Sorella Restaurant, Hartford, CT

Sorella, Hartford, CT

Earlier this year, I dined at Sorella restaurant before a UConn Women’s Basketball game. That night also coincided with the winter Taste of Hartford restaurant week. We had a great meal. So when the summer Taste of Hartford promotion returned, I was anxious to eat there again.

Sorella opened in November 2013. It is located on Main Street in downtown Hartford. The restaurant, whose name means ‘sister’ in Italian, is one of three in the Dish Restaurant Group.

Sorella restaurant is located on Main Street in downtown Hartford.

Sorella restaurant is located on Main Street in downtown Hartford.

As you enter the restaurant, you will notice that the décor is not their strong point. Although I do think the old-time Italian family photos hanging on the walls are charming, and the view of the Old State House from our table was delightful. But for foodies like myself, we aren’t hung up on the décor as long as the food and dining experience is top notch – and they were!

The restaurant specializes in simple Italian favorites – wood-fired Neapolitan pizza, fresh pastas and creative antipasti. The atmosphere is comfortable and family-friendly. The bar area takes up about one third of the restaurant and the remainder is for the dining room.

Because it was the Taste of Hartford restaurant week, we had our choice of items from the full restaurant menu and the special promotion menu. The Taste of Hartford menu consisted of a three-course meal (appetizer, entrée and dessert) for $25 – a great deal!

Taste of Hartford menu consisted of a three-course meal (appetizer, entrée and dessert) for $25

Taste of Hartford menu consisted of a three-course meal (appetizer, entrée and dessert) for $25

Christine and I decided to order from the Taste of Hartford menu. Mike opted for the full menu because the item he wanted wasn’t one of the price-fixe menu entrée choices.

Christine and I both started with the Prosciutto di Parma appetizer. It consisted of tissue paper thinly sliced prosciutto topped with arugula, locally sourced strawberries all drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar. The combination of sweet, salty and savory flavors made this appetizer “every bite delicious.”

Prosciutto di Parma appetizer consisted of tissue paper thinly sliced prosciutto topped with arugula, locally sourced strawberries all drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar

Prosciutto di Parma appetizer consisted of tissue paper thinly sliced prosciutto topped with arugula, locally sourced strawberries all drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar

Upon the waiter’s recommendation, Mike chose the garlic bread. The short loaf was loaded with mozzarella and provolone cheeses, and roasted garlic. It was served with a side of marinara sauce. It was a gooey and tasty.

The garlic bread was loaded with mozzarella and provolone cheeses, and roasted garlic, served with a side of marinara sauce

The garlic bread was loaded with mozzarella and provolone cheeses, and roasted garlic, served with a side of marinara sauce

For my meal entrée, I opted for the grilled Atlantic salmon filet. The salmon was placed on top of a bed of cold farro salad with light vinaigrette dressing. I asked for the filet to be cooked medium well and it was cooked as ordered. I enjoyed every bite!

Grilled Atlantic salmon filet

Grilled Atlantic salmon filet

Christine ordered the Fusilli Bolognese. The pasta was served with a hearty beef and veal red sauce topped with fresh pecorino cheese. The dish brought me back 20+ years because it tasted just like my Nona’s meat sauce.

Fusilli Bolognese

Fusilli Bolognese

Mike ordered the rigatoni saltimbocca. This is the same dish he had last time we dined here. He remembered it being so delicious and wanted to have it again. The saltimbocca sauce is made with ground veal, prosciutto, sage, wine and pecorino cheese. While it may not look like the most exciting meal, the combinations of flavors from the sauce are true to the dish’s name in Italian – “jumps in the mouth.” I had to steal a few bites because it is amazingly delicious! I found the recipe for this dish online so I’ll have to try making it at home.

Rigatoni saltimbocca

Rigatoni saltimbocca

Since Christine and I ordered from the Taste of Hartford menu, our meals did include dessert. There were two choices on this menu. We opted to each order a different one so we could try both.

She ordered the nutella chocolate tart. Mike and I had that last time we dined and remembered it was very yummy. The tart has a cookie-like crust with a rich chocolate center, dusted with sea salt and paired with vanilla cream. I love the chocolate and salty combination!

