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A Marvelous Take On Tradition

I went home to Connecticut this weekend so that I could my dad, sister, and I could head to New York City for our annual holiday trip! But due to some unforeseen circumstances, we never made it there. I’ll explain in a sec but will also share up front that everything ended up turning out marvelous!

Link up with Katie if you’re sharing marvelous today!

I started my weekend with Friday night out in Hartford, because I drove home late that afternoon. Kat and I went to dinner at Front Street’s location of The Capital Grille (more on that in another post next week) followed by the Nutcracker Suite & Spicy after-party at NIXS. As usual I ran into a ton of CT event circuit friends and it was so great to see them all.

Me and the newly-blonde Jonathan!

Me and the newly-blonde Jonathan!

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Mohegan Sun BrewFest

Mohegan Sun is at it again! On Saturday night I attended their first annual Mohegan Sun BrewFest. I was excited to attend not only because I love foodie/tasting events, but also because I love the Mohegan Sun casino! I’ve visited Foxwoods and MGM Grand in CT (the latter is pretty good, the former not so much), but I always seem to come back to Mohegan. I’ve written about them a lot on the blog:

I was nervous because I’d been having off-and-on stomach issues since Wednesday, and they’d returned the morning of the event. However I took it easy all day long (it was kind of nice to sit around in my PJs watching TV…something I hadn’t done in awhile) and as a result felt well enough to get ready and head out in the early evening! Of course I attended the event with my foodie friend Jeff! Are you really that surprised? Funny enough, a couple of folks we ran into at BrewFest said they recognized him from my blog! What a celeb.

Ready to go with our media passes and tasting glasses!

The crowds at this event amazed me. The line for tickets at the box office completely blocked walking traffic, and so many patrons had already entered the tasting area in the Uncas Ballroom at the time of our arrival that a huge line had formed for those that already had tickets and were waiting to get in. Only a few people could be let in at a time – I’m guessing the Ballroom was already at capacity.

We decided to concentrate on beers we hadn’t tried before, especially since lines had already formed at each tasting booth and were only getting longer! Our tasting session started at 6PM and by 7PM, almost every booth (except Twisted Tea…ha) had a huge line and many tables were so close together that it was more like a cluster of people standing around, not sure what table they were waiting to taste from. I’m not surprised that the event was so packed since the event was extremely affordable ($20/session), but in the future I would recommend that Mohegan Sun either sell less tickets (by limiting them or raising prices…not an advocate of the latter) or change the layout of the tasting room. Altogether the tables probably took up a little less than half of the room and were arranged so closely! It was easy for lines to merge and become clusters.

Posin’ with my brew glass!

That’s where my recommendations for improvement end. It was still a great event, perfect for a beer newbie like myself! I can’t say that I can now see myself going to a restaurant and ordering a glass of beer, but that’s because I just love wine and cocktails so much more. But a beer tasting is perfect for an adventurarian like myself who just wants to sample as many different unique tastes as possible.

A toast with Sammy Adams!

Some hop-lights (haaaa)…

My two favorites of BrewFest!

Props to Hooker Brewery of Bloomfield, CT for bringing two beers on tap that ended up being my favorites of the night. Their Chocolate Truffle Stout is made with Munson’s cocoa powder/nibs and was truly incredible. It rivals the Southern Tier Choklat that I’ve always said was my favorite chocolate beer (always as in, since this past Easter). The Saison is a Belgian-style farmhouse ale and reminded me of a barleywine. Excellent subtle caramel flavor that impressed me with its complexity!

Henry Weinhard’s, a brand I’d never heard of.

Jeff and I sampled Henry Weinhard’s Redwood Flats Amber Ale and Private Reserve American Pale Lager. The brewery is located in the Pacific Northwest, which may explain why I had zero awareness, but Henry is on my radar now! I really enjoyed the Amber Ale.

City Steam Brewery’s Naughty Nurse, Innocence IPA, and Blonde on Blonde on tap.

I adore City Steam’s vintage label and poster designs!

