Tag Archives: tastings

March of Dimes CT Signature Chefs Auction

I attended this event free of charge as a media volunteer. All opinions of the evening are my own.

You’ve heard me talk about the 75th Anniversary March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction Gala a few times now. The event seemed so far away when I first connected with Leigh-Anne Lefurge, State Director of Communications for the Connecticut chapter. She, Marc Spencer (Senior Community Director), Kaitlin, and I worked together to spread the word via social media and get more restaurants involved. I could hardly believe it when I woke up this past Thursday morning knowing the event was already here!


Right before kicking things off.


Some of the evening’s chefs, assembled for a group shot.

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Taste of Wethersfield 2013

When spring hits (I’m not saying when the weather gets warmer because it barely has been, OK I already got in my weather complaint for the day) my event schedule REALLY starts filling up! Last week I recapped the 4/11 Taste of the Nation Hartford, and a few days later on Saturday night 4/13 I was at the Keeney Memorial Center in Wethersfield, CT for the 8th Annual Taste of Wethersfield!

HIGH FIVE! Great event!

HIGH FIVE! Great event!

I had a great time at this event last year and am thankful that this year, I was asked back by the Wethersfield Historical Society itself! I took my usual foodie partner-in-crime Rachel – who happens to be the namer of my blog. I am forever in her debt!

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Love and Bitters at Barcelona

Remember to check out yesterday’s post, where I shared a special announcement…

My friend (since high school!) Andrea and I made plans on a Monday this month to go out to a fab dinner in honor of her birthday. I discovered Barcelona in West Hartford was doing one of their fun food and drink pairing events that very night, so we decided to turn that Love & Bitters Cocktail Class into our celebratory meetup!

Quite the lineup!

Quite the lineup!

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Top Nosh in West Hartford!

Thank you for your comments on yesterday’s story about my encounter with my new friend Ed! I saw him again this morning at Peaberry’s and we chatted for a bit. Funny enough, after I told him that I’d gone to UConn, am almost done with my MBA, and have a full-time job, he just looked at me and said, “You’re the oldest kid aren’t you?” Yes we oldest, always the overachievers. Crazy how it’s always so easy to tell. I also learned that Ed was an NBA referee for three years! I’m excited to keep learning more about him – he’s already taught me so much, just by buying my coffee yesterday!

I was still in a funk for a lot of yesterday but at the end of the day as I sat on the couch watching TV with my dad and brother, sipping a little Cameron Hughes Pinot Grigio, and eating a dinner pretty easy on my stomach (very light on veggies, more heavy on frozen Ore-Ida fries…man I love those things), I felt quite at peace and thankful to be feeling a lot better physically and mentally than I had at the beginning of the day. My time to wind down and relax with the DVR and my books is so key to keeping me centered and calming me after anxiety-filled days – or even after the most normal of days. I’m grateful that I am able to easily access the things that calm me.

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Mohegan Sun WineFest 2013

Remember friends, the giveaway for a free pair of Oakley sunglasses from Sunglasses Shop ends tonight at 11:59 PM EST! Be sure to enter this fabulous contest!

Last year I went to Mohegan Sun Casino‘s annual Sun WineFest and had so much fun, I needed three posts to share my experience! This year I am going to do it all in one post, but that’s not because I had less fun. Au contraire, I’d say this year was MORE fun because I reunited with old friends I’d met during and since last year’s event, met a blend I LOVE in person, and got to share the experience with my close friend (and namer of this blog), Rachel.

Me and the gorgeous Rachel in our glasses and fancy media badges!

My love for Mohegan Sun is no secret. I visit as often as I can whether I am there as their guest or just ready to have a great time with friends and family. I love entering the casino and feeling like I’m in another world – yes I know they do that on purpose. But I only lost $20 on the craps table this night (unfortunately my lucky streak has ended) because I spent most of my time in the ballroom of the convention center at Saturday’s Grand Tasting!

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Max Chef to Farm: Tomato, Tomato at Rosedale Farms

Don’t forget to enter the Love With Food giveaway if you haven’t already – it ends tonight at 11:59PM EST!

The Max Restaurant Group of CT and MA is no stranger to putting on fabulous foodie events. I myself have attended a couple different ones at Max Fish in Glastonbury, CT. They’ve certainly outdone themselves with their Chef to Farm dinner series, though. Fodor’s Travel even declared the series to be one of the top five chef-to-farm dinner programs in the country.

This past Friday night, Jeff (he also accompanied me to the other two Max events I’ve been to) and I attended the Tomato, Tomato dinner, one of several that have been and will be held at Rosedale Farms & Vineyards in Simsbury, CT.

I was extra excited to go because I have been wanting to visit Rosedale Farms for awhile now since I’m a total wino. They are part of the CT Wine Trail and I even have a tasting Groupon that I still need to redeem.

A tent was set up with a tasting table underneath, and Jeff and I wasted no time in grabbing a glass of vino. Jeff chose the white, 2011 Simsbury Celebration (100% estate-grown Seyval Blanc), and I chose the Farmington River Red (California Petite Sirah). We are very predictable.

The Farmington River Red was wonderful! I love Petite Sirah. Jeff is still getting “used” to red wines and he really liked how smoothly it went down. I in turn am learning to enjoy whites and I was skeptical of the Seyval Blanc since I sometimes don’t enjoy other whites like Sauvignon Blanc, but I was actually pleasantly surprised. It seemed to me to be a refreshing balance between a Pinot Grigio and a Chardonnay.

HAD to get a John Deere pic!

Rosedale is truly a beautiful place. The evening sun cast a calming aura as it slowly set over the vineyard vines, flowers sprouted out of the ground almost everywhere I looked, and the barns’ exteriors displayed whimsical artwork (as seen in photos above).

While some patrons sipped their wine and enjoyed passed appetizers at tables adjacent to the wine tasting tent, others took rides around the farm in a tractor-pulled wagon with their glasses and snacks.

There were not quite enough tables set up for the pre-dinner fare, but Jeff and I made do and ended up sitting down with a really nice couple that so happened to be at our assigned dinner table later – funny how that works out! It also seemed that there was an abundance of certain appetizers (I must have been offered an oyster about a thousand times) being walked around by waitstaff, yet not enough of others (I had to eventually seek out waitresses carrying a couple of items and ask that they come by our table so that we could try those apps).

