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Showing posts with label around connecticut. Show all posts
Showing posts with label around connecticut. Show all posts
29 August 2014

Hartford Sängerbund Bierfest: A Little Taste of Germany

Last Sunday, The Husband and I attend the Hartford Sängerbund Bierfest in Newington. While this was the first we'd heard of the event, it's been going on since 1984 ... which meant it must be good. And it was!

Admission was $10 per adult and food tickets were $1 each. We bought $30 worth of tickets, which allowed us to buy various Würste and Leberkäse, water, and ice cream (we were one ticket short for the ice cream, but that was the one stand that actually accepted tickets and dollars). Each food group was sold from its own tent, so there was a wurst line (heh), potato pancake line, and beer line ... but the lines quickly moved along as the Sängerbund folk clearly know what they're about.

Leberkäse with sauerkraut, tangy potato salad, sliced tomatoes, and spicy mustard.

Currywurst. A little disappointing as it was only steamed (should be steamed, then fried for extra awesome).

The Kaffeestube, tucked away in a corner on the way to the toilets, sold cakes and coffee (obviously), but none were to The Husband's liking as they all contained "horrible" ingredients like apples or coconut or poppy seeds. He did enjoy the ice cream, however, and even admitted my lager-flavored selection was "pretty good, if you like beer." Made with Sam Adams Boston Lager, it was well worth four tickets.

O, delicious lager ice cream!

There was plenty of seating, both inside and outside the music tent, which was a very good thing as the music was too loud for my delicate ears and we ended up enjoying our ice cream outside in the shade were there was a gentle breeze to cool us and the music was at the "correct" volume. Music was provided by the Hornberg Musikanten, a Bavarian brass band from the German Federal State of Baden-Württemberg. They certainly played with gusto and the couples on the dance floor seemed quite enthusiastic, too. My dad's mom loved to dance and I think she would have loved the band. Definitely her scene!

Flags of some of the sixteen German Länder.

The Hartford Sängerbund Bierfest is a biennial event so, unfortunately, we won't see it's like again until 2016. However, the Hartford Sängerbund offers regularly scheduled events throughout the year, including a Schlachtfest on 1 November. There will be a variety of wurst, including Blutwurst (blood sausage). I really enjoy black pudding and thus am quite excited to try Blutwurst. The Schlachtfest is a mere four days before my birthday, so it seems a perfect early birthday present!

20 July 2014

So, We Went to the Connecticut Food Truck Festival

The first Connecticut Food Truck Festival was held at the North Haven Fairgrounds this weekend and it was ... an experience. We ate some tasty things and really enjoyed the idea of the festival. Fifty-ish food trucks all in one place with the money raised meant to feed the hungry! How could we not love that?

Delicious Chicago-style "hot white" (full pork dog imported from Rochester, NY)
without relish at Zawack Shack. Hands down, the best thing we ate.

We arrived just before noon on Saturday (the gates opened at 11) and the parking area was already quite full. There was one ticket station open at the entrance and the line to reach it looped all the way back to the rear of the fairgrounds. There were rumors tickets might soon be available at a side gate, but who wanted to risk forming a line to nowhere? Anyway, standing in a long line for good grub is part of any food festival experience (presuming you are an "average person" and not, say, my physically disabled mother for whom this festival would have been impossible) and should not be a big deal ... except when that line overlaps with the line of traffic driving through the fairground to get to the parking area! From a public safety point of view, it was a terrible idea. Maybe, if there had been more staff directing cars and people, it would have seemed safer?

Also, just getting into the fairgrounds was an adventure. We came off the highway, so needed to take a left turn into the fairgrounds. Against traffic. With no stop light or police officer directing traffic, it was a dicey situation as the two lanes of oncoming traffic had no reason to ever slow or stop. Obviously, some of the cars in the oncoming lanes were also trying to get into the fairgrounds and it was all just a clusterfuck.

Wild boar burger from Aurora's Gypsy Cafe topped with house-made pesto (kale, spinach,
sage, cranberry, walnut, garlic, herbs), Havarti, roasted peppers and onions, lettuce and tomato.
Very lean, but well-seasoned, and juicy from all the toppings.

