Max a Mia Ristorante, Avon, CT

Max a Mia Ristorante, Avon, CT

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

Max a Mia Ristorante in Avon, CT

Max a Mia Ristorante in Avon, CT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuscan salad

Tuscan salad

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

Caesar salad

Caesar salad

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

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

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

Around the table, the others ordered:

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

Risotto with English peas

Risotto with English peas

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

Penne al Buttero

Penne al Buttero

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

Eggplant lasagna

Eggplant lasagna

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

Spaghetti Vongole

Spaghetti Vongole

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

Chicken Parmigianino

Chicken Parmigianino

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

Coconut layer cake

Coconut layer cake

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Parallel Post Farm-to-Trumbull Dinner

Parallel Post Farm-to-Trumbull Dinner

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

Chef Dean James Max

Chef Dean James Max

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

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

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

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

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

Cucumber fresco

Cucumber fresco

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

Carrot juice with wheat and soy extracts

Carrot juice with wheat and soy extracts

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

The wait staff was passing two appetizers to whet our palates

The wait staff was passing two appetizers to whet our palates

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

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

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

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

Coffee-cured salmon

Coffee-cured salmon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chef Dean James Max introduced himself and the other team members

Chef Dean James Max introduced himself and the other team members

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

Chef Ali Goss

Chef Ali Goss

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

Chef Chris Molyneux

Chef Chris Molyneux

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

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

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

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

Norm Bloom Clams Salad

Norm Bloom Clams Salad

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

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

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

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

Parsnip soup

Parsnip soup

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

A beautiful salad filled with Gilbertie’s farm greens

A beautiful salad filled with Gilbertie’s farm greens

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

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

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

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

Jam jar wine

Jam jar wine

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

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

Grilled asparagus and frissee

Grilled asparagus and frissee

Purple potato salad.

Purple potato salad.

Purple potato salad.

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

Baby kale salad

Baby kale salad

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

Fiddle head ferns

Fiddle head ferns

The main entrée featured two protein items:

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

Grilled pork chop

Grilled pork chop

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

Montauk roasted tuna

Montauk roasted tuna

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

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

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

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

Route Stock cabernet

Route Stock cabernet

For dessert we were treated to several indulgences:

Warm strawberry crostata with goat cheese crumble.

Warm strawberry crostata

Warm strawberry crostata

SoCo vanilla bean ice cream served in a mason jar.

SoCo vanilla bean ice cream

SoCo vanilla bean ice cream

Gilbertie’s farm lavender flavored crème brulee.

Gilbertie’s farm lavender flavored crème brulee

Gilbertie’s farm lavender flavored crème brulee

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

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

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

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

Me and Chef Dean James Max

Me and Chef Dean James Max

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

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

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

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

 

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

“Under the Tuscan Sun” Themed Dinner Party

“Under the Tuscan Sun” Themed Dinner Party

Five times a year, my college friends and I have “couples dinners” at each other’s homes.  Since there are five couples, everyone hosts once a year. The goal is to ensure we gather together, despite busy schedules.

We’ve had these dinners for over 15 years and counting.  When it’s your turn to host, you determine the “theme” and core menu elements.  Other couples contribute a food/ dessert item, as the host determines.

Over the years, there have been many great dinners.  Some of the gatherings have included: movie nights, seasonal menus, sporting venues, and international/ tropical food themes.  One of my favorites was a Gilligan’s Island themed party, with guests dressing up as their favorite castaway (we had every castaway represented except Ginger) and island/ tropical food.  It was a very fun night with lots of laughs.

For this year’s dinner, I chose an “Under the Tuscan Sun” theme – inspired by the movie and book with the same name.  I’ve read the book and seen the movie several times and knew Frances Mayes wrote a cookbook, which was an outgrowth from the recipes within the book/ movie and her Tuscan travels.

The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances & Edward Mayes

The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances & Edward Mayes

After reviewing this cookbook’s recipes, I chose braised short ribs as the main entrée.  I’d never made short ribs, so I decided to test-drive the recipe before the dinner.  I am glad I did.  The test-drive short ribs were good, but I knew I could make a few slight changes to make them even better.

