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Lunch before CT Wine Trail

This actually might solve all my problems:

There is going to be a CT Wine festival on the day we we're planning on going! Might not need a lunch rec if they're serving decent food inside.

Jul 01, 2010
AriB in Southern New England

Lunch before CT Wine Trail

Thanks for the feedback! I clearly have my work cut out for me in selecting which vineyards to visit.

I spent my birthday last year with my SO traveling from vineyard to vineyard on the North Fork, and it was wonderful. I assumed CT would be similar in that the vineyards were moderately close together. As soon as I figure out a route, I'll update for lunch suggestions that are close by!

Jun 29, 2010
AriB in Southern New England

Lunch before CT Wine Trail

For my birthday this August I'm inviting a small group of friends to join me for an afternoon of wine tasting on the CT Wine Trail. The goal is not for people to become wasted, so I'd like to have everyone meet for a nice (and moderately priced) sit down lunch before hand.

Here's what I'm looking for:

(1) I'm coming from New York and most of my friends are coming from Massachusetts. Where is a nice "meet in the middle" place (Hartford, perhaps?), not too far from the wine trail, for lunch? Looking for something a little more substantial than sushi, yet not as heavy as burgers. I like all cuisines, but am partial to New American and French right now. No more than $20 pp would be ideal.

(2) While I'm not vegetarian, some of my friends are. The place should have more than one veggie-friendly option.

(3) Unrelated to lunch, what are your favorite vineyards on the Wine Trail? I've never been to any of these vineyards before, but I'm partial to full-bodied wines (not really a fan of sweet or dessert wines). Don't worry, I'll do my research, but figured I'd ask for opinions while I'm here.

Thank you in advance!

Jun 22, 2010
AriB in Southern New England

Your 2010 "Must Try" List

Here's to hoping I make a serious dent in this list!

Al Di La
Bar Boulud
Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Blue Ribbon Bakery
Burger Joint
Corner Bistro
Fatty Cue
Gramercy Tavern
Great NY Noodle Town
Henry's End
Le Bernardin
The Little Owl
Luke's Lobster
Ma Peche
The Mermaid Inn
Mientta Tavern
Perry St
Peter Luger (only had a burger there)
Sushi Yasuda
This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef

Jun 21, 2010
AriB in Manhattan

Tampa Breakfast - parents meeting

Thanks for all the recs! I'm surprised no one has mentioned Lenny's. Is that no longer tasty? I used to go there for Sunday brunch with my family when I still lived in Tampa.

We frequently eat at Cheesecake Factory (I can't help it, it's so tasty!), so I'm looking for something a little different. Also, I had no idea there was a Seasons in Tampa, just new about the one in Altamonte. Thanks for the tips!

Mar 31, 2010
AriB in Florida

Tampa Breakfast - parents meeting

Looking for a nice breakfast or brunch in Tampa for my parents to finally meet my fiancé's parents. Nothing too fancy, I'd like to keep it around or less than $15/per person. Hoping to stay in or around the airport, Westshore, or Rocky Point area. Please advise!

Mar 24, 2010
AriB in Florida

Zabb -- new menu? new ownership?

Went to Zabb tonight to check out the new menu. Let me say upfront that I know nothing about Esan Thai food. My fiancé and I were surprised to see how different the new menu is. I was a big fan of the noodle dishes at Zabb, but alas they are no more. I ended up getting chinese broccoli and crispy pork, for sake of comparison. We had ordered that a few times in the past and enjoyed it. The dish was served with white rice, though I think that was only at my request. There were a few pieces of pork that were inedible, but otherwise the flavor was nice. I didn't specify a heat level (and our waiter didn't ask me), and consequently the dish was a little too spicy for my taste. My SO ordered the duck larb (something he'd never tried before) with sticky rice and a Thai iced tea. His dish wasn't as spicy as he'd like, but he wasn't sure about the heat level given the new management -- he ordered "medium" when he typically orders "hot"... Maybe we're just not fans of that dish, but it wasn't anything special.

We will sorely miss the wonderful dishes we so frequently enjoyed at Zabb. At least the service is still friendly!