And that was before noon. It was much worse when we left -- no-one directing exiting traffic, cars parked on the shoulders of roads, traffic backed up everywhere -- and people were still trying to get in! Madness. On the highway, we could see traffic backed up well past the exit ramp and I felt really bad for the people stuck in those vehicles. Also a bit smug, because we were leaving and our bellies were full of good grub.

ANYWAY. We got through the line, we paid for our tickets ($5 per person! A steal!), we ate food, and it was good. Some of the lines were just insane, so there were trucks we simply never got to, and that made me a little sad as I'd had my heart set on a baked potato. But it also thrilled me a little, because I've always thought America needs a spudulike and, if people are willing to stand in line for forty-minutes in July for a baked potato, well, that only proves my point.

Pulled pork on a soft roll with cheezy mac at Big Country's BBQ. The pork was very tender and juicy
without being saucy, but it needed heat. The mac was just meh.
We added hot sauce but couldn't taste it. Very sad.

What did we eat? Well, less than you'd think. The agreement was to only order things we'd both eat so we could share and thereby, theoretically, eat a greater variety of food. Unfortunately, the drink tent was back by the entrance and running back and forth for bottles of water was just annoying -- one person stands in line while another person gets water certainly works, but wasn't how I'd planned on spending the day.

So we were thirsty quite a lot of the time -- even with peach lemonade from Aurora's Gypsy Cafe and mango lemonade from Amor Food Truck -- and that thirst made us less hungry. After a few hours, it was just "Fuck this, I need an ice pop and chair" (we'd completely misunderstood what "we have rented seating for 400 at a time" meant) and we ended up at Lyman Orchards. Saw some waterfowl, stocked up on fruit and cold drinks, then went home to nap and dream about all the food we hadn't tried.

So, would we go back in 2015? Yes, because the food was tasty and the idea is a good one. But I'd arrive for 10:30, bring our collapsible chairs, and smuggle in a bunch of water bottles.

Tasty donuts from Orangeside are a perfectly reasonable excuse to visit New Haven soon.
19 May 2014

Belated Mother's Day With Plants & Ice Cream (& Mom, Of Course)

We celebrated Mother's Day this past Saturday, May 17, rather than on Sunday, May 11, like the rest of America because we have to be weird cultural outliers. Also, Mother's Day tends to be very brunch-y and my mother is just not going to stand in line for a waffle fresh from a warming dish. And why should she? My mother (rather like your mother) is a lovely person and deserves nicer things.

So we took Mom for lunch on Saturday at Nunu's Bistro in Colchester and then, bellies' fortified by delicious fishy noms, proceeded to Buy All The Things at Salem Herb Farm.





Car packed to the roof with people and plants, we stopped at Salem Valley Farms Ice Cream Co. for scoops of the delicious frozen stuff (basil is the best, I kid you not) before wending out way back home.

11 May 2014

Let's Talk About Birds

I haven't been cooking much lately as my body keeps being weird. Not sick, necessarily, but full of inexplicable discomforts that turn eating into something of a trial and, therefore, cooking becomes a resented chore. Most annoyingly, I'm not consistently discomforted -- I'll have series of days where I feel pretty normal (and get too excited and menu plan) and then it goes all weird and unpleasant again.


But talking about personal health is both boring and awkward so let's talk about something significantly more interesting and exciting!

Yes, let's talk about birds!


A Wild Birds Unlimited franchise opened up in Avon recently and celebrated its grand opening this weekend with drawings for many possible prizes including a pole set, tube feeder, and a hummingbird feeder combo! I already own that particular combination, but wouldn't mind winning another. Our current set was purchased at the WBU franchise in Niantic more than a decade ago and is still going strong.

(Well, except for the bit that got bent into a lovely 40° angle this past winter. Bear has been suggested as a possible culprit, but I'd like to think I would have noticed a bear in my backyard).

I don't want to turn this post into a giant ad for Wild Birds Unlimited, but I must say I really enjoy their products. Barring accidents with lawn-mowers and bears, the feeders and pole systems seem set to last forever. And everything is pretty. Frequently, even adorable.

