It’s time to do another not–daily–eats take on Jen‘s What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW). I’ve already done that, and if I shared typical workday eats each WIAW, this blog would be Snoozeville, Population: ALL OF YOU.
It’s time to do another not–daily–eats take on Jen‘s What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW). I’ve already done that, and if I shared typical workday eats each WIAW, this blog would be Snoozeville, Population: ALL OF YOU.
Thank you so very much for your kind words in response to yesterday’s post (no worries if you didn’t read, after all I’m the weirdo publishing on Christmas :-P) and my confessions about being NOT so kind to myself. I’m happy to report that so far since that night this past Saturday, I have been doing a much better job of enjoying this special time of year. After all, it’s not like I’m travelling and attending holiday events every day!
Each year, my family exercises a special holiday tradition (yup, another one!): my sister Hannah, my dad, and I travel to New York City from December 23rd to 24th for fabulous meals, shopping, and the Today Show (we get on TV every year!). But this year Hannah had to work, so my dad had the great idea to keep the tradition alive, just on a smaller scale. He and I set off for Boston this past Sunday morning to brunch, shop, cocktail-it, and stay in a fancy Marriott!
You may remember when I announced that I had been chosen to serve alongside the founders of Ripe (JD Altobello) and Onyx Moonshine (Adam von Gootkin) as a judge at the first Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market Farm-to-Shaker CT Bartender’s Challenge. There are really too many good things about this opportunity for me to gush about. The moment I was asked to take part in the event, I felt officially recognized as a knowledgeable source of information about my local area – and a source with good taste at that! It really validated all the hard work I’ve put into this blog, and also assured me that I am portraying an accurate version of myself each time I post. I am so enthusiastic and passionate about sampling interesting craft cocktails, and the fact that JD of Ripe knew this after only meeting me once (at Taste of the Nation) means my blog has been speaking the truth to its readers!
I’m also so happy that my parents and Heather were able to be present at an event that was so special to me! And every time I looked over at Heather chatting with my parents, I couldn’t help but smile. I just love seeing people I love getting along #sap. It particularly meant a lot to me that Heather came to the event and stuck it out the entire time, because while cocktails may be my thing and while she and I may get along famously, they certainly aren’t her thing as well and the food being served (by Morton’s!) was mostly not vegan-friendly!
I met up with my fellow judges before things got going, and was so happy to find that I’d ALSO be judging alongside a pretty amazing individual I met at the Mohegan Sun Wine Fest – Signature David, master mixologist! He frequently appears on FOX61 showing off his crazy concoctions.
I’ve met Adam of Onyx at several events in the past! It was great to see him again and get to drink so many different cocktails with his wonderful, smooth moonshine.
He mixed up a very special blend for all the guests – Apple Cider Onyx Moonshine! Holy crap this was SO GOOD. And unlimited!
Heather and I were chatting with JD of Ripe and found out that he is a vegan! So when the watermelon, beet, and goat cheese salads over arugula came out, he was able to secure a cheeseless version for himself and Heather.
I also had the chance to work with the event’s emcee, Chion Wolf, of WNPR!I am a total NPR nerd – my addiction began after I graduated from college and started a job with a semi-lengthy commute. Now I listen even when I’m not in the car! In fact, playing NPR’s app on my iPhone and coloring in my bed are two activities that, combined, equal a number-one stress reliever for me. I was so happy to be able to share that with Chion at the event.
And I’m so glad I did, because she was visibly touched to hear that fact and added that she doesn’t often get a chance to meet listeners and even sometimes forgets when in the studio that there are people out there listening. Well Chion, I know that I and many others are listening with great attention!
To hear her introducing me as a judge – and reading out loud my blog’s “sidebar” description, felt so epic!
Each competitor from an area CT restaurant would need to use in his/her cocktail the Onyx Moonshine, Ripe juice mix, and two of the many secret ingredients from the day’s farmers’ market that JD had picked out.
