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. 

Popover Café & Bakery Farm to Table Dinner

Popover Café & Bakery Farm to Table Dinner

Popover Café & Bakery opened over the summer in Simsbury, CT. It’s located at 928 Hopmeadow Street – the space previously occupied by Metro Bis restaurant.

Popover Café & Bakery is located on Hopmeadow Street in Simsbury, CT.

Popover Café & Bakery is located on Hopmeadow Street in Simsbury, CT.

The café specializes in gluten free, vegan and other healthy and tasty traditional options with locally sourced ingredients.

Popover specializes in gluten free, vegan and other healthy and tasty traditional options with locally sourced ingredients.

Popover specializes in gluten free, vegan and other healthy and tasty traditional options with locally sourced ingredients.

The café serves an array of pastries and delectable breakfasts, lunches and brunch. In addition, the restaurant has been hosting a series of farm-to-table dinners featuring some of the state’s best-known chefs.

The restaurant has been hosting a series of farm-to-table dinners featuring some of the state’s best-known chefs.

The restaurant has been hosting a series of farm-to-table dinners featuring some of the state’s best-known chefs.

I attended their second Chefs Farm to Table event on August 20. The dinner’s theme was beer and barbeque.

The dinner’s theme was beer and barbeque.

The dinner’s theme was beer and barbeque.

Tyler Anderson, executive chef at Millwrights Restaurant and Tavern in Simsbury cooked up an array of barbeque creations.

Tyler Anderson is executive chef and owner at Millwrights Restaurant and Tavern in Simsbury.

Tyler Anderson is executive chef and owner at Millwrights Restaurant and Tavern in Simsbury.

They were paired with beers from Black Hog Brewing Company, 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.

Pamela Paydos, one of the owners and former proprietor of The Iron Frog pub, welcomed everyone to the dinner.

Pamela Paydos, one of the owners, welcomed everyone to the event.

Pamela Paydos, one of the owners, welcomed everyone to the event.

The dinner was set up in family-community style seating.

The dinner was set up in a community-family style.

The dinner was set up in a community-family style.

Pamela introduced Chef Anderson and our Beer Steward, Jason Sobocinski – one of the owners of Black Hog Brewery.

Jason Sobocinski was our beer steward and is one of the owners of Black Hog Brewery.

Jason Sobocinski was our beer steward and is one of the owners of Black Hog Brewery.

Chef Anderson explained that the dishes he prepared were not your typical barbeque dishes.

Chef Anderson explained that the dishes he prepared were not your typical barbeque dishes.

Chef Anderson explained that the dishes he prepared were not your typical barbeque dishes.

He asked us to think of barbeque in the sense of the flavors and the outdoor cooking methods.

Dinner menu

Dinner menu

Jason from Black Hog explained how the brewery’s name came from the nickname for a Berkshire pig. The name conjures up pig roasts with people coming together as a community and celebrating over some brews.

The Black Hog name conjures up pig roasts with people coming together as a community and celebrating over some brews.

The Black Hog name conjures up pig roasts with people coming together as a community and celebrating over some brews.

He mentioned that the beers we were about to have would begin with a heavier beer and end with the lighter ones.

The beers were served in jam jars.

The beers were served in jam jars.

Our first course consisted of “BBQ Carrots” that were picked fresh from Chef Anderson’s garden. The carrots were brined overnight with barbeque spices and roasted. They were served over a raw zucchini slaw with a yogurt, sesame seed and mint sauce. The BBQ Carrots were paired with Ginga Nija beer. It’s a red IPA brewed with fresh ginger.

The "BBQ Carrots" were brined overnight with barbeque spices and roasted.

The “BBQ Carrots” were brined overnight with barbeque spices and roasted.

Next we were served grilled oysters that were roasted for one minute in pork butter with pickled ramps.

Grilled oysters

Grilled oysters

While I am not an oyster eater, I admit that the flavor was amazing! The oysters were paired with THC Chinook beer. It’s from the brewery’s Hop Collection and had hints of mild pineapple.

The oysters were paired with THC Chinook beer.

The oysters were paired with THC Chinook beer.

The main entrée consisted of smoked porchetta served over baked beans and sunflower seed granola.

The main entrée was smoked porchetta served over baked beans and sunflower seed granola.

The main entrée was smoked porchetta served over baked beans and sunflower seed granola.

It was paired with the Granola Brown beer, which has a mix of oatmeal, grain, hops and roasted malts. While the beer is dark in color, it has a light bodied flavor with a clean finish that quickly drops off.

The porchetta was paired with the Granola Brown beer.

The porchetta was paired with the Granola Brown beer.

