Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana

It’s a fierce argument that splits some Connecticut families and friends and it doesn’t involve the Yankees and Red Sox baseball rivalry. In the New Haven County that debate includes who makes the best pizza – Frank Pepe’s or Sally’s. Not being from the New Haven County, I haven’t participated directly in that debate, but have heard about it often.

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana is a third-generation owned and operated pizzeria.

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana is a third-generation owned and operated pizzeria.

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana is a third-generation owned and operated pizzeria. It has seven locations in Connecticut, one in Yonkers NY and will be expanding into Boston soon. The establishment’s history began nearly 90 years ago in 1925 with the first location in the Wooster Street neighborhood of New Haven, CT.

The establishment’s history began nearly 90 years ago in 1925.

The establishment’s history began nearly 90 years ago in 1925.

Frank Pepe’s grandson Gary Bimonte carry’s on the family tradition using the recipe, methods and passion for the Napoletana style pizza that patriarch Frank Pepe grew up with in the town of Maiori, on the Amalfi coast of Italy.

Frank Pepe’s grandson Gary Bimonte carry’s on the family tradition.

Frank Pepe’s grandson Gary Bimonte carry’s on the family tradition.

According to the rules proposed by Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, neopolitan-style pizza’s dough may be no more than three millimeters thick and baked in a stone oven. Frank Pepe’s follows that tradition.

Frank Pepe’s follows the neapolitan pizza tradition.

Frank Pepe’s follows the neapolitan pizza tradition.

Last week I had the opportunity to sample Frank Pepe’s pizza when the West Hartford location celebrated its one-year anniversary.

I had the opportunity to sample Frank Pepe’s pizza when the West Hartford location celebrated its one-year anniversary.

I had the opportunity to sample Frank Pepe’s pizza when the West Hartford location celebrated its one-year anniversary.

We were treated to a selection of Pepe’s popular thin-crust, coal-fired Neapolitan style pizzas, including their award-winning white clam pie.

The award-winning white clam pie!

The award-winning white clam pie!

The Pepe’s menu offers diners the opportunity to build their own pizza from a variety of toppings.

Pepe’s menu offers diners the opportunity to build their own pizza.

Pepe’s menu offers diners the opportunity to build their own pizza.

Additionally, the menu offers several specialty pies that include: Pepe’s original tomato pie; white clam; white spinach, mushroom and Gorgonzola; and margarita.

The menu also offers several specialty pies.

The menu also offers several specialty pies.

From July to September the menu also includes Pepe’s fresh tomato pie.

Pepe’s fresh tomato pie.

Pepe’s fresh tomato pie.

While I enjoyed a slice of several different pizzas, my favorite was the white spinach, mushroom and Gorgonzola specialty pie.

My favorite was the white spinach, mushroom and Gorgonzola specialty pie.

My favorite was the white spinach, mushroom and Gorgonzola specialty pie.

Following the classic, Italian restaurant style, Pepe’s serves wine in stemless, four-inch glasses. Some people use these glasses for juice or other beverages. They are a great casual alternative to regular wine glasses, completing the old school charm.

Pepe’s serves wine in stemless, four-inch "juice" glasses, completing the old school charm!

Pepe’s serves wine in stemless, four-inch “juice” glasses, completing the old school charm!

The generosity of the Pepe’s team continued with a beautiful tray of traditional Italian desserts. The platter included pizelles, angel wings and pumpkin cookies. I felt right at home since my mother makes pizelles and angel wings, which she calls rosettes.

Pizelles, angel wings and pumpkin cookies - my favorite Italian desserts!

Pizelles, angel wings and pumpkin cookies – my favorite Italian desserts!

Often touted as a “New Haven Institution,” Pepe’s is ranked #1 in The Daily Meal’s “101 Best Pizzas in America” and claims several “best pizza” awards here in Connecticut.   I agree with the experts and give it “two thumbs up” in my book!

 

Have you tried Pepe’s pizza?

Where do you stand in the Pepe’s versus Sally’s pizza debate?

What’s your favorite pizzeria restaurant?

 

Disclaimer:  While I was invited to Frank Pepe’s complimentary anniversary celebration for the media, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience at the event. 

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata

Chicken piccata is one of our family’s all-time favorite dinners. In fact, I think it’s my son’s favorite meal. He often requests I make it before he heads back to college — “his last good meal.”

Best of all, chicken piccata is an easy dinner to make. So you don’t need to wait until the weekend to make it! It’s a great weekday meal, because it’s quick to whip up and looks like you’ve spent hours slaving to make this dinner. It only requires one pan, so it’s an easy cleanup too!