Some were pretty typical (strawberries), and some were downright weird(brown cucumbers? tomatoes that looked like plums?)
The winner was to receive this shaker trophy!
The competition got rolling so that we could find out who that winner would be! The competitors were listed for the event attendees, who were to submit their favorite drink at the end on a ballot so that we judges could take the Peoples’ Choice vote into consideration.
First up, we had Suzanne of Morton’s (Hartford, CT) mixing up a cocktail of raspberry, peaches, and sugar muddled into a combo of Onyx and Ripe’s Pure-Squeezed Agave Punch. She shook it all up and added a splash of club soda.
I could tell just from the ingredient list that the drink would likely be too sweet for my sugar-sensitive taste buds, and I was right. While my mom enjoyed it (she doesn’t like any kick in her cocktails), I craved something more unique and was disappointed that Suzanne chose two very “normal” secret ingredients – raspberries and peaches. However, I still love that she incorporated muddled fresh fruit into her beverage and the presentation of the full-size version was flawless!
I totally loved the next cocktail, and that’s not just because it was prepared by Chef Scott Miller, Exec Chef of Max’s Oyster Bar and the maestro that prepared a gorgeous meal for Jeff, me, and many others at the Max Chef to Farm Tomato, Tomato dinner a couple of weeks ago.
A mason jar was an appropriate choice in which to display the full-size version of Millers’ Muddle Maple Moonshine cocktail, which consisted of maple syrup, Onyx, Ripe’s Agave Lemon Sour, blueberries, lemon, club soda, and a splash of beet juice!
I’ve gotta give Scott props for not sacrificing taste for convenience. He was muddling blueberries into EACH sampler cup for each audience member, instead of muddling them and the syrup together in a big batch and pouring the results into all the cups. That’s dedication!
The drink was pretty incredible. I was worried that the syrup would make the drink too sweet for me again, but the use of a sour Ripe mix balanced out the syrup’s sweetness perfectly. I also like the sour added by the fresh lemon. And of course, the unexpected choice of beet juice as an ingredient totally impressed me. It was meant to add color to the cocktail, but also added a special something in the flavor department.
Next up we had Albana of Zula, whose current cold inspired her to choose the soothing ingredients honey and cinnamon cloves to her cocktail, as well as fresh lemon! Mixed with the Onyx and Ripe’s Agave Margarita mix, and combined with a very careful presentation, Albana’s cold certainly ended up leading to a great drink.
Mmm. Calming and the cinnamon added a hint of autumn! The other judges loved it too. This was gonna be tough…
I was way excited to see what Samantha of Firebox would have up her sleeve because I once had one of the best Manhattans EVER there! It’s a farm-to-table restaurant and its chefs and bartenders are very used to working with only the most local, fresh ingredients.
Though simply presented, Samantha’s beverage tasted great enough to stand out among the competitors! True to Firebox form, she didn’t need many ingredients to make something great – just Onyx, Ripe’s Mojito Mix, and fresh ginger-peach iced tea. I commend her for the way she used her chosen local ingredients!
Finally, Michael of Pond House Grille added a touch of science to his cocktail submission! Pond House uses liquid nitrogen in its restaurant as part of the presentation of some menu items. They view food and drink as works of art – hey, me too!
He muddled cilantro, Anaheim peppers, and fresh lemon into Onyx and Ripe’s San Marzano Bloody Mary Mix. Oh, and a splash of liquid nitrogen – NBD.
We judges were fearful of taking our first sips because we didn’t want to get “burned” by the liquid nitrogen’s extremely cold temperature!
I ended up enjoying the Bloody Mary and its pepper-y kick. I also appreciated the addition of the lemon juice. However other than the presentation, it wasn’t set apart from other Bloody Marys I’ve had in the past.
The judges huddled outside to deliberate while the crowd submitted its votes for Peoples’ Choice.
