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Entries in TRAVEL Connecticut (3)

Tuesday
Dec042012

Connecticut: Where to Eat/Drink

Below, you will find restaurants/specialty shops that have been categorized by their respective cuisines.  I have only included venues where I have personally either dined-in or ordered-out.  

~

American

British

Food trucks

Event venues

Italian

Friday
Nov022012

Mi vida loca: Nuptials and a bitch named Sandy

Wow.  I'm not sure if there's another word that better summarizes this past week.  Or month, for that matter.  It's been quite an eventful - and eerie - October in the Big Apple.  And, certainly, one that we will not soon - or ever - forget...

Speaking of this past week, there were the obvious lows (brought on by Mother Nature) - but plenty of fantastic highs.  So, please join me as I highlight October's final days:

Thursday, 10/25

I met Tammi, a friend and reader, for snacks and drinks at the bar at Eleven Madison Park, in honor of her birthday.  The extraordinary service was beyond compare...as were the freshly-baked croissant rolls, specially-prepared butternut squash soup, and our dessert - a play on ricotta cheesecake.

Just a taste..."Ricotta cheesecake," lime curd, berriesFriday, 10/26

While Friday was relatively uneventful, I received a notice from my apartment's management to "...remove and secure all terrace/balcony furniture and other objects in preparation for Hurricane Sandy."  I made sure to take care of that as soon as I got home from work, since I would be leaving early the next morning for a wedding in Connecticut. 

Saturday, 10/27

After dropping Lucy off at chi-chi D Pet Hotel, I headed to Penn Station to board my Providence, RI-bound Amtrak train to New London, CT. 

FYI, donut buffs:  Did you know that there's a Krispy Kreme on the Amtrak level at Penn Station?

Mmmm...Glazed pumpkin-spice cake donuts!From my window seat, the cornucopia of fall scenery was fantastic!

Check out that killer view!

Upon arrival in New London, I took a taxi across the Thames River to the Avis Rental Car at the Groton-New London Airport.  1 train, 1 cab, and 1 rental car-ride later, I finally arrived at my hotel in Dayville - with only an hour to spare before the shuttle came to fetch me for the wedding.  Whew! 

...Leave it to me to forget to pack my contact lenses, blush, and toothbrush.  That's right, I ended up looking like Sarah Palin in a cocktail dress!  Sigh.

A quarter after three, a classic yellow school bus arrived (at the hotel) to take us to Tyrone Farm - Moira's wedding venue - in picturesque Pomfret, CT.  Despite the impending hurricane on the horizon, the rain clouds parted for the entirety of Moira's 1950's/60's-themed, indoor/outdoor wedding and reception. 

Note the clusters of pumpkins and gourds ~

Along with programs, guests were encouraged to grab a "Toss Me" bag, filled with small wooden music notes, on their way to their seats.  Pashmina wraps were provided for the ladies ~

The guests anticipate Moira & Eric's walk down the aisle ~

Live musicians ~

The flower girl ~

The beautiful bride and her groom ~

Post "I do," the guests toss the wooden music notes at the happy couple ~

The crowd heads towards the celebratory reception, catered by Caseus Fromagerie & Bistro ~

Outdoors, guests imbibed in an array of cocktails, wines, beers, and hot cider/sodas/water ~

I fancied the Rum Punch...

...and the delicious passed hors d'oeuvres.  Namely, the sweet 'n sticky BBQ ribs.  :)

For those who preferred to stay indoors, a 1950's-inspired band was playing live music ~

At about 6:30pm, guests began making their way over to the barn for a candle lit dinner - dessert - and dancing ~

The food, wine, and cocktails served were the best that I've ever had at a wedding.  So much care and detail was put in to every last bite and sip...

Served family style, menu highlights included:  Locally-grown zucchini bread, roasted beet salad (pictured further below), thyme-roasted Brussels sprouts, BBC-brined roasted chicken, and roasted arctic char.

To start, each guest received an "amuse bouche," of sorts:  Local goat's cheese, seasonal berries.