Chicken piccata is a dish that originated in Italy and was primarily made with veal. The word piccata refers to a way of preparing the meat, which involves slicing it very thin, coating and sautéing it, and then serving it with a sauce made from the pan drippings.

Chicken piccata is one of my family’s all-time favorite dinners!

Chicken piccata is one of my family’s all-time favorite dinners!

Chicken Piccata

¾ cup all-purpose flour

4 – 6 thin boneless, skinless chicken cutlets

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. capers, drained from their brine

1 ½ c low sodium chicken broth

1 c lemon juice

1 lemon, sliced

4 tbsp. unsalted butter (divided)

Salt & pepper to taste

Rinse the chicken cutlets off in water and dry on paper towels.

Pour the flour into a quart-sized plastic bag. Place two of the cutlets in the plastic bag at a time, shaking with the flour to coat on both sides. Once coated, place on a plate and repeat with the remaining cutlets.

In a large and deep skillet, heat 2 tbsp. of the oil and 2 tbsp. of the butter over medium-high heat until the butter has melted and it’s simmering.

Lay the cutlets down into the hot pan and allow to cook (about 3-4 minutes) until golden brown. Flip the cutlets over and continue to cook (about another 3-4 minutes) until golden brown and the meat is no longer pink. Remove the browned cutlets to a clean plate.

Lower the heat to medium. To the warm skillet, add in the remaining butter, chicken broth, lemon juice and capers. Use a whisk to scrape up any the browned bits for additional flavor into the sauce. Once the sauce has come to a simmer, gently add back into the sauce the cooked chicken cutlets and lay the lemon slices on top of the chicken cutlets. Cover and continue to simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes.

The chicken piccata is simmering in the delicious sauce!!

The chicken piccata is simmering in the delicious sauce!!

Transfer the chicken to a platter. Spoon the sauce generously over the chicken and top with the sliced lemon.

Chicken piccata hot from the stove.

Chicken piccata hot from the stove.

Serve warm. Pair it with angel-hair thin pasta or rice and a vegetable. Enjoy!

I like to pair the chicken piccata with angel-hair thin pasta.

I like to pair the chicken piccata with angel-hair thin pasta.

Yields 4-6 servings, depending on the number of chicken cutlets.

 

Do you like chicken piccata?

How have you ever made chicken piccata?

What’s your favorite chicken recipe?

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook

For our fourth meeting of the “Food for Thought” cookbook book club, we focused on Betty Crocker’s “Picture Cookbook” with an emphasis on retro recipes.

Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook - the 1950's version.

Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook – the 1950’s version.

I thought Betty Crocker was an actual person who built the empire. In searching for my retro recipes, I discovered that there wasn’t a person with that name.

Betty Crocker is an icon built by the Gold Medal Flour Company. It was born in 1921 during a promotion the company ran. The company received thousands of promotion responses and a flood of baking questions. The name “Betty Crocker” was created to personalize the consumer inquiry responses. Crocker was chosen to honor a popular, recently retired director of the company. Betty was chosen simply as a friendly sounding name. Within a few years, the consumer demand for baking information, fueled by the popularity of Betty Crocker spawned the beginning of the home service department, and ultimately the Betty Crocker Kitchens.

Betty Crocker has been a cultural icon and part of families’ food traditions – not to mention a trusted source of recipes and homemaking know how – for more than 90 years. So when Susan decided to host this gathering and selected the cookbook, she asked that we carry out the true retro style and wear our aprons and pearls – and we all did!

We carried out the true retro style and wore our aprons and pearls!

We carried out the true retro style and wore our aprons and pearls!

 

...and toasted the night with our champagne cocktails!

…and toasted the night with our champagne cocktails!

In carrying out the evening’s theme, we began with a glass of classic champagne cocktail that Terri made.

Classic champagne cocktail

Classic champagne cocktail

Champagne cocktails became popular during Prohibition, when flappers were desperate to make the available bathtub bubbly taste better. Ha!

To accompany our cocktail, we had three appetizers.

We had three appetizers with our cocktail.

We had three appetizers with our cocktail.

Terri made caramelized-onion bruschetta. She commented that the recipe was “easy” to make and that the directions for caramelizing the onions was “spot on.”

Caramelized-onion bruschetta

Caramelized-onion bruschetta

Sharon made sriracha veggie-cheese balls and sauce. Cheese balls are the perfect party food, because they are fun! This version was true to its retro origin, with kicked up ingredients. The recipe made a good-sized portion – plenty for our party!