Zabb Elee
71-28 Roosevelt Ave, Queens, NY 11372

Mar 17, 2010
AriB in Outer Boroughs

When to get to Clinton Street Baking Co.?

In the past, I've arrived around 9:15 (drove in from Queens) and then sat in the car and waited until 10 when the open. Bring a newspaper, you'll be fine.

Dec 25, 2009
AriB in Manhattan

Venus Restaurant in Easthampton, MA

I went about two weeks ago with a few girlfriends on a Friday evening. We went downstairs and ordered some drinks and a couple appetizers. The cheese plate was lovely.. St. Andre cheese, some bread, and a great minced apple topping. We also got the mediterranean app. Everything was tasty (hummus, olives, roasted red peppers) except for the eggplant. It had an overwhelming smoky flavor. That was the most disappointing part of the meal, though, so not bad!

Once upstairs, we ordered the house paté and an order of escargots. The paté was delicious, but the star of the evening were those escargots! They were served out of their shell in a bourguigon sauce with mushrooms that was to DIE for! We were using our spoons to get at the rest of the sauce! We were also brought an amuse bouche of curried chicken salad (yum!) and a mango chai palate cleanser. So tasty.

For our mains we ordered: hazelnut crusted trout, monkfish, and a special of the evening -- lamb shank. All of these were amazing, especially the monkfish. It melted in your mouth. The lamb would be perfect on a cold evening, though.

We were too full for dessert, but needless to say we will be returning again soon.

Here's a link to the website:

Nov 30, 2009
AriB in All New England Archive

Summer '09 Restaurant Week - plans, reviews

Gramcery Tavern is participating for the week of July 13-17. I called yesterday to grab a lunch reservation and they were completely full. We're on the waiting list, but now have a reservation at Park Avenue Summer.

Should we look elsewhere?

Jul 01, 2009
AriB in Manhattan

5 Napkin Burger

Agreed - Marseille is fabulous!

Jun 21, 2009
AriB in Manhattan

5 Napkin Burger

Went last night for the first time with some friends. Two of us had the original 5 napkin burger (comte cheese, caramelized onions, rosemary aioli) and two had the cheddar bacon burger. They are HUGE (10 oz. each) and definitely required napkins, but I'd say it was more grease than juice. Meat was loosely packed and cooked to order, though, so that was nice. Didn't try them, but onion rings looked great.

Jun 19, 2009
AriB in Manhattan

Is Union Square Cafe still good?

I really enjoy their polenta with gorgonzola and walnuts. I remember the foie being tasty, too.

Jun 05, 2009
AriB in Manhattan

Soft Shell Crab on the Menu

I think it depends entirely on the size of the crab. In general, they're pretty small, but a lot of restaurants serve you two SSC per order -- Perilla does. I also had a Po Boy-style SSC sandwich at Dumont Burger in Brooklyn last weekend. For a single serving of SSC, it was huge!

Definitely give one a try and let us know if you enjoy it!

Jun 05, 2009
AriB in Manhattan

Soft Shell Crab on the Menu

I had a wonderful SSC at Perilla about three weeks ago. It had Thai-influenced flavor and was meaty and delicious. I highly recommend this dish!

Jun 04, 2009
AriB in Manhattan

Review - dinner at Tocqueville

The sad part is we were *really* looking forward to dining there. I'm a graduate student (and a foodie) and Degustation is a very affordable option for a unique tasting menu. I might try calling the restaurant tomorrow just to let the management know about the situation, but I do hope we'll make it there in the future.

Jun 02, 2009
AriB in Manhattan

Spoleto (Restaurant Week '09) - Northampton

Not as bad as we thought, but not great either.

I've lived in Northampton for almost a year now and had not yet been to Spoleto. Every review I've read has compared it to an overpriced, not-worth-it Olive Garden (which I'm not a fan of). My SO and I were going to try Bistro Les Gras last night until we realized that they aren't open on Monday's...

We have eaten at all of the other restaurants offering special prix fixe menus, so we thought we'd give Spoleto a shot. We actually ordered off of their regular 3-course $20 menu instead -- there was more variety.

Apps: Angel hair crab cake with chipotle pepper mayo. This wasn't bad, per se, but you couldn't get much of a crab flavor. The chipotle pepper sauce was a nice accompaniment, though. Smallish portion. SO ordered the grilled calamari with cherry peppers. The calamari was cooked well, but the dish was so hot (flavor-wise) that he had a hard time tasting much of anything besides peppers.

Mains: I ordered the pecan-crusted salmon with garlic mashed potatoes and mesclun greens. The fish was cooked perfectly (a pleasant surprise!), but I didn't enjoy the flavor of the pecan with such a fatty fish. Everything else on the plate was fine. I didn't think the potatoes/greens were anything special, but there was a decent balsamic reduction with my fish that I enjoyed. Large portion, which was nice.

My SO ordered the pork medallion forestiere with spinach, garlic mashed potatoes, and a wild mushroom cream sauce. I didn't care for the flavor of his dish, but he thought it was decent. The spinach was actually the star of this plate, and surprisingly we don't think anything was done to it. It was nice fresh spinach that was left alone to wilt under the heat of the pork. Again, it was a pretty big portion.

Desserts: My creme brulee was tasty (nothing outstanding, though), but my biggest disappointment was the portion. The ramican wasn't big to begin with, but the custard itself was uneven. This might be nitpicky of me, but one side of creme brulee was about halfway up the ramican while the rest barely covered the bottom of the dish. Flavor was decent. We also had the chocolate espresso torte. This was a tiny sliver of what tasted like chocolate fudge. It was rich and dense and, to me, too much. Not bad flavor, though.

We're not rushing to return to Spoleto, but we did think that $20 was a good deal for the amount of food you receive.

Jun 02, 2009
AriB in All New England Archive

Green Street Cafe (Restaurant Week '09) - Northampton

Enjoyed a lovely meal this evening with good friends. For appetizers they were offering an asparagus soup, escargots (non-traditional, in parchment paper), a crab cake with remoulade, and a salad (though I forget what was on this). We ordered one of each. The crab cake was excellent! Not a lot of filler, just some red peppers. Nice crunch, and the remoulade was great.

I'm on a Spanish red wine kick, so we opted to order a bottle of Temperanillo from Balboa. Everyone thought this was delicious and reasonably priced ($30).

The catch of the day was Mahi Mahi served with a red pepper sauce, brussel sprouts, and mashed potatoes. Two of us ordered this entree, and it was easily the best dish of the evening. The fish was cooked perfectly and melted in your mouth. Nice size portion, too. My SO ordered a medium rare steak with horseradish cream and mashed potatoes. His steak was cooked perfectly and the sauce was very flavorful. Also ordered the chicken etouffe which came with asparagus (and probably potatoes, but I don't remember). Though there was nothing special to this dish (e.g., no sauce or fancy preparation), the chicken was cooked well and was very moist. Another success, in my opinion.

All of the desserts were exceptional. I had the caramel tarte, perfectly light and creamy with a buttery crust. This was served with homemade whipped cream. Delicious! There was a cardamom creme brulee that was a big hit with everyone else -- I'm not fond of that flavor. The goaty goat cheesecake with raspberry sauce was utterly creamy and satisfying. The goat cheese gave it a nice tang. Finally, someone ordered the flourless chocolate cake. While the flavor was intense and cocoa-y, to me it was a bit too heavy. I think this is personal preference, though, as I don't typically order rich, chocolate desserts.

We had never been to Green Street before, but loved the ambience and food. This was easily one of the best meals we've had in the valley -- I know we're all looking forward to returning soon.

Green Street Cafe
Northampton, MA, Northampton, MA

Jun 02, 2009
AriB in All New England Archive

Self-Guided 3 Day Food Tour

And now we will book our first meal at EMP.

May 31, 2009
AriB in Manhattan

Review - dinner at Tocqueville

Made reservations almost four weeks ago for dinner at Degustation. When I hadn't received a confirmation call the day before, I worried. Whoever took my information (a guy who spoke little English) never entered it into their book -- great! So now it's the day of my SO's 25th birthday and I have nowhere to take him. Word to the wise: if you want to dine at Degustation (but after this experience, I'm not rushing to go there), make reservations with someone who speaks English fluently. Ugh.

We ended up going to Tocqueville instead. Much more romantic and innovative, but a bit pricier. This, of course, was our own fault. We went for the five-course tasting ($95) and wine pairing ($60) instead of ordering a la carte.

While the service was wonderful and the food flavorful, my SO and I were not "wowed". As he said, there was no standout dish that would compel us to come back immediately. But again, it was all tasty.

Amuse: Gruyere gougeres, warm out of the oven - delightful. Next, they brought us goat cheese wrapped in a crispy beet shell... their version of a cannoli. We really enjoyed this, very sweet and creamy. Finally, a duo of tuna: tartare with blood orange sauce and a piece of lightly seared tuna with a pistachio purée. Excellent (one of the best dishes we tried).

Course 1: We requested foie. They served us a nice piece of terrine that was served with some toasted brioche, a rhubarb marmalade, and some thinly sliced beets. I really enjoyed this, though my SO was not blown away.

Course 2: Soft shell crab - one of my favorites! The crab was very meaty and came with some elephant garlic, fresh spring peas, and a few different reductions (parsley, some sweet balsamic-tasting sauce, and something else I can't quite remember). We had just had a delicious Thai-influenced soft shell crab at Perilla. My SO preferred Perilla while I thoroughly enjoyed Tocqueville.

Course 3: I was expecting beef or lamb, but instead we were served veal. Another winner -- this was very earthy and packed with flavor. Accompanied by a carrot purée, fava beans, shallots, morel mushrooms, and a delicious veal jus.

Course 4: Piece of bleu cheese (can't remember from where) served with cinnamon raison bread, quince jam, honeycomb, and rhubarb jelly. When the dish was placed in front of me, I thought there was no way these flavors would go well together. I was wrong, somehow it worked. Individually, however, I thought the condiments were too sweet.

Course 5: The never-ending desserts. I was served a chocolate tasting plate with five variations. My SO was served a passion fruit dish with lots of fresh fruit and a few types of sorbet. They also brought out a sorbet plate with five flavors present: chocolate, raspberry, lime, lemon, and coconut. As if that wasn't enough, they also brought us their delightful date cake complete with a lit candle and "Happy 25th Birthday" on the plate. The date cake was our favorite.

To end the meal, we were brought a selection of cookies and small treats. It was strange that no one offered to bring us coffee or tea (even though we saw other tables being served). I guess if we really wanted some we could have asked for it ourselves.

One thing I can say for sure is that if you dine at Tocquville you will NOT leave hungry. The portions were HUGE, really. Not to mention the unending bread, gougeres, different amuses, and dessert. Overall, an enjoyable (albeit, expensive) meal.

May 30, 2009
AriB in Manhattan

Perilla - Three outstanding meals!

My SO and I have been to Perilla on three separate occasions (twice within the last week) and had truly memorable meals. Service is friendly and efficient.

Brunch this morning with the grandparents: Our meal began with complimentary passion fruit-chocolate muffins. These were delicious, although we couldn't really taste the passion fruit. They were nice and buttery, though. Not too heavy.

I ordered the corned beef hash and eggs. The corned beef had the texture of pulled pork. I have high standards for corned beef hash -- any recs for best in the city?? -- but this was quite tasty. Served with a piece of toast, some mustard, and cornichon pickles.

My SO ordered the shrimp and grits.. this was far and away the best dish from brunch! The grits were creamy and buttery, the shrimp wasn't overcooked. All the flavors went really well together! There was also a deep fried egg.. yum. The grandparents both ordered the French omelet of the day. It was filled with ricotta, spinach, and mushrooms. I didn't try this, but they seemed to enjoy it.

Along with these we also ordered bacon and toast to share. The bacon was thick and smokey. I highly recommend ordering a side! The toast was served with a side of homemade cherry-grape preserves, a big hit with the grandparents. As if this wasn't enough, we splurged and ordered dessert. The rhubarb sorbet cake was delicious as always -- tastes like a gourmet pb&j! We also got an order of the vanilla scented doughnuts. They were filled with a key lime custard and served with a coconut shot on the side. I don't do coconut, but the doughnuts were really great! The key lime was refreshing and made the yeast doughnut seem less heavy.

Last week we tried their lamb belly (truly melt in your mouth amazing!), the almond crusted soft shell crab (a delightful Thai-influenced flavor), and the roasted duck breast (good, but not the best). They had a special strawberry shortcake dessert that evening which was quite good (though not as good as the rhubarb cake).

With all the variety NY has to offer, we don't frequently visit the same restaurant in such a short time period, but to quote my SO, this is easily becoming one of our favorite restaurants in the city! If you haven't been there, I highly suggest you give it a try!

Report from Valentine's Day:

Trying Degustation for the first time Friday evening... will report back!

May 25, 2009
AriB in Manhattan

Perilla - Valentine's Day 2009

Wonderful meal last night! Having never been to Perilla, we weren't sure what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised by how down to earth and homey it felt.

Apps: foie gras torchon and spicy duck meatballs. The foie was incredibly creamy and not overpowered by the other flavors on the plate. I had read so much about the duck meatballs that I had to order them.. they did not disappoint! They were moist and had a nice heat. Love the quail egg served with them.

Entrées: grilled rack of Colorado lamb and bacon-wrapped game hen. The lamb was a perfect medium rare -- probably the best lamb my SO and I have had in Manhattan. Flavorful, juicy, succulent... I could go on. The sides that came with lamb (orzo risotto, rainbow chard, and goat's milk butter) were also tasty, but paled in comparison. The bacon-wrapped game hen was (to me) overpowered by the bacon, but my SO seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. This was served with spaetzle, chestnuts, persimmons, and pomegranate molasses. Great textures going on there.

Desserts: red velvet cake and opera cake. My red velvet cake was overall just ok (but I'm a tough critic and compare all red velvet to Buttercup). The "cream cheese" frosting tasted more like vanilla, and I was NOT a fan of the beet sauce. I thought strawberry or raspberry would have tasted better, but I'm not a Top Chef, so... the black walnut ice cream and caramel chip were lovely, though. The opera cake was a hit! My SO finished his plate, so it must've been good..

Service was friendly and attentive. I'm sad that it took us this long to make a trip down to Perilla. We'll definitely return soon!

9 Jones Street, New York, NY 10014

Feb 15, 2009
AriB in Manhattan

Tocqueville RW dinner, nice surprise

Sounds delicious! I've been wanting to try Tocqueville for a while now. Glad you had a nice RW experience!

Jan 26, 2009
AriB in Manhattan

Food 101 review - South Hadley

My SO and I finally made it here tonight. Started with two appetizers: a) braised short ribs with caramelized onions and a port reduction, and b) seared ahi tuna over arugula with a sun-dried tomato and olive tapenade.

The short ribs were phenomenal! Two very large ribs that were unbelievably tender and juicy. The port reduction was a perfect accompaniment. And for the price (I think the plate was $11), you really can't beat this. Some of the best short ribs we've ever had -- and we've had quite a bit.

The tuna was much more delicate in flavor. Perfectly seared, rare, and not overpowered by the stronger flavors of the sun-dried tomatoes and olives. The arugula added a nice peppery bite. My SO would have liked a little more texture on the dish, but overall we agreed that this was another successful dish (~$10).

We shared an entrée of a 5-spice caramelized duck breast with roasted green beans and sauteed new potatoes (~$25). We appreciated that even without being asked, the duck was brought out medium rare. The flavors were spot on, but we would have liked the skin to have been a little crispier. Strings beans were fine, albeit nothing special. The roasted potatoes were cooked perfectly and had a creamy texture. Another great dish!

We ordered two glasses of wine (a Malbec and a Cab Sav) that were moderately priced. The glasses were generous.

Dessert: I had a white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake -- this was too heavy and a bit sweet, but I loved the graham cracker crust and fresh fruit that came with it. My SO ordered a chocolate mousse cake which was also served with fresh fruit and a raspberry sauce. Normally I don't order mousse as a dessert because they're too heavy, but this was relatively light. His dessert was definitely better.

While the service was neither stellar nor poor, we will anxiously return for more delicious food!

What are other "must try" dishes? Are there any other restaurants in the Valley that are comparable to Food 101?

Jan 24, 2009
AriB in Southern New England

Dos Caminos - Restaurant Week review

I'll agree that the food is a bit overpriced, but based on our visit I'd say we were happy to pay a little more for the good food and excellent service we received. It's unfortunate that so many people disagree.

Jan 24, 2009
AriB in Manhattan

Dos Caminos - Restaurant Week review

Wow, I'm sorry to hear your experience was so different than mine! I wonder if some of the discrepancies are based on location.

In the past I have read mediocre reviews on Chow, but the menu always grabbed my attention. I'm very glad we went last week... after our next visit, I will report back on whether the food/service are consistent (I really hope they are).

Jan 24, 2009
AriB in Manhattan

What's the plan for restaurant week?

I ordered the steak with blue cheese flan, as well, last RW. I've got to agree -- it was amazing! One of the best RW experiences I've had.

Jan 21, 2009
AriB in Manhattan

Dos Caminos - Restaurant Week review

Don't walk, RUN to Dos Caminos on 3rd Ave for their Restaurant Week specials! My SO and I decided to go last night on a whim and had no problems getting reservations an hour in advance (though when we arrived they appeared to be at almost full capacity).

Let me start by saying that I haven't had service this spot on in a LONG time! Our waiter was excellent. He offered additional information about the restaurant week menu freely, but was at no time pushy.

We started off with an order of guacamole, accompanied by chips and a trio of dipping sauces. The guac was pretty delicious. My SO ordered a ceviche trio and I opted for the prix-fixe. The ceviche was overall very refreshing. There were three different preparations: tuna (excellent, the best of the three), shrimp (very tender, not overpowered), and red snapper (the flavor of the fish got a little lost from all the lime juice). Overall verdict: he'd order it again.

I began with an appetizer of beef short rib taquitos - yum! These were two very large taquitos overflowing with beef ribs and, oh god, that mole sauce! If no one else was around I would have licked the plate clean. Also topped with some version of sour cream (toasted sesame crema) and diced tomatoes. Really a fantastic dish.. would have been sufficient as an entree for me.

I was going to order their pan seared red snapper as my main, but it had grapefruit which I don't really like so I opted for more steak. (Had I known the portion sizes, I would've ordered differently.) Grilled hanger steak, medium rare, with roasted sweet peppers and a side of bacon mashed potatoes. The flavors were again really delicious. The texture of the steak (though cooked perfectly) was a little chewy, but otherwise I enjoyed this dish. Couldn't finish it, portion was too large.

Our waiter had sold us on the "Warm Mexican Chocolate Cake" for dessert (before dinner) as he described the molten cake and the special "pampantla" vanilla bean used in the ice cream. We were excited. Bad news, though. He came over after we finished our entrees and told us they were out of it for the evening. He was very nice about it and handled the situation correctly: he let me order a dessert off of the regular menu instead. We opted for a caramel apple cake, which was unbelievably good! Very unique flavor. We didn't miss the chocolate cake at all, and were not the least bit upset.

A few minutes went by and the manager came over and apologized for running out of the chocolate cake. We assured her that it wasn't a problem, we enjoyed our entire meal. She wasn't satisfied, so she gave us an "I owe you" card and told us that we absolutely had to return to try the pastry chef's chocolate molten cake, on the house!

With service like this, we will DEFINITELY be returning... and soon!

Dos Caminos
825 3rd Avenue, New York, NY 10022

Jan 21, 2009
AriB in Manhattan

Current prices for Le Cinq?

Thank you for explaining! I'm sure whatever we choose will be delicious and worth the price!

Jan 21, 2009
AriB in France

Current prices for Le Cinq?

Made reservations for dinner in March, but can't find definitive prices. Could someone provide both LUNCH and DINNER tasting prices? Do the prices include gratuity? How much would a bottle or two of moderately priced wine set me back? Thanks!

Jan 20, 2009
AriB in France