Nutella chocolate tart

Nutella chocolate tart

I ordered the Oleficino olive oil cake. I had never had an olive oil cake before, but I had seen a picture of it beforehand and I wanted to try it.

Oleficino olive oil cake with citrus curd and lemon sorbet

Oleficino olive oil cake with citrus curd and lemon sorbet

Olive oil cake is a rustic Sicilian cake that has a very moist center and a crispy crust. It came with a citrus curd and was topped with lemon sorbet. It was refreshing and delicious. Surprisingly, our typical chocolate-loving dessert family was won over by the olive oil cake as a new favorite.

The service was very friendly, attentive and courteous. I’d recommend reservations, especially when there are events in Hartford (e.g., UConn basketball) or pre-theater, as the restaurant is busy for dinner. The restaurant also serves lunch six days a week. There is street parking or a pay lot directly across the street, which is where we’ve parked.

We had another great dinner at Sorella. We will gladly return – and we may not wait until the next Taste of Hartford restaurant week!

 

Have you ever eaten at Sorella restaurant in Hartford?

Have you tried any of the restaurants participating in the Taste of Hartford restaurant week?

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

It’s amazing the memories your favorite food can arouse with one smell or taste.

When I was a kid, my uncle Mario would pick blueberries in late July/ early August from a few bushes he had in his yard – unless the birds ate them first. Some years there were barely enough berries for one small pie. But when the crop was large, the berries would be shared for both families to enjoy. My mother would make blueberry muffins. I remember the smell coming from the oven.  We ate them hot, with butter melting upon its touch.

A few years back, I asked my mom for her blueberry muffin recipe.  She pulled out an old Crisco cookbook – the kind you sent away for with several product labels. The cookbook’s pages are yellowed and tattered, and the binding is fragile but several recipes continue to be family favorites.

Last week, my daughter and I visited Kuras Berry Farm in West Suffield, CT.  If you haven’t discovered it, I highly recommend adding it on your “summer bucket list.”  They have a farm stand with fresh-picked berries, or you can do what we did — pick your own.

Kuras Berry Farm is located at 1901 Mountain Road, West Suffield, CT

Kuras Berry Farm is located at 1901 Mountain Road, West Suffield, CT

The blueberry bushes were loaded with ripe berries.

The blueberry bushes were loaded with ripe berries!

The blueberry bushes were loaded with ripe berries!

The farm provides pickers with baskets that have a thick rope attached on either side.  You tie the rope around your waist with the basket in front of you.  Off you go into the field to pick your berries!

Here I am in the berry field with half my basket filled.

Here I am in the berry field with half my basket filled.

In 30 minutes, we picked 5.15 lbs. of berries.  They were plump and sweet.  We enjoyed eating them and shared some with family and friends.

In 30 minutes, we picked 5.15 lbs. of berries

In 30 minutes, we picked 5.15 lbs. of berries

Fun facts about Blueberries:

  • Blueberries grow on bushes, making them easy to pick.
  • While small in size, they are full of Antioxidants, Vitamin C and Fiber.
  • Cover and store them in the refrigerator for up to 10 days, washing just before use.
  • To freeze:  Spread berries on a baking sheet and freeze until frozen. Transfer them to an air-tight container or plastic bag.

 

With so many berries, I reached for the blueberry muffin recipe and made it. They were delicious! But no matter how hard I try to recreate them, I can’t get mine to taste exactly as I remember my mom’s.  Why is that?  Maybe my taste buds have changed since I was a kid, or maybe it’s the secret ingredient that mom’s add – love.

 

Blueberry Muffins Recipe (from the 1949 Crisco Cookbook)

2 cups sifted flour

3 tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. sugar

1 cup milk

1 egg slightly beaten

3 tbsp. melted Crisco, cooled to room temperature

1 cup blueberries, plus a few more

In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  In a separate bowl, combine the milk with the egg and Crisco. Stir the liquid and dry ingredients together.  Add the blueberries and fold lightly, until all ingredients are just moistened.  Spray/grease the muffin tins.  Fill each cup two thirds full with batter.  I added a few extra berries to the top of each muffin.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Makes 12 medium-size muffins.