Roasted Beet Salad

While many of my other entree photos didn't fare as beautifully, I was able to snap a shot of the wedding cake - and the couple's incredibly creative "cake bar," courtesy of Good Butter Bakery, featuring an array of a dozen different, handmade, cake varieties.  Additionally, an outdoor fire pit was ignited for guests who wished to make their own smores.    

While many danced the night away, I used my time to eat.  And drink.  And eat some more.  And take silly pics in the photo booth with my friend, Veronica ~

As if I had any more room in my stomach, The Cheese Truck (food truck) pulled up to the barn at 10:30pm, serving gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and warm tomato soup-shots! 

Just before midnight, guests serenaded the couple with a parade of sparklers ~

Wedding favors included the most unbelieveable "salty oats" cookies from the bride's aunt's cookie bakery, Kayak Cookies.  (This is the same aunt who owns Good Butter Bakery!)

Sunday, 10/28 

At 9am, I awoke to a nagging alarm clock and a raging headache.  The sign of a good night, no? 

With the impending hurricane slowly making its way up north, I wanted to get back to NYC as soon as possible...

Shortly after 10am, I arrived at Moira & Eric's send-off brunch, located in a lodge on the sprawling grounds of The Pomfret Boarding School.  Catered by Mrs. Bridges' Pantry, a British tea shop located in nearby Woodstock, guests enjoyed:

Traditional British tea, coffee - Paired alongside shabby-chic, mismatched tea cups and spoons ~

Homemade scones, served with strawberry jam - lemon curd - and clotted cream ~

The best Shepard's Pie that I've ever tasted ~

Spinach & feta pies ~

And an assortment of quiches & savory pies ~

After the lovely brunch, I drove back to the Avis location at the Groton-New London Airport, and hitched a ride to the New London train station.  I could not wait to get home to Lucy and finish preparing for the storm.

With time to spare before my scheduled departure, I strolled the perimeter of the train station.  Here's something that caught my eye...

I mean, I would certainly hope that the restaurant was hygienic.  What the hell kind of name is that??

Although my train was delayed for 30 minutes, I still made it to Penn Station by 4:30pm...But was taken aback when, upon my walk home, I read that subway service would be halted from 7pm onward.  Until further notice...

I was home - with Lucy in tow - by 5pm.  Phew!

Monday, 10/29 - Tuesday, 10/30

Both of these days were spent on the sofa, with my eyes glued to the TV.  And the big window in my living room, which I used to monitor the storm...and the terrace of that idiot who lives across 6th Avenue from me.  Although every person with outdoor space received ample warning to remove "any furniture or objects," this fool proceeded to leave his BOWFLEX machine outdoors for the duration of the storm!  And, no, he was not out of town.  Imagine the damage that this could have caused?  But let's not deviate from the real question at hand here:  What kind of douche puts his exercise equipment on his terrace, a virtual fish bowl, to begin with?  C'mon now...

Luckily, you will see that the only damage done was to the machine, itself.  Good riddance!

Since the stock exchange was closed on both Monday and Tuesday (I work at an investment bank), I literally did not leave my apartment - change out of my pajamas - or eat anything perishable until Wednesday.  Believe it or not, my apartment building was one of the few in the area that did not lose power or water!  I was in complete shock and disbelief.  And counting every last one of my lucky stars.  

On Tuesday afternoon, my friend, Dana, whose building was (and still is) without power and water, came over to charge her phone and take a hot shower. 

Wednesday, 10/31

Halloween shmalloween.  It sure as hell didn't feel like a fun, festive holiday in NYC.   Especially since I had to go back to work...

Since bus service was free, I took the M7 up 6th Avenue, and got off at 57th Street to see if I could get a good view of the collapsed crane...

