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Birthday Lunch for 10-12 people

Any suggestions for a festive, fun Hartford/West Hartford restaurant where we can celebrate someone's 70th birthday . . . on a Sunday in July? The group of 10-12 people is lively and talkative, but everyone does have an AARP card--so no, not a young crowd. Lots of seafood eaters, but a pretty omnivorous group with a couple vegetarians. Thank in advance.

Jun 23, 2014
scribos in Southern New England

Walkable restaurants near South St. Providence

My family is staying in the industrial jewelry manufacturing area of Providence on South St. Can you recommend both family-friendly in addtion to couples' restaurants we can walk to within about 1.5 mile radius. We'll be very close to the bridge on Point St. We like off-the-wall local places wherever we go but will also want to try the foodie temples of Providence.

Last year we drove out from Providence to Tiverton for a New England shore dinner, sat out by the water, and loved that. I can't remember the name of the place, but it was wonderful. We might want to do that again, plus any other fried clam/lobster roll experience RI folks might want to recommend.

Aug 11, 2013
scribos in Southern New England

Charleston without breaking the bank.

I know you've come and gone and hit some of the great, great restaurants in Charleston. There are more good ones per square foot than in cities much larger than Charleston.

But sometimes, don't we all want something cozy and delicious that doesn't require resevations and a big commitment of time and money? I sometimes just want to get back to our hotel or B&B by 9:00 after a day of sightseeing or work, which we combine on our Charleston visits.

My husband and I hit the Osteria la Bottiglia, which we've gone to a bunch of times during or annual month-long visits to Charleston. It's on King Street, just one block away from the Hampton Inn where you stayed.

The Osteria is a wine bar and Italian restaurant that will not break the bank--not even close. It's a cozy drop in kind of place with wonderful wines and a creative Italian menu--just like Italian osterias where you stop in for a lighter meal rather than a multi-course blowout. This place is like that. (Not that you couldn't do a blowout here as well, but that's not why we go there.)

We've eaten at all the wonderful places you ate in--FIG, Husk, McReadys, Bowen's Island. But our default is something cozier, smaller scale, and affordable where we can feel like locals. Tonight was one of those nights. So we tucked into the Osteria la Bottiglia. My husband had the duck confit, with out of sight raviolis that were so creamy and light. (Yeah, I poached one when he wasn't looking!) I had the North Carolia goat cheese salad since I'd had a huge lunch out with friends. But you couldn't go wrong with the lamb and polenta. Oh, and a couple glasses of their excellent Italian wines really paired well with our dishes. Tonight we did Chianti.

The owner as well as the bartender are friendly but not instrusive. Really, on a cold night, the Osteria satisfied our appetites as well as our desire for a local meal that didn't break the bank. Every bite and sip of wine felt just right. We'll probably drop in a couple more times before we leave Charleston in two weeks.

Dec 13, 2012
scribos in Southeast

Discontinued at Trader Joe's - July thru December 2012

What happened to the Multigrain crackers that came in a cellophane wrapped in a long box that were usually displayed over the frozen food section? My sister-in-law said they recently disappeared from the West Hartford, CT store. I'm in Charleston, SC right now, and they don't have any here either. All they have are the inferior (to me anyway) Savory crackers.

Dec 12, 2012
scribos in Chains

New Vietnamese in Hadley, MA -- Saigon Banh Mi

I'd much rather have the wonderful food that Bahn Mi Saigon has than decor--love the pho, the egg rolls, the sandwiches. The family is wonderful. I do think they could double their business if people could take their takeout and eat it right there, though, if the atmosphere was a little more inviting. I see lots of people packing places with better looks than food. Why not have both? Well, I guess I do both since I bring the food home and serve it in a nice setting. End of subject.

Oct 02, 2012
scribos in Southern New England

New Vietnamese in Hadley, MA -- Saigon Banh Mi

My husband and I have now tried Banh Mi Saigon sandwiches, pork and chicken, then last week on a rainy night takeout of their beef pho and vegetable pho along with an order of pork egg rolls. We enjoyed their amazing sandwiches in the summer, savoring every fresh bite of them. They were full of spicy flavor. I was a bahn mi newbie, so are the rolls supposed to be exactly like French baguettes? If so, they didn't have the baguette texture but some other style that also made for a great sandwich. Can any Vietnamese person comment on the rolls?