The muffins are hot out of the oven, bursting with the fresh blueberries.  Yum!

The muffins are hot out of the oven, bursting with the fresh blueberries. Yum!

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my quick trip down memory lane and that you have a chance to stir up some of your sweet memories.

 

Have you ever been blueberry picking?

What’s your favorite blueberry recipe?

What favorite food takes you on a trip down memory lane?

Pesto Sauce

Pesto Sauce

If all the sudden your summer garden or patio planters have been exploding with fresh herbs as mine have, you might be thinking, as I was, what can I do with all this basil?  After all, you only need a few leaves to season the spaghetti sauce or create a tomato, basil caprese salad.

Basil picked fresh from my patio plants

Basil picked fresh from my patio plants

Fun facts about Basil:

  • A culinary herb originally from tropical regions of Asia and mainly used in Italian cuisine.
  • It’s an herb plant that belongs to the mint family.
  • Contains exceptionally high levels of beta-carotene, Vitamin A (for healthy eyes) and Vitamin K (vital for clotting your blood).
  • Picking the “cream of the crop:” Look for bright green leaves with no insect damage or brown spots.
  • Trim the basil stem bottoms and place in a glass of water (like flowers in a vase). They will last about a week.

 

Making pesto sauce is one of the best ways to extend the basil harvest:

When your plant begins to burst with a bounty of basil, a great way to preserve and extend the harvest is by making pesto.

Pesto sauce originated from northern Italy.  It was traditionally made in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle.  Lucky for us, we have quicker methods using modern kitchen appliances that allow us to make the sauce in minutes!

Not only is the sauce easy to make and delicious, but it’s extremely versatile.  You can put pesto on pasta, spread it on a sandwich as a condiment, use is as a sauce on pizza, or season meats, chicken or seafood with it!

Here’s my recipe for Pesto Sauce:

Homemade pesto sauce - ready for the pasta!

Homemade pesto sauce – ready for the pasta!

Pesto

4 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)

10 leaves of flat-leafed (Italian) parsley (just the leaves, not the stems)

½ c chopped walnuts or pine nuts (if anyone has nut allergies, you can omit the nuts and the pesto will still taste great)

4 cloves garlic, peeled

½ c grated Parmesan cheese

¼ c grated Romano cheese

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

In a food processor, blender or chopper, pulse together the basil leaves, nuts, garlic and cheeses.  Slowly stream in the oil slowly while it is blending.  Check the consistency and if needed add in another ¼ cup of olive oil.  Stir in the salt and pepper to taste.

You can make homemade pesto in a few minutes with a food processor, blender or chopper

You can make homemade pesto in a few minutes with a food processor, blender or chopper

 

The homemade pesto will keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.  A thin layer of olive oil on the top of the sauce will keep it from discoloring.

Making pesto sauce is one of the best ways to extend the basil harvest!

Making pesto sauce is one of the best ways to extend the basil harvest!

 

Do you like pesto sauce?

Have you ever made homemade pesto?    

Lobster Landing, Clinton, CT

Lobster Landing, Clinton, CT

What a better way to spend the July 4th weekend than with a day trip to the CT shoreline!  After a weekend filled with errands and picnic hosting, I thought it was high time we left home and headed to the coast before the weekend ended.

Our journey south would include a stop at the Clinton Outlet Mall, because they were having great sales for the holiday weekend.  We were looking for a place to grab a quick lunch afterward.  I had read in the July edition of Connecticut Magazine a story on favorite summer dining places.

The July edition of Connecticut Magazine has a story on favorite summer dining places around the state.

The July edition of Connecticut Magazine has a story on favorite summer dining places around the state.

Before we left the house, I looked through the article to see if any were in that area.  I noticed a place called Lobster Landing in Clinton.  I mapped it and noticed that it was only four minutes from the outlet mall.  Perfect for our post-shopping dining!

Lobster Landing is built right into the Clinton marina. It reminded me of a New England fishing shack postcard.

Lobster Landing is located in Clinton, CT.