Sriracha veggie-cheese balls and sauce

Sriracha veggie-cheese balls and sauce

Sharon also made basil and crabmeat topped cucumbers. The topping was a nice blend of basil with lemon and red onion. Sharon commented that they too were “easy” to make and that you could assemble the topping ahead of time and assemble before serving.

Basil and crabmeat topped cucumbers

Basil and crabmeat topped cucumbers

Susan was tasked with the dinner entrées: Swedish meatballs and chicken a la king. Susan commented that both were items her mom made for dinner when she was a kid.

The Swedish meatballs were served over white rice – in further keeping with the retro style. Susan commented that she was surprised that the meatball recipe called for few spices since today’s recipes typically include more items.

Swedish meatballs served over white rice.

Swedish meatballs served over white rice.

The chicken a la king reminded me of a deconstructed version of chicken potpie. It had nicely poached chicken breasts with a creamy sauce. Susan noted that when her mother made it she would pick out the pimentos but now she didn’t notice or mind them.

Chicken a la king

Chicken a la king

Accompanying the chicken and meatballs were two side dishes and homemade parker house rolls.

Accompanying the chicken and meatballs were two side dishes and homemade parker house rolls.

Accompanying the chicken and meatballs were two side dishes and homemade parker house rolls.

Val made the rolls from scratch. Parker house rolls were invented at Boston’s Parker House Hotel in 1890. They are considered a staple for many dinners. The rolls were buttery with a soft interior and crispy shell.

Val also made the cranberry orange gelatin salad – another widely popular side dish for our retro-style meal. Gelatin was once considered a sign of wealth, before the advent of prepared gelatin, as only members of the elite classes could afford it. The combination of cranberry and orange flavors would be perfect for the upcoming winter holiday meals.

Cranberry orange gelatin salad

Cranberry orange gelatin salad

Pat made Florentine salad. Any dish that uses the word “Florentine” refers to a recipe that is prepared in the style of the Italian region of Florence and typically is a dish featuring spinach. True to its definition, the salad’s main ingredients were spinach, hard-boiled eggs and bacon. It had a light, red-wine vinaigrette dressing.

Florentine salad

Florentine salad

As we reflected on all the elements on the plate, we made a few observations about the retro meal. First, many of the recipes we cooked used fairly plain ingredients and how the modern versions have ramped up the elements for more bold flavors. Second, we were surprised at how many of the recipes included ingredients that now we wouldn’t consider the healthiest, but back then the obesity epidemic wasn’t as rampant as it is today. We also had some laughs reading through some of the tidbits Susan had collected about the retro time period (e.g., costs of gas, bread).

For dessert, I made a pineapple upside-down cake. To further the retro theme, I baked it in an original Bundt pan. The cake was very simple to make. My only anxiety was in hoping it would come out of the pan intact, which it did.

Pineapple upside-down Bundt cake

Pineapple upside-down Bundt cake

For our “take-home treat,” I made spumoni-chunk cookies.

Spumoni-chunk cookies

Spumoni-chunk cookies

Spumoni is a molded Italian ice cream typically consisting of three flavors – cherry, pistachio and chocolate. These cookies were true to the ice cream representation and included chopped, dried cherries, chocolate chunks and chopped, salted pistachios. They were easy to make, but the ingredients were quite costly. I packaged our “take-home treats” in cute gift bags.

Our “take-home treats”

Our “take-home treats”

In total, eleven dishes were made from Betty Crocker’s Picture cookbook. Each dish was very representative of the retro-style theme. We had another fun meal and enjoyed our gathering.

We scheduled our next meeting for mid November. Terri is hosting. We selected the Buvette cookbook as our focus for the appetizers, entrees and sides recipes. The dessert and take-home treat recipes will be from Kathy Wakile’s “Indulge” cookbook.

 

Have you ever made a retro-style dinner?

What’s your favorite Betty Crocker recipe?

Jojoto, a Venezuelan restaurant and bar

Jojoto, a Venezuelan restaurant and bar

Last weekend, we took our taste buds on a Latin culinary adventure and attended a food blogger event at Jojoto (pronounced “hohoto,” meaning corn on the cob) restaurant in Branford, CT.

Jojoto, a Venezuelan restaurant and bar

Jojoto, a Venezuelan restaurant and bar

The petit restaurant and bar, which seats 40, is located in the beachy shoreline community and has a vibrant, high-energy, Latin-infused locale for authentic Venezuelan dishes. Venezuelan food is very flavorful and has a lot of European influences (especially Italian, French and Spanish).

The petit restaurant and bar, which seats 40, is located in the beachy shoreline community of Branford, CT.

The petit restaurant and bar, which seats 40, is located in the beachy shoreline community of Branford, CT.