Practice round of Tuscan short ribs - served with polenta

Practice round of Tuscan short ribs – served with polenta

Shortly after I decided on the “Under the Tuscan Sun” themed dinner, I learned that Frances Mayes was launching a line of wines – “Tuscan Sun Wines” – with the debut a few days before my dinner.  What luck!  My husband was able to find the new wines at our local wine shop.  They were a nice addition to my “Tuscan-themed” tablescape.

Tuscan Sun Wines debuted a few days before the dinner - what luck!

Tuscan Sun Wines debuted a few days before the dinner – what luck!

The evening began outside on our porch, where we served our guests cocktails and appetizers.  The appetizer selection featured deconstructed bruschetta and a small antipasto.  The antipasto included chunks of Italian sharp and Parmesan cheeses, cured salami and prosciutto.

The appetizer selection featured deconstructed bruschetta and a small antipasto.

The appetizer selection featured deconstructed bruschetta and a small antipasto.

The deconstructed bruschetta is an appetizer I’ve served a few times previously and it has been a big hit!  I include charred bread, pesto, fresh ricotta drizzled with honey and freshly cracked sea salt, and slow roasted tomatoes.  Guests assemble their bruschetta as they like it – with any of the elements offered.

Slow-roasted tomatoes - one element of deconstructed bruschetta

Slow-roasted tomatoes – one element of deconstructed bruschetta

After chatting and nibbling, we asked guests to come into the dining room for the main meal.  The short ribs had been roasting for 3+ hours so the whole house smelled amazing.

I decided to replicate the “Aunt Josie Sunday Ragu” meal served at Bricco Trattoria in Glastonbury.  In addition to the Tuscan braised short ribs, we made roasted Italian sausage (my dad’s homemade) and my homemade meatballs.  The three meats were paired with a beef-based risotto that Terri made.  The risotto was amazing!  I also included a simple salad, sweet roasted peppers and Italian bread.

Tuscan braised short ribs, roasted Italian sausage and  meatballs over risotto

Tuscan braised short ribs, roasted Italian sausage and meatballs over risotto

The modifications I made to the short rib recipe were, “spot on.”  The meat melted off the bones, just as the recipe said it would if cooked properly.

I asked Lisa and Sue to make dessert.  Sue made apple and raspberry crostata.  Crostata is a rustic Italian, baked dessert tart.  Technically, it’s a form of pie, but it doesn’t use a pie plate or a tart pan.  You make it directly on a baking sheet, piling fruit into the center and wrapping the crust around.  Sue’s crostata was delicious.  I just love the combination of apple and raspberry.

Apple and raspberry crostata

Apple and raspberry crostata

Lisa made a lemon cake – the recipe was from the “Tuscan Sun Cookbook.”  It had the texture of a pound cake.  Its delicious lemon flavor reminded me of a bowl of fresh lemons.

Lemon cake – the recipe is in the “Tuscan Sun Cookbook.”

Lemon cake – the recipe is in the “Tuscan Sun Cookbook.”

Despite everyone being quite full from the appetizer and meal, most opted for a “sampler plate” of dessert – a slice of each.

In the spirit of ending the meal in the “Under the Tuscan Sun” dinner party theme, we offered our guests an after-dinner liqueur of Limoncello.  It’s an Italian lemon liqueur, mainly made in Southern Italy.  In the movie, the main character, Frances, has Limoncello for the first time with Marcello in Positano, along the Amalfi Coast.

The dinner was capped off with an after-dinner liqueur of Limoncello

The dinner was capped off with an after-dinner liqueur of Limoncello

The meal was beautiful and delicious – possibly one of the best I think we’ve ever had.  My husband commented that all the items in the meal were of “restaurant quality.”  That is quite a compliment to all the cooks!

The "Under the Tuscan Sun" dinner was of “restaurant quality.”  That is quite a compliment to all the cooks!

The “Under the Tuscan Sun” dinner was of “restaurant quality.” That is quite a compliment to all the cooks!

There are several quotes from the book/ movie that stay with me long after reading/ watching.  I will share with you one of my favorites:

“Life offers you a thousand chances…all you have to do is take one.”