Don’t worry, the judges and the members of the crowd were still coherent enough to accurately critique the cocktails, since they’d paired them with food from Morton’s!
After hearing the Peoples’ Choice pick and considering our own opinions, the judges arrived at a decision on the winner. But he was MIA! JD and I knew where he was though, and nabbed a golf cart to go grab him.
Our winner was actually across the way cooking up a dinner for over 100 people. Yup, it was Chef Scott Miller, and he was working on the Nathan Hale Homestead Chef to Farm dinner! Luckily we were able to “drag” him back over to the barn to accept his shaker trophy.
A well-deserved win for Chef Miller! And you can re-create his winning cocktail at home using the recipe below – or order it up yourself at Max’s Oyster Bar, because it’s going to be added to the cocktail menu! I hope it’s still served in the mason jar!
The 1st Coventry Farmers’ Market Farm-to-Shaker CT Bartender’s Challenge was a great success, and all in attendance seemed to have an enjoyable time. Adam was even joking that we should call this contest a summer edition so that the wait before the next edition wouldn’t be too long! I’m all in favor – especially if I can judge again!
Thank you to the Coventry Farmers’ Market, Ripe, and Onyx Spirits for involving me in such a unique event. It was right up the Cait Plus Ate alley!
Have you ever been to a cocktail competition?
Which cocktail would you most want to try?
Has your blog ever brought you any exciting local opportunities?
Happy post-Super Bowl Monday! I definitely have a lost of Super Bowl party photos to share, but don’t want to get too ahead of myself because I’ve got great stuff that happened earlier in the weekend to share too. Good problems to have, yes?
But I just want to say quickly, I am already getting a bit sick of hearing people beat themselves up for indulging last night. I was doing some of that and still kinda am, but it’s the last thing I want to see and hear all over the place this morning. So let’s together try to make this a #mirrorlessmonday and just reflect on the good times. I’m working on it, and I hope you can too!
Saturday was quite an excellent day that started with a trip to the gym for Group Step. I had attended the exact same class the night before (Friday night “happy hour”!), but since the current release is still quite new, I wasn’t bored with the choreography at all. Some of the songs are so awesome! I’m always talking about this exercise program (by Body Training Systems) but have never actually SHOWED you guys what it’s about. Here is a trailer that shows you exactly what moves I’ve been doing in class, and you can hear the music too! I got the video from the BTS website.
I headed home, took a refreshing shower, and hit the road for Boston. It was great sunny driving weather, and I enjoyed some music and, once I lost radio reception to my favorite stations, listened to “The Tiger’s Wife” on audio book. I had big plans for the day. So big in fact, that they warranted a ridiculously-long-titled post like this one! 🙂 I first met up with Greg and Kramer, two good friends that I’ve known for awhile. Greg even spent Thanksgiving with my family (his parents are my godparents and vice versa). We walked to Newbury Street to have lunch at Stephanie’s on Newbury, a place that Kramer (a fellow restaurant fanatic) and I had been wanting to try for awhile. From the way my Twitter followers responded to my check-in there on Foursquare, I can see that many of my readers are already fans!
Each table at Stephanie’s was set with the cute little clipboard above that enables guests to customize their very own Stephanie’s Famous Bloody Mary for $11.50. The ingredients sounded really cool, but I have never been the biggest Bloody Mary fan (but more on that later…soon to be shown that this may have changed) and was going to be having some cocktails later, so we all just ordered food. Boston.com has called these bloody marys some of Boston’s best though, for those who are fans.
The cocktail menu was pretty darn impressive. It was hard for me to resist indulging in one of these! But really, I was hungry and food was at the top of my brain.
A girl at the table next to use ordered the Seared Yellow Fin Tuna Salad, and as soon as I saw the waiter set it down in front of her, all I could think was…I WANT. It wasn’t too hard for me to decide on that, though the menu did have plenty of appetizing options. Kramer and Greg had a way harder time choosing than I did.