So we went primarily to enter the drawing (because who doesn't love free bird stuff?), but also to look at replacing the rusty metal Home Depot shepherds hook I've been hanging the hummingbird feeder off. It only has one hook which has been fine -- hummingbirds in the spring/summer, seed balls in the fall/winter -- but now we want to be able to hang multiple feeders concurrently and so that hook just won't do. Obviously, we came home with a whole new pole set!


I want to say we went with the yellow finial because hummingbirds are attracted to yellow, but we actually went with it because it was the cutest option. (And hummingbirds do like yellow. And orange. And pink. And purple).

When we arrived at WBU, the store was in the midst of hosting a talk by a representative of the Sharon Audubon Center. She had live owls and hawks and was generally completely awesome. I took too many bad pics with my phone -- of which I will only inflict you with two -- and I learned lots of new things. Did you know many owls have differently-sized asymmetrical ears? Their ears are of different sizes and at different heights to allow for sound localization which makes the prey easier to find. Also, birds don't have bladders! Which makes perfect sense, really, but still surprised me.


The Sharon Audubon Center sounds like a great place to spend a spring afternoon -- 1,147 acres with eleven miles of trails and two ponds, raptor aviary with live birds of prey, herb garden, bird and butterfly garden, and a working sugarhouse -- and I'm sure we'll get up that way before too long.
07 May 2014

French Country Market: Macarons & Tiny Goats

In the Spring this middle-aged woman's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of farmers' markets. Saturday, we drove waylongfar across the state to the Bozrah Farmers' Market's French Country Market -- "a unique and chic Farm & Flea event with food, farms, vintage goods and antique wares" at Maples Farm Park.

The weather was perfect for such an event -- brilliant blue skies, gentle breezes, and warm enough that most of the muddy bits had (finally!) dried up. We bought macarons and other delicious pastries, sampled several fine cheeses, and saw the most adorable kid goats (no pics of the wee goats, alas, as they were completely surrounded by cute human kids).





On the way back, we stopped in Colchester for comics (Free Comic Book Day!) at AJ's Comics and a late lunch at Harry's Place. The Husband enjoyed a juicy burger topped with a runny fried egg and I inhaled a plate of fried whole-bellied clams that were as exqusitely delicious as they were costly. I can't get full-bellied clams locally and, as these were some of the best I've ever eaten, they worth every penny (and calorie).


And then, of course, we stopped for cupcakes at Crafty Cakes and Cupcakes in East Hampton ... because what is an excursion without cupcakes? That's just ... driving around in a car. The ratio of frosting to cake was pretty much perfect and the cake was moist and fluffy with good crumb. Indeed, they were tasty enough that we couldn't be bothered to take pics and just ate them up, yum!
25 April 2014

Downton Abbey Spring Tea In The Making

I spent today baking for the library's Downton Abbey Spring tea. Tomorrow's tea. No little panic percolating through my veins, darlings. No, I am just a big bag of terror. Why did I say I'd take on the sandwiches? Why didn't I sit back and wait for someone else to volunteer? Mostly, because there's no-one else. This tea was (mostly) my idea.

Oh, my god, the pressure. The expectation. And I can't even blame Daisy.

It's been years since I baked scones from scratch and even then, they were drop scones. None rolling or cutting required. Just plop, sprinkle with sugar, and bake. I was terrified they'd come out flat and chewy from being overworked, but they're actually pretty okay. Not the cream scone of my teatime fantasies, but good enough for sandwiches.


The sandwich recipe, "Blueberry Heart Scones with Smoked Turkey," from Winnie-the-Pooh's Picnic Cookbook (Dutton Books, 1997), called for a 2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter but I went with round because that's the shaped I owned. Anyway, I can just imagine what the Dowager Countess of Grantham would have to say about heart-shaped scones!


Probably something biting about nursery foods.

As the sandwiches seemed a little plain with just smoked turkey and cranberry-orange conserve (actually Stonewall Kitchen's Orange Cranberry Marmalade, because where do you find cranberries in April?) I added a few watercress leaves to each sandwich ... and, with that bit of greenery, they were transformed into something delightful.