Stonington Red Shrimp Ceviche: Prudens Purple Tomato, Lemon Verbena

However no one went hungry (far from it) and the waitresses were friendly and responsive! Jeff and I did end up getting to sample each small taste during the reception. The presentations on some of the dishes, particularly the oysters, were beautiful.

Noank Oysters with Cherokee Tomato Black Pepper Mignonette

I am still stuck off-board the oyster train. I have tasted pretty much only expertly-prepared varieties, yet have never really enjoyed any of them! I give credit to myself for continuously trying but I don’t think I’m an oyster girl.

And I clearly can’t “smoothly” take an oyster shot.

Other appetizers were not as gallantly presented, but their tastes spoke for them plenty, like the below mini-BLTs. Crusty bread and juicy tomato made for a dynamite combination. The tomatoes were so very flavorful that I could’ve eaten these without the bacon. But of course, bacon makes everything better.

BLT with House Bacon, Hydro-Bibb Lettuce, and Heirloom Tomatoes

I was trying not to taste more than one of each appetizer since I wanted to save plenty of room for the upcoming multi-course dinner, but the one bite I made an exception for was the below grilled flatbread. After all, pizza is my favorite food.

Grilled Flatbread with Housemade Ricotta, Pesto, Basil, Confit Tomato

The ricotta, made in-house at Max’s Oyster Bar, was some of the freshest and most flavorful I’ve ever sampled. It was actually made WITH basil, which was subsequently strained out of the finished-product, explaining how strongly basil-flavored the flatbread was. To the naked eye it appeared to only have a few shaved pieces of basil providing that flavor, perched atop the rest of the fantastic ingredients. I happily had two slices.

Cato Corners Veal & Cheese Meatballs with Sungold Tomato Nage

I adored the presentation of the above veal meatballs, and adored their taste even MORE, thanks to the decision by Chef Scott Miller (Max Oyster Bar’s Exec Chef and the chef behind this dinner) to use both lamb and cheese fresh from Cato Corner Farm in Colchester, CT. The sungold tomato nage was not only made with tomatoes straight from Rosedale Farms, but with their white wine as well! As soon as I learned that, I knew I really wasn’t going to get a meal more local than this unless I literally went out to farms, purchased the ingredients, and prepared the dishes myself.

The jar on the left contains what I’ll call a Tomato Aioli.

The veggie crudites had been set up self-serve style on a beautifully decorated garden-themed table. The tomato aioli paired with them was fantastic! I grabbed one veg plate and one aioli plate for Jeff and I to share.

The wooden plates on the right fit extremely well with the evening’s farm-fresh theme, and were nice and light for easy carrying.

I was more than ready to chow down by the time the crowd was ushered through the vineyard’s aisles, abundant with perfect purple grapes. By this point Jeff and I had shared another glass of the Simsbury Celebration white wine.

The meal was literally being prepped before our very eyes, and long tables were set up under a white tent, giving attendees gorgeous views of the farm fields at sunset.

Chef Scott Miller and his team at work.

Plates at the ready for assembly.

View from my spot – head of the table! 😀

At each seat, a creative cocktail was already waiting – now that’s my kind of table setting!

The rest of the touches at each setting – linen napkins, mason jar centerpieces – weren’t too shabby either.

The cocktail, dubbed by its creator (Beverage Director Brian Mitchell) to be called the Mojitomato, was actually a twist on one of his favorite classic beverages, the gin and tonic. Yup, those are Rosedale Farm tomatoes floating in that mason jar (MASON JAR LOVE), which also contained herbs like basil and tarragon. And a salt-and-pepper rim was the perfect touch! My only regret is that I didn’t drink that guy faster since by the end of the evening it had become quite watered-down by the ice, but I refused to give it up each time the waitresses came around to collect glasses.

We were seated adjacent to the beverage station…I swear I didn’t plan that! 😛

Beverage Director Brian Mitchell got to work prepping the mini dessert cocktails very early on in the dinner.

Both the owner of Rosedale Farms & Vineyards and Chef Scott Miller welcomed the crowd before the amuse bouche was served. We learned that Rosedale goes back five generations, and produces six different wines. Chef Miller explained how his desire to know where his food comes from, and how much better he feels when he does know, have driven him to design and create these Max Chef to Farm Dinners.

I love when chefs jazz up a classic comfort dish like Chef Miller did with the amuse-bouche!

Brodetto of Heirloom Tomatoes with Cato Corners Farmstead Cheese Panini

Yeah yeah, I know, it’s a grilled cheese and tomato soup. And it was way better than mom used to make #sorrynotsorry

Feelin’ dainty!

See the leaf garnish on the plate? Jeff and I decided that it looked like a tree star from “Land Before Time”. Anybody? Well, it turns out that garnish was not a tree star, but a grape leaf from the vineyard! Straight from vine to Jeff’s palate!

So Little Foot.

The first wine served with the main meal was Rosedale Farms (all the wines were) Three Sisters made from 100% grapes grown in the Rosedale Vineyards (77% Cayuga, 23% Seyval Blanc again). The Cayuga grapes made this a sweeter white than the first we sampled, but I actually liked it more. It seemed closer to the Pinot Grigio end of the spectrum to me, and thanks to Heather, I’ve been becoming Pinot-obsessed.

Each time the waitstaff refilled the cute wooden bread boxes, they did so using a different variety of bread from Hartford Baking Company, the West Hartford cafe and bakery that I visited with Heather and Jenny last month. My carb cravings were in full swing at this dinner. I kept feeling like I needed some starch to absorb the alcohol in my stomach, since the meal’s courses were not very starch-heavy!

Tomato & Watermelon with Sankows Aged Feta, Basil, Olive Oil Powder, Spherical Olives

The above first course actually used both regular AND golden watermelon, which I had no idea even existed! That black olive on the plate isn’t your average olive at all, but an encapsulated version. Chef Scott Miller created something that looked and tasted like an olive, but was not an olive. Instead, he pureed kalamata olives and combined them with a mixture of xanthum gum (a popular smoothie addition in the blog world!) and calcium lactate. Then he bathed it all in a bath of water and sodium alginate. The result? The above encapsulated olive! So. Cool.

And the baby watermelons were cuties too!

The second course starred seafood, so I was so very excited! And not just any seafood…seafood that was harvested TWO days prior from Stonington, CT!

