Tag Archives: websters

Why I Didn’t Go To Church Today

Sorry I’ve been MIA for the last few days, folks. There’s been a lot of exciting, fun things happening in my life. I may not have won any of the categories I was nominated in for the Websters (but a HUGE THANKS to those who took the time to vote for me – and the winners totally deserved it!), but I was invited by FitFluential to attend an amazing event in NYC next month. It’s hosted by Fitness Magazine! I will join other FitFluential Ambassadors (including Heather, we are driving to the city together, YAY) at Fitness HQ, where we will get to meet editors and other staff, preview new products and fitness/nutrition trends, have a special lunch, try out a pop work-out class (um, RIGHT up my alley), and – best of all – learn about blogging from a panel of four ladies that I admire in a HUGE way!

I will also get the chance to hang out with so many amazing bloggers that I have been wanting to meet for ages. I’ve been reading these blogs for almost three years, and meeting their authors is so important to me. I’m fangirling like mad right now, but I don’t care!

So as you can see, big things are happening for Cait Plus Ate! I am so thankful to you guys for sticking with me since I started this blog in September and being interested in what I have to say. Every moment like this seems more and more surreal and just makes me stop, take a deep breath, and feel extremely lucky.

Example of my great luck – an amazing dad!

That segways a bit into the title of this post, because I recall hearing a Sunday School teacher tell me when I was very young that there is no such thing as “luck”, because that implies something just happened by chance, when God is the one who determines everything that happens in our lives. I’ve always considered myself a Christian. After all, I celebrate all the holidays like Easter and Christmas. And by “celebrate”, I mean my family observes them in some way. I guess I can’t really say that I myself technically observe in a religious way, because I didn’t go to church this past Christmas Eve, and I didn’t go to church this morning. I actually left the house today to come blog at La Petite France right after the rest of my family left for church.

La Petite France has a fabulous new barstool area!

But why didn’t I go to church when my family asked me to join them? The answer is pretty simple – I didn’t want to. I didn’t think I’d get anything out of attending the service. I never have. I wonder sometimes if I should consider myself a Christian, because at times I feel like religion doesn’t play any role in my life at all. I’m not an Athiest, and I don’t even know if I’d call myself an Agnostic – that implies to me that I don’t care. Clearly I do, because every time I listen to a friend’s opinion on religion, whether it be one of deep spirituality or one of extreme atheism, I ponder my own views and wonder where religion fits in for me.

I’ve never gotten comfort out of a church service, a powerful sermon, a moment of prayer, or a Bible scripture. You know, your typical “church things”. Nothing like that has ever resonated with me. Instead, the things that resonate with me and provide comfort and a sense of purpose are, for example, my own accomplishments, a good deed a family member does for me, a moment when I feel like a friend understands EXACTLY what I mean before I even explain, or a particularly well-written passage from my latest pleasure read. The little things. And I know someone could turn around and say to me – well, God created those things and those moments. So you can find comfort in the fact that He created them for you.

But did He? I just don’t know if I buy it. Sometimes I wish that I could close my eyes, pray, and find strength in moments of weakness. But it just doesn’t work for me. Instead, I call my mom. I text my sister. I take a walk. I immerse myself in “the little things”.

A big carnival ride can be a little thing.

So maybe “the little things” are my religion. I wonder about all this, but then I always end up taking a step back without answering my questions about what religion means to me, because the little things seem like enough. When times get rough, at least I know what makes me happy, and at least I know what gives me inner strength. It may not be God, or a church service, or a prayer, but at least I know what it is and can use the little things when I need them.

I was feeling particularly insightful today folks – blame it on the 1.5 hours of thinking I did this morning while sweating buckets during Bikram Yoga. ūüôā

Do you consider yourself a religious person? Do you associate yourself with a religion?

What gives you comfort and inner strength – religious or not?

Please let me know any other thoughts in the comments – I’d love to hear feedback on this post!

Zafra Rum Bar – New Haven, CT

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

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

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

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

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

We certainly felt special!

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

Ain’t it pretty?

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

Joe and his mojito.

Me and Chris!

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

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

The Cuban Dumplings – inside of a coconut!

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

AAHHH! Look at that!

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

Chris was a big fan.

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

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

Ed crafts a masterpiece.

The finished product, and a happy customer.

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

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

Ed and his partner in crime working on drinks.

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

Ed prepares a Captain Jack Sparrow – notice the concentration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I could hardly wait to take the first sip!

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

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

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

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

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

Another Good Chain – Longhorn Steakhouse

I recently wrote about Longhorn Steakhouse, but it certainly wasn’t my first visit. This is a post I drafted awhile back about another visit to the chain, last December. I ordered different food and drinks, and so did my dining partners, so please forgive me as I blog about this place again while life continues to be SOO busy!

Also, don’t forget to check out the Hartford Courant Websters award nominations for the best blogs in CT!

There are some chains I shun (number one of those being the Cheesecake Factory…don’t even get me started). But other chains are A-OK in my book, and one of those is Longhorn Steakhouse. My family has been a fan since I was in elementary school, back when we lived in Florida. In the last year, Longhorns have started popping up here in CT – including about 15 minutes from my house! We were excited to have one so close by, but by now visiting Longhorn has become a trip-to-Florida restaurant staple because we are so used to not having any around us in CT, just like with¬†Carrabba’s. So during our December 2011 West Palm Beach vacation, we selected Longhorn Steakhouse as our dinner destination on our last night in town (yes, this is the last of the December Florida restaurant recaps that I have been trying to complete for the last three months – are you proud?)

Don’t you love my Grannan’s shoes?

