The Corner Pug (West Hartford)

Some things here I love at this pugalicious joint, such as the French Onion Soup (the best), Chimay Grande Réserve, and the wings.  Other things are only ok, like the baked mac and cheese, the French Dip sandwich, and desserts.

I placed a take-out order here yesterday for a half-order of wings and a mini pug salad.  The drive from here to my house is about five minutes and the tangy, vinegary smell wafting through the air was enough to make me salivate and fantasize about sinking my teeth into the wingy deliciousness.  When I got home my dreams were realized after I opened the box to find meaty, plump, flavorful wings that packed some serious heat.  Also, the blue cheese dressing was incredible.

I was equally excited about the salad, so imagine my disappointment when I opened the container of salad dressing and instinctively tipped it over in a pouring motion to find that it was not liquid, but a gross blob of a congealed mess.  It was solid but jiggly.  Ick.

So, some things are better than others.  I still really like coming here for a drink or for the tried and true menu items, though.  I like the friendly atmosphere (bartender makes a strong effort at remembering names), comfortable feel, and casual vibe.  Plus, it’s only a few minutes away from home

1046 New Britain Ave
West Hartford, CT 06110
(860) 231-0241

Tokyo Sushi III (West Hartford)

A few weeks ago one of my classmates mentioned that this was her favorite sushi place in town.  I had never been so I wanted to give it a try.  A friend and I met up for dinner here last night and had an a-ok sushi dinner.

I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into the restaurant.  I really didn’t know what to expect, as it looked quite small from the outside.  One of it’s next door neighbors, Black Bamboo, is more of a take-out place with seating, awesome food, and not a lot of ambience.  I kind of expected the same here but I walked into a simply, but nicely decorated Japanese restaurant adorned with tasteful touches.  There was a wood theme going on, with pictures of flowers on the walls, a fishtank, and bamboo on each table.  The sushi bar is immediately in the line of vision upon entering.

I got the Sushi Regular entree which came with seven pieces of sushi and a tuna roll. For $14.95 it also came with a miso soup and salad.  I subbed the salad for a seaweed salad a paid a few dollars more for the substitution.  First, the soup and salad arrived.  The miso soup and the seaweed salad were both very good.  The seaweed salad was served in a beautiful white bowl, and sat on top of a bed of julienned cucumbers, giving the appearance of a larger portion than was actually there.  The actual amount was plentiful, though.

The sushi was arranged nicely on the simple white platter.  The seven pieces included one piece of sea bass, two pieces of salmon, two pieces of “whitefish”, and two pieces of tuna.  Also, as I mentioned, there was tuna (tekka maki) roll.  When I was ordering, I asked the waitress what kind of fish could come with the sushi and she seemed confused, providing answers that she didn’t seem confident in giving.  Well, except for salmon and tuna.  Those were easy.  When I inquired further about what type of fish the whitefish was, she said it was whitefish.  Hmmm.

Other places I have gone would have provided seven different types of fish for each piece of sushi.  I would have liked more variety, but what I did have was good and satisfying.  I’ve also never been to a place that simply stated whitefish was whitefish, and couldn’t provide a specific type of fish.  Also, I kind of wish I had ordered the spicy tuna for the maki roll.  As much as I love tuna, between the sushi and the maki roll, it was a lot of the same flavor.  Also, freshness of the fish was fine but I’ve definitely had fresher at other local sushi restaurants.

I’ve had better and I’ve had worse sushi in town, but I don’t know that I will be rushing back.  if I do, parking will be a main factor.  There’s a pretty sizable lot in the back making parking easy as pie.

846 Farmington Ave
West Hartford, CT 06119
(860) 206-4746

Quattro’s (Guilford)

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After a trying week, and a particularly trying day, I needed comfort.  I found that comfort in the Fettuccini Carbonara at Quattro’s last night.  The pleasant mouthfeel of the fresh pasta that was coated in a beautiful light cream sauce had little cubes of pancetta and procittuo as well as peas, all coming together to give my mouth and my soul a much needed hug.  Just what the doctor ordered.

My love and I sat at the bar last night enjoying some beverages before our food came.  He ordered a beer and I asked our very capable waitress if she could make me a Madras (vodka, oj, and cranberry juice).  It was excellent – far better than the same drink I got at a bar later that night.  In addition to the carbonara, we also shared two items off their new, as of last week, tapas menu:  Lomo Le Chancho (Toasted Bread, Pork Tenderloin, Melted Marechego Cheese, Tomato, Black Olives, Cilantro Salsa) and Espinacha and Garbanzo (Chick Peas and Spinach Stew in a Saffron Red Sauce).