Lobster Landing is located in Clinton, CT.

The place is what I would call your typical “summer shack” style restaurant, complete with outdoor dining at picnic tables with plastic chairs shaded by white awnings, waiting in line to place your order and great simple food.  Inside the actual shack, is a fresh seafood market.

The menu is minimalistically simple.  There are three items on it – I kid you not!  Lobster Landing serves lobster rolls, hot dogs and sweet Italian sausage subs.  That’s it – plain and simple!  They also have an assortment of beverages, chip snacks and gelato/ ice cream.

Lobster Landing's The menu is minimalistically simple.

Lobster Landing’s menu is minimalistically simple.

We arrived at a great time – when we were able to find a parking spot on the road and the line to place your food order was short.  The parking lot is very small, but you can parallel park on the street, which we did.

There’s a group of friendly college kids who take your order and serve your food.  They have an efficient system and keep things moving quickly. So if there is a line, don’t be afraid to wait a few short minutes.

I ordered the lobster roll.  I had to try it since I had read online that this place’s lobster rolls were one of the top 5 in Connecticut and the best according to the readers’ poll in the Shoreline Times.

Inside of a toasted, top-loading foot-long roll is one-quarter pound of fresh chunk lobster that’s been steamed in a buttery sauce with a touch of lemon.

Inside of a toasted, top-loading foot-long roll is one-quarter pound of fresh chunk lobster that’s been steamed in a buttery sauce with a touch of lemon.

Inside of a toasted, top-loading foot-long roll is one-quarter pound of fresh chunk lobster that’s been steamed in a buttery sauce with a touch of lemon.  It’s not a lobster salad with mayo. The lobster roll was amazing and definitely stood up to all the claims I had read. I can still taste it as I write about it!

Mike and Greg ordered the sweet Italian sausage sub with roasted peppers and onions and topped with mustard vinaigrette.  It too was a good-sized sandwich, loaded with the toppings.

The sweet Italian sausage sub has roasted peppers and onions and is topped with mustard vinaigrette.

The sweet Italian sausage sub has roasted peppers and onions and is topped with mustard vinaigrette.

As we each enjoyed our sandwiches, we took in the beautiful view of Clinton harbor.

Our view as we ate.

Our view as we ate.

Lobster photo 5

The weather was picture-perfect – very few clouds in the sky, warm sunshine with a comfortable breeze.

A picture-perfect day on the CT shore.

A picture-perfect day on the CT shore.

Lobster Landing is a great summer find.  It’s plain, simple, no-frills food that’s purely delicious!  Be sure to try it this summer before it closes up for the season!

 

Have you ever eaten at Lobster Landing in Clinton?

What’s your favorite place on the shore for summer seafood?    

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – Martha Stewart Everyday Food: Great Food Fast cookbook

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – Martha Stewart Everyday Food:  Great Food Fast cookbook

For our third meeting of the “Food for Thought” cookbook book club, we focused on Martha Stewart’s “Everyday Food Great Food Fast” cookbook and the “Everyday Food” Magazine’s recipes.

I’ve watched Martha Stewart’s cooking shows, seen her as a guest on the Today Show and commonly read her magazines.  Personally, I’ve always thought that many of her recipes are not for the average cook.  Many seem very complicated, require uncommon ingredients, involve methods that are long and arduous, and generally have an uppity style.  But I haven’t found that to be the case with her “Everyday Food” magazine or recipes.   It features quick and easy recipes targeted at supermarket shoppers and the every day cook.  Unfortunately, the magazine stopped its print versions in December 2012, but you still can enjoy the recipes in the printed cookbooks and online.

Sharon hosted this month’s gathering.  Our evening began with a glass of strawberry rhubarb sangria that Val made.

Strawberry rhubarb sangria

Strawberry rhubarb sangria

It was the perfect drink for June with the local strawberries just coming into season.  This sangria was made with Prosecco sparkling wine so it had a bubbly and fruity taste.  Val described the process of assembling the drink and quantified it as “easy” to make.  Often dubbed “the pie plant,” it was interesting to see rhubarb used for another purpose.  It made a festive start to our dinner that kicked off the summer season.