Following a European tradition, our next course consisted of a pre-dessert with cheese to cleanse the pallet prior to our sweet dessert. It involved organic strawberries that had been macerated in strawberry Gose (a German beer) with a pickled watermelon slice served in a hollowed popover. We couldn’t finish our meal at Popover Café without one of their famous popovers! A buffalo crostini cheese accompanied the popover with strawberries. FLS Gose beer was served with this course. It’s from the brewery’s farmland series that are released quarterly featuring one or more locally grown items.

The pre-dessert was organic strawberries that had been macerated in strawberry Gose with a pickled watermelon slice served in a hollowed popover.

The pre-dessert was organic strawberries that had been macerated in strawberry Gose with a pickled watermelon slice served in a hollowed popover.

The meal concluded with citrus cake that had thinly sliced grapefruit, tarragon sage meringue and white chocolate anglaise. The sweet dessert was paired with SWAG beer. It’s the brewery’s summer wheat ale with grapefruit peel.

Citrus cake had thinly sliced grapefruit, tarragon sage meringue and white chocolate anglaise.

Citrus cake had thinly sliced grapefruit, tarragon sage meringue and white chocolate anglaise.

As expected, it was another fantastic meal by Chef Tyler Anderson. His food creations are always amazing works of art that elevate the freshness factor by using local and responsibly raised ingredients.

Chef Tyler Anderson's food creations are always amazing works of art bursting with flavor!

Chef Tyler Anderson’s food creations are always amazing works of art bursting with flavor!

Popover café & bakery is a charming new place in the Farmington Valley. I look forward to eating breakfast and/or lunch there soon!

 

Have you tried Popover Café & Bakery in Simsbury?

Have you eaten at Chef Anderson’s Millwrights Restaurant in Simsbury?

Have you tried any of Black Hog Brewery’s beers?

 

Disclaimer:  While I was invited to the Popover Café & Bakery Farm to Table Dinner by the restaurant’s owner, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience at the event. 

NIXS Hartford, Hartford, CT

NIXS Hartford, Hartford, CT

Last week I was invited to a pre-opening red carpet event at NIXS Hartford restaurant and lounge in preparation for their grand opening.

NIXS Hartford pre-opening red carpet event - we were photographed on the red carpet!

NIXS Hartford pre-opening red carpet event – we were photographed on the red carpet!

We “VIPs” were invited for a first look at Hartford’s newest eatery in the emerging Front Street district of Hartford. The Front Street district is a component of Adriaen’s landing, a state-sponsored, master planned development that attracts activity to downtown through retail, restaurants, entertainment, conventions, museums and residential living.

You can find NIXS Hartford at 40 Front Street.

You can find NIXS Hartford at 40 Front Street.

You can find NIXS Hartford at 40 Front Street, directly across from the CT Convention Center and next to the soon-to-open Infinity Music Hall. It’s the newest of four restaurants located in the Front Street district.

NIX Hartford restaurant and lounge is part of The Bostonian Hospitality Group with other locations in Boston, Nantucket and Newburyport.

NIX Hartford restaurant and lounge is part of The Bostonian Hospitality Group with other locations in Boston, Nantucket and Newburyport.

NIX Hartford restaurant and lounge is part of The Bostonian Hospitality Group with other locations in Boston, Nantucket and Newburyport. The NIX name pays tribute to one of the small islands in the Boston Harbor.

The Hartford location serves contemporary American small bites, has a raw bar and serves New England micro brews and craft cocktails.

NIXS Hartford serves contemporary American small bites, has a raw bar and serves New England micro brews and craft cocktails.

NIXS Hartford serves contemporary American small bites, has a raw bar and serves New England micro brews and craft cocktails.

The restaurant’s décor reminded me of a swanky NYC industrial loft, with high ceilings, a combination of wood textures and industrial fixtures and lighting. There are several seating options – high tables at the bar, a dining area with tables and half round booths, outside seating or comfy lounge-style couches.

The restaurant’s décor reminded me of a swanky NYC industrial loft.

The restaurant’s décor reminded me of a swanky NYC industrial loft.

NIX Hartford uses the “Play Nice” have fun mantra and that certainly was the atmosphere at the pre-opening party!

“Play Nice” have fun is the restaurant's mantra.

“Play Nice” have fun is the restaurant’s mantra.

I had the opportunity to sample several of the restaurant’s craft cocktails.

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NIX craft cocktails

NIX craft cocktails

I loved the creative names each was given – William Fly Tai; Large Marg; Dawn of the Daiquiri; Bad Wolf; Orchard Avenue; Strawberry Rhubarb Smash and Beach Please.

I love the creative names each cocktail was given.

I love the creative names each cocktail was given.

My favorite was Beach Please – a seasonal cocktail with a hint of cucumber that was very refreshing!

Additionally the restaurant had several food stations set up with samplings of their menu items.

The restaurant had several food stations set up with samplings of their menu items.

The restaurant had several food stations set up with samplings of their menu items.

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We tasted their signature mini burgers, with a special sauce – the chef wouldn’t divulge the ingredients.