Both of the tapas were incredibly tasty.  The former was a nicely cooked piece of pork with all the ingredients mentioned in the above description on a piece of puffed pastry.  The olives were very evident in this dish, and while I am not a huge olive fan, it paired very well with the rest of the flavors.  Any more than the two servings we had, and it would have been a tad too salty.  The latter was a great dish too, with fresh spinach and tomato in a garlic-laden red sauce mixed with tender yet meaty chickpeas.

I have to comment also on the garlic “knots” served with a mindblowingly good cilantro dipping sauce.  This sauce, made with cilantro, olive oil, salt + pepper, garlic and a little bit of lemon was positively amazing paired with these small puffs of garlic bread that were, themselves, light, fluffy, and full of flavor.  They looked just like little cream puffs but were a bit denser and much more bold in their oily, garlicky goodness

A few notes on the decor.  It is handsome, refined without being stuffy or pretentious.  Exposed beams grace the main dining room and bar area, which I loved.  If you’re into bathrooms, that is quite nice also, with beautiful aubergine (eggplant) colored walls, nicely tiled floors, and immaculate cleanliness.  It felt more like a bathroom you’d find in a spa than a dining establishment.

The bar area is quite large making the probability of scoring a bar seat much higher than at other restaurants.  Also, the bartender we had (a female – never got her name) was wonderful, attentive, and friendly throughout.  She was such a delight!

Loved the food, the drinks, the feel – everything about this place.  Dining here  was almost as comfortable as eating in our own dining room at home.  I think we will be back soon!

– – –

Update 4/29/12:  We had another amazing dinner at the bar here last night that started with two items off the tapas menu and ended with the Linguini Bolognese.  We were hoping to try the suckling pig tapa that was on the menu last week but they didn’t have it in the kitchen, but the menu had changed since our visit last week.  Instead, we ordered the calami as well as the scallops tapas.

Calamari a La Plancha: Grilled Baby Squid Tossed with Onions, Tomatoes and White Beans Served in a Lemon Oil Vinaigrette was superb.  All the flavors came together really nicely.  The calamari tasted fresh and I loved the slight chewiness found this this type of preparation.  I loved the light but flavorful vinaigrette.

Vieiras Gallegas: Seared Scallops, Roasted Beets, Orange and Avocado Salad in a Mango Vinaigrette.  Wow.  The scallops were perfectly seasoned and cooked.  I wanted more after we finished the two were on the dish.  Everything else on the plate was great, too.

Linguini Bolognese:  Combination of ground lamb and beef with fresh pasta.  This was a tasty and hearty dish.  I liked it, but not as much as I liked the Carbonara from last weekend or the two dishes we had prior to this one.  It was a bit “lamb-ey”  for me, but those who like the taste of lamb would really enjoy it.

Similar to our visit last week, the bartender was lovely.  I just realized now that we never got those delicious garlic knows I loved from last week.  Will definitely try to remember those next time.

1300 Boston Post Rd
Guilford, CT 06437
(203) 453-6575

East West Grille (West Hartford)

In search of another local lunch special, I thought I’d hit up East West Grille to see what they had to offer.  Since I didn’t see any lunch specials listed on their website I called to inquire and was told, “it’s just three dollars less than the regular dinner price off any dish.”  When I finally obtained a take-out menu in person, that turned out to be more or less the case, but I still found it to be kind of annoying that exact prices are not listed online.

Yesterday I came in and picked up chicken yellow curry and drunken noodles with beef for lunch.  I had been craving chicken yellow curry but didn’t have time to go get the ingredients, do the prep work, then throw it all together on the stovetop so  I thought getting takeout was a good option.  Knowing my schedule was going to be pretty tight the rest of the week, I thought I’d get another entree to have some variety and to make each last a little longer, and that’s where the drunken noodles with beef decision came in.

The chicken yellow curry had a mild sauce on the thinner side that isn’t as flavorful as the one I make at home.  It was ok.  On the menu it’s listed as having: choice of protein, coconut milk, onions, carrots, potatoes and sliced bamboo.  No bamboo in my curry, but that’s perfectly fine because it included sliced zucchini and summer squash as well as mushrooms that weren’t in the menu description.  The potatoes were a nice combination of red bliss potatoes and sweets.  There was a lone piece of purple potato too.  Loved all the different kinds of potato in this dish.

The drunken noodles (pad kee mao) I got with beef had tomatoes, onion, broccoli, red and green bell peppers, and basil leaves.  There was also cauliflower, a pleasant surprise that was also not listed on the menu.  I loved the tomato in this dish.  Gave it just the right among of tang to cut the heat.  The beef, however, was incredibly overcooked.  Meh.  Shoulda gone with the tofu, I guess.  The noodles themselves were cooked nicely and had great flavor.