I was almost afraid to try the pho since I've been repeatedly disappointed in this dish locally more than once in the Amherst area. Well, the pho was incredible. The broth had a rich, multi-layered taste with flavors blending into one amazing taste experience. So subtle and good. The ingredients--noodles, beef, tofu-were totally fresh and top notch as were the condiments we added at home.

As for the egg rolls, I lied to my husband and said the order only came with two egg rolls (One order=three egg rolls.). I ate the third one in the car and had to stifle the urge to go back in for another order!

I'm so happy we have this great place for the upcoming cool and cold months ahead. My only complaint is the decor is totally uninviting. Both times I did takeout orders. I hope the Banh Mi owners make enough money to hire a local designer to upgrade the place--maybe large poster sized photos of Vietnam, black and white floor, small and large round tables, really nice lighting, and paint the space in colors typical of that Viet Nam. It's just too basic to eat there. I know it's a "hole in the wall," but it's big enough to make it a sit-down, self-serve place where you could enjoy their great dishes on site if they did something creative with paint, photos, and lighting.

Oct 01, 2012
scribos in Southern New England

Popolo in Bellows Falls -- First impressions

My husband and I decided to visit Bellows Falls on my birthday in mid-September because it looked like my kind of New England town--formerly industrial, on the river, a real downtown square (not a town green, though for folks who like the white steeple kind) prettified just enough. Oh, and it still has an active train station. BF is also located close to I-91. Fell in love with the town immediately, even though it was a rainy day. There was an active downtown mix of shops, including a fantastic antiques' store--Windham Antiques something or other. Loved it and had to exercise self restraint to keep from buying anything.

All the walking around made me hungry for my birthday lunch. We spied the spiffy Popolo located in a Victorian building that I think is a hotel. The place and menu looked inviting, so we went in. The lunch crowd looked local--friends meeting over lunch by look of things. I loved what Popolo did with the space--kept the tall ceilings, brick wall behind the bar, and seemed to be renovating a checkerboard hallway for expansion, special events??? We couldn't sit on their deck overlooking the river, but the interior was warm and inviting as was the wait staff.

We had a delicious prosecco with lemoncello since it was my birthday. The wine list looked interesting, but the prosecco was plenty at lunch. We each had a generous cup of lentil soup--the special of the day, which hit the spot. (I know, prosecco/limoncello and lentil soup don't mix, but somehow they did!) My husband had the meatball panini, which he went crazy over--wonderful grilled bread with humongous meatballs. I chose the special pizza of the day, which was a feta (or was it goat) cheese, arugula, and lemon pizza on an incredible, chewy-yet-crisp crust. Delicious. I saw there were a couple pastas on the menu, but since I'd read reviews of Popolo's pizzas, that's what I had. Everything tasted so fresh. We had to pass on the locally sourced gelatos due to caloric overload. Another time, and there will be another time.

This place will be a must for leaf peepers and later for skiers, so I'm glad we got to sample it before that madness starts. We definitely plan to try dinner, which looks very innovative and full of local ingredients. (You'll pass a couple farmstands shortly after you get off I-91 if you go to Bellows Falls in the growing season--another reason to go visit.) So Bellows Falls, topped off by Popolo, is wonderful outing.

Sep 28, 2012
scribos in Northern New England

Dining Changes in Amherst, MA

Ooops. Just to clarify my White Hut comment about milk shakes. I checked the White Hut Amherst menu, and they do have milk shakes! I'll have to try one. Sorry White Hut. Should've checked the menu first.