Kramer ordered the Oversized Stephi Burger: ground sirloin, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, bacon, sauteed mushrooms, and french fries. It was definitely oversized! And also over-cheesed and over-fatted – Kramer commented that the cheese was way too much, and the sirloin itself was too fatty. There was definitely a sizable pool of grease that crowded and ruined the last few fries on his plate. He liked the burger, but said next time he’d go light on the cheese or nix it completely.
Greg’s choice was definitely more unique and delicious, though not enough food for him! He has been loving shepherd’s pie that Kramer cooks in their apartment, and ordered Stephanie’s version, which came inside an acorn squash and with a side of deliciously salty sauteed collard greens. Fortunately for Kramer and I, Greg didn’t want the greens. After I snapped this photo, Greg poured gravy over the whipped potatoes on top, and it looked even better. He said it was so delicious, but again, not enough food for him.
My salad was fantastic, with perfectly seared tuna and plenty of yummy ingredients like marinated green beans and olives, just the way I like it. The lemon caper dressing was the star – one of the best salad dressings I’ve ever tasted. I dipped my fork in it lightly before each tuna bite and the combo was out of this world.
Next on my agenda was a meet-up with my pal Ken of Pete & Gerry’s Heirloom Eggs. Don’t forget, you can still access coupons for their eggs here, and FYI, their eggs are available to buy (and use the coupons on) at Northeast grocery store chains like Shaw’s, Stop and Shop, and Whole Foods!
This small sign was literally the only indication that we had arrived at Drink, Boston’s premier destination for specialty cocktails. The bartenders here are more like mixologists or artists. There is no drink menu – just tell them what you like or what you’re in the mood for, and a special, unique beverage will be made just for you. Each drink takes awhile to make but it’s well worth the wait.
The place runs like a well-oiled machine. That girl in the photo above was preparing citrus fruits for drinks the whole time we were there. Another girl was completely in charge of washing off any tools/shakers/cups used to make the beverages. That way, the mixologists could concentrate on what they did best. Each drink was quite a production! It looked like our bartender, Will, was performing an operation while he made our first beverage.
Luckily the booze was not only flowin’ at Drink, but water was too – served in shot glasses! Very cool, and despite how busy it got not long at all after the place opened at 4pm, the employees were very attentive about keeping the glasses full.
Our first drink was a Mai Tai, but not one you’ve ever seen before.
Yes, the drink is on FIRE! This was amazing. Ken and I informed Will that we wanted something with rum, citrus-y, more tart than sweet…and this is what he came up with. The thing on fire in the lime skin is a brandied cherry, and the cherries in this drink were actually the best I’ve ever tasted. The Mai Tai contained two rums: El Dorado 12 Year and one other that I cannot for the life of me find the name of – bad blogger. Other ingredients included house-made grenadine, freshly squeezed lime juice, orange curacao, and the obvious fresh fruit and crushed ice.
Drink may not have a drink menu, but the food menu was incredible. Ken chose a couple of bar bites for us – warm olives and candied bacon cashews. OH. MY. GOSH. The olives were good, don’t get me wrong. But those cashews? Fantastic, amazing, wonderful, not enough positive words exist to describe these cashews.
It was time for another drink, and Ken had brought along a very special ingredient – his Pete and Gerry’s eggs! Will gladly accepted them and offered to whip us up some cocktails. He and some other Drink employees were definitely admiring the brilliant yellow of those cage-free yolks as he worked.
Yes, that’s a light Will is working with. I’m telling you, each drink was like an operation! An operation that involves lots of heavy drink shaking.
Will made Ken and I two drinks to share, one with egg whites and one that used the egg yolk. First up, was a Good Humor, made with egg yolk, aperol cream, and topped with nutmeg.
Interesting story behind the Good Humor – it was invented by a couple who owned a farm and used to make drinks with egg whites. They had so many leftover yolks that they knew they had to come up with a drink to put those into, and that’s when experimenting was done and the Good Humor was invented.
