens are all Certified Humane (the first farm in the country with this status, in fact) and every egg is shipped the morning after it is gathered, and remains chilled at 45 degrees from farm to dairy case. These particular eggs contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, since the hens are fed organic flax seeds as part of their diet. Even the egg cartons are made from 100% recycled materials! Something I didn’t know – the white eggs come from Ameraucana hens and the brown come from Marans hens!

I want those bowls!

Pete & Gerry’s food offering was well worth those three tokens – a raspberry egg custard made from their eggs, topped with homemade whipped cream and a raspberry garnish. This custard was out of this world. Not too sweet, with a pure flavor. I could tell that this custard was made from some pretty special eggs! I wasn’t a big fan of the raspberry jelly on the bottom of the cup, but was glad that it stuck to the bottom so that I could enjoy the custard (and whipped cream…) in its own glory. You can find recipes on the Pete & Gerry’s website, including one for a chocolate version of the custard!

You can tell that whipped cream is homemade!

Jasper White’s Summer Shack had quite an impressive raw bar line-up! I didn’t get anything from this booth because I’m actually attending an event tonight at Max Fish in which oysters are the stars, but the presentation was very nice and perfect for photos!

Oh yum!

I saw many plates in the ballroom filled with oysters – they seemed to be a hit!

Love their motto – "food is love".

One of the Mohegan Sun Summer Shack’s shuckers was multi-tasking by shucking oysters for guests AND practicing for the soon-to-come 8th Annual Oyster Open.

Next I headed over to the booth of Esca Wine Bar of Middletown, where I saw and tasted by far the most unique food offering of the entire WineFest – a lobster cappuccino!

I had a chance to talk with its creator and find out exactly what the lobster cappuccino was made of – a lot of you were curious when I was tweeting about it! It turns out it’s made with fortified lobster stocklecithin, 2% milk, and heavy cream, among other ingredients. The orange mix above went in the bottom of a little cup, and then was topped with the white foam. The flavor was amazing! I could not believe that the foamy drink I was about to consume would taste like lobster, but then it did – it was EXACTLY the flavor one would expect from a lobster dish. My compliments to the chef for creating such a unique dish!

Posin'!

Esca is really a diamond in the rough, located on the recently-revived Main Street of Middletown, CT. That area continues to impress me with its restaurant and nightlife offerings – first Mondo, and now a sophisticated wine bar with excellent food, an endless wine list, classy cocktails, and Thursday Happy Hour til 10pm! You may have seen me tweeting up a storm about it when I was there this past Thursday. I can’t wait to go back again soon with my mom. I know she’d LOVE it there.

Flavored cheesecakes, and some very classy napkins!

At this point I started sampling beverages…but that’s going to come in Wednesday’s post. For now, I’m skipping to my next food experience, which was much needed as I started feeling the alcohol’s effects! If I was going to drive home safely, I needed to take a break and get some food in my belly. Enter Plan B

Ah, the Leaning Tower of Burger!

I wasn’t sure what that cornucopia of veggies on the table display was all about. It didn’t really fit well with the burger theme (burger tower, ketchup, mustard…) and when I go to Plan B, veggies are the last thing on my mind. In fact, I know that even if they were the first thing on my mind, I couldn’t get much of them. I’m honestly not a big fan of Plan B, unlike the rest of the CT-burger-enthusiasts out there. I think that for the quality you get, and the options for sides you are given, the food is very overpriced. I do, however, respect their cocktails, spirits, and beer list. I certainly enjoy sipping on some fig-and-vanilla-infused bourbon, don’t get me wrong.

That being said, I did enjoy the cheeseburger slider I purchased for three tokens at Plan B’s booth. My beef with sliders (ha..ha..had to do it) is that the buns are always way too big on them and overpower the meat. These were no different, with a puffy, plain bun that was nothing remarkable. The meat was, however, cooked very well and the cheese was excellent. Still didn’t make me want to go have dinner at Plan B though.

Something that did impress me? The sushi by Feng Asian Bistro. I’ve heard this place has the best sushi in CT, and wanted to try the most creative roll they offered. I’m seriously SO glad I like sushi now!

I thought 6 tokens was a little steep, but the Feng Chef Roll was extremely delicious! If only it had been made with brown rice, which I find to be so much more flavorful AND healthier. The spicy mayo and eel sauce was excellent and I enjoyed my roll with fresh ginger.

Beauty!