Feb 04, 2012
scribos in Southern New England

Dining Changes in Amherst, MA

Last summer, I originally inquired about local places that were going to be opening in Amherst. It took awhile, but we now have the White Hut, High Horse, Lumberyard, new Chez Albert, Johnny's Tavern, and the new Boltwood Restaurant at the renovated Lord Jeff. My husband and I tried three of them. Herewith:

--White Hut: It is what it is, i.e. several notches above fast food. So yay. My husband and I get in the mood for that once in a while. The menu is minimal--made-to-order "thin" burgers, fries, hot dogs with good onions on the burgers and other condiments. Better than McDonald's. My husband and I tried a take-out night. I can see myself bringing the burgers and a drink to the Amherst town green in the summertime before an Amherst Cinema movie if we don't have time for a sitdown meal. Wish they had milkshakes. Wish a lot of things but especially that the White Hut would go up to the seasonal Sugarloaf Softee/Freezie, whatever the heck it's called up in Sunderland on 116, take milk shake lessons, and offer milk shakes with the burger and fries. So far, I think it's just sodas and water. But it's fine for what it is. Service was friendly. It's bright and clean, but we didn't eat "en place." I'm judging it by some of the local, seasonal stands in the Pioneer Valley that make me nostalgic and do offer milkshakes. Still, it's in town and really quite okay.

--Lumberyard. We gave it a shot right before Christmas right after it opened when it was working out the kinks. At that time, the service was a little uneven, but it's probably smoother by now. We were seated right away but had to wait way, way too long for drink menus. They do have an excellent wine list by the glass, half bottle, bottle, and a creative cocktail menu. But come on, hand over the drink menu. Then we had to wait a long time for the server to take the drink order. Hope they worked on that since.

Like another Chowhound poster, my husband's burger was not rare, as ordered, not even medium rare. They need to pay attention to that since they have some competition with High Horse and Johnny's Tavern with the gourmet burgers. The fries were incredible, though, as was their amazing bread (had to ask for that, too, but darned good.)

I had some kind of lamb with a great sauce and presentation. I can't remember now what it was exactly, but I do recall thinking: "This is incredible. If only it were hot!" It did come rare, as ordered, but THE DISH WAS BARELY WARM!!! I didn't send it back because I was too hungry. I don't recall if we had dessert. We'll definitely go back because they were in a shakedown period and probably have worked out the problems with service and food. I can tell they have the chops, literally, to offer a creative, fresh menu. Attention to details will make this a terrific place where we might become weekday regulars and bring out-of-town friends. The setting is much more sophisticated and modern than anything else in town--liked it a lot despite the aforementioned problems. But If they don't get the service right or don't bring food as ordered and at the temps it should be, then we won't become regulars.

High Horse. Thank you, thank you High Horse owners for bring some great brews into town à la Moan and Dove along with a superior burger with Grafton Cheddar (not a mega monster burger but "just-the-right-size-burger that we like," which came hot and rare, as ordered) The wonderfully crispy, crispy French fries came in a metal cone--love that sort of Brussels/pub kind of thing. The garlic mayo was fantastic. The service was friendly and efficient. We went there early on a Tuesday night before a movie at Amherst Cinema. The downstairs pub/bistro is light years nicer than the old Amherst Brewery even though the layout is somewhat the same. I can't comment yet on the rest of the menu, but let's call it an somewhat upscale artisanal beer pub, just what we'd hoped it would be. Someone on Yelp complained there aren't enough beer choices. We found a long-enough list for any menu pairing imaginable. I do see us eating here regularly, probably during the week, which is when we hit Amherst Cinema. I can also see it as a great place for alums and parents of students taking their kids out when they come for college visits. It's much more grown-up--at least the downstairs was the night we were there--than the Amherst Brewery was.

Our only concern is that when it gets busy that it'll be very noisy since it has all smooth surfaces. But we were early birds because we were going to the movies. I'm happy about this place because we've been kind of starving in Amherst--great food supply with all the farms, dairy, etc, but so-so restaurants catering primarily to college students, which we haven't been for decades. Lumberyard and now High Horse used very fresh, good ingredients.

We'll give Johnny's Tavern at shot soon. I peeked in and liked the decor. Hope the food is good as well. We also might try some small plates and wine at the new Chez Albert.

We're just happy to have more choices. And we're only months away from the Sugarloaf Frostie reopening in May--something to look forward to. So that's my take on "dining changes in Amherst."

Feb 04, 2012
scribos in Southern New England

Dining Changes in Amherst, MA

Does anyone out there know about some new changes in restaurants coming to Amherst, MA soon?