Little Neck Clams, Monkfish Fritter, Calamari with Lobster Broth, Porgi with EVOO

The monkfish fritter was definitely my favorite part of this dish, and the lobster broth was a close second. Mopping it up with thick, white Hartford Baking Co. bread (complete with an asiago cheese crust) was beyond words perfect.

The crowd under the tent later in the evening.

The wine paired with the seafood was appropriately another white, a Riesling called Serendipity. Just a touch sweeter than the Three Sisters, and I loved it. I have been Riesling-crazy this summer!

Grass-fed Beef with Sauce Choron & Torpedo Onion, Fried Green Tomatoes, Charred Corn Relish, Rosedale’s Ratatouille

Don’t worry, the above main course was served with a red wine, a pleasant pairing indeed. This food didn’t need any wine to make it taste good though. The beef was reddish-pink when I cut into it (just how I like it) and that sauce – ah! I could taste the freshness of the Rosedale Farms in the ratatouille and in the torpedo onion, which I would have loved even if it hadn’t been presented in such a cool fashion, with the widest rings on the bottom and gradually building to the thinnest on top. I have also been waiting to try fried green tomatoes for so long, and was glad to do so! However I’d say they were the least memorable part of the dish – I hoped I’d be able to taste the tomato, but the savory (albeit tasty) breading overpowered the veggie.  Maybe I got a thinner pair of tomatoes!

Cato Corners Cheese with Tomato Tarte Tatin

Forgive the photo above – it was taken with an iPhone using the most-hated FLASH! Instead of a cheese plate, Chef Miller took it one step further (though i was hoping for a good old fashioned plate of varied cheeses, I have to admit) and crafted the above small plate. The tomato flavor of the tarte was so very rich and paired excellently with the fresh Cato Corners cheese…and the red wine.

Tequila dessert cocktail!

We were informed of the proper way to drink to above dessert cocktail (El Jimador tequila, Ripe, chartreuse)…bite in the tomato, then sip it down! It was a delicious concoction and I love that Brian Mitchell used what he called a “saltier” tequila, because I love me some salt!

CTomato LN2 Gelato with Dark Chocolate Torte & Encapsulated Basil

Dessert was food science at its best because not only did we get more encapsulation action, but we also got tomato gelato, which was rock-hard when served. So rock-hard in fact that when Jeff tried to slice his scoop in half with his spoon, it squirted right off his plate and into the grass! Luckily he has a good foodie friend like me to split my scoop with him – though Chef Miller was kind enough to offer him a replacement scoop too! I adored the unique taste of the gelato, because its cold ice-cream-like texture screamed “sweet” to me, yet the flavor was shouting “savory”. The ensuing battle between the two made for a food experience that I’m sure cannot be easily replicated. The dark chocolate torte however, though the most traditional component, was certainly my favorite. So rich, so simple. It’s hard to beat chocolate!

Chef Scott Miller and I! What a view behind us!

Chef Scott Miller and Beverage Director Brian Mitchell were both kind enough to pop in at our table throughout the meal and answer any questions I had about what I was trying. I wouldn’t have been able to give you the details on the encapsulated olive, Mojitomato, and other tastes without their input, so thank you!

Breathtaking view from my seat.

At the end of the evening, the crowd applauded for the chef and his team, Rosedale Farms, and the attentive waitstaff. On the way out, each patron got a set of goodies to take home – bibb lettuce and tomatoes also fresh from Rosedale, and a bottle of Ripe Bar Juice‘s San Marzano Bloody Mary Mix! Score – I can see this coming in handy during TN football game parties this season!

Great job, team!

Showing off my goodies once I got home!

What a magical evening. Local food, good friends, fabulous drinks…it was the perfect evening for an everythingarian foodie like myself. Thank you, Max Restaurant Group!

If this post made you hungry for some Max Restaurant fare, you’re in luck – from 8/27-9/2, the Glastonbury locations Max AMore and Max Fish are celebrating Taste of the Suburbs East of the River with prix-fixe $20.12 menus. From 9/3-9/9, Max A Mia will be offering a $20.12 menu for Taste of the Suburbs Farmington Valley!

Have you ever been to a dinner on a farm or vineyard?

What’s the freshest farm-to-table meal you’ve ever had?

Which dish would you have wanted to try the most?

Millwright’s: At Your Service

I adore farm-to-table style cuisine, and was so very excited to hear that a new restaurant, Millwright’s, was opening in the same Connecticut town as my workplace. After I discovered the identity of the chef opening the establishment, I knew I had to try it out ASAP! Chef Tyler Anderson was a winner on Food Network’s “Chopped”, and I sampled his creative PB&J bites at the Taste of the Nation: New Haven. He cooked at the Copper Beech Inn restaurant Brasserie Pip, a spot too far from me to have allowed time for a visit yet (it’s on my ever-growing list of places to hit), but a glance at that menu and my too-brief experience in New Haven told me I was sure to be impressed by the creativity Tyler was bound to bring to the Millwright’s menu. He and the rest of the courteous staff were kind enough to host my friend Chris and I for a well-rounded tasting of that menu’s offerings – and more. 

Millwright’s is housed in Simsbury, CT’s Hop Brook Mill. Upon my arrival I spent a little bit of time “searching” the grounds for the old mill’s waterfall, but didn’t have any luck seeing it (I certainly could hear it!)

Where for art thou, waterfall?

Good thing I had no problem seeing the waterfall from my perfectly-located table. Chris and I also had another dining buddy – a beautiful heron that had been, according to our waitresses, hanging out by the waterfall all day!

Can you see him?


Millwright’s could easily coast along on its beautiful outdoor views, but that would be too easy. The rustic, charming interior matches the restaurant’s woodsy surroundings and barn-red exterior perfectly! I felt right at home the moment I walked through the door and saw the shelf stocked with mason jars of “preserves” and old cookbooks next to the hostess stand.

The dim lighting at the entrance builds the perfect amount of suspense, then brightens into a dining room filled with natural light coming from the floor-to-ceiling windows you see on the left in the photo below.

All open bottles that need to stay chilled are kept on this beautifully decorated table, which serves as a convenient central location for the servers.

Our table for two. I was so pleased to see it already set up the way I prefer to dine with just one other person – side by side instead of across from each other. Optimal for sharing sips and bites!