The next drink, which was the favorite of both Ken and I because it tasted stronger, was the Pink Lady made with egg whites, apple brandy, gin, pomegranate, and lemon. YUM!
Ken and I had to cut ourselves off, because we had another destination to hit! Chef Jason Santos of Hell’s Kitchen’s seventh season is the executive chef at Blue Inc. and he has an affinity for Pete and Gerry’s eggs! He uses them in his kitchen and had nothing but good feedback for Ken. That’s right, I got to meet Chef Jason Santos!
The interior of Blue Inc. is gorgeous, with a really cool blue and orange color scheme and a very retro appearance. The restaurant was designed with help from Taniya Nayak, an interior designer and HGTV/Food Network personality!
Jason was kind enough to send out shooters of his celery root and Fuji apple soup. This was creamy and not too rich. The apple taste was extremely subtle – good for someone like me who doesn’t really like apples! What an amazing soup.
The unique foodie fare didn’t stop there. The bartenders were also very generous and gave Ken and I a sample of one of the crazy cocktails from Blue Inc’s Crazy Cocktails menu. Tricia LaCount, the Bar Manager and “Mad Scientist”, has done an amazing job coming up with some really unique concoctions, like a dirty martini made with black sea salt. Oh, and she’s also a sweetheart! The above shot glass is filled with a rum and Coke made with butter-popcorn-infused rum. Yes, that’s right, they literally take rum and let it soak in buttered popcorn! Not exactly my cup of tea (I don’t like soda…) but what an idea. I can always appreciate creativity like that. I had to try a couple sips!
For my next cocktail of the evening, I was daring and selected the Angry Tomato: gazpacho vodka, pickled green beans, and a double-secret bloody recipe.
The rim was garnished with some kind of red-pepper and the green beans were EXCELLENT dunked in the drink. This was a daring choice for me because like I said before, I’m not really a Bloody Mary fan. I could actually only finish about half of this. However it was the best one I’ve ever tried and I’m glad I stepped out of my box!
Not pictured are the Spicy Red Curry Mussels (with Thai crab cakes, scallion salad, and fresh coconut) and Pretzel Rolls that Ken and I shared as well. The broth of the mussels was FANTASTIC when soaked up with the pretzel roll. Mmmm. Unfortunately at this point, it was time to part ways with Ken. I had another meet-up on my agenda, a very special one indeed.
Yes, that’s Heather from For the Love of Kale! She already blogged about our meet-up and had so many nice things to say, and I’m happy to say the feeling is mutual. I feel like I’ve known her for forever and she’s one of my twinnies! We had a great time in the city and I loved meeting her friends too.
We were going to hit up The Other Side Cafe, and I was so psyched for a unique meal, but they were at capacity and showing no signs of emptying out anytime soon. Bummer! A lot of the restaurants in the area were also “full-up” for those with no reservations, so by process of elimination we ended up at Mass Ave Tavern.
Good thing I wasn’t even really hungry at all after all the munching and imbibing I’d been doing the last several hours, but the Bee Keeper cocktail sounded simple and delicious, so I did order one of those. When in Rome?
The drink was definitely excellent, and the four of us shared a Hummus Plate. It was yummy and the perfect light snack for my hunger level, but Heather the hummus-expert confirmed for us that this hummus was not homemade, but Tribe. Still good, but something easily recreated at home!
Our waitress also had an attitude and there weren’t many options at all for a vegan like Heather (what do you expect from a Tavern we ended up at because we didn’t have many other choices…), but we went with the flow and had a blast with each other anyway, of course! How could we not?
It was such an amazing Saturday. I headed home after dinner and was in bed and passed out by 11:15PM. Not too shabby! Still was able to get up the next morning and have a super productive Sunday.
Have you ever met someone you met through blogging in “real life”?
Which of the cocktails I sampled would you most want to try?