I read that the manager of the incomparable beer pub, Moan and Dove in South Amherst, has been hired to run a restaurant in the space that Amherst Brewing is vacating in Amherst Center. (AB is going to a new, larger space on University Drive.) My fantasy restaurant for the vacated space is Moan and Dove 2.0 but with fabulous burgers and pub food that goes with the great beers they serve at their current space where they don't serve food. Anybody out there have details on what's planned? Things move slowly in Amherst, so I probably shouldn't let my mouth water anytime soon. I'm longing for a grown-up beer pub. Amherst Brewing didn't do it for me--kind of had that college vibe you find at Antonio's, Souper, Hanger, etc. The Moan and Dove has a more varied crowd and just lacks great pub grub to make it perfect.

There's something called Lumber Yard planned for Main St. down past the Emily Dickinson house. Any details on that?

And I read that White Hut of Springfield is coming to Amherst, probably good for takeout.

Still haven't tried Chez Albert, which is moving a bit north to another location on North Pleasant.

I've got my fingers crossed about all of the above. Anybody out there know anything about these possible new restaurants?

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Moan and Dove
460 West St, Amherst, MA 01002

Chez Albert
27 S Pleasant St, Amherst, MA 01002

White Hut
280 Memorial Ave, West Springfield, MA 01089

Jun 24, 2011
scribos in Southern New England

BLUE HERON Sunderland.. WINE GOUGING

I know this is an old thread, but it's appropos of a recent dining experience my husband and I had at the Blue Heron. We've eaten there on a few special occasions and love the food. Our most recent dinner there was delicious--duck and turbot. But do we plan to go there again? Not if they don't offer more wine selections under $30. The wine list is fabulous at the high end, but would it kill them to offer a few creative selections around $20-$25? Even in the under $40 range, the selections are sparse. They do offer their burger and had some belly Ipswich clams on the menu for a reasonable price. But if you're a wine lover, you're gonna pay! I think we're done with the Blue Heron, sad to say.

Jun 15, 2011
scribos in Southern New England

Weekend Lunch or Brunch Between Hartford and Amherst/Northampton

Well, it's been a year since I asked that question in 2010 and we never did do that lunch reunion halfway between Hartford and Amherst/Northampton near I-91 . . . until today. My sister remembered a very nice newspaper review of an Eastern European restaurant in Enfield, very close to 91, Silvia's Restaurant. Mind you, it wasn't exactly cozy--a bit of a catering hall feel to it. Moreover, we were the only people there for lunch. However, on a cold, gray winter day Siliva, the owner, made it as cozy for us as a country inn.

When we arrived, some lively Romanian music was playing and added a lot of cheer to the big room being set up for a wedding that evening. Silvia, and our family, added the rest of the cheer. The menu was full of hearty dishes as well as soup/sandwich combos and other lunch choices. Silvia brought out a huge warm challah loaf and a tureen of farmers' soup for the table. These were a perfect start on a cold day. We ordered Romanian beer--a good choice for the hearty food we couldn't resist ordering.

The winter weather had made us all hungry, so we went for beef stroganoff over golden mashed potatoes, three Polish plates of kielbasa, accompanied by incredibly light fried cheese periogi AND superb stuffed cabbage. One of us had the German plate with several sausages, those out-of-sight pierogies, and schnitzel (can't remember if it was chicken or veal--both were on the menu.) Except for the slightly dry schnitzel in the German dish, every morsel on everyone's plates was fantastic--tender, well cooked and full of flavor. The beef in my stronganoff was like butter with a wonderful sauce served over a bed of excellent buttery mashed potatoes. This was a special and not on the menu. As we were winding down, Silvia brought over containers for leftovers. As delicious as everything was, the portions were too huge to finish. Then she came over with a dessert platter of six moist brownies, still warm, sprinkled with powdered sugar-- scrumptious.

Although the food was more substantial than we'd planned on for a lunch off I-91, it was wonderful. We didn't mind at all that no one else was there; this kind of homemade food probably draws a dinner crowd. It seemed festive because of the Romanian music and the fact that there was going to be a wedding reception there that evening. So anyone looking for a stop with excellent homemade food, Silvia's is an easy right off I-91 South (Exit 48), in Enfield, less than a half mile from the Interstate.