Victor and Nicola Figueroa opened the restaurant in early August. Victor was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela and while schooled as an accountant, he was greatly influenced by his mother’s home cooking.

Victor and Nicola Figueroa opened Jojoto in early August.

Victor and Nicola Figueroa opened Jojoto in early August.

The Figueroas have teamed up with chef and entertainment powerhouse Neil Fuentes, aka The Singing Chef. Also raised in Venezuela, he combines his passion for food and entertainment, which have led his popular persona, “The Singing Chef,” to appearances on Connecticut Style on WTNH, Food Network’s Chopped, Sabra Hummus’ Recipe Makeovers, and Food Channel’s Hot Spots. Together they have created a restaurant that features the cuisine both Victor and Neil grew up with in Venezuela.

Chef Neil Fuentes, aka The Singing Chef, is executive chef at Jojoto.

Chef Neil Fuentes, aka The Singing Chef, is executive chef at Jojoto.

Upon entering the restaurant, the warm and friendly wait staff immediately greeted us with a glass of champagne. Within in moments, a round of “Pasapalo,” which means nibbles or appetizers in Venezuelan, began circulating. The appetizers we tasted were miniature versions of Jojoto’s traditional food items.

The passed appetizer selection included a variety of empanadas and arepas.

The passed appetizer selection included a variety of empanadas and arepas.

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The passed appetizer selection included a variety of empanadas and arepas.  Empanadas are a deep fried corn patty most commonly stuffed with cheese or meats. Arepas are the most popular Venezuelan dish and considered a staple in the culture. These corn cakes, which can be baked, fried or grilled, are split and filled with cheese or meats.

We were asked to take our seats and true to his stage name, Chef Neil Fuentes serenaded us by singing the Bobby Darin popular 1950’s song “Mack The Knife.” He has a wonderful voice! It was such a treat.

Chef Neil Fuentes serenaded us by singing the Bobby Darin popular 1950’s song “Mack The Knife.”

Chef Neil Fuentes serenaded us by singing the Bobby Darin popular 1950’s song “Mack The Knife.”

After his performance, he explained his background and cooking style. He then showed us how to make one of Jojoto’s best selling appetizers – a Toston.

Chef Fuentes demonstrated how to make one of Jojoto’s best selling appetizers – a Toston.

Chef Fuentes demonstrated how to make one of Jojoto’s best selling appetizers – a Toston.

A toston is a plantain fried twice. It can be eaten as a snack of side dish.

A toston is a plantain fried twice.

A toston is a plantain fried twice.

Chef Fuentes explained how this dish smells like vacation to him. As a kid, his family would rent a house at the beach for a month and they would eat toston with coleslaw. The version he prepared in the demonstration was topped with shrimp and a light Cajun sauce.

Chef Fuentes' toston was topped with shrimp and a light Cajun sauce.

Chef Fuentes’ toston was topped with shrimp and a light Cajun sauce.

Then Chef Neil headed into the kitchen to plate our second course, which was a sample of Jojoto’s appetizer menu. We were able to have a bird’s eye view into the kitchen through the use of the Facetime app. It was cool to see him work with the kitchen team.

Our bird's eye view into the kitchen through FaceTime.

Our bird’s eye view into the kitchen through FaceTime.

The sampler plate included mini versions of Ensalada Mixta (mixed salad), Venezuelan Caprese (similar to the popular Italian dish), Venezuelan Sandwiches (a mini burger with everything including a quail egg), Toston (in the center), Mejillones (mussels) and Guacucos (clams stuffed with pasta salad). Each item was amazing!

The sampler plate included mini versions of Ensalada Mixta, Venezuelan Caprese, Venezuelan Sandwiches, Toston, Mejillones and Guacucos.

The sampler plate included mini versions of Ensalada Mixta, Venezuelan Caprese, Venezuelan Sandwiches, Toston, Mejillones and Guacucos.

To accompany our appetizers, Cecelia demonstrated how to prepare a passion fruit jalapeno martini.

Cecilia makes us a passion fruit martini.

Cecilia makes us a passion fruit martini.

All of Jojoto’s cocktails are made from scratch, including the infused vodkas.

All of Jojoto’s cocktails are made from scratch.

All of Jojoto’s cocktails are made from scratch.

The martini paired well with the appetizer sampler plate.

The martini paired well with the appetizers.

The martini paired well with the appetizers.

Chef Fuentes introduced the Platos Fuertes, which means main course. It consisted of four different entrée items.

El pabellon crillo is a simple dish typically consisting of shredded meat and black beans served over rice. It’s known as the Venezuelan national dish and Chef Fuentes explained how the dish’s ingredients correlated to the Venezuelan flag colors and stars. Chef Neil put his spin on the dish by making the meat component a short rib.

