Category: Restaurant Reviews
|September 15, 2014||Posted by Sarah under Connecticut, Eating Local, Restaurant Reviews|
We moved to the New Haven area 5 years ago and are still fining new places to eat and enjoy in the Elm City. One of the best ways we’ve found to explore the city is on a Taste of New Haven tour. These tours offer a unique look at the city with stops at various shops and restaurants where you sample the food and drink offerings. The tour guides are incredibly knowledgable about the history of New Haven and its beautiful architecture. This weekend we took our second tour through the Theater District in Downtown New Haven. It included wine, chocolate, apizza, local beer, margaritas and a stroll through Yale in the rain…it was a blast! Come on, I’ll take you along…
We met our tour guide Natalie at Temple Plaza behind the Shubert Theatre at 3pm on Saturday. There were about 16 people in our group and we all quickly introduced ourselves by sharing our name, where we’re from, what we do and what our favorite food is. That is a really tough question for me, but I went with pork belly…of course 🙂
After a brief history of the plaza we were in, we headed off to our first stop which was a wine tasting. Natalie warned us we were going to have a good time!
Here we were treated to a tasting of two wines, a von Schleinitz Riesling and a red from Portugal called Agricultura. The Riesling was too sweet and neither B nor I enjoyed it, but the Agricultura was wonderful! That is a wine I never would pick up in the store because I know nothing about Portuguese wines, but now I might have a new favorite.
We took some time to look around the shop that is filled with unique spirits and has a large local beer section. We also learned that a wine thief is actually a long glass shaft that is used to sample barrels as they are aging. I just figured they like to go around stealing wine…
After a few samples, we headed over to Temple Grill for a bite to eat and a cocktail.
Even with a slight drizzle, we were seated outside under umbrellas which was nice. We were greeted with Sangira and their Waldorf Chicken Salad Wrap with homemade Waffle Fries. I’m not a big fan of Sangria but this was pretty tasty and not overly sweet. The wrap was just ok, nothing to get excited about, but the waffle fries were delicious! I could’ve eaten a bucket of those.
While we ate, Natalie told us a bit of history about the location and the owner’s great, great, great grandfather who apparently owned a local brewery and became a pioneer by selling his product on Sundays right there in that location.
The rain was really starting to come down now so we quickly made our way to the next stop on the tour, Bar. New Haven is famous for its “apizza” style of pizza, which I have really grown to love over the past few years. Bar was one place I hadn’t tried yet so I was excited to see what all the hype was about.
The restaurant is very unique in that it is housed inside an old parking garage and still has all the exposed brick and metal beams exposed. The space is massive and we were seated in the Back Room which is actually turned into a nightclub on the weekends.
Here we sampled three of their own beers that they brew on premise: Toasted Blonde, AmBAR Ale and Damn Good Stout. I actually really enjoyed all three of these, but the Damn Good Stout was by far my favorite. It was actually light for a stout and had interesting coffee and chocolate notes.
While we were waiting for our pizza, we learned more about the history of New Haven Apizza and the rivalries between the famous institutions of Frank Pepe’s and Sally’s. Bar’s pizza is a bit different from the traditional as the crust is thinner and it is not made in a coal fired over, but damn that was some good pizza!
We were able to sample 3 different pies: a traditional red pie (no cheese), red pie with mozzarella, and Bar’s signature mashed potato and bacon pie. While the mashed potato pie might sound good in theory, it was way too rich for me. That’s like heavy carbs on top of carbs. My favorite was actually the red pie…the sauce was so good that it really didn’t need anything else. After we ate, Natalie treated us all to a few Fireball shots…FIRE IN THE HOLE!
By the time we left, the rain was coming down but it was still pretty warm out so B and I actually had a fun time walking around in the rain. Maybe the shots helped too. On our way to the next spot, we stopped to look at some of the architecture of the Yale buildings on what I’m assuming is their version of “fraternity row.” Not only did the Greek letters give it away, but so did the abundance of red solo cups…sigh…
What’s better to have after some pizza and beer than some chocolate?! B was super stoked about this next stop 🙂 Chocolat Maya is a boutique chocolate shop, meets cocktail lounge…ok now I was stoked too!
Not only did we get a chocolate sampling, but we were greeted with a Salted Caramel Martini! This is Caramel Vodka and Butterscotch Schnapps with a Salted Caramel Truffle inside. OH. YES. PLEASE! The drink was quite sweet, but I surprisingly really enjoyed it! We will be back for sure.
Before leaving, B had to get some chocolates for the road. He grabbed up an assortment of dark chocolate truffles which were perfect for snacking on the rest of the tour.
After stuffing our faces and having quite a few cocktails, we took a break and walked around the Yale Campus a bit. It is like stepping back in time…makes me wish I tried a bit harder in high school so I could’ve had a chance at going there! I just want to stay in one of those buildings!
On our walk we came across a statue of Theodore Dwight Woolsey, president of Yale in the mid-1800s. Rumor has it that rubbing his foot will bring good luck, which is why you can see that the color on the shoe is quite worn from over 100 years of luck giving. Also, check out the crazy cobweb veil going on…yikes!