I also made "Mini Orange-Pecan Muffins with Black Forest Ham" from the same cookbook. Because the muffins were a bit on the sweet side -- perfect for breakfast with pot of strong black tea -- I spread only the bottom of my test muffin with cranberry-orange conserve and spread the top with Dijon mayonnaise. No watercress garnish for this gem, but I splurged and picked up some orchids blossoms from the produce section to decorate Saturday's platter.



For fear of soggy bottoms, I did not assemble any of the sandwiches ahead of time. I did cut all the scones and mini muffins in half and cut the deli meat into appropriately-sized strips, but I'll assemble everything tomorrow about an hour before the tea starts so that the flavors have a chance to work, but nothing gets soggy. That's the plan, anyway. I'm pretty sure much of tomorrow will be spent in a state of pure panic. Quiet, invisible panic no-one else need be aware of. The ladies will have their tea and party games and, no doubt, a marvelously good time.


If only!
22 February 2014

Dinner at Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey Dinner
A little nosegay of tea and chocolate.
Parkside Cafe hosted a Downton Abbey dinner last week and, obviously, I was there. Attendees were encouraged to dress in their Downton-esque finest and there were ladies in hats and gloves, a few beaded flappers, and even a grande dame in a brown ermine wrap. I don't own anything even remotely Downton-esque and, knowing that the purchase of one fabulous cloche from Etsy would inevitably lead to the purchase of many more, stuck with my regular work wear.

Downton Abbey Dinner
All the ladies and their hats. And wine! (Ladies love wine!)
We sang old time songs like "If You Were the Only Girl (In the World)" and did a Downton trivia quiz I couldn't play, because I'd created it for last month's library tea and, theoretically, still remembered the answers. I did have a lot of fun giving hints to desperate ladies who hadn't watched all four seasons ... or even one! Yes, there were a surprising number of ladies in attendance who had only seen an episode or two!

Downton Abbey Dinner
Everyone was given a wee primrose plant to take home.
There was heaps of food, too, and it was all rather tasty (I'd happily go back to sample the regular menu) but not particularly British. That said, being married to a British person -- and as someone who has eaten a lot of British food, owns several British cookbooks, and watches British cooking programs -- I'm inclined to be rather snide about American faux-British cuisine and culture. I don't think any of the other ladies minded in the least and I certainly kept my thoughts to myself!

Downton Abbey Dinner
Wextford Mushrooms & Prawn Cucumber Cups

Downton Abbey Dinner: Shropshire Pea Soup w/ Roasted Leeks
Shropshire Pea Soup with Roasted Leeks

Downton Abbey Dinner: English Garden Salad w/ Pickled Beans
English Garden Salad with Pickled Beans

Downton Abbey Dinner: Poached Lemon Salmon over Saffron Basmati Rice
Poached Lemon Salmon over Saffron Basmati Rice

Downton Abbey Dinner: Popovers w/ Muddled Chocolate & British Trifle (not)
Popovers with Muddled Chocolate & British Trifle
25 January 2014

Throwing Money Around

A local restaurant ran a Kickstarter campaign recently to raise money to do some minor renovations and rebrand itself as a Southern-style restaurant. As I want my local restaurant scene to thrive and I me some classic Southern food, I funded it to the best of my abilities. Happily, and unlike a bunch of things I've Kickstarted recently, the campaign was a success and 457 Mason Jar opened last week.

457 Mason Jar

The little restaurant was packed for the launch party and everyone seemed almost hellbent on having a good time. Very much a "THIS RESTAURANT WILL BE A SUCCESS AND OUR CITY IS BECOMING AWESOME" vibe ... and I hope that's all true, because I want my city to be a happening (and happy) place.