– Frances Mayes, Under The Tuscan Sun

 

Have you read the book or seen the movie “Under The Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes?

What’s your favorite dinner-party theme?

Blue Plate Kitchen, West Hartford, CT

Blue Plate Kitchen, West Hartford, CT

I am very fortunate to have a wonderful circle of friends from various facets in my life.  Recently Katie and I went out for dinner to celebrate my birthday.  We decided to try Blue Plate Kitchen restaurant in West Hartford as neither of us had eaten there yet, but we both had heard good things.

Blue Plate Kitchen restaurant is located in Bishops Corner, West Hartford.  It opened in January 2014 and is owned by the same person who also owns City Steam Brewery Café in Hartford, CT.  I would describe the restaurant as an upscale-style diner.

It was a beautiful day and we debated on whether to sit outside or inside.  The waitress gave us the best of both by seating us at an indoor booth at the large windows that face the outside dining area.  These windows open up completely, giving the restaurant an airy feel.  The restaurant’s décor reminded me of an industrial NYC loft, with high ceilings, an open kitchen, exposed brick and industrial fixtures and lighting.

Blue Plate Kitchen restaurant is located in West Hartford, CT

Blue Plate Kitchen restaurant is located in West Hartford, CT

Blue Plate Kitchen serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The menu offers a selection of comfort food items with modern twists from the way mom/ grandma did.  Additionally the restaurant boasts locally grown, seasonal food with a sustainability focus, a philosophy that is becoming increasingly popular and one that I’m a big proponent for.

Blue Plate Kitchen has an upscale, modern diner atmosphere

Blue Plate Kitchen has an upscale, modern diner atmosphere

After reviewing the menu and the blackboard specials, Katie and I decided to start our meal sharing the Cape Codder menu item, pan seared cod cakes, which we had heard great things about.  Unfortunately, the restaurant was out of that item for the day.  They must be that good.

We opted to skip the appetizer and order our main entrees.  I ordered the Israeli salad adding sliced chicken breast.  The salad featured chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumbers, greens, watermelon radishes, feta cheese, kalamata olives with a lemon parsley vinaigrette.  It was very fresh and a good portion size.

Israeli salad with sliced chicken

Israeli salad with sliced chicken

Katie had the classic burger, which is served with crispy American cheese on an English muffin.  It is accompanied by fresh coleslaw and deli-style pickle.   It was cooked exactly as she ordered and featured fresh beef.

Classic burger with crispy, American cheese

Classic burger with crispy, American cheese

As a special treat to our meal, we were each treated to a popover from the chef.  I haven’t had popovers in years and instantly I returned to my mom’s Sunday dinner table that often included these light hollow rolls.  The popover was fresh from the oven and delicious.  What a nice treat!

Popovers - an American classic!

Popovers – an American classic!

We were full from our meals, so we opted to “be good” and skip dessert, but there were several yummy-sounding items.

Our waitress was very friendly and attentive.  The restaurant manager checked in on us several times as well as we had a visit from Chef Ben.

All in all we had a good time.  Katie and I enjoyed the time together catching up and taking time of out of our busy schedules to celebrate a special day.

 

Have you eaten at Blue Plate Kitchen in West Hartford?

What’s your favorite place for a special birthday celebration dinner with friends?

Ca Va Brasserie, New York City, NY

Ca Va Brasserie, New York City, NY

Twice a year, my friends from town and I, take a day off from work for a day-trip into New York City.  We usually plan it around the bus trips offered through the area towns in the spring and fall months.

Each time we plan one of our trips, we begin by deliberating which show to see and where to have lunch beforehand.  Any other ancillary items (e.g., shoe gawking at Saks Fifth Avenue, waving to Kathy Lee & Hoda from the NBC Studio windows or picking up take home treats at Cake Boss Bakery, to name a few) are included in the agenda as time permits.

There are so many wonderful restaurants in NYC that it makes it difficult to choose one.  Our selection criteria include a location close to the theater, an array of food that everyone will enjoy, good reviews and reasonably priced – for NYC.

For our May trip, we opted to dine at Ca Va Brasserie – a Todd English restaurant.  I follow them on twitter and have noticed photos showcasing their amazing food.