El pabellon crillo

El pabellon crillo

Gallinita is a dish created by Chef Fuentes. It includes citrus juices with shrimp fume and vegetables over crispy chicken with leeks and sweet plantains.

Gallinita

Gallinita

Next up was Chef Fuentes’ take on short ribs. In preparing the meat, he first sears it to lock in the flavor. Then he slow roasts it for over six hours with red pepper, onions, celery, tomato, paprika, cumin, crushed tomato and wine. The short rib is served over polenta and leeks. The dish was amazing. Everyone was savoring the flavors with every bite and gladly accepted the offer for seconds.

Chef Fuentes’ take on short ribs.

Chef Fuentes’ take on short ribs.

And if that wasn’t enough, out came the largest pan I’ve ever seen of paella

Out came the largest pan I’ve ever seen of paella!

Out came the largest pan I’ve ever seen of paella!

The paella was chock full of a variety of seafood and sausage – Chef Fuentes’ style.

Chef Fuentes’ style paella

Chef Fuentes’ style paella

To cap off the meal, we were treated to a dessert sampler plate that included three of Jojoto’s summertime items.

The dessert sampler plate included three of Jojoto’s summertime items.

The dessert sampler plate included three of Jojoto’s summertime items.

On the dessert plate was churros dusted in cinnamon sugar, tres leches with a hint of banana flavor, and coconut custard cake. The cake was one of Chef Fuentes’ mother’s recipes. He showed us a video with he and his mother making the dessert on television.

The entire Jojoto’s team made us feel like their family throughout the dining event. The team’s motto is that they are “hosting not serving” you at the restaurant, hence the family sentiment.

The entire Jojoto restaurant team.

The entire Jojoto restaurant team.

Jojoto’s is located at 130 Shore Drive in Branford, CT. There is a tiny parking lot (10-15 spaces) behind the restaurant otherwise there is street parking on the road prior, near the post office. Reservations are recommended, especially for Thursdays through Saturdays. The restaurant is open for dinner on Mondays thru Saturdays. It serves lunch on Tuesdays thru Saturdays. There is Sunday Brunch from 10 am to 3 pm.

If this post has tickled your taste buds for a true Venezuelan adventure, then I suggest you book your reservation now before the rest of the state gets a whiff.

Another important note: make sure you have plenty of room in your belly for your meal at Jojoto. You will savor every bite and not want to leave anything on your plate – even if you are full!

 

Have you ever eaten Venezuelan food? If so what’s your favorite item?

Have you ever been to a dinner where there’s also entertainment as part of the experience?

Have you seen Chef Neil Fuentes on television?

 

Disclaimer:  While I was invited to the blogger dinner by Jojoto’s marketing team, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience at the event. 

Dish Bar & Grill

Dish Bar & Grill

Dish Bar & Grill is one of the upscale restaurants in downtown Hartford. It’s located on Main Street amidst the vibrant energy you’ll find in the city.

Dish Bar & Grill is located on Main Street in downtown Hartford.

Dish Bar & Grill is located on Main Street in downtown Hartford.

For those who may remember, it occupies the former Sage-Allen flagship department store building, dating back to 1898. And while the street level façade has been updated, if you look up above the door you will see reminders of the beautiful historical building, which for me bring forward fond memories of day-long shopping trips into the city.

Dish occupies the former Sage-Allen flagship department store building, dating back to 1898.

Dish occupies the former Sage-Allen flagship department store building, dating back to 1898.

Inside the restaurant you’ll find a large, chic industrial-style space. There’s a cool bar area with plenty of seating for any size Happy Hour group.

Dish has a cool bar area - great for Happy Hour!

Dish has a cool bar area – great for Happy Hour!

For your mealtime, there are a few beautiful dining areas lit with a relaxing blue hue and dressed with elegant white linen.

Dish has a few beautiful dining areas lit with a relaxing blue hue and dressed with elegant white linen.

Dish has a few beautiful dining areas lit with a relaxing blue hue and dressed with elegant white linen.

Additionally, there is counter seating for the bird’s eye view into the kitchen.

The counter seating offers a bird's eye view into the kitchen.

The counter seating offers a bird’s eye view into the kitchen.

Dish Bar & Grill is one of three restaurants in the Dish restaurant group. It’s cuisine focuses on upscale interpretations of classic comfort food. At the beginning of September, the restaurant began serving Sunday Brunch from 11 am. to 5 pm. Last Sunday, the restaurant held a grand opening for the new brunch menu and I was invited to attend. To make it a fun event for the family, there was a special appearance by Anne Cubberly’s night fall puppets. The masks were incredible!