On our way to the next location, we stopped to learn about at a few other unique landmarks. The Taft Hotel, home to one of my favorite spots in New Haven, Ordinary. Then it was on to a public art project called Square with four circles, which is located in a walkway between Zinc Restaurant and Ann Taylor. You can see it in the background of this awesome photo of me with a fake goat in a wagon.
Time for some Mexican food! Chips, salsa, guacamole and margaritas make the perfect meal…I probably should’ve said that in the beginning intros! That is just what we had at Oaxaca Kitchen on College Street.
The guac was great (however not as good as mine!) and the salsa has a nice zing. The margaritas had too much lime juice and/or sour mix in them and many people at the table had the same complaint. We were able to sit next to a different group at this spot, which is part of the fun in these tours…getting to know people!
Now it was time to move on to our last stop on the tour. We were actually pretty full at this point and feeling good from the drinks…it’s amazing how fast four hours can go by when you’re having fun.
This was the only stop on the tour that we had actually been to before. It had been a few years, but the meal wasn’t all that memorable so I didn’t have high hopes for this spot.
Yes, that is B photobombing my pic. We were greeted by the friendly owner, Pat, who gave us a selection of beers to choose from. I went with the 1687 Brown Ale from local brewery Charter Oak in Norwalk and B chose the Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Ale from North Coast Brewing. Big fan of both of these beers! Pat entertained the group with stories of how he came to America from Ireland and how he ended up setting up shop here in New Haven. Very entertaining indeed…
While the beer and company were great, the food was a miss. I actually forgot to take a photo because I was quite unimpressed. We were given a goat cheese croquette, tuna tartare and caprese on a cracker. They were like leftover hors d’ouerves they just threw together for us because (as Pat admitted) they forgot we were coming.
Natalie then brought in some Mochi Ice Cream that she picked up at Jake’s Diggity Dogs next door. This was my first experience with mochi and I must say, I’m not a fan. The chewy, gummy texture was kind of gross. However B enjoyed it and ate mine up. As if he didn’t have enough chocolate that day!
Besides the hiccup with the food at the end, the tour overall was fantastic, informative and just fun! I think these tours are an absolute steal at $55 (+tax & gratuity) when you consider all of the food and drink you get. Plus the historical information on New Haven is just fascinating. There are currently nine different tours being offered, including a Pizza and Pints Bike Tour. Doesn’t that sound like fun?! If you are in the New Haven area, or even just passing through, I highly recommend one of these tours. I think the Wooster Square tour is next on my list…gotta check out all that apizza!
Do you have any local food tours in your area to check out?
|May 15, 2014||Posted by Sarah under Connecticut, Eating Local, Restaurant Reviews|
No need to travel through the looking glass to visit The Walrus and the Carpenter, a quick trip to Bridgeport, CT brings you there and it will surely have a much better outcome. Walrus and Carpenter, a smokehouse and gastropub, offers wood-smoked meats, seasonal plates, unique cocktails and craft beers…and dare I say one of the BEST meals I’ve had in quite sometime?
From the second I walked in the door, I knew I was in for a treat. The smell was AMAZING! Just imagine the best smoky, meaty smell and then multiply that by 1,000. I was excited for what was about to happen! The wait for a table was about 45 minutes, but luckily I found 2 seats at the bar so we grabbed those. The restaurant has a kind of rustic, industrial feel to it. Exposed brick, unfinished wood, chalkboards, metal pipes…simple and casual. The clientele was an interesting mix of hipsters, Fairfield elite, young couples and older families. Basically everyone can appreciate some good eats!
We started with some cocktails…I’m a sucker for a good hand-crafted cocktail. I went with the Pirate Ninja, which is dark rum, maraschino liqueur and a few other things I forget, but it was delicious.
Deciding what to get was the hardest part, everything on the menu sounded great. Staying true to the name of the restaurant, of course the menu features oysters both raw and fried, but we passed on those. I’m not a big oyster fan. However, the Smoked Pork Tacos jumped out at me right away. The bartender said that the tacos were fairly large and that it would be a good starter to share. Sold!
He wasn’t kidding. These were large, 9 inch tacos that were stuffed with tender smoked pork, shredded cabbage, onions and cilantro. The pork was incredibly moist and dripped all over the plate. What a great start to this meal…I will take 10 of these to go please. YUM!
It was time for another cocktail and this time I decided to try the Gingers Have No Souls. I was surprising myself with ordering a second rum drink since I am not a big rum drinker. This was a lighter rum, muddled ginger, lime juice and bitters strained and served up. Definitely my favorite of the 2 drinks. This was less sweet and had a nice kick from the ginger.
Entrees were a tough choice. I really wanted to try the BBQ but the Scallops and Pork Belly were calling out to me. Ok, when does pork belly not call out to me?? B decided he was going to get the Pit Smoked Pork Shoulder, so I was set. I could have ALL the things!