We tasted their signature mini burgers, with a special sauce.

We tasted their signature mini burgers, with a special sauce.

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The chef wouldn’t divulge the ingredients to the “special sauce.”

There were several seafood items featuring grilled tuna and tuna tartar – both were delicious!

There were several seafood items featuring grilled tuna and tuna tartar.

There were several seafood items featuring grilled tuna and tuna tartar.

nixs photo 9

My favorite was the grilled scallop on top of braised kale over a homemade potato chip drizzled with bacon gravy. Wow – a mouthful of amazing flavors!

My favorite was the grilled scallop on top of braised kale over a homemade potato chip drizzled with bacon gravy.

My favorite was the grilled scallop on top of braised kale over a homemade potato chip drizzled with bacon gravy.

NIXS Hartford is a great addition to the Front Street community. In addition, the restaurant will be offering live entertainment – bands and DJs – on Saturdays. I look forward to going back for dinner very soon!

 

Have you tried any of the NIX restaurants?

Have you been to the Front Street district in Hartford yet?

Have you ever been to a pre-opening VIP red carpet event?

 

Disclaimer:  While I was invited to the NIXS Hartford pre-opening VIP event by the restaurant’s marketing and public relations team, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience at the event. 

Rizzuto’s Restaurant & Bar, West Hartford, CT

Rizzuto’s Restaurant & Bar, West Hartford, CT

Rizzuto’s is one of five full-service restaurants in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square shopping and dining area. The Rizzuto’s brand has four locations in Connecticut – Stamford, Westport, Bethel and West Hartford, which opened in 2008. The West Hartford location is known for its rustic Italian menu and stone-fired Neapolitan pizzas.

Rizzuto's is one of five full-service restaurants in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square

Rizzuto’s is one of five full-service restaurants in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square

The restaurant offers Happy Hour specials Monday thru Friday from 4-7 pm and some evenings at later times.

The restaurant offers Happy Hour specials Monday thru Friday from 4-7 pm and some evenings at later times

The restaurant offers Happy Hour specials Monday thru Friday from 4-7 pm and some evenings at later times

I had been to Rizzuto’s happy hour previously, when they offered drink specials and complimentary counter snacks and nibbles. We enjoyed it then, but recently the restaurant revamped their Happy Hour menu and I think it’s for the better.

The Happy Hour menu now features many drink specials for $5; including sparkling Prosecco!

The Happy Hour menu now features many drink specials for $5; including sparkling Prosecco!

The Happy Hour menu now features many drink specials for $5; including sparkling Prosecco!

Additionally, it has a great small bites menu with most items priced from $3 – $6.

Rizzuto's has a great small bites menu with most items priced from $3 - $6.

Rizzuto’s has a great small bites menu with most items priced from $3 – $6.

My friend Katie and I recently went to Rizzuto’s for Happy Hour prior to attending an advanced screening of the movie The Hundred-Foot Journey, which we loved. It’s a beautiful movie – perfect for foodies, like myself. Be sure to eat before you go to this movie or you will be hungry!

We started out with a few Happy Hour nibbles. We ordered the crab and sweet corn fritters with cilantro and basil salsa verde. The fritters were nicely crispy and not at all greasy, but were largely the batter filler. They could have used more crab and corn inside.

Crab and sweet corn fritters with cilantro and basil salsa verde

Crab and sweet corn fritters with cilantro and basil salsa verde

We also ordered the Black Angus sliders with tomato jam, which were paired with matchstick fries. The burgers were very juicy and flavorful and set on top of a homemade bun. The matchstick fries were a nice accompaniment.

Black Angus sliders with tomato jam

Black Angus sliders with tomato jam

Lastly, we ordered the margherita pizza. It had a great crust that was crispy on the outside, but slightly doughy on the inside. The basil, tomato and mozzarella toppings were very fresh.

Margherita pizza

Margherita pizza

Knowing that we’d be at the movie until after 9, we opted to share an order of the baby arugula salad and the cavatelli pesto chicken entrée. We had tasted this pasta dish before and knew it was delicious – and it was again.

Cavatelli pesto chicken entrée, I snuck a bite from the corner before we snapped a pic - oops!

Cavatelli pesto chicken entrée, I snuck a bite from the corner before we snapped a pic – oops!

The cavatelli pesto chicken entrée has grilled chicken, basil pesto, roasted tomatoes and light cream. It’s a very rich dish – I’m glad we shared it.

We had a great selection of food before walking to the movie theater. Rizzuto’s Happy Hour is a fun stop in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square. I’m glad to have tried their mid-summer revamped Happy Hour menu and am sure we will be back again soon!

 

Have you tried any of the Rizzuto restaurants in Connecticut?

Have you seen the movie “The Hundred-Foot Journey?”

Where’s your favorite place for happy hour?