To make it a fun event for the family, there was a special appearance by Anne Cubberly’s night fall puppets - great masks!

To make it a fun event for the family, there was a special appearance by Anne Cubberly’s night fall puppets – great masks!

The Sunday Brunch menu contains a wonderful mix of breakfast and lunch menu items. It’s divided into sections consisting of: shares (sticky buns, fruit salad); starters, entrees; designer omelets; sides and brunch beverages.

Dish's new Sunday Brunch menu.

Dish’s new Sunday Brunch menu.

Our group decided to make it a “boozy brunch” and started with a round of adult beverages. While the menu does feature some of the classic brunch beverages – e.g., mimosa and bloody marys, it also features some adventurous ones too!

The brunch menu features some of the classic brunch beverages – e.g., mimosa and bloody marys.

The brunch menu features some of the classic brunch beverages – e.g., mimosa and bloody marys.

Sunday brunch mimosa

Sunday brunch mimosa

The “Bull’s Blood” is a variant from the traditional Bloody Mary with tequila, cilantro and jalapeño added to bring a kick to your morning.

The “Bull’s Blood” is a variant from the traditional Bloody Mary with tequila, cilantro and jalapeño added to bring a kick to your morning.

The “Bull’s Blood” is a variant from the traditional Bloody Mary with tequila, cilantro and jalapeño added to bring a kick to your morning.

To accompany our beverages, we opted to begin with the charcuterie board, as recommended by our server. It featured a beautiful assortment of locally sourced cheeses from the Mystic Cheese Company and charred bread slices.

We began with the charcuterie board as recommended by our server.

We began with the charcuterie board as recommended by our server.

Additionally the board included a house made Pate de Champagne of ground pork, bacon and cognac topped with mustard seed. I don’t normally enjoy pate as it’s usually made from liver, but this version was very flavorful.

House made Pate de Champagne.

House made Pate de Champagne.

The Sea Change and Melinda Mae cheeses were of similar consistency to Brie with one having a little more flavor and the other slightly milder. “Sweet dreams are made of cheese, who am I to dis a Brie” – ha! (I saw that somewhere and couldn’t resist including it!) I enjoyed the pairings of dried fruit and honeycomb.

The Sea Change and Melinda Mae cheeses were of similar consistency to Brie.

The Sea Change and Melinda Mae cheeses were of similar consistency to Brie.

The Mystic Melville cheese (named for Herman Melville the author of Moby Dick) is the first cheese from cheese maker Brian Civitello and co-owner Jason Sobocinski (whom I recently met at Popover Café and Boulder Knoll Farm dinners). This cheese was inspired by the Stracchino family of cheese from Northern Italy and is known for its smoothness and excellent melting characteristics. It’s taste is similar to a mild mozzarella and was paired with almonds.

The Mystic Melville cheese.

The Mystic Melville cheese.

For our brunch entrees, the group was tempted by several choices, making it difficult to select just one. We decided to each order something different so we could have the best tasting from the menu. After much contemplation, Mike ordered the cornflake crusted French toast. Made from Challah bread, the French toast was flavored with cinnamon and vanilla and drizzled with local maple syrup.

The cornflake crusted French toast.

The cornflake crusted French toast.

He paired the French toast with a side of the double cut bentons bacon. It was cooked crispy, just the way we like it!

Double cut bentons bacon was a great side.

Double cut bentons bacon was a great side.

I debated for quite some time over the heirloom tomato pie but then decided upon the shrimp and grits. The dish contained six seared shrimp on top a bed of buttery grits in a light, flavorful sauce with hints of bacon and scallions. It was the perfect southern comfort food for a chilly morning.

Shrimp and grits was the perfect southern comfort food for a chilly morning!

Shrimp and grits was the perfect southern comfort food for a chilly morning!

Liking every component listed in the dish, Greg chose the “Green Eggs and Ham” entrée. It was a kicked up version of traditional eggs benedict with elevated flavor from the basil hollandaise and prosciutto. He was impressed with the perfectly cooked poached eggs and beautiful presentation.

“Green Eggs and Ham” entrée has basil hollandaise and prosciutto.

“Green Eggs and Ham” entrée has basil hollandaise and prosciutto.

Intrigued by the name and ingredients, Terri chose the red flannel hash. It too was an upscale version of traditional hash with locally sourced beets and corned beef. The sweet flavor of the beets paired well with the other ingredients. The hash had a nicely roasted char.

The red flannel hash is an upscale version of traditional hash with locally sourced beets and corned beef.

The red flannel hash is an upscale version of traditional hash with locally sourced beets and corned beef.