To accompany our cocktail, Pat made artichoke-parmesan crostini as our appetizer.

Artichoke-parmesan crostini

Artichoke-parmesan crostini

This appetizer had great flavor and looked beautiful arranged on the platter.  Pat quantified the recipe as “easy” to make.  It made a good portion – plenty for a party.  It is safe to serve in the summer heat since it doesn’t include any mayo or sour cream and would be perfect for vegetarians.

Sharon started grilling the main dinner entrée:  grilled Tuscan chicken with rosemary and lemon.

Grilled Tuscan chicken with rosemary and lemon

Grilled Tuscan chicken with rosemary and lemon

The chicken was juicy from basting it with lemon juice while it’s grilling.  It also had tons of flavors from the mix of lemon juice, olive oil, rosemary and garlic! Sharon quantified the recipe as “easy” to make and commented that she would make it again.

Accompanying the chicken were three side dishes and biscuits.  Susan made a corn and zucchini orzo salad.

Corn and zucchini orzo salad

Corn and zucchini orzo salad

It had a very light and delicious flavor.  She commented that the recipe was “easy” to make and that it made a very large amount – a good dish for a party.  This will be a great recipe to make as the native corn comes into season in a few weeks.

Val made asparagus and green beans with chili-orange oil.

Asparagus and green beans with chili-orange oil

Asparagus and green beans with chili-orange oil

The vegetables were crispy with a lively flavor from the olive oil that was infused with orange zest and red pepper flakes.  She quantified the recipe as easy to make, but noted to be careful when making the infused oil not to burn it.

For our final side dish, Terri made French fingerling potato salad. Parsley, thyme, shallots and red onion give the Dijon mustard vinaigrette a good boost of flavors.  Not just as picnic fare, this potato salad is versatile as a “go-with-anything” summer side.

French fingerling potato salad

French fingerling potato salad

Terri quantified the recipe as easy to make.  She also noted that it was important to allow the potatoes to sit in the vinaigrette before serving so the flavors have time to work together.

To cap off our main meal, Terri also made sweet potato biscuits.

Sweet potato biscuits

Sweet potato biscuits

They were light and flaky and had a beautiful golden orange color.   She noted that the recipe was easy and that she had microwaved and mashed the potatoes instead of making the puree as noted within the recipe.  While we served them as a side to our meal, I also think they would be perfect for breakfast alongside eggs and bacon or sausage.

As all the elements blended on the plate, it made for a wonderful meal.  We commented how amazing it is that each of these dishes came together to create such a flavorful dinner.

All the elements blended on the plate to make a wonderful meal

All the elements blended on the plate to make a wonderful meal

For dessert, I made a key lime tart.  I’m not a big dessert baker, but in the spirit of cookbook club’s goals to broader our cooking experiences, I thought I would give it a try.

Key lime tart

Key lime tart

The tart was very simple to make.  I was amazed at how little juice comes from a lime and how many limes you need to juice in order to get the amount called for in the recipe.  The pie was light and flavorful.  It made me think of summer and the Florida Keys – which is where the key limes grow.  The tart had a graham cracker crush which is common to this type of pie.

For our “take-home treat,” I made raspberry scones.

The recipe specifically said it was “fast” and I would agree.  However, the raspberries are very delicate berries and I found them difficult to fold into the dough.  This made it a somewhat messy process.

Raspberry scones

Raspberry scones

I packaged our “take-home treats” in cute gift bags with a flavored tea and coffee – perfect for the next morning or afternoon snack.

Our “take-home treats” in cute gift bags with a flavored tea and coffee

Our “take-home treats” in cute gift bags with a flavored tea and coffee

In total, nine dishes were made from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food recipe collection.  Each dish was very yummy and made for a wonderful summer-themed meal.  We had another amazing meal and fun gathering.

Nine dishes were made from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food recipe collection

Nine dishes were made from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food recipe collection

Our next meeting is scheduled for mid September.  Susan is hosting.  We’ve selected the Betty Crocker cookbook as our focus – a timeless collections of recipes.  It will be a fun “retro-style” themed dinner featuring recipes that will bring forward past memories.

