Category: Cocktails

Connecticut Brewers Fest 2014 at Two Roads Brewing Company

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Connecticut is becoming a hot bed for craft breweries.  They seem to be popping up everywhere and each one has some very unique offerings.  Last night one of my favorite local breweries, Two Roads Brewing Company, hosted the Connecticut Brewers Fest where over 20 breweries came together under one roof for an epic tasting!

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Two Roads is located in a huge 100 year old factory in Stratford, CT.  The first floor houses the brewery and the second floor is home to huge tasting room and event space. Many of the details of the original building were kept intact and you get the feeling of stepping back into the industrial era when you walk through the doors.   

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After checking in, I received an awesome glass to commemorate the event and use as my tasting glass for the evening.  I headed into the first room where there were about 12 to 15 tasting tables set up.  The first brewery I saw was Thimble Island Brewing Company out of Branford.  I’ve enjoyed their American Ale on many occasions, so I decided to try the Coffee Stout this time and YUM!  This is a beer made for the colder months ahead and served with a good beef stew.  I was off to a good start.  

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I moved on to try a Cannoli Ale from Shebeen Brewing in Wolcott, Arch Amber from the Hartford Better Beer Co. and the 203 Lager from a new brewery opening up in Branford called Stony Creek.  I enjoyed them all, except that the Cannoli Beer was a bit sweet for my taste…kind of like a scotch ale.

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I was happy to find one of Connecticut’s newest breweries and a personal favorite of mine, Black Hog Brewing Company.  You might recall that I attended their opening back in August and have been excited to try their new concoctions ever since.  Here they were sampling a new Rosemary Dunkelweizen which I had never heard of before, but the rosemary peaked my interest.  I was happy to find this to be a delicious dark wheat beer with many herbal undertones.  Can I have a whole pint please?

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I moved into the main tasting room where there were about 10 more tables set up, as well as the giant Two Roads bar where you could taste their entire selection.  This room also overlooks the brewery floor where people were still hard at work bottling.  Seriously, this place is massive…

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As I’m sure you can tell by now, I prefer the darker, maltier beers to the hoppy IPAs.  IPAs are really big among craft beer lovers, but I just find them a bit to bitter for me.  There was a large crowd gathered around the Beer’d Brewing Co. table (love the name!) which meant they probably had a great selection.  However there were only IPAs available to taste.  I tried the L.I. Connection which I was told was the maltiest of the bunch, but I didn’t really enjoy it as I expected.  But Beer’d did take the prize for best logo and taps ūüôā

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I sought out a few more beers I might enjoy and found quite a few good contenders among the other breweries.  There was the Octoberfest Ale and Season of the Witch from Broad Brook Brewing Company in East Windsor, Weed Amber Ale from the newly operating Weed Company in Cheshire, and one of my favorites from the night Emily’s Chocolate Coconut Porter from Firefly Hollow Brewing Co. in Bristol. Oh man was that delicious!!

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My last stop was to the Two Roads bar to finally get a taste of their Rosemary’s Baby Pumpkin Ale.  I had see the poster for the beer earlier in the year and had been looking forward to trying it.  I’m not a huge pumpkin fan but this was really good.  Had more of a vanilla cinnamon flavor to it…big win!

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Before leaving I checked out some of the merchandise from the Two Roads shop and from the CT Beer Trail table.  Yes, there is a Beer Trail in CT and yes, you should definitely check it out!  There were a lot of fun shirts but I showed some restraint…

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On my way out I took a look at the three food trucks that were set up outside for the event.  The Local Meatball, Bounty and Lobstercraft.  Two Roads has a different food truck visit each day and you can bring it all inside to enjoy with your beer…pretty cool.  The hot buttered lobster roll was hard to pass up, but I had dinner waiting at home so I kept on walking…sigh…

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This was a really fun event and kudos to Two Roads for hosting all of these breweries that are essentially their competition.  It goes to show how great the brewery community is here in CT.

Do you have any local breweries you enjoy in your areas?  What is your favorite beer?

**I was invited to attend this event but was not required to write a review.  All opinions are my own and I  just LOVE good beer**

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Barcelona Wine Bar: A Taste of Spain in Connecticut

I don’t know about you, but I often look at a menu and want to order ALL THE THINGS!  And while I would enjoy every bite that would just cost a bloody fortune.  Enter tapas.  It’s the perfect way to enjoy multiple things at a restaurant, but in smaller more affordable portions.  My favorite place to get tapas?  Barcelona Wine Bar.

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Barcelona has six locations in Connecticut (I have been to five of them!), one in in Brookline, MA and one in Altanta, GA. The first restaurant opened in 1996 in South Norwalk where the owners set out to bring the bold flavors and rustic elegance of Spain here to Connecticut.  The food is simple, yet extremely flavorful.  While many dishes feature products directly from Spain and the Mediterranean region, the menu often changes to feature local and seasonal products from the surrounding area.  You know how I love to eat local!

All of the Barcelona restaurants have a different feel to them and I think I enjoy the location in New Haven the best.  This is partly because it’s close to my home, but mainly because I love all of the natural elements that are brought into the space, along with the open kitchen behind the bar.  It would be super cool if they created a chef’s counter where guests can enjoy a longer meal and interact with the chef’s.  Hint hint Barcelona.