Silvias
23 North Main Street
Enfield, CT 06082
(860) 741-6969

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Silvia's Gourmet Restaurant & Catering
23 N Main St, Enfield, CT 06082

Mar 05, 2011
scribos in Southern New England

Weekday Lunch Recommendations Near Danbury Train Station or New Fairfield

Thanks,. That's where we'll go since it's open and on our route tomorrow.

Oct 07, 2010
scribos in Southern New England

Weekday Lunch Recommendations Near Danbury Train Station or New Fairfield

Any restaurant recommendations for lunch near the Danbury train station or along the road to New Fairfield that are a step up from deli, diner, or chain places? We've got eclectic tastes, don't want to break the budget, wouldn't mind eating outside if it's warm enough. Thanks.

Oct 06, 2010
scribos in Southern New England

Creperies in Quebec City?

Ah, that explains why the streets are so clean. Quebec City, at least in the Old Town, is cleaner than most other cities with a lot of tourists. We just love it except for the aforementioned crêpes.

Aug 05, 2010
scribos in Quebec (inc. Montreal)

Creperies in Quebec City?

The single star is simply because serving food in a restaurant is such hard work. My husband and I went to Au Petit Coin Breton because we'd been craving crêpes, and the restaurant was directly across the street from where we were staying. Plus it was raining, so we had only to dash across the street.

We went in, and the staff looked ready to go home. (It was 7:30) It took awhile to get the menus with all the strange crêpe concoctions. I ordered the cheese crêpes; my husband chicken and mushroom. We ordered the house wine A) because we were tired and B) because we foolishly thought that house wine, since someone in the "house" picked it out, might be drinkable. It wasn't. Thank goodness it was noticeably watered down, which lessened its peculiar odor.

The crêpes were beyond dreadful. As stated upthread, they use the same sweet batter for savory crêpes as for dessert crêpes. I don't know what style they are. I've had real Breton and French crêpes. These weren't even close to either style. Besides being sweet instead of savory, they were so dry, pieces flaked off. There was very little cheese in my cheese crêpe, and it was rubbery--a total, cold, flaky mess. My husband's was gluey, and we couldn't drink the undrinkable wine. It was the worse kind of tourist trap, and they should just give it up.

I'm surprised, with other decent restaurants in Quebec City, that some enterprising real crêpemakers don't set up street stands like those in France and rake it in. Domage.

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Au Petit Coin Breton
1029 Rue Saint-Jean, Quebec, QC G1R1R9, CA

Aug 04, 2010
scribos in Quebec (inc. Montreal)

Miss Saigon in Amherst, MA

We may give Miss Saigon one more shot. The meat was definitely "off" that first night. I've had pho and other Vietnamese dishes in West Hartford, CT that was great, so it's not that we got spoiled in NYC or Viet Nam. The pho at Miss Saigon, to me, was slightly above the general level of takeout won ton soup in any old Chinese restaurant.

We do like some of the noodle dishes at the Korean/Japanese restaurant up in North Amherst, though I find it somewhat absurd that they have two cuisines under one roof. The equivalent would be having an Italian and French restaurant together offering classic dishes of both cuisines under one roof. Still, on a cold night, their noodle dishes are light years above Miss Saigon's.

Mar 03, 2010
scribos in Southern New England

Miss Saigon in Amherst, MA

My husband and I really want to love this restaurant, but we can't based on two dinners there so far. We may give it one more shot with something other than pho. We both had pho--mine with beef the first time, seafood the second. The beef was definitely not fresh, and the some of the seafood was that weird orangey crab combo stuff. The broth was flavorless. I did add some of the Asian basil and condiments, but pho should stand on its own.

My husband, not a picky guy, has traveled to Viet Nam a couple times, so his dish was pretty far removed from the original. That's okay, but we've had Vietnamese food in Europe and New York, which was fabulous. This wasn't even close.