This dish was insane. Perfectly seared scallops with probably the best pork belly I’ve ever had (and I’ve had a lot!). It was so tender and the fat just melted away in your mouth. It was glazed in maple which gave it a nice sweetness. Both were served over marscapone grits that were rich, creamy and just decadent.
B’s pork shoulder was also out of control. Again the pork was incredibly tender with a nice peppercorn flavor and it came with a wonderful Carolina vinegar sauce. The cornbread lasted like that one piece had an entire stick of butter in it. It was good, but maybe a little rich for my taste. B of course had to order some fries and like the rest of the meal, some of the best fries we’ve ever had. Each one was perfectly crispy…not a soggy fry in the bunch.
Somehow we managed to save room for dessert. Once I saw the Bacon Chipwich with Salted Caramel Gelato, I was done. How do you pass that up? B wasn’t sold on the idea (crazy I know!) and just went for some gelato, chocolate and banana.
Since he is a chocoholic, I was shocked when he said he didn’t like the chocolate gelato. He said the texture was weird, but the banana was good. Interesting. I didn’t have any room to try that because my Bacon Chipwich was GIANT! Look at the size of this thing!
The chocolate chip cookies were the size of salad plates and topped with a TON of crispy bacon. There had to be 2-3 scoops of insanely delicious salted caramel gelato in between the 2 cookies. I was in shock. Needless to say I did not finish this monster but I gave it my best shot. Next time we will surely be sharing since B loved the gelato as well. The cookies were good, but dare I say a bit too much bacon. Blasphemy, I know.
These photos just don’t do the food justice. The lighting was dim and I really didn’t want to be obnoxious at a crowded bar with my flash, well except for the chipwich because that thing deserves some light. Just head on down to Bridgeport and experience it for yourself…hey you might even find me firmly rooted in a bar stool with some sort of pork product dripping down my chin.
|November 22, 2013||Posted by Sarah under Connecticut, Eating Local, Food, Restaurant Reviews|
Recently I had the opportunity to attend a Blogger Happy Hour at Parallel Post in Trumbull, CT. Now I’m typically pretty attuned to local restaurants, so I was surprised when I saw the awesome Farm to Table menu that I hadn’t been here yet!
The restaurant is located in the newly renovated Trumbull Marriott Merritt Parkway and focuses on bringing the best local ingredients to the diner and preparing them in a very simple manner. Right up my alley! This is the 6th restaurant by Chef Dean James Max, who has had a passion for this cuisine since growing up on a farm as a child.
On first impression, the restaurant seemed more like your average hotel bar as it is very open and set just off of the lobby. But after being greeted by the hostess and taken back to the private room that was reserved for our group, it was clear that there is much more to this restaurant.
The event was organized by the Connecticut Bloggers who have dined at this restaurant before and also know the bartender Greg “Bootleg Greg” Genias. We were greeted with a cocktail the Greg created specifically for the event. It consisted of vodka, strawberry and rosemary. I’m not a huge strawberry or sweet cocktail fan for that matter, but the addition of rosemary was quite interesting. Also, look at this fun presentation!
We were also able to taste a few of the appetizers the restaurant has to offer…don’t mind if I do!
I think my favorite part was getting to meet a bunch of the local bloggers that I have gotten know through their writing. It was great to finally put a face with the blog 🙂
After the cocktail party, a bunch of us moved into the restaurant to check out some more of the items on the menu for dinner. The menu changes daily to always offer the freshest ingredients of the season. We were able to chat with Executive Chef Chris Molyneux and Chef de Cuisine Ali Goss came out and went over some of their favorite dishes which of course made the decision even more difficult!
While I hemmed and hawed over the menu I started with a cocktail, the Nicky Nicky Nicky. The description intrigued me: That small dynamo of a lady leaving her mark everywhere she goes and wetting your palate with ginger, fennel bourbon and sweet agave. Interesting, right?
Besides innovative cocktails, they also have an extensive wine and beer list, and get this…all the beers on draught are from Connecticut! You can even sample up to six of them with a beer flight. Look at these cool glass holders!
We were told that the Clams BLT were a signature dish, so of course we had to try that, and B and I also decided to try the Corn Cakes with Pork Carnitas (I rarely turn down pork!)
These 2 dishes were AMAZING and we were both kind of sad that we ordered entrees because we wanted seconds! For our entrees, I went with the Grilled Mahi and B had the Skirt Steak. Both dishes were great, but didn’t live up to the killer apps.
By this point we were too full to move on to dessert, however the Cardamom Rice Pudding with Quince Puree and Toasted Pistachios sounded really interesting. I really enjoyed this restaurant and we will definitely be returning for dinner soon. However, next time I foresee trying some more of Bootleg Greg’s concoctions along with a plethora of apps. Make sure to check it out next time you are in the area!
What is your favorite local restaurant?
|August 15, 2013||Posted by Sarah under Cocktails, Connecticut, Eating Local, Food, Restaurant Reviews|
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
Now a meal like this wouldn’t be complete without dessert and some coffee, right?
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.
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 🙂
Have you been to one of the Barcelona locations? What do you think about tapas?