City Steam Brewery is a Hartford mainstay. The establishment is not only a brewery, but a successful restaurant and comedy club as well. I’ve only visited the restaurant once, but enjoyed my experience. Sampling the beer has certainly made me want to get back there for dinner – maybe even a comedy show! My favorite of the three still remains Naughty Nurse (sampled at Taste of Wethersfield), but the Innocence IPA was so light and refreshing; I know my mom would adore it.

Fun name!

Jeff made a beeline for the Olde Burnside Brewing table when we saw it! I’m surprised I liked the above Hop’t Scot Ale as much as I did, because I generally avoid hoppier beers and it’s an English IPA…gone Scottish! However it totally impressed me with its light, smooth, unique flavor. Definitely never tasted a beer like this before and that’s what made me gravitate toward it. The sign stated this beer was “balanced” and it didn’t lie!

Fitfluential media guests!

I spotted Jennifer of Savoring the Thyme right before I left the event – good timing! Must be that Fitfluential ESP! I feel like Jennifer and I came full-circle since the first time we did a meet-up, which was also at Mohegan.  But it won’t be the last meet-up! It was fun catching up with her and finally meeting her man. They’d just come from an anniversary dinner at Bar Americain that sounded like a dream! I also ran into a co-worker, Greg and Wendy of Connecticut Bloggers, Sarah of Adventures With My Boys, and the parents of one of my sister’s best friends.

Siena Sling (Grey Goose, lemon, basil) for me and Sicilian Julep for Jeff!

BrewFest was fun, but you know me. I’m a cocktail snob. And a cocktail snob needs a cocktail when she’s at the casino! Jeff and I decided to have dinner and a drink at Mohegan’s newest restaurant, Ballo. We love dining at the bar (as opposed to a table) and there were exactly two seats open – perfect. Our bartender, Stephanie, was great! She made us excellent drinks (see caption above); mine was strong yet smooth, thanks to the Goose 😛 so simple, so me. Jeff enjoyed his beverage as well – he’d had it once before (he’s been to Ballo for just drinks) so it was good enough to order a second time!

Boooo, even Instagram couldn’t make this pic work without a flash.

I was torn between salmon and swordfish (seafood, obviously!), but Stephanie helped me make the right call and recommended the Swordfish Livornaise with escarole and black olives. Umm, and the menu didn’t even mention that the dish also included CHICKPEAS. Heaven! I finished every last bite and had to scoop up the final drops of sauce with bread. Duh.

Flash was required in this place! Check out the hearty size of that swordfish!

Jeff was going to go the practical money-saving route and get a flatbread (a more affordable menu option for those who wish to try this place but are worried it’ll be too expensive), but then Stephanie told us about the evening’s special. She uttered the words “braised short rib with pumpkin polenta” and Jeff’s mouth dropped open. He was speechless. I stepped in and said, “He’ll take it.”

Check out that crusty bread! Not very crispy, but certainly delightful. The butter particularly impressed – it was sitting in a pool of herbs and olive oil!

I tried a bite and man oh man, that special was worth its $29 price tag. Though the speed at which it came out made Jeff wonder how long ago it had been cooked!

We ended our evening at the casino with a trip to the craps table. I love playing craps, but the way I play pisses off my friends. I will only bet the minimum bet on the pass line (the most basic way to play), and walk away as soon as I lose one round. I play $20 and if I lose it all, I just stop there. Yes, it’s a practical way to gamble. And no, it doesn’t bore me! I’m still playing and watching the action at the table, and thanks to my conservative strategy, I almost always walk away a winner. For example, last night I won $40. And Jeff joined in on my strategy for once, and he walked away with winnings too! He was certainly glad that he won back dinner.

What a fun evening. So glad I’ve crossed another restaurant off my (mental)  list of Mohegan restaurants to try, experienced some cool brews, and got to hang out with so many friends. I felt so in my element and at peace throughout the evening and whenever I started feeling any anxiety about the food and drinks, I focused on the company I was keeping and the fact that my hard work on my blog had led to Mohegan Sun inviting me to come to BrewFest. Then I felt proud and grateful! Too blessed to be stressed indeed.

Thank you Mohegan Sun for having me at the BrewFest! I received complimentary passes to attend, but all opinions are my own.

Have you ever heard of any of the beers I sampled? Which do you think you’d enjoy?

Is there a casino near you? Have you ever been to one?