The service is strange. The young woman who waited on us both times seemed to be annoyed to see us--sorry, but it was only 8:30 and they're open until 10:00. Then she was all smiles. Neither time did we get the requested tea even after asking twice.

I'm with the posters on the other Amherst/Northampton boards who are also recent arrivals to the area. I'm open to try things. I don't want to be picky. I want to support the local places and not diss them. But every place we've tried is sort of just okay. Thank goodness the local food sources are great--awesome breads at the farmers' markets and in Northampton, great, great produce in season, wonderful dairy, e.g.ice cream at Flayvers in Hadley, etc. So it's all the more disappointing that the taste level is so low in the restaurants. It's probably due to the overwhelming college population. I'd kill for a good hamburger place in Amherst--Amherst Brewery is not it unless they get rid of that very bad carpeting and don't seat us next to the bleach-y bathrooms.

Oh, I'd better stop. Honestly, I'm not a picky, never happy food snob. I want places to succeed, but for now I'm putting together ingredients for pho I can make at home. Miss Saigon is a missed opportunity. If we try it again, and we have a good experience, I'll post again.

Mar 03, 2010
scribos in Southern New England

Weekend Lunch or Brunch Between Hartford and Amherst/Northampton

We're meeting up with five adult family members this weekend about halfway between Amherst/Northampton, MA and Hartford CT for lunch or brunch. It doesn't need to be right by 91--we could drive a few miles in for the right place.

We're looking for fresh, well prepared food in a nice cafe or cozy restaurant setting with a full menu (not just a coffee place) Nothing too white glove or stuffy. Country-ish with local suppliers would be nice. Ethnic could work. Great brunch (but not buffet) would be wonderful, too. We plan to do this periodically, so throw out what you have, and we'll sort it out.

Thanks.

Mar 03, 2010
scribos in Southern New England

Hungry Ghost Bakery Northampton MA

Here's the web site for Hungry Ghost with directions and their bread menu and schedule:
hungryghostbread.com

Yelp.com also has some reviews of Hungry Ghost along the lines of mine--red wine, cheese, bread blowouts.

Nov 13, 2009
scribos in Southern New England

Hungry Ghost Bakery Northampton MA

Moving to Amherst after living in Paris for a year and a half, I pretty much decided that certain foods were now part of memory, bread in particular. (And happily realized tout suit that this area has ingredients France doesn't have--corn to die for, better ice cream, heirloom tomatoes, zebra tomatoes, kielbasa, better apples, maple anything, its own outstanding potatoes, decent bakeries, great beer--oui, especially great beer). In Paris, my husband and I had lived between two outstanding bakeries--Gosselin and Eric Kayser. One was Michaelangelo; the other Leonardo. We particularly favored Kayser's soughdough batard--crusty, chewy, yeasty, hole-y. Au revoir Paris batard.

Then yesterday, while on an Italian sausage mission at Serio's on State St. in Northampton, I felt a powerful bread force pull me into the crosswalk to a charming brick building across the street. It was late in the day and all the specialty breads were gone. But there were still about a half dozen of their batards left. (This is a HEAVY bread, not too sexy looking--solid oblong loaf-y loaf.) So I got one. Five bucks. Ouch.

But well worth it since I never got around to making dinner. Once home--not sure I ever took off my jacket--I got out our big wooden breadboard and strong bread knife and applied some muscle to the crust and sliced through. Just the slicing process transported me back to France! Then I bit into it sans butter, oil, or anything. I could've closed my eyes and been back at the kitchen counter at the apartment we lived in in Paris. We never could wait to bring bread to the table. This had the same correct amount of sourness, crustiness, density, yet loads of air holes so essential to any kind of bread. "How do they do that dense/air thing?" Pretty soon my husband and I were standing at this kitchen counter with glasses of red wine and a hunk of outstanding local cheddar cheese from Serio's. We devoured all but the heel of the batard.

This morning I called Hungry Ghost in between slices of the heel, which I slathered with raspberry jam--told the guy who answered this was right up there with the astounding Eric Kayser batard. Then I licked raspberry jam from my fingers so I wouldn't smudge my keyboard and typed this paen to Northampton's French batard.

Nov 12, 2009
scribos in Southern New England