Anyway, the food at the launch was pretty fine. There hush puppies, fried okra, fried catfish, greens, pulled pork, ribs, mashed sweet potatoes, and barbecued chicken ... oh, my stomach was happy! Indeed, so happy that we returned over the weekend for breakfast! While I couldn't get the red-eye gravy and country ham as the ham had not come up from North Carolina (snow storms, blarg) the eggs and bacon (and bits of The Husband's pancake) I did eat were certainly worth leaving the house for.
13 January 2014

Downton Abbey Cooking Demonstration

Sunday, we attended a Downton Abbey-themed cooking demonstration at the Silo Cooking School at Hunt Hill Farm. I'd worried many of the participants would be dressed in their Downton finest and we'd look odd dressed for contemporary Connecticut cold, but I needn't have worried as everyone else came dressed for cold and the only furs I saw were more for warmth than ostentation (Did make me think I should have dug out my faux arctic fox fur from the garlic closet ... What? You don't store garlic and potatoes in your coat closet?).

The cooking demonstration was led by Chef Michael Chase of The White Horse Country Pub & Restaurant with the pub's owner, John Harris, providing commentary about Downton Abbey, English great houses, and English culture. I loved the demonstration portion, because it's always a treat to watch other people cook -- particularly professional chefs using pots that look like they've spent years being cooked with in a real kitchen. Also, they were all both extremely knowledgeable and terribly shy ... it was adorable. I developed several irrational crushes within minutes.

Watching the Chefs Working On Lobster Thermidor
Chefs preparing lobster thermidor
I was less taken with the historical commentary as it seemed very much ... IDK ... the all-singing, all-dancing Disney version of life in the Empire at the time(s) of Downton Abbey. The rest of the audience seemed to eat it up so, though, and I'm guessing that's what a lot of Americans watch Downton to experience. Anyway, I kept my thoughts to myself but The Husband, being snarkily British, was full of whispered asides and eye rolls. When then bagpiper came out at the end, I thought The Husband would die from horror (indeed, I will remember his Bagpiper Face forever) and I had to try so hard not to laugh.

Clearly, we are just snobby assholes.

What we ate:
  • Champagne Cocktail & Classic Smoked Salmon Sandwiches (upstair and adapted from The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook)
  • Oxtail Soup (downstairs)
  • Lobster Thermador (upstairs)
  • Steak & Kidney Pie (downstairs)
  • Crêpe Suzette (upstairs)
We came away with copies of all the recipes and I'm definitely looking forward to giving steak and kidney pie (yes, with actual kidneys) a whirl.

Watching the Chefs Dish Up Oxtail Soup
Dishing up oxtail soup
22 March 2013

Birthday Bakery Crawl

Took The Husband on a bakery crawl for his birthday, because The Husband loves himself some baked goods and we live in an area full of bakeries we have not visited yet. You would think, considering how much money we spend on baked goods every year, that such a thing could not be true and yet it is.

While I'd plotted a great many bakeries thanks to Yelp and Google Maps, we only visited three before The Husband cried uncle! I have no doubt we'll visit the remainder soon ... a bakery a weekend would probably be the sensible method.

Sensible, schmensible. Visit all the bakeries. Eat all the things.

Cupcakes @ Sugarbelle
Cupcakes  from Sugarbelle

Mousse cake @ La Petit France
Chocolate mousse cake from La Petit France

Tarts @ Aby's Bakery
Assorted tarts from Aby's Bakery

20 October 2012

He Takes Me To All The Best Places

Last Friday, The Husband surprised me with a quick trip to Trinity College in Hartford, to see Buddhist nuns from Nepal work on an enormous sand mandala. The nuns arrived, with their sand and tools, at Trinity back in August and have been working on the mandala since September. It was almost finished when we saw it and, wow, the colors and detail were stunning.

Sand Mandala

Sand Mandala

Sand Mandala
"On the first day, the lamas begin by drawing an outline of the mandala to be painted on a
wooden platform. The following days see the laying of the colored sands, which is effected
by pouring the sand from traditional metal funnels called chak-pur. Each monk holds a
chak-pur in one hand, while running a metal rod on its serrated surface; the vibration 

causes the sands to flow like liquid."                             Sandpainting @ Wikipedia

On Sunday, after all that painstaking labor, the nuns ritualistically dismantled the mandala and released the sands into the Connecticut River!