Chris and I were given cocktail/beer menus and the wine list, which is housed in a binder. Don’t be too intimidated though…not only does the menu contain notes from the sommelier and maitre d’  Brent Bushong, but wines by the glass are also conveniently arranged on one page and wines by the bottle are grouped by taste, not by region or type (something I always prefer, because patrons are going to TASTE the wine, yes?) The cocktails caught my eye immediately – I am a cocktail connoisseur (self-declared, so you just have my word to take on that one) and those with simple yet unique ingredient lists are the very types that Chris, the head bartender, is creating at Millwright’s daily.

Chris (my dining partner, not bartender…this could get confusing!) and I decided to let Chef Tyler and his maître d’, Brent, take the reins for the evening. Between the two of them, Chris and I were served a fantastic assortment of dishes with drink pairings. Before we received anything, we got the below assortment of glasses, an occurrence which clearly both excited and astounded me.

Flute…wine glass…BUBBLE glass?!

First up…no courses. Now we still got food, but these THREE dishes were palate cleansers, all paired with a French Pommerey Blanc de Blancs Champagne.

I’m not usually much for champagne, but both Chris and I enjoyed how mild this glass was in terms of fizziness. Also, we appreciated the fact that it wasn’t too sweet at all. The flavor complemented each palate cleanser, as opposed to taking away from it.

This probably goes without saying for anyone who just looked at the above photo, but the tomato gazpacho shooter with crème fraiche was made differently from any other gazpacho I’ve had thanks to the addition of a blackberry (meant to be flicked into the glass before “shooting”) and a flower!

Ready to flick it in!

An outstanding flavor combo! I never would have expected fruit (or a flower…) to go with gazpacho!

Chris post-gazpacho-shot.

Next up Chris and I classily cleansed our palates with two New England oysters from East Beach in MA (Millwright’s goes as local as possible on all ingredients) and rhubarb mignonette.

I am not the biggest oyster fan – for some reason, every shooter I’ve EVER tried tastes like all salty shell to me! However, I could tell from my oyster’s taste that it was of high quality; my best descriptive word I can come up with is “pure”. Definitely fresh, definitely local.

Not your normal shooter.

How wonderful is the presentation with the granite slab?!

The third and last palate cleanser was my favorite. Best for last…third time’s the charm…which cliché should I insert here? Doesn’t really matter, because I think a description of the dish will do it justice: foie gras torchon on Boston brown bread, paired with a stone fruit jam.

Again with the amazing presentation! I wish I’d had more “bites” of the foie gras and brown bread, and it was painful to eat both in one mouthful, but I had to do so because I knew they were meant to be paired! I also dipped the combo into the jam – so heavenly. I’m a sucker for any app involving a pate and fruity jam.

Time for course one! Fluke tartare with buttermilk, pickled blueberries, puffed wild rice, and shiso. Brent asked us to guess what the fruit was on this dish and I am bummed that I never gave him my  guess, because I totally suspected blueberries! Not sure if he would believe me now.

By this time, the sun had almost set and the waterfall outside the window had been illuminated.

The fluke was paired appropriately, though unexpectedly, with a chilled Japanese sake called Junmai Genshu. I am a huge advocate of sake drinking (though not as much when it is room temperature or warm) and can definitely see myself seeking out a bottle of this stuff and keeping it in the fridge at home to pair with an appropriate dinner. If you ever see that sake on the menu at any restaurant, I highly recommend ordering a glass – or you could just go to Millwright’s, since you know it’s there!

The cocktail pairing is in the shooter glass in the upper right.

I swear when the second course (pictured above) came out, I let out a “squeal” of delight. Ask Chris…he’d probably agree that that’s what I sounded like. All day leading up to my visit I had been hoping I’d be served a cut of fantastic fish, but also knew I wanted Millwright’s to choose the best of their best for my tasting, so I held back on asking for a grilled seafood dish. Brent and Tyler read my mind! The above pictured grilled swordfish melted in my mouth and the white bean puree to its left tasted like hummus on steroids. The cubanelle peppers and green olives on the puree were the perfect complements, and I crafted as many “complete” bites (with everything ingredient) as possible because all the flavors just tasted as if they were born to be experienced together.

Chris sandwich!

Thankfully Chris and I got to try one of bartender Chris’s amazing cocktails…and get a photo with the mixologist himself. His take on the Hemingway (white rum, cherry, and citrus) had me doubtful at first because I wondered if it’d taste too sweet…I shouldn’t have doubted him for a second and don’t think I ever will again! I enjoyed sipping on the classic beverage’s frothy top as well as the way the rum’s flavor still shone through, but was cut down the perfect amount by the cherry, whose sweetness was balanced nicely by the citrus. Sounds complicated, but with just a few simple ingredients combined using the ideal ratios, Chris created a cocktail that tasted timeless. I’m so very excited to order another when I go visit the Millwright’s Tavern in the building’s bottom floor (after it opens Monday, 9/4!)

Course three and me 😉

I’d never heard of or tasted a dish like course three’s before…that is what I love about innovative, creative eateries like Millwright’s! The white wine in my glass above is a French Domaine Desvignes Chablisa wonderful Chardonnay possessing the perfect level of dryness to balance the moist veal sweetbreads with zucchini-three-ways, absinthe froth, almonds, and mint (pictured below).

I pulled a faux paus and thought the almonds were peanuts – oops! Either way, I appreciated the creativity it took for Chef Tyler to add nuts to a veal dish. I’m also a HUGE zucchini fan, so the not one, not two, but THREE ways it was displayed (and tasted) certainly played up to the veggie lover in me. I can’t really describe the taste of the foam in a way that would do it justice, but suffice to say that taste as well as the texture played up next to the flavorful veal very nicely. Oh man…the veal. It melted in my mouth, it really did! It’s rich flavor reminded me of one of my favorite meats ever, duck.

Chris isn’t quite sure what to make of his “bubble glass”.

Our table’s third and final shape of wine glass was filled next with Vina Alarba Garnacha (one of my favorite red grapes) from Calatayud, Spain. I’m jokingly calling the shape a “bubble”…in reality, the large wine glass used to house our fourth course’s wine is of the Burgundy/Grand Cru/Pinot/Nebbiolo variety and is shaped in that way to give the “big, closed red wine…maximum exposure to air”. The website linked in the previous sentence also admits that the glasses are that big to give a “note of drama”…at least they’re being honest!

Course number four!