Ca Va Brasserie -- a Todd English restaurant

Ca Va Brasserie — a Todd English restaurant

The restaurant is attached to the Intercontinental Hotel.  It’s located on 44th street, in the heart of the New York City theater district – making it convenient for our lunch pre-theatre and meeting one of our criteria.

Ca Va Brasserie is located on 44th street, in the heart of the NYC theater district

Ca Va Brasserie is located on 44th street, in the heart of the NYC theater district

A brasserie is a type of French restaurant with a relaxed setting.  This type of restaurant is expected to have professional service, printed menus and white linens – unlike a bistro which is much more casual.  Ca Va filled all the Brasserie requirements.

Ca Va Brasserie, NYC

Ca Va Brasserie, NYC

Upon entering the restaurant, you immediately notice a beautiful lounge area filled with comfortable seating and a cozy fireplace.

Ca Va Brasserie lounge area

Ca Va Brasserie lounge area

The restaurant has a great selection of lunch items, making it difficult to pick.

Ca Va's lunch menu has a great selection!

Ca Va’s lunch menu has a great selection!

While we perused the menu, the waiter came with a very nice bread plate.  It included two French baguettes, butter and a whole-grain mustard for the bread.

Bread plate with delicious baguettes

Bread plate with delicious baguettes

For an appetizer, the group decided to share the Courgettes Frites, which are zucchini frites that came with a dill-lemon aioli and warm tomato marmalade dipping sauces.

Courgettes Frites - zucchini frites with dipping sauces

Courgettes Frites – zucchini frites with dipping sauces

The portion was large enough for sharing among the four.  The zucchini frites were delicious and hot from the kitchen.  We tried both dipping sauces, but all decided we liked the dill-lemon aioli best.

For my lunch entrée, I was debating between the gnocchi and the short-rib Panini.  I consulted with the waiter who recommended the Panini, “definitely ma’am.”   So Pat, Susan and I all ordered it for our entrée.

Short-rib panini with a side salad

Short-rib panini with a side salad

The short-rib Panini came with a small salad of mixed greens.  The short-rib was amazingly tender and served over grilled rosemary focaccia bread, with caramelized onions and melted fontina cheese in an open-face style.  We all thought it was “every bite delicious.”

Sheila ordered the Salad de Betteraves and the Gnocchi a la Ricotta, which was the second entrée I was considering.  The salad had petite greens, roasted red and golden beets, goat cheese with walnuts and walnut vinaigrette.  It was very good.

Salad de Betteraves - beet salad with goat cheese and walnuts

Salad de Betteraves – beet salad with goat cheese and walnuts

The gnocchi were served in a light herbed tomato sauce drizzled with arugula pesto.  The gnocchi were delicious tasting and very light for a potato-style pasta.

Gnocchi a la ricotta

Gnocchi a la ricotta

Since we had a little time before we needed to head over to the theater, the group decided to order two desserts for sharing.  We chose the trio of crème brulee and the warm pistachio madeleines.

The trio of crème brulee included a dark chocolate, toasted coconut and caramel flavors of the dessert.

Creme brûlée trio

Creme brûlée trio

The warm pistachio madeleines came with Grand-Marnier chocolate fondue for dipping the petite cookies.

Warm pistachio madeleines with chocolate fondue

Warm pistachio madeleines with chocolate fondue

Both desserts were visually beautiful, but not to the taste.  Next time, I would recommend skipping dessert.

The wait staff service was very friendly, courteous and attentive.

To top off our wonderful dining experience, we also had a celebrity sighting at the restaurant.  Singer-songwriter John Legend and his wife, the supermodel, Chrissy Teigen were seated at the table next to us!  I was completely star-struck.

After lunch, we headed over to the theater, which was just two short blocks away on 46th street.  We had tickets to see “If/ Then”, a new musical that opened in April at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

If/Then Musical at the Richard Rodgers Theatre

If/Then Musical at the Richard Rodgers Theatre

The star of If/Then is Idina Metzel.  You may know her from Rent, Wicked or the singer for “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen, to name a few of her accolades. In this play, she is reunited with her original Rent co-star Anthony Rapp, with whom Sheila had a walking conversation down 7th avenue after the show.