Not done with food yet, nope nope nope. After sampling some more beverages and watching the oyster shucking contest (that’ll be another separate post), I ventured back to the food vendors to use the last of my tokens. Unfortunately, it was 4:45pm and most were closing up or out of many offerings! No worries, I managed.

SolToro Tequila Grill had a lovely booth (employees were wearing sombreros with stripes that matched the tablecloth) but only had chicken tacos left. I was hoping for pork, but chicken was my next choice, and I definitely LOVED this taco. First of all, SolToro used a corn tortilla – LOVE it! Corn tortillas are to brown rice as flour tortillas are to white rice for me – so much more hearty and satisfying (and healthier). It may not look like it from the photo, but the portion of shredded chicken was pretty generous and I also loved that it was shredded, as opposed to chunks of grilled chicken, which never work as well in tacos for me. The onions were great too, and at just 2 tokens, this taco was a steal! I want to go and eat at SolToro again!

Next came a porchetta slider from Mohegan’s newest restaurant, Ballo, which I already and now DEFINITELY want to try. The menu offers a full-size version of this oven-roasted sandwich of pork, broccoli rabe, and provolone. I got my pork fix in after all (who needs it on a taco?) and was very impressed! Once again, too much bread on this slider, but its fillings were fresh enough to stand out.

Last but not least for the food…this may not be the prettiest photo in the world, but trust me when I say that this brisket with buttermilk biscuit (it’s  under there somewhere) from Esca was out of this world. I am a HUGE biscuit fan, so I ate that first, and it was so delicious soaked in all those brisket-y juices. The brisket itself was cooked perfectly and was very rich. I got such a generous portion from the kind chef there that I didn’t have room to finish it all! I wouldn’t expect awesome brisket-and-biscuits from a wine bar, but it looks like Esca can do it all!

Gonna say oh my goodness again just like I did in the beginning of this post. What a day, and that was JUST the food! I cannot wait to share the beverage portion of my experience with you all on Wednesday. I have to say though, today it feels pretty good to get back into my usual “weekday routine” after a weekend of imbibing. I am so psyched for today’s salad beast at lunch. That’s what happens after an indulgence – I tend to crave more “clean” stuff. But don’t get me wrong – I DEFINITELY enjoyed the food I ate yesterday. Mmmm.

Which of the items I sampled would you have most liked to try?

Chili’s Gets a Menu Upgrade

Chili’s is one of my favorite chains, because they really do have more options than you may think. When one is feeling indulgent, there are plenty of delicious fried bites. My go-to move back in the day was to order the appetizer trio and pick the most heavy options…spinach and artichoke dip, BBQ wings, and fried eggrolls. Nowadays I try to stick to meals that’ll leave me feeling good, and Chili’s has those choices too! I always used to order the shrimp tacos with grilled shrimp instead of fried, but now they’ve taken a page out of my book (or some marketing/product development employee’s book…) and officially added those grilled shrimp tacos, along with other fresh Tex-Mex fare, to their menu!

Check out that avocado – the actual meals did indeed contain those generous amounts of it!

I hit up our closest Chili’s location with my parents on a Saturday night. It was pretty crazy as usual, but we found a booth in the bar and sat down right away. My mom brought a coupon from the Facebook page for free chips and salsa – nice!

I love the chips at Chili’s, but do wish they offered a chunkier variety of salsa. Runny salsa no es bueno.

Grilled shrimp tacos, black beans, and corn on the cob.

My meal was so good and I finished every last bite. I poured some of the beans into each taco, and as I was eating them, let any “fillings” that came out drip back into the bowl of leftover beans. Then, when it was time to finish them off, I had a cup of beans with pico and other goodies in there! The unbuttered corn on the cob was so, so good. My mom and I asked the waitress if it was roasted, but she said no, it’s just cooked on the stove top. Baffling! Why does it taste so much better than corn from home?!

Grilled veggie tacos.

My mom and I traded our last tacos to each other so that she could try the shrimp and I could try a grilled veggie taco, which is one of the new menu items that I’ve never ordered before. SO GOOD! I was impressed with the variety and amount of veggies in each taco. Quite satisfying!

My dad's chicken club tacos with rice and beans.

My dad went the more traditional route and stuck to the Chili’s standard rice and beans as the accompaniments to his chicken club tacos. He said the chicken was cooked very well, and he’s a big bacon lover, so it was a nice combo of indulgent and healthy!

We had a wonderful meal and I give Chili’s props for adding healthier options to their menu that don’t sacrifice taste at all.

Have you tried any of the new Chili’s menu items? What’s your favorite taco?