Would you believe me if I said the above pictured medium-rare lamb loin with roast eggplant yogurt, confit tomatoes, and grilled fennel was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten? No? Well then you must not know me very well, because I love meat that’s practically bleeding. I love anything Mediterannean-tasting, like yogurt sauce and eggplant. I love juicy, local tomatoes. And I love fennel. So really, Chef Tyler put together a dish that was the perfect storm of Caitlin, and created a total J’adore La Vie moment for me.

Fellow foodie and ideal dining partner, Chris!

Chris and I had just one request for Brent and Tyler – dessert. Consider it done. Not only did dessert, a honey semifredo chocolate sorbet with chantilly cream and toasted almonds, blow us away, but it was paired with one of my most favorite alcoholic libations ever…DESSERT WINE (the non-sparkling kind).

The Equifera Vidal Icewine from Niagara, NY was another beverage I’m so glad Brent picked out for us, because I can see myself buying it and keeping it on hand at home to have after dinner. The perfect almost-syrup consistency that went well with every single component of the dessert, including that HOMEMADE MARSHMALLOW perched at the top.

Bread after dessert #sorrynotsorry

I like to experience the bread of every restaurant I visit. We were not brought any in the beginning of the meal, so once we finished dessert, I (hesitantly) asked one of our waitresses to bring out a couple of rolls with butter for Chris and I to sample. To me, bread says a lot about a restaurant because it can cover a wide spectrum, from the very worst (stale, served with cold/hard-as-rock butter, falls apart when you try to spread that butter on that staleness) to some of the best I’ve ever had (like the wheat sourdough with soft pastrami butter at J. Gilbert’s). I’m pleased to report that Millwright’s is in that best-end of the spectrum! I was quite psyched when our waitress didn’t call it bread…she called it “biscuits”. They had a sweet edge to them and the butter (doesn’t it look like a candle in the photo above?!) contained HONEY and SEA SALT. Ahh contrasting flavors FTW!

My kind of palate cleanser.

There’s nothing like sandwiching biscuits between two courses involving chocolate, oui? The last dish we were served, homemade chocolates, was certainly my kind of palate cleanser.

Brent (in the fancy suit), Chef Tyler and his team, me, and Chris.

After our meal, Chris and I were lucky enough to get a tour of the kitchen, the work-in-progress Tavern, and the wine “cellar”. It meant a lot to me that I was able to personally thank Tyler and his team for providing such a fabulous experience for Chris and I. I had already profusely thanked Brent throughout the meal with each course. He is the best maitre d’ I have ever encountered – just constantly ready to cater to every Millwright’s guest and make sure he or she enjoys the experience as much as possible. He even made up a custom menu for me to take home so that I would not have to worry about writing down all I was eating. I was able to just concentrate on tasting – and be in the moment!

Check the upper right hand corner…I died.

Millwright’s uses an iPad to keep inventory in the room where they keep all their wine and spirits. I also spotted my faves, Onyx Moonshine!

The coffee (served in a French press!) Brent has selected for Millwright’s is roasted in RI and is only kept for use as coffee (the beverage) for a week. After that, the beans are still used, but in cooking. A restaurant that takes its caffeine seriously is one that I will, in turn, take seriously!

The members of the waitstaff at Millwright’s were just as hospitable as Brent. I truly felt comfortable making any (reasonable) request of them. They even had left us the sweetest card when I came back from our kitchen tour!

This hangs in my cubicle at work now. The cafe they mention, Peaberry’s, is the local cafe I frequent each morning before work.

The card…the customized menu…I can’t get over the personalized service Chris and I received at Millwright’s last Wednesday night. I could even tell that Brent had read my blog! That’s the reason behind my decision to title this post the way I did. Millwright’s has the ability to make every single customer feel special, which is what every single one of them deserves. If you are looking for a place to celebrate a special occasion, or treat yourself to a meal that can also be called an experience, I recommend you visit Millwright’s as soon as possible. Like their Facebook page too…I’ve seen them give out fan-only specials!

Aww..the boys!

Thank you so very much to Tyler and his kitchen team, Brent, Chris (the bartender), Mariah, Amandalee, Rachel, and everyone else who made the evening unforgettable for Chris and I. I cannot wait for the Tavern’s 9/4/12 opening, and will be back then and many times after!

Have you ever had a dining experience that made you feel truly special?

Which dish would you have wanted to try the most? Which drink?

Do you have any experience with pre- and/or post-meal palate cleansers? Tell me about them!

CW’s Chops ‘n Catch: 2fly Wine Dinner

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a free race entry to a Color Me Rad 5K – ends this Sunday 6/10 at 11:59PM EST!

I love my CW’s Chops ‘n Catch tasting dinners!!! I’m actually out of order here because I have yet to recap the last one I went to over a month ago, but this one was more impressive anyway (don’t worry, I’ll eventually share the other one as well) and also is special to me because the featured wines were from 2fly, a company owned by the former president of the pool club my family belongs to and a fellow Glastonbury resident, Chris Didden.

Tasting essentials – menu, 2fly’s wine makers, and wine tasting notes.

I attended the tasting with my foodie friend Jeff (he was at the BBQ Fest with me that weekend too), who has attended most of the other Chops n Catch dinners with me as well:

I was running low on time before the dinner, but still squeezed in the 20-minute HIIT the Beach workout from the Tone It Up Beach Babe DVD (signed copy #brag), followed by about 5 minutes of abs. A small workout is better than no workout at all folks, and that HIIT is efficient!

Duck spring rolls and local shitake, goat cheese, and spinach napoleons.

As usual we started with passed appetizers…

Better spring roll view, paired with a ginger soy miso sesame vinaigrette.

I was psyched to see the napoleons topped with such ginormous olives! The local shitake mushrooms AKA the bottom were the best layer. Such a meaty, hearty texture. I think I’m officially over my former mushroom aversion. The duck spring rolls were so, as Jeff put it, “duck-y”. I’ve never had duck meat in such a pure form, without any sauces, just letting its own flavor stand out. Of course I did try my second (and last) bite of my spring roll in the sesame vinaigrette, which was also delicious, and I came up with the genius idea to hoard the rest of the dressing for other courses. Our waiter got his hand slapped (kidding) when he tried to take it away.