08 October 2012

CT Garlic Festival Goodness

We attended the 8th Annual Connecticut Garlic & Harvest Festival on Saturday and, as usual, arrived back home with tummies and totes full of garlic. This year, I finally broke down and bought a proper shopping basket. Every time we go to a festival like this or a farmers market or a picnic I regret not owning a deep, narrow, handled basket shopping basket. Well, they had baskets in spades at the Garlic Festival and one was purple and green, so ... I bought a basket. And, in under an hour, it was full to the brim.

CT Garlic & Harvest Festival Loot

What did I buy? Darlings, it's more like what didn't I buy! I bought:

CT Garlic & Harvest Festival Loot

We also ate many delicious things, including a fabulous lemongrass chicken bahn mi from Lemon Grass Grill (out of Somewhere, New York) topped with homemade roasted garlic mayonnaise, pickled carrots, daikon radish, cucumber, and cilantro. It was even better than I'd remembered and I look forward to eating another one next year. (Surely someplace in Hartford County sells good bahn mi and I don't have to wait a whole year for another one?)

This was our fifth year at the CT Garlic Festival and I still can't get over how big it's getting. Every year, there were so many more vendors and visitors than the previous year and, after a couple hours, I find myself completely overwhelmed by the crowds. We arrived at 10:30 and the Festival was already hopping. By the time we left at 1:30, the place felt packed to the rafters. I know this is a good thing as it means the Festival is unlikely to fail, but it can be exhausting if you're a very short woman who doesn't like crowds.

Clearly, next year we will arrive at 10 on the dot. And I will bring two shopping baskets.
27 September 2012

And Good Belly Cheer Was Had

Like many small New England cities, the heart went out of mine a few decades ago as the business and community center moved away from Main Street. People moved out to the burbs, etc, and businesses moved out to keep them company. It’s sad and frustrating, but my city is (despite vocal naysayers and trolls) trying to revitalize. The downtown streetscapes have been redone, some storefronts spruced up, and a few new businesses have moved in.

Today I attended a preview of Barley Vine, the new gastropub on Main Street. It’s all exposed brick and wood, tin ceilings and chalkboards, bar stools and friendliness. I was completely charmed. (I offer no insult or condescension when I say it reminded me a lot of Plan B -- my husband and I have spent a lot of time at Plan B in West Hartford and consider it one of our favorite burger places, so to find something similar-but-different in my own little city is just totes awesome).

Barley Vine

The bar is extensive, with lots of good beer selections. They even offer Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider which is one of my favorite ciders and one I don’t usually see a lot locally. (I see a lot of Woodchuck ciders and, while they’re good, they’re no Samuel Smith). Always smooth and gently apple-y, it goes well with everything ... including the BarleyVine burger.

Barley Vine

The BarleyVine burger is the only burger on the lunch menu (dinner menu unseen) unless you want to build your own. I reckoned anything that eponymous was likely to be good and ordered it medium as written. Ground and shaped on site from local beef, it was a thick puck of tender, juicy beef on a sturdy roll with charred onions, roasted red bell pepper, blue cheese crumbles, and arugula. Lunch burgers come with sweet potato and kale chips -- fry people, like The Husband, may not be amused. I love sweet potatoes and kale chips are always a win, so I was exceedingly amused. (Next time, I might try building my own burger so I can try Barley Vine’s house-made bacon).

I have to be honest and say my preview wasn’t without flaws -- the bartender had some trouble locating a bottle opener for my cider, the fussy computerized cash register refused to print my tab, and the top of my hamburger roll was a little charred. But, hey, it was a preview. By the time Barley Vine has its grand opening on 11 October, I expect everything will be fine. Barley Vine is actually (quietly) opening to the public this Saturday and I fully intend to drag The Husband down for supper on Saturday or Sunday.

My meal, minus the 20% preview discount, came to just under $15 which seemed extremely reasonable considering it was a drinking lunch. (I even merited a free sample of Cisco Brewers' Monomoy Kriek -- it smelled slightly sulphurous and tasted, at first sip, a bit like mellow cherry balsamic vinegar. That may sound weird, possibly undrinkable, to you but I thought it was quite delicious. I can’t imagine what I’d drink it with, though. Duck with balsamic cherry sauce? French vanilla ice cream?)

Barley Vine
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