Even though we called ahead, there was still a bit of a wait, so I passed the time hanging out with my awesome grandparents, Grannan and George, and sipping on a pineapple-infused vodka martini. I love martinis made with infused liquors as opposed to juices, because not only does the drink taste less sweet, but there is a lower sugar content, making these kinds of beverages a healthier choice! Since my visit, they have even come out with a skinny cocktail menu with a margarita, cosmo, and sangria!

Longhorn has some of my¬†favorite restaurant bread ever. The brown, grainy loaf is soft and warm on the inside and crunchy on the outside. The butter is the perfect amount of saltiness every time. I didn’t have a pic of this on my last Longhorn post – not sure why!

My meal came with your average restaurant side salad РI asked for no cheese or croutons, so there was not much left after that, and the always-lame iceberg lettuce. Definitely more tomatoes than I was expecting though!

I got the¬†Grilled Fresh Rainbow Trout with a baked potato and a side of pickles (duh). The portion of trout was very generous, and Longhorn’s baked potato was amazing as usual! Must be that perfectly salted butter again. Awesome pickles, too! See what I mean by healthy and delicious options?

Had to share Grannan’s pretty dish – the¬†Filet Mignon Topped with Shrimp & Lobster and a side of broccoli. Doesn’t that lobster look great? She loved this meal.

Just a quick post to share one of my favorite chains with you all – and complete my December Florida recaps!

Which chain has the best bread? How about the best selection of light and tasty options?

Just How Overdue Is This Restaurant Review?

Hey everyone! I am ridiculously swamped with life right now and have no time for an up-to-date post, which sucks because I have SO much on my mind and also many a fun experience to share, but for now I hope you’re satisfied with a better-late-than-never review of a restaurant I visited several months ago.

Also, I’m psyched to announce that CT’s largest newspaper (and the nation’s oldest), the Hartford Courant, is hosting blog awards this year called the Websters! The nomination form is here, and you don’t have to fill in every field, so even if you’re not from CT but enjoy my blog, you may want to check it out ūüėČ

The answer to this post title’s question is ridiculous. This restaurant review from my Florida vacation in December 2011 is SO overdue, the restaurant is ABOUT TO CLOSE. #fail

EDIT: THE RESTAURANT IS NOT ABOUT TO CLOSE! My grandma is apparently a source of false information! But I’m keeping the title of this post because it doesn’t work otherwise…

Yeah, this will soon cease to exist.

I had always wanted to visit McCormick ¬†& Schmick’s¬† for a full meal. They have a fantastic happy hour menu that I had the pleasure of sampling during my foodie road trip to DC with Jeff last May.

Cheesin’ it with fried alligator.

Double cheesin’ it.

I was pretty excited to be able to order a beverage and an item off the full menu. After checking it out online, I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to choose!

The menu at every McCormick & Schmick’s varies according to what food is the freshest available locally. I like how the menu listed out specifically what items were from the Florida area and where they came from.

I was impressed by the variety of cocktails offered and selected a drink called the Skinny Bootlegger. In case you can’t read the print above, it consisted of Prairie organic vodka, lemon/lime juices, agave, and mint. Definitely sounded promising, but unfortunately this drink spelled a bit of trouble in terms of service.

It certainly looked lovely, but the drink was way too juice-y. I felt as if (my parents both agreed) I was drinking straight lime and lemon juice with a little mint thrown in! I like my drinks strong and usually the “Skinny” options on restaurant menus use less juice/added sweeteners and are therefore enjoyable to me. This drink wasn’t though, so we asked our waiter for another shot of vodka that I could add to the drink. No, I am not an alcoholic, I just know how I like my drinks to taste!

At this point it became apparent to use that we did not have the speediest waiter in the world. He didn’t return for over 10 minutes, and other people in the table had yet to receive their drinks in the first place. Finally I sent the drink back altogether and just asked for a glass so that I could have some of the red wine my parents had ordered for themselves.

They had chosen 14 Hands Cabernet from Washington. I prefer other reds to Cabernets, but did enjoy this wine. Looks nice in the glass, right? ūüėČ

It paired especially well with the¬†sourdough bread, which tasted just like J. Gilbert’s bread to me.

For my meal, I ordered the Jamaican Grilled Mahi-Mahi, with some modifications. I asked for the vanilla rum sauce on the side, and for veggies instead of the sweet potato mash (I love sweet potato fries and sweet potatoes as co-ingredients, but do not like them enough to eat them mashed/baked/roasted by themselves). Obviously I¬†stuck with the black beans – I’m obsessed, after all.

My food was delicious! The fish was cooked perfectly and the char-grilled beefsteak tomato was a welcome and pleasant surprise to find on my plate. It took a very long time for our food to come out (and for bread to be replenished in the mean time – our waiter really was quite sluggish, though polite) but this was worth the wait.

My dad started with the Maine Lobster Bisque with Sherry Butter, and was so excited and impressed by the presentation that he called me over to snap the above photo. The lump lobster meat in the center of the soup was certainly impressive!

Is anyone else having slightly dirty thoughts about this meal’s presentation?

My brother’s (awkward) meal of choice was the Petite Filet Mignon with veggies (for my mom and I) and two fried mashed potato balls. Yes, fried mashed potatoes – I had a bite of one, and it was AMAZING!!!

Despite the bad drink and waiter, I really liked my food! And they did take my drink off our bill – after my mom sternly prompted them to do so, of course.

Have you ever sent a drink back because you didn’t like it?

Have you ever been torn between liking and disliking a restaurant because some parts of the experience were good and some were bad?