2fly Chardonnay 2010

2fly sells wines from others, but they also have their own private label, which I’ve sampled before at Sonoma. The 2010 Chardonnay was given a nice, slightly sweet flavor from the soft citrus. That paired very well with the first course: spinach & local ricotta gnudi with artichoke tar tar and Parmesan broth. 

Served with a nice hunk o’ bread, drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

The broth and artichokes, in particular, were my favorite part of the dish to pair with the Chardonnay. The citrus contrasted well with the saltiness. The local ricotta was enjoyed mostly on its own or atop the bread, which sadly got soggy because it was served in the soup. Beautiful presentation, but I’d still prefer to have seen it served on the side since I’m such a crunch fan!

After the first course we were served the usual delicious CW’s garlic knots with a sweet and salty maple butter, which I wish had been more warm and soft for easy spreading! Still fantastic though. I preferred dipping my roll in both the sesame vinaigrette and the leftover Parmesan broth. Definitely the best broth I’d say I’ve ever tried – usually broth-based soups are so boring and blah to me.

I’ve been excited to try wine from the Gewurztraminer grape since CT Food and Wine recommended it to me on Twitter a few weeks ago. Even if it’s white wine, I’m excited to try it if it’s made from a new-to-me grape. I actually liked this guy! I really could taste the hints of lychee! And that makes sense, because the 2fly reps at the dinner told us this is a wine that pairs very well with most Asian dishes.

Korean glazed BBQ pork belly, dumpling croutons, plum dressing, daikon sprouts, mizuna, wasabi powder

I’m still getting used to even slightly spicy foods, so when I say the wasabi powder wasn’t even that spicy at all, you should believe me! I enjoyed coating the greens in it. The daikon sprouts were also very good dipped in that sesame vinaigrette from the passed apps – yes, we were STILL hoarding it at this point. The plum dressing on the mizuna greens wasn’t what I’d pictured (I guess I kept seeing a jam in my mind) but tasted SO perfect, really just the right amount. The croutons tasted like the exterior of a fried egg roll – mmm 🙂 of COURSE saving the pork belly for last, it was so so great, also good dipped in the vinaigrette. It really did feel completed by the Gewurztraminer.

One happy foodie/wino.

Jeff and I initially were torn between the two entree choices because one had a great main component and one had a to die for side component. Then I realized there was an easy solution – get one of each and share! As my sister would say, “Le duh.”

Gaucho-style skirt steak with Chimichurri, greens, and sweet potato/yucca/Manchego cheese gratin (the to die for side).

Swordfish au poivre (the great main component), greens, and roasted garlic/spinach smashed Yukon gold potatoes

Each dish was paired with a red wineConte Estate Gondola Grenache-Shiraz Blend for the steak and 2fly Shiraz for the fish. Now, I always drink red with my seafood, but that’s just because I’m a red wino. It’s often paired with whites. So I was pleased to see the swordfish with the Shiraz, but curious as to the reasoning behind the pairing. The 2fly rep called it one of the lightest Shirazes out there, and after taking one sip I immediately could see why it was served with the fish! Definitely light – I’d call this a Shiraz for someone who normally wouldn’t like Shiraz (and also one for those who do AKA me). I also liked the Grenache-Shiraz blend, definitely went better with the steak than the 2fly Shiraz would’ve.

The steak was nice and pink! It was great in the Chimichurri. The show was SO completely stolen by the gratin though…it should have been illegal. Or not, because then I wouldn’t have gotten to eat it. The sweet potato and Manchego combo – there are just no words!!! Everyone should try this side once in his or her life. I couldn’t get enough.

Agh! Sauce about to spill!

As I predicted when I saw the menu for this dinner, the potatoes were…potatoes. They were delicious but definitely the least unique part of the entire dinner. I’ve had way better mashed potatoes – I just feel like I could’ve easily recreated these at home, and I was not at CW’s to try that kind of stuff! However, the swordfish made up for that by being crusted in a perfect pepper portion (say that 3x fast!) that put the perfect kick into each bite. Jeff said it was the best cooked swordfish he’d EVER had! The sauce on this plate was OK, but reminded me a little too much of gravy. I felt like a great effort was made to pair the sauce with the potatoes, when I would have much rather tried a sauce that was selected with the swordfish in mind.

The 2fly guys at this dinner were so friendly, informative, and heavy-handed with the pouring (BIG fan). At some of these functions, the reps don’t really know when is an appropriate time to speak about and “sell” the wines, and when they should just leave the diners alone. These guys knew though! They even took the time to sit down with Jeff and I both during and after the dinner for chatting about food, wine, Connecticut, life…whatever it was, it was great fun (and a good way to wait things out and sober up a bit before driving home).

My second CW’s prize!

They even did a quick trivia giveaway for a bottle of the 2fly Shiraz – which I won! That makes my second big win at a CW’s tasting dinner!

I felt like I was being eased into different types of wines during this dinner. For example, during the entree I tried a Shiraz (an old favorite) and a Shiraz-Grenache (a blend of an old favorite and a new one). Then I was hit with the Grenache all on its own for the dessert course! I expected some kind of port (I was actually hoping for that) or an ice wine (I hate those, NOT hoping for it) and the Grenache was a surprise to be paired with dessert. However, it was a red wine, so nevertheless I enjoyed it. I think it was the most arbitrary pairing of the meal though.

Choc-covered cherries jubilee, local Royal vanilla bean ice cream.

The dessert was sooo good. I liked how it came out already melt-y, like a cheeries jubilee soup. They’ve used this local brand of ice cream, Royal, at other CW’s dinners and it gets me every time how GOOD their plain vanilla is. No wonder that was the only flavor of ice cream I’d eat until, oh I don’t know, age 12?

Don’t remember why Jeff was doing this. Many glasses of wine had been had by that point.

Like I mentioned before, Jeff and I stuck around after we paid the check ($45 each – SOOOO affordable for all the food and wine we received), and we were well-rewarded in several ways. One of the 2fly reps ended up gifting me a 2fly hat, which I gave to my dad!

Can you see the wine in my eyes? Ha.

Trying to look like a cute chick in a hat, not successful.

So then I got up to go to the bathroom, and on my way ran into the man, the myth, the legend – Corey Wry himself! 

A foodie idol!

I’ve spoken briefly with Corey before, but this time I got to really thank him for doing these tasting dinners at such an affordable price, and also for being accommodating to non-beer-drinkers like myself and offering wine pairings during his beer dinners. He even said I could pair the courses during the next beer dinner with different whiskeys and bourbon instead! Um, OK!