I’ve dined in before and I’ve always liked the food, but never loved it.  This time was no different.  I guess that’s the reason I haven’t been in a while even though I live close by.  The ambience is fun and different – lots of red, strings of paper lanterns hung above dining areas, casual feel in a converted diner car.  Interestingly, a few tables are available outside for al fresco dining for those who enjoy the bustling view of New Park Ave.

Will I return?  Maybe, but it won’t be my first choice especially with all the other options for similar food in the area.

526 New Park Ave
West Hartford, CT 06110
(860) 236-3287

Agave Grill (Hartford)

Yesterday ten of us came out to celebrate a friend’s birthday.  I had been to Agave before, even to celebrate my own birthday once, and yesterday was pretty similar to past experiences I’ve had there:  generally good with some hits and misses with the food and great on the service and ambience fronts.  We had a 7pm reservation and our table, which was in the second room, was ready when we arrived.  We enjoyed some delicious guacamole and salsa with chips while we placed our orders.


My drink of choice for the night was a delightfully refreshing and strong California Blackberry Margarita.  For my main I got the Pot Roast ala Casita (Mexican style beef pot roast with chipotle whipped potatoes, and braised carrots) and it was very good but the carrots were much too salty.  The chipotle whipped potatoes were definitely tasty and I appreciated the fact that I could taste the chipotle but it was not overwhelming.  The meat was fall apart tender and very nicely seasoned.

For dessert I got fried ice cream which was drizzled in cajeta caramel sauce, topped with mango puree and freshly diced mango.  To be honest, I didn’t like it.  I’ve had amazing fried ice cream from Mexican restaurants and this was just disappointing.  First, the exterior “shell” that I expected to be warm and crunchy was not.  It had the taste and texture of a ball of ice cream that had been rolled in Panko crumbs – room temperature and lacking in crunch factor.  The ice cream itself failed to have any redeeming qualities, as it was not at all creamy but hard and frostbitten.  I usually finish all of my dessert when I go out to eat, but I couldn’t even get through half of this.

I ended up eating some of a friend’s Mexican fruit cobbler that was much, much, much better (something I’d definitely get in the future).  I tasted another friend’s banana chimichanga and that was also good.

So, consider yourself warned.  Don’t get the fried ice cream unless you’ve never had it anywhere else and you have no expectations, and only get the pot roast if you really like salt.

Overall, we had a lot of fun and I’d come back again if others felt strongly about it.  The experience was pleasant enough.  All things considered, Agave is a decent Downtown Hartford location to hang out and have a meal and/or drink.

25 Whitney St
Hartford, CT 06105
(860) 236-7741

Mo’s Midtown (Hartford)

I went to Mo’s this past weekend with my roommate and his girlfriend.  It’s a favorite of theirs, but it had been a while since my last and only visit.  My first time here was okay, just nothing that left me with the desire to go back anytime soon.  The long wait annoyed me (I was, as they say, “hangry”)  and the food didn’t impress.  Fast forward a couple of years later to this past Saturday and I had a different experience.

It’s easy to see why the lines are typically out the door every weekend at this tiny breakfast joint.  For one, they’ve got the best homefries in town – large chunks of potatoes cooked and seasoned to perfection.  I got a Papa Mo so it came with the homefries, two eggs (over easy for me), choice of breakfast meat (a juicy round sausage patty), and toast.  Damn good.  I tasted my roommate’s Ragin’ Cajun omelet, stuffed with jambalaya and cheese, and it was wonderfully smokey and provided an awesome flavor combo when a forkful was paired with a piece of potato.

The three of us, all corned beef hash lovers, got a side of that to share in addition to a chocolate chip pancake.  The corned beef hash was very good and had a sprinkling of peppers and onions mixed in.  I have one word to describe the chocolate chip pancake: Magical.  I make chocolate chip pancakes at home just about every weekend (really, I do.  Alongside regular and banana pancakes) but this chocolate chip pancake kind of puts mine to shame.  The pancake was on the thinner side, yet still managed to be fluffy and light.  The base had a great flavor that was indicative of a very light sprinkling of spices (maybe cinnamon? nutmeg?) and the chocolate just melted in my mouth.  Man, oh man.

My beverages of choice included a water, orange juice, and coffee.  Oj was definitely from concentrate but I didn’t care.  I love fresh squeezed orange juice as much as the next person, but there’s something about the stuff from concentrate that’s equal parts refreshing and nostalgic and I happily guzzled it down.  The coffee, not the best I’ve had but far from the worst, tasted a-ok black.