Idina Metzel stars as Elizabeth (or Beth/ Liz), a woman rebuilding her life in NYC where she discovers a world of infinite possibilities.  The play was fantastic.  There are several songs that showcase her amazing voice.  We would highly recommend seeing the show!

Idina Metzel stars in the musical If/Then

Idina Metzel stars in the musical If/Then

The stage setting is very cool – a split set is used and moved throughout the performance.

The stage view from our seats

The stage view from our seats

Yes, our seats were this close to the stage – orchestra center section, row C.  When Idina was at the tip of the stage, we felt like we could reach out and touch her.  We will admit, “We are orchestra seat brats!” and will not sit anywhere but in the orchestra section.

The tickets to Broadway shows are pricey, but this is our bi-annual treat to us.  We are all busy working mothers and deserve it!

Sheila keeps a diary of our trips, detailing what shows we’ve seen and where we’ve eaten.  This is a tradition we’ve now had for four years and I hope we continue it for many, many more!

 

Do you have a favorite place to eat in NYC?

Have you been to a Broadway show lately?  There are so many good ones to choose from!    

Bricco Trattoria, Glastonbury, CT

Bricco Trattoria, Glastonbury, CT

This year for Mother’s Day, my family treated me to dinner at Bricco Trattoria in Glastonbury, CT.  It is one of the three Billy Grant restaurants, and one of my favorite places for dinner.

The restaurant has a farm to table authentic Italian Trattoria style, similar to an Italian farmhouse.

Bricco Trattoria has a style similar to an Italian farmhouse

Bricco Trattoria has a style similar to an Italian farmhouse

As always, the restaurant’s service is attentive and courteous.  The parking can be difficult since it is located in a plaza with three other busy restaurants.  Just pay the $5 for valet parking and make it easy for yourself.

I’d recommend reservations, as the restaurant is always busy when I’ve been.  It’s a perfect place for a larger-sized gathering, in fact we’ve had a friend’s anniversary dinner here and it was wonderful.  Be sure to call a good amount of time in advance, and ask for the larger table located in the wine room for a more private setting.

Over all the times I’ve eaten here, I’ve tried several of the menu items, which changes regularly, and am never disappointed.  Everything is delicious.

For this visit, I debated between two salads – the Toscano or the Boston Bibb.  I decided to go with the Toscano and wasn’t disappointed.  It includes a mix of fresh greens, fresh mozzarella, warm polenta croutons, and fresh green beans with a balsamic dressing.

Toscano Salad

Toscano Salad

Christine opted for the Boston Bibb salad, which includes butter lettuce, pine nuts, Gorgonzola cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, cucumbers with lemon vinaigrette.

Boston Bibb Salad

Boston Bibb Salad

For my meal entrée, I opted for the honey mustard glazed salmon, but instead of having it paired with the puree potato, I asked to substitute that for polenta.  The salmon had great flavor and was cooked perfectly.  The accompanying polenta was creamy and cheesy – a perfect pairing.

Honey mustard-glazed salmon with polenta

Honey mustard-glazed salmon with polenta

Christine chose one of the freshly made pastas as her entrée.  It was homemade ravioli filled with grilled chicken in a light red sauce.  She said it was delicious.

Homemade ravioli

Homemade ravioli

Mike opted for something different from his usual selection.  He’s always picked Aunt Josie’s Sunday Ragu, so he debated for quite some time to select anything other.  But he wasn’t disappointed with his choice.

He chose the Bucatini all’ Amatriciana with meatballs and loved it.  The sauce had a spicy kick to it.  The pasta came with roasted peppers and seven meatballs.  Even I (the meatball snob) will admit the meatballs were delicious!

Bucatini all’ Amatriciana with meatballs

Bucatini all’ Amatriciana with meatballs

Bucatini is thick spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center.  Amatriciana is a dish named for the town of Amatrice, Italy located about an hour east of Rome.  The Amatriciana sauce gets its spiciness from the black pepper and dried chilies added into the tomato sauce.