Didn’t plan the whole striped thing.

Jeff and I left with huge smiles on our faces! Thanks to Corey and CW’s Chops ‘n Catch for hosting another great event, and to 2fly Wines for creating such complimentary wine pairings for Corey’s food!

Have you ever tried Grenache or Gewurztraminer? 

Have you ever met one of your foodie idols?

Which course would you have enjoyed most? (Meg, don’t bother answering, I know it’s the swordfish.)

Taste of the Nation: Hartford

You may recall hearing about Share Our Strength from my two recaps of the organization’s Taste of the Nation event in New Haven, CT. Many other bloggers have covered the event at other locations as well. The organization strives to end childhood hunger in America by 2015 (its motto is No Kid Hungry), and the funds raised from admission and each event’s silent auctions go towards grants, public partnerships, and educational programs. Certainly a worthy cause!

Taste of the Nation in New Haven.

This Thursday May 10 from 6-9pm, Taste of the Nation comes to Hartford. Marquee Events & Catering at 960 Main Street is the site of this year’s edition of the always-spectacular event. Check out its website for everything you need to know, including photos from the 2011 TON Hartford, as if you needed any further convincing about going!

I will be away that day and unfortunately can’t make it myself…I’m trying so hard NOT to look at the website’s amazing list of restaurants and beverage reps that will be there! Some of my favorites include Barcelona, Besito, Bricco Trattoria, Catsup & Mustard, Cuvee, Esca, Firebox, Max Restaurants…you get the idea! And plenty of other buzzed-about places that I’ve always wanted to try like On20, Treva, and Salute will be present too.

An offering from Barcelona Wine Bar at TON New Haven 2012…I wonder what they will be dishing up in Hartford?!

Taste of the Nation couldn’t exist without the volunteers that take time out of their busy, already-full work weeks to organize and support Share Our Strength’s efforts to make the fundraiser a success. I had the chance to ask a few of them some questions about their motivations behind getting involved, their responsibilities, and of COURSE their favorite restaurants…

Angela Pitrone (Deloitte), Event Co-Chair:

1. What motivated you to co-chair TON Hartford this year? My childhood friend, Heather Partridge, invited me to the [Share Our Strength] event 5 years ago.  Billy Grant [of Billy Grant restaurants, and fellow Event Co-Chair] was auctioning off a dinner for 10 cooked in your home.  I won the live auction.  Billy and his Manager, Sarah (check out her interview below!), came to my house to go over all of the details.  Once they realized I was an event planner, they asked me to join the committee.  After joining the committee my first year, I was asked to co-chair.

2. What are the responsibilities of the event co-chair? I touch on everything except the restaurants.  Billy Grant’s Manager, Sarah Maloney, handles all the restaurants (THANK GOD).

3. What is your favorite restaurant attending the event – no “they’re all my favorite” answers allowed! 😀 We have so many favorites for different reasons, I personally love the ever changing menu and the attention to detail at the Mill at 2t.  I’m very lucky now that my co-chair has opened Bricco Trattoria, close to my home and my 2 year old’s proclaimed favorite restaurant. [Bricco is located in my hometown, Glastonbury!]

TON New Haven 2012

Next up we hear from the aforementioned Sarah Maloney (Billy Grant Restaurants), Restaurant Chair:

1. What are the responsibilities of the restaurant chair? Being a restaurant fanatic myself, I’m imagining it to be a dream job! It is a lot of fun!  Being the restaurant business for over 10 years I have been able to friend many chefs and restaurateurs…This job gives me the opportunity to work closely with all my restaurant friends and family! One minute I’m talking ceviche with Besito and then next minute Italian cookies with Mozzicato bakery.  My main responsibility is to recruit restaurants for the event.  Once I have restaurants commited they go ahead and fill out two important forms.  One that will list what they will be making that night, what they will need from us ie plateware, electricity and also any additional donation they would like to put in the silent auction.  They also have to fill out a Health Department form as each restaurant has to apply for a temporary food liscense from the City of Hartford in order to participate.  Closer to the event we work off a CAD drawing of Marquee Events and Catering and place the restaurants in their assigned spots.  Where we put their tables really depends on what they are serving and what their needs are for the evening. That way there are not two restaurants next to each other serving similar items.  The night of I assist the Health Dept in approving the liscense and make sure that each restaurant has exactly what they need to make it a successful event
2. What do you think are the most important qualities a TON Hartford exhibitor restaurant should possess? Table flare is huge! Some restaurants really go all out!  Some with huge flower arrangements, ice luges, TV monitors with scrolling pictures of their restaurants. Whatever will catch the eye of guests walking around the event that creates interest!  Also every year each restaurant brings a great representative that works the table that can interact with guests…you don’t always get to see a chef cooking your food so to see them out and cooking for you right there is so much fun!!!
3. What is your favorite restaurant out of all the attendees? No “they’re all my favorite” answers allowed! 😀 AHHHHHHHH this is just HARD! There are over 40 restaurants and they are all amazing in their own way! Plan B always does a wonderful job cooking mini burgers to order, they always put on a show and have a fun table…the mini Miller High Lifes they have help too 🙂 On20 is always another one of my favorites, Chef Noel Jones always seems to prepare something that is creative and always something you have never tried before…always a fun table to visit and experience! [I myself am dying to try On20!]

Plan B’s table display at Mohegan Sun WineFest 2012 – will they live up to this display at TON Hartford?!

And finally, let’s hear from someone who works directly for a non-profit called End Hunger CTVolunteer Chair Dawn Crayco!

1. What made you decide to be a volunteer chair with TON Hartford? I spent a couple of years volunteering for Taste of the Nation Hartford at registration. I must have done something right because shortly after my second year I was asked to fill the vacant volunteer chair position on the committee.  I have a great time mobilizing people looking to “give back” at the event and find the energy of the committee and volunteers is contagious. That is what keeps me coming back.

2. Tell me more about End Hunger CT. Are you affiliated with Share Our Strength at all, or do you just share common goals? End Hunger Connecticut! is a statewide anti-hunger and food security organization. By focusing on advocacy, outreach, education and research around the federal food programs, EHC! serves as a comprehensive anti-hunger resource for policymakers, community organizations, and low-income families.  The goal of EHC! is to improve the levels of food security and nutrition among Connecticut families while creating and supporting policies that move families toward self-sufficiency.