My most recent visit to Barcelona in New Haven was with my mom when she came to visit a few weeks ago.  We went straight here after I picked her up from the airport and had an incredible meal.  We started with a few cocktails (of course!) and decided to try the Summer St. Sling, which is Chamomile Infused Tito’s Vodka, Fresh Pink Grapefruit & Lemon Juices, and Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters.  I’m actually surprised I ordered this because I’m not a huge grapefruit fan, but I am a big Tito’s Vodka fan so I went with it…delicious!

Summer St Sling

Summer St. Sling

Barcelona has a great cocktail menu.  Everything is extremely innovative and all of the juices are hand-squeezed.  I love creativity on a cocktail menu.

Wines by the Glass & Cocktail Menu

Wines by the Glass & Cocktail Menu

The menu is pretty extensive and it usually takes quite a bit of discussion to decide what to get. The waitstaff typically recommends 5-6 tapas dishes per person.  It might not seem like a lot of food when the small plates start arriving, but trust me, you will be full.  And if you’re not, they are happy to put in additional orders throughout the meal.

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Besides tapas, there is an extensive meat & cheese selection, a few entree-sized dishes, and a variety of sharing options.  On this visit, we stuck with the tapas, but I’ll touch upon the Mixed Grill later…it’s like meat heaven!  Here’s what we decided on:

Beet Salad with Toasted Walnuts & Valdeon Cheese

Beet Salad with Toasted Walnuts & Valdeon Cheese

Mushrooms & Herbed Goat Cheese with Balsamic Reduction

Mushrooms & Herbed Goat Cheese with a Balsamic Reduction

Scallop Pinxto with Pancetta & Mushrooms

Scallop Pinxto with Pancetta & Mushrooms

Asparagus a la Plancha with a Garlic Vinaigrette Grilled Hanger Steak with a Black Truffle Vinaigrette

Asparagus a la Plancha with a Garlic Vinaigrette
Grilled Hanger Steak with a Black Truffle Vinaigrette

Grilled Quail with Kale and Local Garlic Scapes

Grilled Quail with Kale and Local Garlic Scapes

Are you drooling yet??  It’s was hard to pick a favorite dish here, but the Grilled Hanger Steak is always one of my top choices.  That Black Truffle Vinaigrette is to die for.  This was the first time I’ve tried quail and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it!  The dish actually came with a complimentary glass of sherry that paired very nicely.  I don’t know much about sherry and according to Barcelona, not many people do either.  So they are offering sherry pairings with a few of their dishes to showcase some of their favorites.  Pretty cool!  

We also ordered a couple glasses of wine during the meal (it is a wine bar after all!), red for me and white for mom, and enjoyed some of their uh-mazing bread that is perfect for soaking up all of the delicious sauces.  I actually restrained myself from the bread this time (shocking!) but I know how good it is…Mom confirmed.

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Now a meal like this wouldn’t be complete without dessert and some coffee, right?  

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake with Mounds Ice Cream & Raspberry Coulis

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake with Mounds Ice Cream & Raspberry Coulis

Cafe con Leche & Espresso

Cafe con Leche & Espresso

After all that, you pretty much had to roll us out of there.  Such a great meal with a wide variety of flavors…right up my alley!  To say I indulged is an understatement…

Now remember that Mixed Grill I mentioned earlier?  If you’re a fan of meat, this is something you must try.  I was here with a friend a few months ago, who also likes to eat Paleo most of the time, and we shared the Barcelona Mixed Grill…meat heaven!  Perfect with one or two of the vegetable tapas.

Barcelona Mixed Grill NY Strip, Chicken, Pork Chop & Sausage

Barcelona Mixed Grill
NY Strip, Chicken, Pork Chop & Sausage

I’m lucky to have one of these locations about 10 minutes from home, but the various locations are spread out across Fairfield County and there is one up in West Hartford.  If you get a chance to stop by and enjoy a glass of wine and some small plate, do it!  You won’t be sorry ūüôā

Have you been to one of the Barcelona locations?  What do you think about tapas?

 

Peartinis, A Friday Favorite!

One of my favorite ways to celebrate the end of a long week is with a good cocktail! ¬†I’m a big fan of martinis and my all time favorite is a Peartini. ¬†B and I first discovered these about 5 years ago at one of our favorite restaurants, Grants in West Hartford, CT. ¬†We asked the bartender how he made it he said Grey Goose La Poire, lemon juice, apple juice and simple syrup. ¬†Interesting…

So of course I went home and tried to replicate it. ¬†I looked up the official recipe and it was very different and included Disaronno which is an amaretto liquor. ¬†I tried this version and didn’t love it because I’m not a bit Disaronno fan. ¬†I also thought that the addition of the simple syrup was a bit sweet for my taste. ¬†After some experimenting, I came up with my own version that is just three simple ingredients!

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I’m not great at measuring and tend to do everything by eyeballing it, so I apologize for not having exact measurements here. ¬†Basically, you fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add enough Grey Goose La Poire to fill your martini glass about 3/4 of the way.

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Then add a small squeeze of lemon juice and a splash of apple juice. ¬†If you like your drinks more on the sweeter side, add more apple juice. ¬†I know apple juice sounds strange, but trust me it works! ¬†Shake¬†vigorously¬†and strain into a gorgeous martini glass. ¬†The fancier the better in my opinion ūüôā

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And there you have it, the perfect way to end a stressful week! ¬†I know I will be enjoying one of these around 5 o’clock, how about you?

Do you have a favorite cocktail?  How do you unwind after a long week?

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