Greg had the penne alla vodka with grilled chicken.  He enjoyed it very much.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of his meal.  The portion size was hearty enough for his big appetite and he did take some home for lunch the next day.

We all reviewed the dessert menu, but were too full from our meals except Mike.  He couldn’t resist the ice cream sundae.  It’s made with house made peanut butter chunk ice cream, lots of hot fudge, peanut brittle and whipped cream.  We asked for additional spoons and all had a spoonful or two.

Mother’s day is a time-honored tradition.  “Thank you” to President Woodrow Wilson for officially declaring it a holiday in the United States since 1914.

I had a beautiful Mother’s day that I shared with my wonderful family!

Greg, me and Christine at Bricco Trattoria

Greg, me and Christine at Bricco Trattoria

 

Have you ever eaten at a Billy Grant restaurant?

Where’s your favorite place for Mother’s day dinner? 

Vinted Wine Bar & Kitchen, West Hartford, CT

Vinted Wine Bar & Kitchen, West Hartford, CT

Some of my close work friends and I have been trying the various restaurants in West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square for Happy Hour every 3-4 weeks.  Recently, our latest outing brought us back to one of my favorite places, Vinted Wine Bar & Kitchen in Blue Back Square, West Hartford.  I think I’ve been there 5-6 times with various groups for different occasions.

Vinted Wine Bar & Kitchen, West Hartford, CT

Vinted Wine Bar & Kitchen, West Hartford, CT

Vinted opened in 2012. It has the same owners as The Federal Restaurant in Agawam, MA, which is also an amazing place to eat!

Vinted has happy hour every day of the week, not just weekdays, from 4-6 pm.  They have over 60 wines.  And if you think you might be confused deciding which wine to order, they make it easy by offering a 1 oz taste serving, 3 oz half glass and a 6 oz full glass.

Vinted has happy hour every day of the week!

Vinted has happy hour every day of the week!

Vinted has an exclusive happy hour menu, be sure to ask for it, with items priced between $1 and $5, in addition to their “dinner” menu filled with extraordinary small plates.

The food is anything but ordinary.  Every item has a wonderful gourmet twist to it that gives each dish amazing flavors.  Every item I’ve ordered and tasted has been outstanding.

I think for every time I’ve been at Vinted, we’ve always started with two items from the “Veg” section of the menu – the Federal Risotto Balls and Whipped Chickpea Hummus with Scallion Cakes.

The risotto balls is an item common on both Vinted and The Federal’s menus.  They are small fried risotto falls finished with black truffle butter and fresh chives.  Try them and one word comes to mind – YUM!  They are addictive and leave you wanting to eat many, many more.

Federal risotto balls

Federal risotto balls – a “must order” item

The whipped chickpea hummus with scallion cakes is another wonderful item.  I can honestly say, and think others will agree, it’s the best hummus you’ve ever had and spreading it on top of the crispy scallion cakes is heaven.  One from our happy hour group said she may be dreaming about the hummus and scallion cakes – they are that good.

Whipped chickpea hummus with scallion cakes

Whipped chickpea hummus with scallion cakes

From the special happy hour menu, a few ordered the beef short rib.  It was slow roasted in a red wine reduction and served with roasted asparagus on top of polenta.  The meat was so tender that is just fell apart with a fork.

Beef short rib with roasted asparagus on top of polenta

Beef short rib with roasted asparagus on top of polenta

A few others tried the grilled shrimp that was served with tomatoes and avocado mash.  They said the combination of flavors was amazing and wished there were more shrimp.  Sounds like a second round is needed.

Grilled shrimp with tomato and avocado mash

Grilled shrimp with tomato and avocado mash

In our final round of tapas, I ordered the chicken meatball slider.  It had a tomato jam and was served in a mini potato bun.  It was similar to eating a meatball Parmesan sub, but in a smaller sense and with elevated ingredients and flavors.

Chicken meatball slider

Chicken meatball slider

As always, every food item was delicious, and the company is the best!  It’s so nice to get together outside the work environment and relax and catch up on everyone’s life happenings.

 

Have you tried Vinted Wine Bar & Kitchen in West Hartford?

What’s your favorite place for happy hour?