A long time grantee of Share our Strength initiatives, like Taste of the Nation, EHC! is the organization’s lead partner on the Connecticut No Kid Hungry Campaign.  Connecticut No Kid Hungry® Campaign was launched in March 2011 with Governor Malloy and Share our Strength to end childhood hunger in the state by 2015. Now in its second year, the campaign is focusing on increasing participation among eligible children in the School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program’s (CACFP) Afterschool Meal Program. Please  visit our new websites to learn more about these programs: www.ctsummerfood.org & www.ctschoolbreakfast.org.

3. What is your favorite restaurant out of all the attendees? No “they’re all my favorite” answers allowed! 😀 I can honestly say that I do not have one favorite restaurant; however, I do flock to restaurants serving my Italian favorites like gnocchi, ravioli, and anything cheesy. I’ll try anything new at least once but you’ll see me getting seconds and thirds at restaurants like GrantsRestaurant Bricco, Bricco Trattoria, and Salute.

Thank you to these amazing volunteers for taking time out of their busy schedules, especially the week of the event, to answer my questions!
Tickets to TON Hartford are $75 for general admission and $125 for VIPs. Having attended a Taste of the Nation event myself, I can tell you with confidence that the admission price, though it may seem high, is COMPLETELY worth it! Especially for the chance to try so many restaurants where you would normally spend almost $50 per person on a meal anyway!
So what do you say? Will you be headed to TON Hartford at 960 Main St in Hartford this Thursday, 5/10, from 6-9PM? Have you ever been to a similar event or fundraiser?

Beer Tasting – Yes, This is Still Caitlin

I’m having a great day so far! I woke up at 5:30am for no reason, feeling ready to go, so I had time to hit the gym for a workout, something I often don’t get a chance to do on Thursdays since I have class after work (and refuse to get up at 5:30am to work out unless it happens on its own). Did not bother to put in my contacts, though.

Rocking my ALA Stair Climb shirt for a stair-climbing workout of course!

I did 20 minutes of HIIT on the StepMill and the following bicep and tricep workout from Heather. Ended with some oblique #PlankADay, of course!

Heather continued to make my day by notifying me that I won her Naturebox giveaway! They send out a monthly box of new snacks – it’s like Birchbox for food! I don’t know how I didn’t know about it. I can’t wait to get my box of snacks and share my thoughts with you all 🙂

I also enjoyed about 15 minutes of sun time before clouds rolled in during my lunch break (I’ll take what I can get) with a new book that is super-weird, but also super-interesting. Has anyone read it?

The coffee is a new flavor from a local cafe, Almond Joy! Another day-brightener.

Let’s move on to the surprising part of this post – I hosted a beer tasting at my house during our Easter party. Yes, me, as in I, as in Caitlin. Just had to clarify that. I’m not shy about the fact that I’m not a big fan of beer. I know many of my readers, particularly the runners, feel differently. I find that so many runners I meet just love their beer! My mom is no exception. But I’m also an adventurarian, so I went to the best possible source for beer advice and suggestions, Elliot of Sonoma Wines & Spirits.

He helped me pick out the above selection of seven different beers (at Sonoma, if you buy six you get 10% off!) – the Sierra Nevada holder (is there a proper name for those?) is just what they had on hand. I was “sitting on them” for about a month, and decided the Easter party was the perfect time to do a tasting because plenty of people could join in! I wanted to try them all at once but needed enough other people around to help me finish them.

The beer tasters (well, not all of these youngsters had beer).

We all tried different beers at different times, I didn’t bother trying to keep any “order” to it. My sister was kind enough to pick up a bunch of cups at the store the day of the party.

I’d already heard of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, but since I’m so carbonation-averse, I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy it. It was better than I thought it’d be though. I can see myself getting used to it. My friend Stacy’s dad LOVES this beer – he wasn’t even gonna participate in the tasting until he saw this was involved. Then his eyes got very wide and he asked for a cup!

This Smuttynose Robust Porter was more my style for sure! Less carbonated, though not TOO heavy. Think of it as a lighter Guinness. I was one of the few who enjoyed it, probably because I’m one of the few who doesn’t care for carbonation – or most beers in the first place.

The Konig Ludwig Weissbier was a crowd favorite! Seriously, no one disliked it. I think everyone was doubly impressed as well because no one had ever heard of it before. I’d call it a nice middle-ground beer. Just a medium body, not too hoppy, not too heavy either.

Elliot referred to the New England Brewing Co. Elm City Lager as a much-classier “college beer”. What those New England preppy frat boys drink, ya know? Too light and hoppy and Bud Light-like for me – and many who tasted it. Though it was thought of as a good beer for a boat ride on a hot day. Of course, I don’t know when my next boat ride on a hot day will be. I wish I did! Anyone know?

A lot of those who sampled the Boddington’s Pub Ale had already heard of and/or tried it, so it was not received as warmly as some of the other selections. More of a “meh, this is fine”.

The Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA was definitely the hoppiest – and rarest – of the beers in this tasting. However, I think I can definitely appreciate its high quality because despite the fact that it was very hoppy and, as Andrea called it, “intense”, I enjoyed it more than the other pale ale I tried from Sierra Nevada. You’d think I’d go for less bubbles, but this beer was just quite cool! Who knows, maybe its “rare-ness” went to my head, but I don’t think so!

I saved the one I was most excited to try, and knew I’d like the most, for last in this discussion. The first beer I asked Elliot to recommend to me was the best chocolate beer he knew of, and this was the one he mentioned without a second’s hesitation – Southern Tier Imperial Chocklat Stout (FYI I next wanna do a tasting with ALL the beers on that page – YUM). It was so good!!! I even had half a cup with my chocolate cake for dessert. I was one of the few who liked this beer. All the other tasters were fairly regular to very seasoned beer drinkers and since this tasted least like beer, they liked it the least. More for me?! What’s also cool is that you don’t have to worry about finishing this guy in one sitting (it’s a bigger bottle) because it actually keeps pretty well in the fridge for a few days after opening if you stop it up with a wine cork!

Nice, Mollie.

Thanks to my beer tasting companions – and observers – for joining me on my quest to become more adventurous with my alcohol! Because that’s SUCH a necessity, right? 😉

Are you a beer drinker? Have you ever tried any of these beers, and/or attended a beer tasting?