Another part of the experience I found particularly entertaining is the eclectic mix of patrons.  Literally, people from all walks to life come through the door, from local college students, to the ghetto fab, to senior folk, to bounty hunters (I’m guessing; they were armed with guns and handcuffs but not in uniform), to – my favorite – a group of ten young men wearing sunglasses who dressed similarly and looked like they were a boy band back in the NSYNC and Backstreet Boys days.

Oh, Mo’s, as much as I tried to resist you, I cannot deny the deliciousness of your breakfast.  Maybe you are worth the wait once in a while.  I’ll see ya again soon.

Off to dream about those pancakes…

Sugar Bakery & Sweet Shop (East Haven)

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After having a few of their cupcakes, it’s easy to see how Sugar Bakery won Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.  I would have voted for them too.  From the adorable storefront design, to the the cutesy interior, to the friendly employees, and amazing cupcakes – this bakery is pretty darn close to perfect.I first had cupcakes from Sugar on Valentine’s Day when my boyfriend surprised me with them.  Yesterday was my first time actually in the store.  There were so many flavors that I was a little overwhelmed when I was trying to make a decision.  The selection is undoubtably much larger than some of my other favorite cupcake bakeries in the state.  I loved the fun names like 14K Carrot, Plain Jane, Love Monkey, The Hippie, After Dinner, Orange Creamsicle.

I brought home four cupcakes:  Wedding Cake (almond cake, chocolate ganache, raspberry buttercream), Key Lime Cheesecake, Coconut, and Chocolate Overdose.  All the cakes were incredibly moist and had just the right amount of flavor.  Frostings were the ideal consistency, whipped but not too soft, and not cloying sweet.  They’re a great size – large without being huge.

The Wedding Cake is named appropriately.  One bite and I wanted to marry it!  It was so good.  I would have that at my wedding for sure.  The cream cheese frosting on the Key Lime cheesecake was topped with moist graham cracker crumbs, and tasted just like whipped cheesecake.  I wished for coconut flavor in the cake part of the Coconut cupcake but it tasted like vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting that had a subtle coconut flavor from the toasted coconut sprinkled generously on the frosting – still tasted great though.  The chocolate ganache on the Chocolate Overdose cupcake took it to the next level.

We ate two yesterday and saved two to have as dessert with our Easter dinner today.  They kept extremely well in the fridge (I took them out and let them get to room temperature before we enjoyed).  Prices are not bad at $2.50 a piece setting me back $10 for the box of four.

This place just made it’s way onto my list of favorite cupcake bakeries in the state.

Nice work, Sugar.  Keep it up!

422 Main St
East Haven, CT 06512
(203) 469-0815

La Cuisine (Branford)

Most breakfast sandwiches are not much more than a means to get you through the morning and tide you over until lunch time comes around.  Not the case here with their Breakfast Buddies, as they’re called at this cute establishment.  The ones here are really something special.

A Breakfast Buddy is listed on the menu as an English muffin, fried egg, cheddar, and choice of ham, bacon or sausage.  At first glance it doesn’t seem all that interesting or exciting – a standard option, but let me tell you something….the one I had this morning with ham was seriously one of the best breakfast sandwiches I have ever had.  What made it so damn delicious? The English muffin ain’t your regular Thomas’, it was a spectacular fluffy beauty that held together a perfectly cooked egg, melty cheddar cheese and a flavorful thick piece of top quality ham.  It was not a breakfast sandwich that I’d soon forget about.  I “mmm…”ed my way through the entire thing.

I’ve driven by La Cuisine countless times and when I stopped in to pick up the breakfast buddies today I was surprised to find it to be a charming cafe inside with tables full of patrons enjoying their weekend brunch.  I guess I had always fixated on the word “catering” on their sign during my drive-bys.  Glass cases filled with gorgeous pastries (chocolate croissants, hot cross buns, muffins) and cookies first welcomes you and as you walk toward the counter you pass the market case that has tasty-looking offerings like Asiago chicken.

Beautifully decorated Easter cookies in shapes of carrots, bunnies, and eggs caught my eye when I was in today.  Sugar cookies aren’t my favorite so I didn’t get those, but instead went with one chocolate chip cookie and a white chocolate and cranberry cookie.  The cowboy cookies were huge and tempting, a similar concept to “everything but the kitchen sink” cookies, but I had to pass them up as I had to save my sweet tooth for some cupcakes I’d be picking up from a cupcake bakery later on in the day.