My friend, Jane, who was (and still is) without power and water, asked if she could take refuge in my apartment.  On my walk home from work - remember, subways were still not running - I happened upon flashing lights, police caution tape, flares, and a small mob scene.  Assuming that scaffolding had fallen, I overheard someone say that a girl had just leapt to her death.  My heart sank.  This was the second instance - this month - that someone had died in this manner.  : (

I was thrilled to have Jane stay over, as I knew that her presence would really help get my mind off of what had just happened.  We decided to grab drinks and dinner in my neighborhood, but soon realized that a) restaurants/bars were either beyond crowded, or b) not open because of power loss.  

Here's a view of the Flatiron District at around 7:30pm on Wednesday night, illuminated only by the head/tail lights of motoristsThink that only buildings lost power?  Think again.  A multitude of street lights were out, too, wreaking havoc on the traffic...       

After wandering aimlessly with no luck, we finally ended up at Hill country.  Whoever said that BBQ and margaritas can't cure the blues is a total idiot...

Thursday, 11/1

Thank god October is *finally* over.  What a shiteous month! 

After leaving a meeting uptown, I gasped in horror as I saw the insanely long line of folks waiting to board the Queens-bound F train at 63rd Street.  Aside from the fact that service was free, this was the only subway train going across the water. 

For dinner, Jane and I enjoyed a fabulous Persian meal at Pars Grill House & Bar.

...

Readers:  How did you weather the storm?  Was your home affected, due to power/water loss or serious damage?  Did you have to seek refuge?  I'd love to hear your stories. 

I'm going to see/research if there's anything I can do to help.  Volunteer.  Whatever!  Are you doing anything?

One thing I will say, before I sign off, is that I think the Mayor is a complete JACKASS for deciding to proceed with the NYC Marathon this weekend.  I mean, is there any aspect of this decision that's NOT a complete epic fail?  He needs to stop trying to prove to the world that "New Yorkers will not let a storm tear us down."  Seriously.   If you're with me, then vote here to have the Marathon rescheduled to Spring 2013. 

On that note, I wish all of you a safe, warm, and healthy weekend.  Keep your heads up and, if there's anything I can do to help, please let me know.

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Monday
Jun042012

Re-cap: Mohegan Sun's first annual "Sun BBQ Fest"

Last weekend, I was invited to cover Mohegan Sun's first annual "Sun BBQ Fest."  The three-day festival featured live bands, cooking demonstrations, a rib-eating contest, and plenty of saucy BBQ from some of the nation's best.  Talk about one protein-packed, finger lickin' good, hell of a fun time!

When I received my invitation, I was elated.  Who better than me, a displaced Southerner, to attend a BBQ festival?  I mean, come on, let's be honest here, y'all:  While I may live in Yankee territory, I am a Texan by birth and at heart. 

Mohegan Sun was generous enough to "and guest" me, meaning that I could invite a side-kick.  Without hesitation, I asked my fellow Texpat, Cathryn, to tag along.

...

Friday, June 1st

On Friday evening, Cathryn and I took a Connecticut-bound Amtrak train to New London.  The ride was nearly 3-hours!  Upon our arrival at the station, we were met by a *limo* from the Mohegan Sun.  Whoa. 

The two of us could not stop laughing, gawking, texting our friends, and snapping pictures of the car's interior and ourselves.  I'm pretty sure the driver wanted to kill us...

By the time we arrived and checked-in to the hotel, it was about 10pm.  The two of us were famished and in desperate need of a cocktail, so we headed downstairs.  Instead of reading every menu at each of the property's 40 restaurants, we put our indecisive ways aside and settled on Bar Americain.  

Mohegan Sun: Looking up at Bar Americain

Obviously, I got the party started with a margarita.  And a mighty tasty one, at that.  For my entree, I chose the "Gulf Shrimp & Grits, Bacon, Green Onions, Garlic."  I could have eaten two more portions but, instead, I chose to fill up on the contents of our bread basket:  Delicious, warm jalapeno cornbread and fluffy Parker House rolls.     

By midnight, Cathryn and I were sound asleep.

...