Max a Mia Ristorante, Avon, CT

Max a Mia Ristorante, Avon, CT

This year for Father’s Day, we decided to treat my husband and father to Sunday Dinner at Max a Mia Ristorante in Avon, CT.  It is one of the nine restaurants in the Max Restaurant Group, mostly located in Hartford County, CT.

Max a Mia Ristorante in Avon, CT

Max a Mia Ristorante in Avon, CT

The restaurant has a casual Italian bistro style with a traditional Italian menu, including an authentic brick oven for its stone pies, fresh-baked Italian and focaccia breads.  The atmosphere is sophisticated, yet comfortable and family-friendly.  There is a large bar area, sizable dining room in addition to outdoor seating if the weather permits.

As with any restaurant in the Max chain, the service is attentive and courteous. I’d recommend reservations, especially for dinner, as the restaurant is busy.

We hadn’t eaten at this Max Restaurant in some time, but I remember the food was delicious.  The restaurant was conveniently located for both families and as I always say, “You can’t go wrong with a Max Restaurant” and that statement held true again!

While reviewing the menu, we were presented with a wonderful breadbasket and olive oil for dipping.  The basket included their fresh-baked Italian bread and homemade flatbread pizza.  The pizza was delicious!

The breadbasket included their fresh-baked Italian bread and homemade flatbread pizza.

The breadbasket included their fresh-baked Italian bread and homemade flatbread pizza.

After debating over several wonderful menu choices, I decided to start my meal with the Tuscan salad.  It includes a mix of fresh greens, fresh mozzarella, kalamata olives, tomatoes and warm polenta croutons, with a balsamic dressing.  Christine followed my lead and ordered the same.

Tuscan salad

Tuscan salad

Mike and Greg opted for the Caesar salad, their usual, which includes romaine lettuce, focaccia croutons with the creamy Caesar dressing. All the salads were very fresh and a good portion size.

Caesar salad

Caesar salad

For my meal entrée, I opted for the Stonington sea scallops.  Roasted fingerling potatoes and cauliflower with pickled red onion vinaigrette accompanied them.  The scallops were seared to perfection and the red onion vinaigrette gave a sweet, citrus flavoring to the dish.  I loved every bite!

Stonington sea scallops.  with roasted fingerling potatoes and cauliflower with pickled red onion vinaigrette.

Stonington sea scallops. with roasted fingerling potatoes and cauliflower with pickled red onion vinaigrette.

Around the table, the others ordered:

Risotto with English peas, fava beans, fresh garbanzos and a tendril salad.

Risotto with English peas

Risotto with English peas

Penne al Buttero with hot Italian sausage in a tomato cream sauce baked in the pizza oven.  Mike said it had just enough zing for his spicy palate.

Penne al Buttero

Penne al Buttero

Eggplant lasagna – layers of eggplant, mozzarella and provolone cheeses with tomato butter.  It melted in your mouth!

Eggplant lasagna

Eggplant lasagna

Spaghetti Vongole – spaghetti with littleneck clams, pancetta in a lemon-herb broth.  My dad really enjoyed it!

Spaghetti Vongole

Spaghetti Vongole

Chicken Parmigianino – a hearty portion of the traditional Italian favorite over spaghetti with marinara sauce.

Chicken Parmigianino

Chicken Parmigianino

We all reviewed the dessert menu and were tempted by several choices.  Despite Mike’s usual choice for something chocolate, he opted for the coconut layer cake.  And we were glad he did.  The piece was very large – great for sharing.  It included coconut cream frosting, toasted coconut and toffee sauce.  The flavor was amazing.  It tasted like the coconut was picked fresh from the tree. We asked for additional forks and all had a taste or two.

Coconut layer cake

Coconut layer cake

To cap off an outstanding meal, the restaurant gave both fathers a $25 gift certificate for their next time dining.  That was a very nice touch – and very unexpected.

The restaurant gave both fathers a $25 gift certificate for their next time dining.

The restaurant gave both fathers a $25 gift certificate for their next time dining.

Father’s day is a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood and the influence of fathers in society.  As Bill Cosby said, “Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope.”  Unconditional love!