Overall, the service, food and ambiance were wonderful. I think Dish Bar and Grill’s Sunday Brunch has gotten off to a wonderful start. Diners will appreciate the comfort food focus with the fall chill in the morning air.

 

Have you dined at Dish Bar & Grill or any of the other restaurants in the Dish restaurant group?

Where’s your favorite place for Sunday Brunch?

What’s your favorite food to eat for Sunday Brunch?

 

Disclaimer:  While I was invited to the grand opening of Dish’s Sunday Brunch by their marketing team, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience at the event. 

Treva Restaurant & Bar

Treva Restaurant & Bar

The girls from work and I headed out for another Happy Hour adventure. Treva restaurant and bar in West Hartford center was our destination.

Treva restaurant and bar is located in West Hartford center.

Treva restaurant and bar is located in West Hartford center.

Treva is one of two restaurants owned by Chef Dorjan Puka, a veteran chef for the Max restaurant group. Treva features chef-inspired Northern Italian innovative cooking.

Treva features chef-inspired Northern Italian innovative cooking.

Treva features chef-inspired Northern Italian innovative cooking.

We sat in the bar area, which is quite cozy. While there are several booths and counter seating, the booths are mostly for parties of 2 people with only two tables that could fit four maximum – not a Happy Hour destination for larger groups.

The Happy Hour menu features a nice selection of fun cocktails, wines and beers for $5 – 6. Additionally there is a great selection of Happy Hour appetizers priced at $2 and $5.

The happy hour menu has a great selection of  appetizers priced at $2 and $5.

The happy hour menu has a great selection of appetizers priced at $2 and $5.

We enjoy ordering several items from the Happy Hour menu and sharing. Once we’ve tasted several, we then determine if we will try others or order more of the same.

Dicasa salad and homemade gnocchi.

Dicasa salad and homemade gnocchi.

We each started with the Dicasa salad. It has very fresh mixed green lettuce with a wonderful balsamic dressing. It’s salad like I had growing up – nothing elaborate, but fresh and delicious!

We also ordered the gnocchi and Tuscan fries. The Tuscan fries are flavored with rosemary, truffle oil and Parmesan Reggiano cheese. They were so delicious that we wanted to eat the excess cheese that remained on the plate after the fries were all gone!

The Tuscan fries are flavored with rosemary, truffle oil and Parmesan Reggiano cheese.

The Tuscan fries are flavored with rosemary, truffle oil and Parmesan Reggiano cheese.

The gnocchi were handmade and served with a light sauce that consisted of truffle oil and Parmesan. They melted in your mouth. We ordered a second helping!

The gnocchi melted in your mouth!

The gnocchi melted in your mouth!

We shared the flatbread which contained mozzarella baked into the thin and crispy crust. It was topped with arugula and freshly-sliced prosciutto.

The flatbread contained mozzarella baked into the crust and was topped with arugula and prosciutto.

The flatbread contained mozzarella baked into the crust and was topped with arugula and prosciutto.

You know you’re in a great Italian restaurant when the cured meats are hanging across from the bar counter, and the prosciutto is being sliced fresh to order — right in front of you!

The prosciutto is being sliced fresh to order right in front of you!

The prosciutto is being sliced fresh to order right in front of you!

Finally we ordered the Treva signature burger. It was topped with Vermont cheddar and arugula. It was cooked exactly as we ordered it and was large enough to share among three.

The Treva signature burger topped with Vermont cheddar and arugula.

The Treva signature burger topped with Vermont cheddar and arugula.

All of the dishes we ordered from the Happy Hour menu were wonderful. I can’t wait to go back and try some items from the full restaurant menu. Treva has several dining areas including two outdoor seating areas. Plenty of space for an elegant relaxed dinner for two or a larger group.  There is paid parking on the street or in the lot behind the restaurant.

As always, the girls have a great time catching up everyone’s lives in a setting outside of work. It’s great to relax and enjoy each other’s company! I wonder where we will be heading to next for Happy Hour?!?

 

Have you ever eaten at Treva restaurant & bar in West Hartford?

Where’s your favorite place for Happy Hour?

Boulder Knoll Farm to Table Dinner

Boulder Knoll Farm to Table Dinner

Last week I attended the Friends of Boulder Knoll Farm to Table dinner. Boulder Knoll is a small-scale, environmentally sustainable farm located in Cheshire, CT. It provides healthy local produce to 68 shareholders, as well as food to local soup kitchens. The farm offers a variety of useful, flavorful veggies and herbs brown with attention to soil health and biodiversity.

Boulder Knoll Community Farm is located in Cheshire, CT.