Saturday, June 2nd

I had my alarm set for 8:30am, as media check-in was to begin at 10am (the event was slated to commence at 11am).  When I reached over to the silence the beeping, I checked my email and was startled to learn that, due to the rainy forecast, the Festival would not start until 3pm!  Cathryn and I ended up going back to sleep until 12:30pm - something that, admittedly,  I have not done since college! 

After getting ready for the day and perusing some of the hotel's shops, it was time to check-in for the Festival. 

The Festival was held in one of the hotel's outdoor parking lots.  And, luckily, by 3pm, the rain had finally decided to take a little break. 

Rum sponsor: Sailor Jerry's

Beer? Yuck. Wine? No way. Champagne? Yes please!Fried Connecticut oyster po'boy sandwichPulled-pork sandwichGrilled cornMore pulled-pork!Texas Thunder BBQ's baby back ribsTexas Thunder BBQBeef brisket sandwich

After stuffing ourselves silly with champagne, baby-backs, and BBQ sandwiches, Cathryn and I were thrilled to learn that there would be a rib-eating contest at 4pm!  Hey, there's nothing better than watching someone (...other than yourself) binge eat! 

Setting the stage: Chairs would soon be occupied by the rib-eating contest contestants!Tray after tray after tray of ribs for the contest!EMS was on-hand just in case...!The contest's emcee The emcee picked a random guest out of the crowd to join the competitors! "Mitch" was the lucky guy!Whew! Look at those guns! I literally could not stop taking photos of this hottie. Damn!

Champion, Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, chugs water between rib inhalation.It was about this point in the contest when I felt a vibration in my purse.  Just as I was looking down to see who had called me, I heard something splatter on the stage.  Then, I inhaled "the whiff."  That's right, one of the contestants had PROJECTILE VOMITED on stage and, because of my close proximity, I was assaulted by chunks.  On my jacket.  On my purse.  On my cheek.  "Damn it," I squealed to Cathryn, "did this idiot not learn ANY drinking etiquette in high school or college?  Geez.  I thought EVERYONE knew to yack down and not up/across!  Jerk."

After the 12-minute rib-eating contest had finished, a winner was crowned:  Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, the world-famous competitive eater, took first place!  And, among all men, it was the adorable WOMAN who came in a close second!

The Lunch Belle and Joey "Jaws" ChestnutAfter changing in to different clothes and scrubbing puke off of my purse, Cathryn and I enjoyed our last evening at the hotel over wine and, even more, food at Ballo.

Marinated watermelon salad with stracciatella, crispy prosciutto, and pistachioMargherita pizzaRigatoni w/ spicy sausage ragu and fonduta...

Sunday, June 3rd

Because I had to be back in the city for a dance recital, Cathryn and I headed home on a 10:30am train.  It was during this nearly 3-hour ride in the "quiet car" that I was able to reflect on what I had experienced and learned over the weekend:

  • If you have plans to visit the Mohegan Sun, request a non-smoking (that is, if you do not smoke and/or enjoy the smell) room on a high floor.  The views are really quite lovely.Actual view from my hotel room!
  • The shops and restaurants at Mohegan Sun stay open later than those at the Wynn Las VegasWhat the hell is that all about?  Vegas needs to step it up. 
  • Always have cash on-hand to tip a driver, bell boy, maid, etc.
  • Texas BBQ kicks Tennessee BBQ's ass!!
  • Nothing is impossible:  A short, 90-pound woman can eat more than a man.  Even if the man in question is obese.
  • Always bring snacks aboard a train.  The cafe-car line can get redonkulously long.  And annoying.
  • Carry hand sanitizer.  And antibacterial wipes.  Always.  Because YOU NEVER KNOW what's going to happen!
  • Never sit within 10-feet of the competitors at a food-eating contest.
  • Apparently, being shat-on by a bird is good luck.  How about getting puked on?  Seriously, does anyone know the answer? 

 

Cathryn and I had a fantastic time at Mohegan Sun's "Sun BBQ Fest."  I hope to return again next year!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle