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Twilight at Morningside

Welcome to  Twilight at Morningside. This blog is dedicated to all my weekend adventures, but…there’s an awful lot of food photographs on here. I’m still committed to more armchair travel posts, so look for more globetrotting in the near future.  Feel free to say hello in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.
cheers, liz

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‘Pick Your Own’ Strawberries at Jones Family Farm

June 24th, 2015

When Father’s Day approaches, it’s also my reminder that strawberry season is near. It’s been a few year since I’ve gone to pick berries, but last week we got lucky with an cool overcast day and returned to Jones Family Farm in Shelton. Admittedly, I got carried away and came home with WAY more berries than we could ever eat. We didn’t […]

 

Pick your own strawberries at Jones Farm in Shelton, CT
Pick your own strawberries at Jones Farm in Shelton, CT
When Father’s Day approaches, it’s also my reminder that strawberry season is near. It’s been a few year since I’ve gone to pick berries, but last week we got lucky with an cool overcast day and returned to Jones Family Farm in Shelton. Admittedly, I got carried away and came home with WAY more berries than we could ever eat. We didn’t stop picking until our “berry box” was filled close to the brim! And while $30 felt like a steal for so much locally grown fruit, I still had to figure out WHAT TO DO WITH 11 LBS of STRAWBERRIES!

Pick your own strawberries at Jones Farm in Shelton, CT

Want to head out on your own strawberry picking adventure?
Here are a few tips to consider before heading out to the Jones Family Farm:

  1. Call before you go!
    Always call ahead to the Farmer Jones Crop Line (203-929-8425)  to be sure the fields are open. We picked at Pumpkinseed Hill Farm, though Valley Farm was also open. Listen for the street address for your GPS. There are multiple locations for the fields, depending on the season. At other times of the year, you’ll find blueberries, pumpkins, Christmas trees and a winery!
  2. Consider the weather.
    If you have the option, I recommend going on an overcast day. There is no shade in the strawberry field and though picking goes relatively quickly, even an hour in the blazing June sun can be tough.  As an added bonus, outdoor photos are often much better when it’s overcast and there aren’t deep shadows caused by overhead sunlight!
  3. Dress appropriately.
    You’re visiting a farm. Sensible, closed-toed shoes are a good idea. There is hay in the aisles between the berries, but after a rain, there is a chance of mud. I also don’t recommend wearing anything white or that could be ruined by a red berry stain. No matter how hard I try, I always seem to leave the field with a red splotch somewhere on my clothes.
  4. What should I bring? 
    • A checkbook or cash. No credit cards accepted. Our filled box was about 11 lbs and just shy of $30. There is a discounted price per pound, if you pick over 8 lbs in one box.
    • A hat, sunscreen, bottle of water and anything else you might like to battle the full sun (if it’s a hot summer day). Leave as much as you can in the car. You’ll be picking low to the ground. Don’t saddle yourself with bags or other items to track while you’re in the field.
  5. What happens once I arrive?
    • Jones Farm supplies a long rectangular “berry box” with a handle or small quart baskets.
      • You’ll receive a credit if you re-use your box on a future visit.
      • If you’re going with kids, get them each a quart basket and have them consolidate their berries into the main large berry box before you leave the field.
    • Hop on the “berry ferry” which will give you a short ride out to the field. Once there, Jones Farm staff will direct you to your own row of berries to pick.
    • Before you start picking, take a minute and honestly consider how many berries you can use in the short term (or freeze).
    • Time to pick! Lift up the green leaves and you’ll see the ripe red berries beneath. Gently pinch the strawberry stem slightly above the berry. If you pick your entire row and still want more berries, you can ask to be assigned to another row.
    • When you’re done, you can walk back to the checkout building near the entrance or take another ride on the Berry Ferry. If you’re carrying more than a few pounds of berries, I recommend catching a ride, even though it’s not a long walk.
  6. Storing your berries.
    Get your berries into the fridge or freezer as quickly as you can. Once picked, strawberries are highly perishable and do not stand up well in extreme heat.
  7. How long does strawberry season last? 
    This varies from year to year, but typically strawberry season is winding down by the end of June. Blueberry season is up next, often starting around the 4th of July. Again, be sure to call the crop hotline to get the latest updates.

Pick your own strawberries at Jones Farm in Shelton, CT

What became of all these berries? Some were destined for the freezer. I also decided to bake a few strawberry-rhubarb pies. I sourced local rhubarb from Rose’s Berry – vendors at the Saturday Downtown Milford Farmers’ Market. For a recipe, I turned the ever reliable Smitten Kitchen and was pleased with the suggestion to use tapioca to firm up the fruit filling.

Happy picking! If you’ve got a favorite strawberry recipe or another PYO tip, I’d love to hear it in the comments section.

Jones Family Farm
Strawberry season (typically mid-late June)
Shelton, Connecticut
www.jonesfamilyfarm.com

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Postcard from Charleston

February 12th, 2015

Ahh the Ashley River, from the banks of Lowndes Plantation. I often find myself daydreaming about Charleston, South Carolina. Its historic homes, its Southern charm – plus I can never get enough of the Lowcountry landscape.  In mid-October we found ourselves in Charleston for a 3rd visit. Seven days of picture perfect, sunny, 70 degree weather! While it’s unusual […]

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Lowndes Grove Plantation

Ahh the Ashley River, from the banks of Lowndes Plantation.
I often find myself daydreaming about Charleston, South Carolina. Its historic homes, its Southern charm – plus I can never get enough of the Lowcountry landscape.  In mid-October we found ourselves in Charleston for a 3rd visit. Seven days of picture perfect, sunny, 70 degree weather! While it’s unusual for us to fly the same city so many times, we have happily witnessed the arrival of more and more great food & drink options over the past few years. I’m grateful we had an entire week to get to know Charleston a little better. Once my work obligations ended, we found ourselves eating well – visiting old favorites and finding several new ones.

Two oyster spots opened up since our last trip.
As big fans of FIG on our last visit, we wanted to try Mike Lata’s  The Ordinary. But it’s not open for lunch, and I wasn’t sure anyone wanted to to see a toddler at happy hour, so we went with Leon’s Oyster Shop instead.

Leon's Oyster Shop

Leon's Oyster Shop

Leon's Oyster Shop

Leon's Oyster Shop

Leon's Oyster Shop

Leon's Oyster Shop

Leon's Oyster Shop

Traveling with a toddler means you need a place to burn off some of that endless 1 yr old energy.
After scanning a map of the city, I quickly noticed the 60+ acre Hampton Park. It’s a beautiful spot to get outdoors for a picnic,  stroll or a run.

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Very close to Hampton Park, you’ll find The Park Cafe. It’s one of those unexpected gems – a comfortable neighborhood spot, serving up great food. I wish we had something like it here in my hometown in Connecticut. In concept, it reminds me a little of Sugar and Olives in Norwalk, CT. We liked it so much, we returned for a second breakfast later in the trip.

Park Cafe, Charleston

Park Cafe, Charleston

Park Cafe, Charleston

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Here we are, back at The Glass Onion, chasing down Southern staples like gumbo and okra. I love the Glass Onion. If I’m in Charleston, eating here is a priority. It’s a casual spot, but the food is fantastic. You’ll need a car, but the quick drive from downtown is well-worth it. It’s a small parking lot, so we like to visit on the early – or late – side of lunch or dinner.

Glass Onion, Charleston

Glass Onion, Charleston

Bowens Island Restaurant is even a little further afield (about a 30 min drive from Downtown Charleston), but I’ve always wanted to try this Lowcountry mecca for seafood. It’s truly a dive, but we loved the view, the oysters and even the somewhat surly oyster cook in the dungeon-like area below the restaurant. Like true rookies we sat out on the deck for sunset and got eaten alive by bugs the second the sun dropped below the horizon, but we still enjoyed every second of our experience.

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There’s still a little effort involved with getting to your oysters at Bowens Island, but certainly nothing as difficult as shucking a raw oyster. I usually don’t like “working” for my meal, but I found this to be just enough of a challenge to make the entire oyster experience even more fun.

Bowen's Island Restaurant

Wiser customers, eating inside the enclosed main dining area.

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And down in the basement, the oyster cook hard at work.

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If you enjoy eating at The Place in Guilford, CT and you like oysters, Bowens Island is for you.

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We visited a plantation on our last trip, so this time we decided to stop at Charles Towne Landing instead. There’s a lot of ground to cover at this historic site on the Ashley River and we didn’t grasp its size until after we set off on foot.  There are bikes available for rent and I’d definitely recommend it – looks like a great way to explore.

Charles Towne Landing

Charles Towne Landing

Taking a break from downtown Charleston, we drove over to Sullivan’s Island and headed for a playground across the street from the Obstinate Daughter. We had no luck calling for a last minute reservation, but instead got lucky, walking up right as it opened.

Obstinate Daughter

Obstinate Daughter

Obstinate Daughter

Obstinate Daughter

We started with pizza for the little one and tried a few other small plates.

Obstinate Daughter

Obstinate Daughter

During our comings and goings in the car, we kept noticing a little park not far from our Marion Square apartment. Our last night in Charleston, we made sure to walk through Wragg Square on our way to dinner.

Wragg Square

Wragg Square

Our final meal in Charleston was at Xiao Bao Biscuit and was pleasantly surprised to find myself ranking it among my favorite meals in the city. While I was planning our trip, I kept ruling out any kind of Asian food while we were down South, but this menu is full of surprises from Japan, China and Vietnam and I’d recommend this hip, relaxed spot to anyone. It’s situated in a former gas station (much like Fuel, which is just a block away). We were wowed by XBB’s beautiful cocktails  – both in appearance and taste. And for our early dinner, our small plates came out of the kitchen at lightning fast speed. This spot gets quite a bit of national press and I can easily understand why!

Xiao Bao Biscuit

Xiao Bao Biscuit

Xiao Bao Biscuit

 

Xiao Bao Biscuit

The okonomiyaki: Order it and don’t forget the add-ons.

Xiao Bao Biscuit

Xiao Bao Biscuit

 

Xiao Bao Biscuit

A few more stops.
sorry – no photos (aka: I didn’t want to carry my dSLR)

  • Outta my Huevos Food Truck
    Find them at the Saturday Farmers’ Market in Marion Square
  • Butcher & Bee
    If we had dined here earlier in the trip, I’m sure we would have been back again for lunch or the late night menu. The last time I ate a sandwich this good it was at Bunk in PDX.
  • Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit
    Get your hot little biscuit sandwiches served up in this sliver of a retail space. Do not leave without Callie’s awesome pimento cheese.
  • Glazed
    So you just got at biscuit at Callie’s. Glazed is right across the street, calling your name. I’m sure you’ll still have room for a doughnut, especially one with a maple glaze and bacon.
  • Minero
    When we arrived in Charleston, Chef Sean Brock was in town promoting his new cookbook, Heritage and had recently opened up a new casual Mexican eatery.  We stopped in at this spot off-hours and grabbed a cocktail and a few tacos. We would have been back for more, but we spent most of our time further north.
  • Fuel
     Like Xiao Bao Biscuit this fun eatery was once a gas station and has a great casual vibe. We loved the outdoor seating, what a perfect perch to hang out and watch Sunday football with friends. I repeat, why can’t we have more spots like this in Connecticut?!
  • Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream
    I love splurging on Jeni’s when it’s in stock at Whole Foods, but this was my first opportunity to visit one of the retail shops for this charming brand. I found out it’s really difficult to make a decision when faced with so many sweet options.
  • Sweeteeth chocolate
    On a whim, I picked up a Sweeteeth bar at Caviar & Bananas. I held it in reserve until a few weeks after the trip and I deeply regret not stockpiling an ample supply of these chocolate bars. Moral of the story: don’t just buy one.(PS: While you’re at the George Street location, Charleston Bloody Mary mix is another local favorite)

If you’ve traveled with me, then you know I love my Google Maps. Click on the little square icon on the top left corner to see my Charleston picks in list format.

Finally, a few more recommendations if you’re considering a trip to Charleston:

One final shoutout to Janie of Life Writing Photography who shot a quick set of family photos for us. We did a 30 min session at Rainbow Row and couldn’t have been happier. This is just the ticket for anyone who’s always taking the vacation photos, but who never winds up in any of them (aka: me)

Life Writing Photography

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Lunch at Kawa Ni in Westport

January 29th, 2015

Have you been to Kawa Ni in Westport? It’s the latest sibling in the Westport le Farm and Whelk restaurant family. Kawa Ni appeared on the scene in August and I love that it’s open for lunch – even on Saturday!  If you’re thinking about dinner, know that they’re currently offering a “call before you leave and we’ll add you […]

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Kawa Ni in Westport
Have you been to Kawa Ni in Westport? It’s the latest sibling in the Westport le Farm and Whelk restaurant family. Kawa Ni appeared on the scene in August and I love that it’s open for lunch – even on Saturday!  If you’re thinking about dinner, know that they’re currently offering a “call before you leave and we’ll add you to a wait list” system. I’ll happily take that over a flat “no reservations” policy. Kawa Ni is small (40 seats), and it’s often hoppin’ in the evenings – especially the weekend. I know because we’ve tried stopping in for a drink after dinner at the Whelk, and found it impossibly crowded. Always double check the hours before you hop in the car, just to be on the safe side.

On to the food…

First up at lunch: a plate of karaage.  Really, you can’t go wrong with fried chicken.
If you’re eating with friends or family, it’s fun to share a few plates and explore the Yushoku section of the menu.

kawa-ni-westport-03-fried-chicken

If you’re unsure of what to try, ramen is easy place to start.
You’ll get a steaming hot bowl of noodles topped with locally-sourced ingredients.

kawa-ni-westport-04-brisket-ramen

kawa-ni-westport-05-butternut
Now that that Kawa Ni’s had a few months to settle in and serve up its take on Japanese cuisine, a few friends have mentioned to me that they are unsure of what to order. Kawa Ni is an izakaya-inspired restaurant. What does that mean, exactly? An izakaya is a Japanese drinking establishment that also serves up small plates of food.  So you’d expect a serious focus on drinks and we’re happy to find our friend, Jeff Marron behind the bar. He’s offering up a nice cocktail selection and several variations of the Kawa Ni signature drink, the sake bomb. These make a fine start when you arrive, but I’ve I found I prefer just sake with my meal. Cold sake, all the way. 

kawa-ni-westport-02-sake

Have no fear, I promise we’ll get back there to photograph more of the cocktail menu.

My family is Japanese, so many of the dishes and ingredients at Kawa Ni are familiar to me. Since there aren’t many Japanese restaurants serving up traditional flavors beyond just sushi/hibachi here in Connecticut, I can understand the uncertainty in navigating the menu. My first recommendation: talk to your server. If you need help, they can elaborate on any ingredient or preparation. Go to any of Chef Taibe’s restaurants, you’ll notice that all his servers are well-trained and extremely knowledgeable. As soon as I’ve made a first pass scanning menu, I like to ask what’s new and what we shouldn’t miss.

Check out a sample menu and you’ll have some idea what to expect.  Just don’t get too attached to any one dish. The menu changes frequently, as dictated by seasonal availability.  In case it helps, the current menu structure breaks down like this:

Kawa Ni menu sample

Yushoku: If you’re dining with someone else, start off by sharing a few of these plates to round out your meal.

Onigiri: I grew up calling them musubi, but whatever the name – they are really just rice balls with different toppings/fillings.

Sashimi: If you enjoying eating raw fish (hold the rice) at your favorite sushi bar or crudo at the Whelk, this section is for you.

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Donburi: Literally, a rice bowl. Another good place to start, if you like white rice. Japanese rice is a short grain, and a little on the sticky side compared to other varieties.

Men: Ramen is popping up everywhere these days. But at its core, it’s simply a noodle soup. If you like the other ingredients in the description- give it a try. The noodles have a different texture and thickness, so ask your server if you want to know more. And if you don’t like a lot of broth, consider the mazemen.

 

 

Enjoy your meal at Kawa Ni!
If you’ve got any favorites let me know so I can try them on my next visit!

Related:

More photos, please:
Kawa Ni preview

What’s the deal with ramen noodles?
Inside Sun Noodle, the Secret Weapon of America’s Best Ramen Shops

I want to try a traditional izakaya, but without getting on a flight to Japan:
Head to New York City. I like Sakagura (Midtown Manhattan, a short walk from Grand Central Terminal)

Where else can I get ramen in Fairfield County?
Mecha Noodle Bar  Brick Walk in Fairfield.
Kid-friendly. No reservations.

Any other recommendations for Japanese food in Connecticut?
Norimaki in Washingtown Depot
Get a dinner reservation, it’s long drive to Litchfield County

Miso 9th Square in New Haven
Sit at the sushi bar with Chef Jason Tay. Consider going omakase.
Or order the specials, they are expensive, but some of the finest sashimi I’ve eaten in Connecticut.

 

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Postcard from Portland, Maine

October 1st, 2014

We visit Portland in search of good food. While sorting through shots from our short visit to Maine, I found there isn’t much to share. Turns out, I haven’t quite learned how to wrangle a toddler and take photographs with a dSLR. Especially while dining out, I find either the camera or our food is […]


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We visit Portland in search of good food. While sorting through shots from our short visit to Maine, I found there isn’t much to share. Turns out, I haven’t quite learned how to wrangle a toddler and take photographs with a dSLR. Especially while dining out, I find either the camera or our food is one second away from being redirected into a dangerous or messy situation. Once I’m behind the lens, there’s no telling what mischief is now obscured.

So our activities were dictated by travel with a toddler… There are still a few glimpses into Portland to share. First stop, Pai Men Miyake, a spot brimming full of locals enjoying a bowl of ramen and other small bites. One of my favorites was the bowl of brussels sprouts.

We went in search of a bagel from Scratch Baking Co. Rookie mistake… Sunday at 10 am, the line was out the door. We gave up and took a drive around the quiet neighborhoods in South Portland. I could imagine living here!

Portland Head Light and a little rocky coastline. Scenic proof we were really in Maine! I know, we spend too much time in downtown Portland, chasing after our next meal.

After feeling right at home at Eventide Oyster Co, we went back for brunch the next day. In case you missed it, I wrote more about our experience here.


Traveling with Lily means I’m always on the lookout for a playground to burn off a little excess energy. Eastern Promenade is a great place for a walk on a sunny day, with or without kids.

We never miss a visit to Standard Baking Co.
Our breads and other sweets were made it a worthwhile stop, but the macaroons have a new recipe and I’m still morning the loss of its far superior predecessor.

Look up above Standard Baking and you’ll see the windows of Fore Street, a restaurant I’ve loved since our first visit to Portland. I’ve always wanted a seat a window table above the bakery and this time, my wish came true. It was all the more exciting because we were warmly welcomed by the restaurant, even with a 15 month old. There are no high chairs, but a noisy din – enough to mask any enthusiastic outbursts.  Lily sat on our lap and snacked on freeze dried fruit while we considered ourselves very lucky to dine at this wonderful restaurant again, this time as a family.

While walking off dinner with a stroll along the harbor, we chanced upon the brand new Nova Star ferry loading up for it’s overnight trip to Yarmouth. I’m anxious to see more of Canada and I had no idea this ferry service had just begun. Nova Scotia, I’ve got my eye on you!

As always – here are the ones that got away:

Miyake Diner (in transition)
Scratch Baking (bagels)
Vinland
Hunt & Alpine Club
Central Provisions

 

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Sport Hill Farm revisited

September 18th, 2014

Connecticut farm dinners have really grown in popularity and abundance the past 10 years, but a long-time favorite is my second Souterrain at Sport Hill Farm. It was an overcast afternoon, but I fondly remember a late Spring brunch in the greenhouse, surrounded by good friends. I had never been to this farm before, but to […]


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Connecticut farm dinners have really grown in popularity and abundance the past 10 years, but a long-time favorite is my second Souterrain at Sport Hill Farm. It was an overcast afternoon, but I fondly remember a late Spring brunch in the greenhouse, surrounded by good friends. I had never been to this farm before, but to me it has remained the most logical and beautiful backdrop for Bill Taibe’s movable feasts – more than any subsequent Souterrain location.  Living in Milford, I hardly find myself near Easton, CT, but frustrated that I’m always stuck at work and unable to attend the Westport Farmers’s Market, I decided to make a special trip back to Sport Hill Farm, while tomatoes and corn are enjoying an extended season.

If you’ve never met  farmer Patti Popp, she’s exhibits a knack for growing delicious food and a eye for the never-ending beauty in the cultivated world to which she tends. Just take a peek at Patti’s photos on instagram: @farmgal596. To top it off, she is a tireless educator and a gracious host. Thank you Patti for taking time out from your restaurant delivery prep to welcome Lily to the market.

Here, Patti’s offering up a lima bean for further inspection.
Lily is uncertain about touching these large beans!

The Sport Hill Farm market is a welcoming place for kids and has a toy farm + barnyard animals to keep little hands occupied while you browse the aisles!

Regardless of whether you have a little one in tow, the real reason to visit the farm is to stock up on flavorful, locally-grown produce and provisions. In season, the farm market is open daily (check the website or Facebook page for hours) and you’ll also find the farm gal’s smiling face at the Thursday Westport Farmers’ Market and the Saturday Black Rock Farmers’ Market.

Want to feed the chickens? Ask for a slice of bread at the market counter. After the bread was gone, Patti even brought out a hen for closer inspection!

Next we inquired about exploring the grounds surrounding the market. I was surprised when we went up the little embankment to see these plants that reminded me of mini palm/date trees. Upon closer inspection, I realized we had found a patch of dinosaur kale. Talk about know your farmer, know your food – it’s a little embarrassing I’ve never seen a lacinato kale plant before…

I couldn’t resist the cranberry beans. The pattern caught my eye, so I had to take a photo before the colors became muddled and murky on the stovetop. I’m not sure if this is odd, but I find it relaxing to shell beans (as long as they’re not favas). Without a recipe in mind, I bought a bagful and made a creamy bean dip.  If you find yourself with an eggplant and a bowl full of shelling beans (makes a great project to keep your little ones occupied) I noticed Patti featured this A Pinch of Salt recipe at the market.

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Madison Farmers’ Market

August 30th, 2014

August is amazing time when it comes to buying local in Connecticut. Summer serendipity is finding a farmers’ market setting up right in front of your previously scheduled plans. Luckily I had my camera in hand while attending my cousin’s relaxed wedding at the First Congregatioaln Church in Madison, CT. When the ceremony was over, […]


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August is amazing time when it comes to buying local in Connecticut. Summer serendipity is finding a farmers’ market setting up right in front of your previously scheduled plans.

Luckily I had my camera in hand while attending my cousin’s relaxed wedding at the First Congregatioaln Church in Madison, CT. When the ceremony was over, the Friday afternoon farmers’ market had opened up at the foot of the church. What a beautiful selection – if you’re in the area, it’s worth stocking up before the weekend begins! We managed a quick walk-through before continuing on to the wedding reception. I apologize – I wasn’t familiar with the vendors with the exception of Barberry Hill Farm (from Dinners at the Farm), but I couldn’t resists sharing the rainbow of colors I found that day.

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Eventide in Portland, ME

August 24th, 2014

When I think of Maine, my thoughts first veer to lobster. But on our most recent trip to Portland, we spent more of our time eating oysters. That’s mainly because we discovered Eventide. So how much do I love Eventide Oyster Co? So much, that we went there twice on our short two night stay […]

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When I think of Maine, my thoughts first veer to lobster. But on our most recent trip to Portland, we spent more of our time eating oysters. That’s mainly because we discovered Eventide. So how much do I love Eventide Oyster Co? So much, that we went there twice on our short two night stay in downtown Portland.

Maine is always just a little too far from Connecticut. For as much as I love the beautiful rocky coastline, it’s consistently more time than we’re willing to spend for a long weekend. Sadly, because of this it’s been 4 years since we last set foot in Portland.

Eventide wasn’t officially on my agenda. I hate to get my hopes up, as it’s often hard to tell where you can safely bring a toddler along without feeling out of place.  On our way to check-in at the hotel, I spied Eventide on the same block as famed Hugo’s Restaurant and immediately lobbied for a quick mid-afternoon snack to fill up the lull between lunch at Pai Men Miyake and our takeout dinner from DuckFat.

The hostess and servers were quite accommodating and welcoming to our little one – offering us a seat at a table inside and hustling through our order so we could get in (and out) in an hour!

About half the oyster selection hails from Maine, the other 50% a mix of West Coast and New England/PEI options. These are perfectly shucked and feature your choice of accoutrements.

While we enjoyed the variety of “ice” options (kim chee, pickled red onion, Tabasco), I find good oysters like these don’t need much else beyond a basic mignonette.  Just sampling these ices brought back memories of the divinely smooth and frosty champagne mignonette we remember fondly from Elliott’s in Seattle.

We were quite taken with the other bites on the menu, not to mention the fantastic ceramic barware to match the “island style” libations on offer. Below is the Fried Winter Point Oyster Bun and a Mai Tai!

Yellowfin tuna crudo

It’s not every day we’re in the land of lobstah, so a lobster roll was an absolute requirement at some point on this trip. Hailing from Connecticut, I am a fan of the hot buttered variety. Don’t get me started about the mayo…  It’s only natural we opted for the signature brown butter option delivered on Eventide’s steamed bun. Delicate and light, not too spongy or chewy (as so many of the poorly executed varieties often are), this bun makes a perfect vehicle for Eventide’s handheld offerings.

We loved the food and bright sunny atmosphere and before we left, we were already planning to return the next morning for brunch!

I’m not a huge fan of  breakfast or brunch. Heck, I never thought I’d find much delight in a breakfast sandwich. But this variation took this breakfast staple to something I wish I could eat weekly.  On the Eventide signature bun, it features a crispy pork belly and hard boiled egg. It’s a rare day when I get excited about anything featuring a hard boiled egg, but this is a great combination. Give it a try if you see it on the menu.

I often can’t remember what at oysters we’ve ordered, especially when we’re trying unfamiliar varieties.
I love it when oyster bars helpfully offer up a slip of paper to jog your memory. I found the practice more common out West, but while they are plenty of places who do give you a little crib sheet, I’ve found there are just as many who just issue the verbal rundown when the oysters arrive.

Eventide’s got that perfect mix of a oysters, cocktails, small bites all in a sunny and welcoming space to hang out with friends.  So Portland, this trip we upgraded, but have no fear… we have not forgotten J’s Oyster – the salty little dive bar on the wharf where we’ve gotten our oysters in the past.

If you’re on the lookout for other great spots to find an oyster, check out my other favorites on Pinterest.

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Postcard from Las Vegas

August 18th, 2014

So we went to Las Vegas. In August. With a 17 month old. I’m not a gambler, which means I wasn’t convinced about the up-side of vacationing in the desert where temps easily run over 100 degrees. But despite my reservations, I enjoyed this trip – both seeing family and exploring a new side of […]


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So we went to Las Vegas.
In August.
With a 17 month old.

I’m not a gambler, which means I wasn’t convinced about the up-side of vacationing in the desert where temps easily run over 100 degrees. But despite my reservations, I enjoyed this trip – both seeing family and exploring a new side of Las Vegas. The main event was my cousin Mindy’s wedding, so we opted out of staying on the Strip and found a quieter hotel up north in Summerlin near the venue, Emerald at Queensridge. We were quite happy with our incredibly spacious suite at the JW Marriott (set up like your typical big convention hotel). In the early mornings I enjoyed our sunrise view from the Palms Tower balcony, watching the red glowing mountains.  And later in the day, we never experienced a problem securing a poolside lounge chair – even on the weekend.

Since we were based way up north, we rented a car and this was a game changer. All my previous visits I remained within a quick cab ride of the Strip. This time, we were able to see Las Vegas in a different light.

Below are some of the stops from our travels. Our choices were often governed by these conditions: beating the plus 95 degree heat, traveling with an toddler, eating in large groups of 6 or more and pleasing former Hawaii residents who wanted to take advantage of  numerous “local” food options.

UP NORTH

Honey Salt
We were surprised by the number of stores and restaurants in the planned community Summerlin, right outside our door at the JW Marriott. I made an early Saturday dinner reservation and we found ourselves seated at a large communal style table close to the open kitchen, where we had a front row perch to view meals being expedited. I liked the menu options and found our server to be incredibly knowledgeable regarding the menu and accommodating with requests – given we had a picky toddler in tow. I especially liked the New England Fry and the Honey Roasted Peach salad. I love this kind of  family-friendly restaurant that hasn’t sacrificed good food and service.

 

 

 

Lulu’s Bread and Breakfast
This spot is way up in northwest last Vegas, but a great little breakfast gem. It was an easy drive from Summerlin and was well worth the trip. We went at 9 am on a weekday and there was no problem getting a table. We tried a range of mostly breakfast items – the nutella croissant, a few macarons, and some breakfast sandwich options, but our favorites were definitely the excellent S.O.B sandwich and the guava croissant. This is the kind of place I wish we had right here in Milford, so I could stop in on my way to work or on the weekends for brunch.

(Hawaiian) Island Favorites:

Why do Hawaii residents love Las Vegas so much? I’m not sure, but I think it has to do with the ability to gamble and the (relatively speaking)  affordable cost of living – both of which are things you won’t find in the islands. What that also means is you’ll find a surprising number of LV businesses catering to island tastes and for any hungry homesick locals – it’s pretty exciting to find these eateries without flying the extra 2,500 miles!

Kauai Cafe
We needed a quick casual meal and this spot did the trick, we ordered standards like chicken katsu, spam musubis and wun tun min. I know it was practically 100 degrees, but I thought my 17 mo old would like the noodles! I also got my can of Hawaiian Sun Pass-O-Guava and was a happy camper. If I had taken the time to read up more carefully, I would have known to visit Kauai Cafe on Friday, the only day of the week that they serve up Hawaiian food, lau lau, poi – the works!

Island Sushi
We went with a large group and worked our way through the all you can eat menu. if you’re homesick for Hawaii and looking for some local grindz, this is a great deal. We started with basics like inari and somen salad, teri beef, garlic chicken up to the higher end options: ahi poke and hamachi collar. I didn’t take a single photo, I was too busy  eat and trying to figure out a game plan. My advice: don’t bother with the sushi rolls. The rice fills you up quickly!

 

Bahama Bucks
When you’re in the desert in the summer, you’re always looking for a way to cool off. After eating local Hawaii food for dinner, I was in the mood for shaved ice. We drove over to Bahama Bucks after the bride mentioned it has finely shaved ice like Waiola’s. While this is true about the texture of the ice, there was simply way too much syrup for me. When ordering, we asked for our server to go light on the syrup and I hope they forgot! I couldn’t even eat the bottom half of my passion fruit shave ice. It was just too sweet to finish.

Kuma Snow Cream So after tasting and then discussing the merits of Bahama Bucks, the bride’s sister suggested we try Kuma Snow Cream over in Chinatown. This was our last stop in Vegas and after wrangling a wriggly toddler through dinner, I sadly forgot to take a photo of our snow cream. This fluffy concoction is the best of both worlds, a light and airy treat with just a touch of satisfying richness from the cream. I tried the seasonal honeydew flavor and am a big fan. In other news, my daughter fell in love with the Kuma bear logo. I wish someone would bring a franchise over to the East Coast, I think this place would be a hit in NYC!

Downtown LV

eat.
This self-proclaimed breakfast and lunch joint is a hip spot, about 10 blocks from hotels and casinos in Downtown. We went for lunch on a Friday and found it a bustling dining room, with knowledgeable and friendly staff and a menu overseen by former fine dining chef, Natalie Young. We were told most guests try the cinnamon biscuits, so we started with an order before our sandwiches. These biscuits feature a crisp-edged crust and are covered in a warm strawberry compote. Don’t miss this signature treat, but I recommend saving your order for dessert instead!

Container Park
Colorful and unusual architectural materials caught everyone’s eye on the way to lunch, so I made sure to walk across Carson Ave to investigate. We found ourselves surrounded by Container Park, part of a redevelopment project led by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. Centered around a stage, and massive treehouse-dominated play area, this park is ringed by shops and restaurants housed within re-purposed shipping containers. It is a walkable, welcoming place, and I hope it serves as an inspiration to other similar initiatives elsewhere in the country.  It was a blazing hot summer day, but I’d definitely love to head back in the evening when you can catch a performance or a movie screening.  It’s exciting to see this area of Vegas re-inventing itself with new mixed-used attraction that is both family-friendly and 21+ over (after 9 pm).


Also in the downtown area, a stop on the top of my Vegas bucket list:

The Neon Sign Museum has an boneyard full of decommissioned Vegas signs.
Since the tour is outdoors and required a reservation, we sadly decided to save this for another trip to Las Vegas when the weather is cooler!

THE STRIP

Mon Ami Gabi (Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino)
I wasn’t planning to hit the Strip with Lily in tow, but when my cousin Brent (from my dad’s side of the family) just happened to be in town the same weekend, there was no question about getting in the car and heading to the action. Despite the midday heat, we opted to sit outside under the red umbrellas at Mon Ami Gabi. We had lovely time at this Parisian bistro themed restaurant (the cramped sidewalk seating felt like a bit of the real thing) and the price of lunch was easily forgotten each time the Bellagio fountains began their choreographed dance just across the Strip.

Eiffel Tower Experience (Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino)
Since we didn’t do much besides sit at the pool and meet up with family, I suggested a splurge on something truly touristy – the Eiffel Tower Experience. This themed elevator ride is meant to replicate the ascent up a iconic landmark, yet sadly doesn’t seem to capture the magic of the original. There is no sense of awe and grandeur like a visit to the real Tour Eiffel  because base of this tower sits squarely in the middle of a dark casino allowing no views skyward. After securing our tickets in a gift shop, we were met by a personable and enthusiastic greeter before taking the escalator up to an amalgam of Paris bridges.  You can add your purchased love lock to the Pont des Arts grate before walking above the casino on the faux Pont Alexandre bridge for a photo op. After boarding, you shoot straight through the casino roof and hurtle upward 46 stories in a narrow elevator.

Upon arriving, we stepped out into a safely enclosed birdcage-like structure with a great 360 degree view of the city. Given the heat, we were lucky the viewing platform was not crowded and that we happened to arrive 5 minutes before the next Bellagio fountain show. There is no shade up top, so plan accordingly if you visit in the summer! I’m sure the view must be quite beautiful (and comfortable temperature wise) at night, but I’d expect there is more of a wait.  With a $45 price tag for three of us to ascend the Eiffel Tower, I’m sure there are better, more comfortable ways to enjoy view from above. Still, it was certainly a memorable group experience, even without the $35 Pont Alexandre photos we left behind.

THE DESERT

Red Rock Canyon
About 15 miles west of the Strip is Nevada’s first conservation area. Once you’ve paid the $7 entry fee and begin exploring, you’ll forget you’re even in Las Vegas! You can drive the one-way 13 mile scenic loop,  stopping off to see the scenic viewpoints or plan ahead and hike the 20 or so designated trails. Check to see when the park opens – I recommend arriving early. The temperature was still cool and the morning light made it a beautiful time to visit, we saw many cyclists and one donkey during our drive.

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Miya’s Farm Dinner

August 4th, 2014

It is a lovely summer evening in a backyard in Woodbridge. This is a farm dinner organized by the New Haven Arts + Ideas festival, but unlike a typical outdoor farm-to-table event, dinner guests don’t just follow along on the usual tour – we are asked help forage for the meal ahead. Chef Bun Lai shares a […]

 

It is a lovely summer evening in a backyard in Woodbridge. This is a farm dinner organized by the New Haven Arts + Ideas festival, but unlike a typical outdoor farm-to-table event, dinner guests don’t just follow along on the usual tour – we are asked help forage for the meal ahead.

Chef Bun Lai shares a brief explanation of the plants he is seeking and releases the guests to help him gather ingredients.

The images of guests surrounding the chef to hand over harvested greens reminded me of two scenes. One is the line of Buddhists waiting to offer alms to the monks, an early morning ritual you can still see in parts of Southeast Asia. The other is of young schoolchildren, eager to share their discoveries with the teacher. This second image is an apt comparison. Bun Lai is as much an educator, as he is a chef – constantly reminding diners there are conscious and responsible decisions to be made with every bite of food you eat.

When the foraging is complete, we sit down to dinner at a long communal table in the Chef’s backyard. If you’re into food, you’ll know Bun Lai’s a big deal in Connecticut. This James Beard nominated chef and presides over Miya’s Sushi in New Haven. Miya’s seems to be a polarizing place, either you love the wildly inventive and environmentally-focused efforts of this sushi restaurant  – or you can’t seem to grasp what all the fuss is about.

Occasionally my love of tradition can get in the way of accepting the new and unfamiliar. I used to struggle with Miya’s long, tome-like menu (so I exaggerate, but if you’ve seen it, you know what I mean) and its atypical ingredients, but this farm dinner really deepened my understanding of the unique sushi I’ve eaten in past visits – from the traditions that inspire it, to the local, sustainable, and affordable sourcing that drives its ingredients and flavors. I may never quite get used to the rice, which is a mix of more healthful brown rice and other grains, but I cannot help but truly admire the positive impact this restaurant and its food values have had on both other chefs and the food community at large. This is precisely the reason why Bun Lai’s efforts are so important. If you’d like to read more about this innovative chef, I recommend  The Invasivore’s Dilemma (with killer photos) in Outdoor Magazine: or go straight to the source and check out his blog:  Call Me Bun.

If you’re a Miya’s fan, keep an eye out for special events like this one. It was a unique and memorable experience, even after attending several other Connecticut farm dinners.

If you’ve never been, but  live in or near New Haven, this is a important restaurant to try.
My advice is to read the sample menu beforehand and keep an open mind when you sit down for your culinary adventure!

Miya’s Sushi
68 Howe Street
New Haven, CT
miyassushi.com 

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Volturno Pizza in Worcester, MA

July 18th, 2014

I get a lot of raised eyebrows when I mention we stopped in Worcester on a recent trip up north to New Hampshire and Maine. But I had a plan. It involved stopping about halfway – somewhere in Massachusetts – and advance requesting the perfect lunch recommendation from Leeanne Griffin, journalist at the Hartford Courant A […]


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I get a lot of raised eyebrows when I mention we stopped in Worcester on a recent trip up north to New Hampshire and Maine. But I had a plan. It involved stopping about halfway – somewhere in Massachusetts – and advance requesting the perfect lunch recommendation from Leeanne Griffin, journalist at the Hartford Courant A La Carte and food blogger/founder of Fun with Carbs.

Enter Volturno, where you’ll find a wood burning oven turning out Pizza Napoletana inside a former car dealership.

Food
Keep in mind I live under 10 miles from New Haven area, so Volturno’s crust was a little on the thick side for my personal taste, but that didn’t stop me from loving the gourmet combinations they’re serving up on their pies. Above is the Pistachio pie, with pistachio pesto, sausage, mozzarella and pecorino.  Pizzas come in one size, like generously-sized individual pizzas – more than I could eat myself. The menu also includes share-able starers, salads, sandwiches and pastas.

Design
Lunch is a great time to go to Volturno, the sunlight pours in the soaring floor-to-ceiling windows and you can see a few reminders that this indeed was a former Buick showroom. It has been beautifully renovated into a restaurant, with a nod to the city’s industrial past visible in the stools, table and lighting.


Location
Right off 290, and right next to ample parking lot – even if you don’t live in the area, Volturno makes for an easy spot to grab a sit-down meal if you’re traveling north or south through the eastern half of Massachusetts. We felt so at home here, we stopped again on our way back from Maine and ordered food to go, for later in the day.

I realize not everyone is looking to spend this much for pizza, but I consider it fairly priced given the airy, light filled dining room, well trained staff, the locally sourced ingredients and unique pizza combinations on the menu. Below is a white potato and sausage pie. Quite different from the either of the potato pies I’ve tried at BAR or Sally’s in New Haven. I’d love to return with a larger group so we can work through all of the pies on the menu! This is definitely our new rest stop of choice when heading to points north.