 

Have you ever eaten at a Max Group restaurant – if so, what’s your favorite?

What’s your favorite restaurant to celebrate Father’s day? 

Parallel Post Farm-to-Trumbull Dinner

Parallel Post Farm-to-Trumbull Dinner

Parallel Post restaurant hosted its second in the four-part Farm-to-Trumbull culinary dinner series on June 4. Parallel Post is a farm-to-table restaurant located in the Trumbull, CT Marriott, but it is more than you expect from typical hotel dining.  It is one of six restaurants owned by award winning and James Beard nominated, Chef Dean James Max.

Chef Dean James Max

Chef Dean James Max

The restaurant follows a farm-to-table style focusing on all fresh, natural and sustainable products.

Upon arriving at the restaurant, the hostess guided us outside to an intimate outdoor area.  “Bootleg Greg,” resident mixologist – because the title of bartender definitely won’t do – greeted us with the choice of two very original cocktails.

“Bootleg Greg,” resident mixologist greeted us with the choice of two very original cocktails.

“Bootleg Greg,” resident mixologist greeted us with the choice of two very original cocktails.

Greg had mixed up a cucumber fresco, which you could either have in its original non-alcoholic form or with the addition of cilantro-infused gin for the adult version.  It was very refreshing for the warm day.

Cucumber fresco

Cucumber fresco

The second cocktail was a carrot juice with wheat and soy extracts and could be infused with brandy for a spiced up version.

Carrot juice with wheat and soy extracts

Carrot juice with wheat and soy extracts

As guests continued mingling on the cocktail patio, the wait staff was passing two appetizers to whet our palates.

The wait staff was passing two appetizers to whet our palates

The wait staff was passing two appetizers to whet our palates

The bison tartar with farm fresh egg had a hint of spice to it.  The chefs commented that the bison was sourced from Creamery Brook Bison farm in Brooklyn, CT.  I had no idea there was a bison farm in Connecticut.  We also learned that bison has fewer calories and less cholesterol than beef, chicken and turkey, making it a very healthy red meat.

The bison tartar with farm fresh egg had a hint of spice

The bison tartar with farm fresh egg had a hint of spice

The coffee-cured salmon, the second appetizer, was served on flaxseed bread with Connecticut farm cheese with chives.  The nutty bread paired with the rich cheese and salmon was a wonderful combination of flavors.  Shearwater coffee roasters supplied the coffee for this appetizer.  Shearwater is the first and only USDA-certified organic coffee roaster in Fairfield, CT.

Coffee-cured salmon

Coffee-cured salmon

The chefs joined us on the patio to mingle and discuss some of the food we were sampling.

Chef Ali Goss joined us on the patio to mingle and discuss some of the food we were sampling

Chef Ali Goss joined us on the patio to mingle and discuss some of the food we were sampling

After the cocktail hour, guests made their way into the private dining room.  Two large tables were set up in community-style dining format, making it a friendly atmosphere.

Large tables were set up in community-style dining format, making it a friendly atmosphere

Large tables were set up in community-style dining format, making it a friendly atmosphere

Chef Dean James Max introduced himself and the other team members.

Chef Dean James Max introduced himself and the other team members

Chef Dean James Max introduced himself and the other team members

Chef Ali Goss, Chef de Cuisine, has been at Parallel Post for almost two years.  Previously she was the lead cook at Chef Max’s restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

Chef Ali Goss

Chef Ali Goss

Chef Chris Molyneux, is executive chef for the restaurant and all the hotel’s dining.

Chef Chris Molyneux

Chef Chris Molyneux

Chef Max described each item on the menu, highlighting the local sources for the ingredients.  Since the menu was inspired by the farms’ fresh offerings of the day, it wasn’t revealed until the evening of the event.  He also mentioned that all the dishes would be served family style – and the food was plentiful!

The menu was inspired by the farms’ fresh offerings of the day

The menu was inspired by the farms’ fresh offerings of the day

Our first course began with parsnip soup poured over Norm Bloom clams salad.

Norm Bloom Clams Salad

Norm Bloom Clams Salad

The soup was served in glass bottled and each guest poured the soup over the salad that was already in the serving cups.