Boulder Knoll Community Farm is located in Cheshire, CT.

The Boulder Knoll Farm to Table dinner was an elegant family-style farm meal, showcasing a seasonal menu using farm-fresh produce, served in the field.

The Boulder Knoll Farm to Table dinner was an elegant family-style farm meal,  served in the field.

The Boulder Knoll Farm to Table dinner was an elegant family-style farm meal, served in the field.

Guests were entertained by live music provided by Hannah Fair.

Guests were entertained by live music provided by Hannah Fair.

Guests were entertained by live music provided by Hannah Fair.

The dinner consisted of several courses of “just-picked-from-the-earth” food cooked fresh that day by Chef Jason Sobocinski and his team.

The dinner consisted of several courses of “just-picked-from-the-earth” food cooked fresh that day by Chef Jason Sobocinski.

The dinner consisted of several courses of “just-picked-from-the-earth” food cooked fresh that day by Chef Jason Sobocinski.

Chef Sobocinski is the owner of Caseus Fromagerie Bistro and bar Ordinary in New Haven; and is the host of the Cooking Channel’s “The Big Cheese” television show. He is also one of the owners of Black Hog Brewery, a new craft brewery in Oxford, CT.

Black Hog Brewing Company is a new craft brewery in Oxford, CT.

Black Hog Brewing Company is a new craft brewery in Oxford, CT.

The dinner began with cocktails provided by South End Wine & Spirits, Black Hog Brewery and bar Ordinary.

Dinner began with cocktails.

Dinner began with cocktails.

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Guests were seated at long tables with burlap runners and simple vases with wild flowers.

Guests were seated at long tables with burlap runners and simple vases with wild flowers.

Guests were seated at long tables with burlap runners and simple vases with wild flowers.

All the food was served family style in large serving bowls – with plenty for everyone.

All the food was served family style.

All the food was served family style.

The meal’s entrees included:

  • Smoke box barbecue pulled pork sandwiches; and
Smoke box barbecue pulled pork sandwiches.

Smoke box barbecue pulled pork sandwiches.

  • All natural smoked chicken thighs.
All natural smoked chicken thighs

All natural smoked chicken thighs

Both entrees were amazingly tender and absolutely delicious!

To accompany the entrees, there were five side dishes:

  • Heirloom tomato salad with local fresh mozzarella
Heirloom tomato salad with local fresh mozzarella.

Heirloom tomato salad with local fresh mozzarella.

  • Farro salad with braised leeks, onion and garlic
Farro salad with braised leeks, onion and garlic.

Farro salad with braised leeks, onion and garlic.

  • Kale and cabbage Kimchi-style slaw;
Kale and cabbage Kimchi-style slaw.

Kale and cabbage Kimchi-style slaw.

  • Cucumber and local yogurt with fresh herbs salad; and
Cucumber and local yogurt with fresh herbs salad.

Cucumber and local yogurt with fresh herbs salad.

  • Mexican street grilled corn with barbecue aioli.

Somehow I missed getting a photograph of the corn. Probably because I was too busy eating my plate full of delicious food!

My plate full of delicious food!

My plate full of delicious food!

My two favorites were the cucumber salad and the farro salad.

The farro salad was one of my favorites.

The farro salad was one of my favorites.

Farro is an ancient, wheat-based grain. It is often used as an ingredient in dishes such as salads and soups. Farro has a nutty, earthiness flavor.

As guests took one last look and placed their final bids on the silent auction items, dessert by Oak Haven Bar & Table was being plated.

Dessert was provided by Oak Haven Bar & Table.

Dessert was provided by Oak Haven Bar & Table.

Dessert was a wild blueberry bourbon cupcake. The base tasted similar to a blueberry muffin, but much more airy in density. The cupcake was topped with a light and fluffy buttercream blueberry frosting. I loved every bite and so did all the guests we were seated with!

Dessert was a wild blueberry bourbon cupcake.

Dessert was a wild blueberry bourbon cupcake.

Overall the entire meal was top notch and “every bite delicious.” The ambiance was charming and the company we were seated with was delightful. We had a wonderful time.

All proceeds from the Friends of Boulder Knoll Farm to Table dinner benefitted the Boulder Knoll Community Farm. The event raised over $13,000 to support farm food donations and education programs.

I look forward to the event next year!

 

Have you ever been to a Farm to Table dinner served in the farm field?

Have you ever eaten at Caseus Fromagerie Bistro in New Haven, CT?

What’s your favorite “fresh from the farm” recipe/ dish?

 

 

Disclaimer:  While I was invited to the Friends of Boulder Knoll Farm to Table Dinner, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience at the event.