Eataly, NYC

Eataly, NYC

Ever since Eataly NYC opened in 2010 I’ve been dying to visit the high-end Italian food market/ mall. Earlier this week, I fulfilled my desire to visit and made the trek to NYC for a food-filled day, with Eataly as one of my stops.

Eataly NYC is located on 23rd street & 5th Avenue.

Eataly NYC is located on 23rd street & 5th Avenue.

In 2007, Oscar Farinetti first founded Eataly in Turin, Italy. It was part of the initial vision to expand locations elsewhere in Italy and New York City. Today there are 31 Eataly locations with two in the United States (NYC and Chicago) and 16 throughout Italy. Among the planned future locations in the United States are Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Los Angeles and a second in NYC.

Today there are 31 Eataly locations.

Today there are 31 Eataly locations.

The New York City location is owned by a partnership including Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich and Joe Bastianich. And if you didn’t know this beforehand, you would realize it as you walk through the market because Mario, Lidia and Joe’s products proliferate throughout.

Mario Batali, Lidia and Joe Bastianich's products proliferate throughout Eataly NYC.

Mario Batali, Lidia and Joe Bastianich’s products proliferate throughout Eataly NYC.

Eataly consists of two main branches: a high-end Italian food market and seven sit-down restaurants with both table and bar seating all contained within a mall-type atmosphere.

Eataly has seven sit-down restaurants with both table and bar seating serving a variety of foods.

Eataly has seven sit-down restaurants with both table and bar seating serving a variety of foods.

We chose to eat at La Pizza – La Pasta. I’ll be providing you with my full review very soon, but will say it was delicious!

The market is split into two main sections: House made and the Best of Italy and America. In the house made area, there is fresh food made in house. You will find fresh-made bakery items, mozzarella, gelato, pastry and pasta. I was fascinated to see the fresh pasta being made both by machine and by hand.

The fresh pasta is being made by machine - fresh ravioli!

The fresh pasta is being made by machine – fresh ravioli!

The chefs are making fresh gnocchi by hand.

The chefs are making fresh gnocchi by hand.

There is every kind of fresh pasta you can think of available for purchase from the pasta counter.

The fresh pasta counter has so many different varieties.

The fresh pasta counter has so many different varieties.

The Best of Italy and America market offers beauty, books and housewares, beer, beverages, dry pasta and rice, coffee and tea, dolci and chocolate, olive oil, vinegars, preserves and honey, sauces and condiments, dairy, cheese, and salumi.

The dolci and chocolate section was very tempting.

The dolci and chocolate section was very tempting.

I was amazed to find chocolate torrone. You can easily find the vanilla nougat candy, but the chocolate is a rare find. I’ll save this for Christmas Eve dinner.

Chocolate torrone - an amazing find for the Christmas holiday!

Chocolate torrone – an amazing find for the Christmas holiday!

You also can find the freshest products in the seafood and butcher counters.

Eataly's fresh meat counter.

Eataly’s fresh meat counter.

The produce is fresh from local farms.

Produce fresh from the local farms.

Produce fresh from the local farms.

The salumi offers a variety of imported Italian cold cuts and cheese.

The salumi had a wide variety of italian cold cuts and cheeses.

The salumi had a wide variety of italian cold cuts and cheeses.

I was amazed at the size of the whole Parmesan cheese wheels!

"I'd like a little Parmesan cheese, please."

“I’d like a little Parmesan cheese, please.”

The concept behind Eataly is to challenge the predisposition that quality products are only available to a select few. The market/ mall brings good eating and shopping to all – not limited to connoisseurs. Eat Better, Life Better Today. The shirts worn by the staff exemplify this philosophy.

Love this philosophy!

Love this philosophy!

We truly enjoyed our time at Eataly and look forward to returning and trying more of the products and restaurants.

 

Have you ever been to Eataly NYC?

What’s your favorite authentic Italian food product?

Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Bundt Cake

Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Bundt Cake

When I was a kid, every year my aunt would make a wonderful pumpkin pecan cake for the Thanksgiving holiday. I’m not a fan of pumpkin pie, but remember loving the cake. I asked her to share the recipe with me so I could carry on the tradition.

This recipe is very simple to make because it starts with a cake mix.  I slightly modified the recipe to include mini chocolate-chips instead of pecans. The cinnamon, pumpkin and chocolate combination is amazing. The cake is so moist it literally melts in your mouth.

A few years back, I had the opportunity to make the cake for my aunt at Thanksgiving before she passed. She told me the cake was delicious – better than she made. That is the highest compliment I could have received!

Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Bundt Cake

Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Bundt Cake

Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Bundt Cake Recipe

1 pkg spice cake mix (18 oz size)

1 cup canned pumpkin

½ cup canola oil

3 large eggs

1 pkg vanilla instant pudding mix (sugar free is okay to use)

1 tsp cinnamon

½ cup water

½ cup mini chocolate chips

Dash of flour to dust the chocolate chips

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease the bundt pan liberally, first with butter or Crisco and then sprinkle flour and tap the pan to ensure it’s coated all around, including the center tube.

Mix all the ingredients together, except the chocolate chips, at medium speed for 4 minutes. Dust the mini chocolate chips with a small amount of flour. This will ensure they stay mingled throughout the cake and don’t fall to the bottom. Fold the chocolate chips into the cake batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, ensuring it’s evenly spread around the pan.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.

Bake 40-55 minutes. The cake is cooked when it springs back when touched lightly and when a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean.

The cake is cooked when it springs back when touched lightly and the  toothpick comes out clean.

The cake is cooked when it springs back when touched lightly and the toothpick comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the bundt pan for 10-15 minutes on a wire rack.

Invert the cake onto a cake plate. The cake can be served warm or at room temperature. Serve it with whipped cream, no frosting needed.

 

This dessert is perfect for a crowd as the bundt shape cuts easily into 24 pieces. If there are any leftovers, do not worry. The cake will stay moist for several days if kept in an airtight container.

This dessert is perfect for a crowd as the bundt shape cuts easily into 24 pieces.

This dessert is perfect for a crowd as the bundt shape cuts easily into 24 pieces.

With the fall holidays coming up fast, try this recipe on your family and friends as a change from the traditional pumpkin pie dessert. “Let them eat cake… instead of pie.”

 

What’s your favorite dessert for the fall/ winter holidays?

What’s your favorite pumpkin-flavored baking recipe?

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.