The chocolate chip cookie definitely had yum factor but the cranberry and white chocolate cookie stole the show with a magnificent combination of sweetness from the white chocolate chips, tartness from the cranberries, and bursts of bright freshness from orange zest dispersed throughout the round piece of heaven.

Can we go again tomorrow?

– – –

4/15/12 Update:

We dined in for breakfast today.  We arrived at 11am and, surprisingly, it wasn’t as busy as it was when I came in to pick up the Buddy’s last weekend.  There were others there but also plenty of tables open.  Since I had a huge snack (part of last night’s leftovers of pot roast) prior to coming I wasn’t very hungry so I ordered a single chocolate chip pancake, a fruit salad and an orange juice.  Everything was amazing.

The o.j. was fresh squeezed and I enjoyed every last drop.  The fruit salad contained cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple and grapes and there was a good-sized portion of it served in a bowl.  The pancake…oh, the pancake.  One bite and I regretted having only ordered one.  The base is a beautiful, fluffy, buttermilk pancake and it was laden with a generous sprinkling of bittersweet chocolate chips that were crunchy on the parts that hit the griddle but burst into melty, heavenly chocolate with each bite.  Glorious.  My man got the corned beef hash with scrambled eggs and that came with toast.  The corned beef hash is made in house and had huge chunks of flavorful meat.  Scrumptious.  This place?  A new favorite breakfast spot.

Love x a million.

750 E Main St
Branford, CT 06405
(203) 488-7779

Faddy’s Doughnuts (Bloomfield)

Faddy’s doughnuts are sinfully delicious apple cider doughnuts rolled in cinnamon and sugar.  They are like the doughnuts we know and love that we get at our favorite apple orchards in autumn, but better because they’re available year-round.  Sugar and cinnamon mixture that the doughnuts are rolled in after they’ve had their time in the fryer provides a slightly crunchy crust outside of a soft and fluffy doughnut.

During the holiday stroll in West Hartford these guys were making fresh doughnuts at Engel & Völkers in Blue Back Square and I had the opportunity to scarf down a just made melt-in-your-mouth delight of their fresh cider doughnut and it was heavenly.  Even when they’re not hot and just made they are still amazing.  I brought home a box Saturday night (the owner is a friend of a friend, but I don’t know him personally) and my roommate, his girlfriend and I made noises of enjoyment while we shared them.

I believe the store in Bloomfield has yet to open because the owner has been busy with events such as the recent CT Home Show at the XL Center and the Holyoke Flea Market, but it seems like they’re at Cabela’s every week.  They have a Facebook page and list where they will be each week on their wall.  Seems like they already have a good-sized following, and for good reason!

38 Tunxis Ave
Bloomfield, CT 06002
(860) 519-1880

Effie’s Place (West Hartford)

I like Effie’s Place for breakfast, but in the future I should just stick to the basics.  I’ve been here a handful of times for breakfast and always had some variation of eggs, breakfast meat, homefries, and toast, and have never been disappointed.  Love their homemade corned beef hash, coffee is always served piping hot, staff are always knowledgable and efficient.   Good stuff.

Lox Omelet

Today when I went with my roommate and his lady we were all drawn to items on the specials list, all of which sounded incredible: lox, sauteed onion and cheddar omelet for me, pina colada french toast for roommate’s girlfriend, and lobster benedict for the roommate.  We shared a side of corned beef hash.

Pina Colada French Toast

All of our dishes were pretty good, but nothing spectacular.  Perhaps it was my mistake to order lox in an omelet because the cooking process changed the texture and taste a bit and overcooked the fish.  The lobster benedict was probably the tastiest dish of the three, in my opinion, as it included chunks of fresh lobster meat on top of hollandaise sauce served on puff pastry.  We liked it, but didn’t love it (we all tried each others).  Pina colada french toast was good, but I was not a huge fan of the thick and sweet pineapple jam that was smothered on the pieces of french toast, although the shredded coconut was a nice touch.

Lobster Benedict

The corned beef hash was tasty, as usual, but just slightly overcooked this time with some visible burnt spots.  Other times I’ve had it, it has been perfectly perfect.  Toast and homefries were delicious, as usual.  The homefries have small pieces of chopped onion and green pepper in them, which I like, but others might not.

Corned Beef Hash

All in all, a good breakfast, but I’ll probably skip the specials list next time and order off the regular breakfast menu.  Was it worth the 15 minute wait?  Considering we went during prime brunch hour on a Sunday morning and other places would have been more crowded – absolutely.

91 Park Rd
West Hartford, CT 06119
(860) 233-9653