The soup was served in glass bottled and each guest poured the soup over the salad

The soup was served in glass bottled and each guest poured the soup over the salad

The soup had rich flavor and the salad added a crispy element to the soup.

Parsnip soup

Parsnip soup

The first course continued with a beautiful salad filled with Gilbertie’s farm greens, early summer watermelon radishes, soy-ginger mushrooms with wasabi green vinaigrette.

A beautiful salad filled with Gilbertie’s farm greens

A beautiful salad filled with Gilbertie’s farm greens

Finally the first course was capped off with crispy soft-shell crabs, pea shoots drizzled with cayenne ramp aioli.  The crabs were sweet and succulent.

The first course was capped off with crispy soft-shell crabs, pea shoots drizzled with cayenne ramp aioli

The first course was capped off with crispy soft-shell crabs, pea shoots drizzled with cayenne ramp aioli

Jam Jar brand Moscato sweet wine was served with the first course.

Jam jar wine

Jam jar wine

For the entrée portion of the meal, we began with four side dishes.

Grilled asparagus and frissee was topped with Manchego cheese and sherry vinaigrette.

Grilled asparagus and frissee

Grilled asparagus and frissee

Purple potato salad.

Purple potato salad.

Purple potato salad.

Baby kale salad with roasted walnuts, feta cheese and pickled apricots.

Baby kale salad

Baby kale salad

Fiddle head ferns, which are only available for a few weeks in May/ June.

Fiddle head ferns

Fiddle head ferns

The main entrée featured two protein items:

Grilled pork chop with lima beans, mustard greens and bacon jam.

Grilled pork chop

Grilled pork chop

Montauk roasted tuna with English pea puree, roasted fava beans, pearl onions and wheatgrass vinaigrette.

Montauk roasted tuna

Montauk roasted tuna

We filled our plate with some of each item because we wanted to taste everything.  I was amazed at the pairings one key ingredient with several others to create amazing flavors.

We filled our plate with some of each item because we wanted to taste everything

We filled our plate with some of each item because we wanted to taste everything

Route Stock cabernet wine was served with the main dinner entrees.

Route Stock cabernet

Route Stock cabernet

For dessert we were treated to several indulgences:

Warm strawberry crostata with goat cheese crumble.

Warm strawberry crostata

Warm strawberry crostata

SoCo vanilla bean ice cream served in a mason jar.

SoCo vanilla bean ice cream

SoCo vanilla bean ice cream

Gilbertie’s farm lavender flavored crème brulee.

Gilbertie’s farm lavender flavored crème brulee

Gilbertie’s farm lavender flavored crème brulee

Additionally, we were forewarned of a frozen cocktail treat.  It consisted of a strawberry and yogurt popsicle house made by “Bootleg Greg.”  He made the rounds spraying the popsicles with Campari liqueur.  It was like nothing we’d ever seen or had before.  What a fun treat!

Strawberry and yogurt popsicle house made by “Bootleg Greg.”

Strawberry and yogurt popsicle house made by “Bootleg Greg.”

As the meal drew to a close, the diners joined in a round of applause for the chefs and wait staff.

Me and Chef Dean James Max

Me and Chef Dean James Max

As I reflect back on all the dishes, my favorites included the salmon appetizer, the parsnip soup and salad from our first course, and the purple potato salad and grilled pork chop from our entrées.  Dessert was a three-way tie.  I loved all the items – crostata, which brings back fond memories of my Italian grandma, homemade ice cream and lavender crème brulee.

The entire farm-to-Trumbull dinner, from appetizers through dessert, was first-class – both food and service.  Chef Dean James Max and his team masterfully turn fresh ingredients into culinary art highlighting flavors, textures, colors and local sourcing.

I encourage you to check out one of Parallel Post’s upcoming farm-to-Trumbull dinners.  You can find details about the remaining two dinners on the Parallel Post website.

Have you ever been to a farm-to-table community dinner event?

 

Disclaimer:  While I was invited to the June farm-to-Trumbull event by the Parallel Post’s marketing and public relations team, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience at the dinner.