Robek’s Juice (West Hartford)

Before our beloved Pinkberry opened last fall this was the only place (I knew of) in town that had the tart frozen yogurt that I swoon over.  And, it was (still is) very good!  Roommate and I stopped by for dessert after Happy Hour at Grant’s last night ’cause it is conveniently located a few storefronts from Grant’s and we both love the frozen yogurt.

We both ordered small sized half original tart and half raspberry.  Cable car chocolate was also available.  I’ve had that flavor before and it’s good, but we weren’t in the mood for it last night.  Our flavors were delish.  If I had to compare it to Pinkberry, the frozen yogurts here are slightly thicker, and the tart is a bit more sour.  You can add toppings too, but I felt like a purist last night and wanted to enjoy the yogurts flavor and texture without additional distractions.

I’ve also had a number of their smoothies in the past.  Off the Fruit Smoothies list the Hummingbird is a crowd pleaser and pleases me, too, made with guava juice, orange sherbet, strawberries, bananas and mangos.  The Power Smoothies list boasts smoothies that increase metabolism, burn fat, help with cardio or muscle building etc.  Don’t know how effective those are, but they’re tasty!  I love just about everything on the Tropical Smoothies menu and have even tried the hazelnut coffee smoothie off the coffee list which I liked but didn’t love.

Prices are a bit steep so it’s an occasional treat for me, but if you join their mailing list they will mail you coupons for $1 off once in a while.  Also, it’s worth mentioning that there is a list of 11 “nutritional boosts” that you can get one free per smoothie.  They include fiber, creatine, one that supports memory + concentration, and even one for “growing kids.”

I like stopping by Robek’s for something to cool me down on a hot day.

Go check it out if you’re in West Hartford Center!

967 Farmington Ave
West Hartford, CT 06107
(860) 523-1323


Grants (West Hartford)

A Happy Hour Review 

I enjoyed some good eats and drinks at Happy Hour today with the roommate after our initial plans of getting a free burger for dinner at The Burger Joint (in honor of national burger month) changed when, after a long wait, he declared, “our time is much too valuable to be spent waiting in line for a free burger.”  I couldn’t agree more.  With so many options around we decided to go to do some wandering and ended up at Grants.  What an excellent decision.  I had been to Grants once before, years ago.  It was a nice time on the outdoor patio area where a friend and I had a leisurely long dinner on a warm, sunny day much like today.  Unfortunately, an unpleasant exchange with our server put a bad taste in my mouth and I vowed never to return.  Things can change a lot over the years so I figured I’d give them another try today and I am so glad I did.  We arrived around 5:30 and headed right to the bar area.  We were surprised it wasn’t busier, with only one table of patrons and maybe two couples at the bar.  Plenty of space for us, so we weren’t complaining!  Shortly after, it began to get busier as more people arrived.

I started with the Sparkling Strawberry cocktail that was made with sauvignon blanc, strawberry basil puree, prosecco,  and fresh strawberries.  Talk about the perfect late spring beverage.  This was such a delightful drink – slightly sweet with bright fresh notes from the pieces of basil and a nice strawberry flavor that just danced atop the tastebuds.  The prosecco added another element of interest to the mouthfeel of the drink with a light amount of fizz. It was so good I ate the slices of strawberry in the glass after the drink was finished.  This drink will make a perfect transition into being a summer beverage..

For food I ordered the cheeseburger, a Caprese salad and split the truffle fries with my roommate.  The burger was cooked the way I like it, with some pink.  Flavor-wise, it was just fine but not outrageously good to the point of being memorable.  For $5 I am probably in no position to complain.

Caprese salad, with kumato tomatos, cubes of fresh mozz, and basil was quite tasty.  I enjoyed the pesto sauce on the plate that I was not expecting.  Lastly, the truffle fries were my favorite of the bunch.  A heap of extra crispy, nicely shaped fries sprinkled with truffle salt, ricotta salata, and chives that I could not stop eating.

Prices are excellent considering the costs of things on the regular menu.  Food items range from $1 (oysters) to $7 (Local artisan cheese plate with American prociutto) and everything looked/sounded delicious.  The list of cocktails were $5 and they all sounded so good it was an exercise in restraint to not get one of each.  Wines are also $5.  Domestic beers ring up at $2 while imports at $3.  Does it get better than this?

I’ll be back soon!

You can find me at the bar making my way through the Happy Hour menu.

977 Farmington Ave
West Hartford, CT 06107
(860) 236-1930

Back from Maine

As usual, Maine was a lovely time.  A few pics of what I did:

Made some cupcakes for my sister’s baby shower…

Threw her a party…

With lots of food…

Shopped in Freeport and a grabbed a milkshake for the road headed back to wonderful Connecticut…

Up to Vacationland

I won’t be posting much until I return to the Nutmeg State sometime next week.  Headed north to Vacationland for a few days.

Sushi California (Newington)

Three Sushi California lovers met at a restaurant…

Two of my friends met me here for dinner tonight.  They both also love this place.  One of them turned me onto it a couple of months ago, actually.  The other times I have been here has been for take-out.  Tonight, I dined in with my friends and had time to enjoy the ambience of this small restaurant.  Everything from the white tablecloths, candles, and beautiful lanterns showed attention to detail.  There was a warm and casual feel to the nicely decorated setting.

We ordered the Gyoja (pan-friend Japanese dumplings) to share and they were very good.  Six to an order, half pork and half vegetarian.  The vegetarian ones were green to differentiate.  One friend and I both had miso soup and salad with our meals, while the other ordered a tuna and avocado salad.  The soup was just as good as I had remembered it, and the salad even better.  Friend’s tuna and avocado salad was tasty, too – with very fresh tuna in a special sauce topped with sliced avocado.

I ordered the Chirashi sushi bowl which is a bowl of sushi rice topped with assorted raw fish and vegetables.  All the ingredients were nicely arranged and included pieces of tuna, white tuna, salmon, yellowtail, snapper, shrimp, crab meat, daikon, carrots, etc.  So delicious and so filling.  For dessert, we shared green tea ice cream which came with fluffy whipped cream and was a great way to end our fantastic meal.

Lastly, we loved our waitress tonight.  She was as sweet as could be, personable, and most importantly, knowledgable.  We’d never seen her here before but we hope to see her again.  We’re used to seeing another woman who works here and is also wonderful.

The three of us agree that this is the best sushi in town.  We’re hooked.  I dare you to find something better.

30 Fenn Rd
Newington, CT 06111

Treva (West Hartford)

You know you’re smitten with a dish when you dive face-first in the leftovers two hours after you leave the restaurant.  I hadn’t been this eager to revisit my just-finished dinner since Shish Kabob House in the Center back in ’09.  That was my experience with the Garganelli at Treva tonight.  Left the restaurant around 8:00pm and couldn’t wait another second after 10:00pm to finish the rest.  It was just that good.

One of my favorite West Hartford ladies joined me for dinner here this evening.  It was my first time.  What a wonderful first experience.  I was looking forward to being in the room with the hanging meats, but we were seated in an intimate side dining room to the left of the entrance.  The space filled up pretty quickly after our arrival.

Bread was warm and crusty served with a mild olive oil.  I would have liked a stronger oil and a sprinkling of parm.  I started with the Ribolita soup which had white beans and black kale.  This was a warm and hearty soup that had a richness I didn’t expect from the flavor of parmesan cheese permeating throughout.  It was very filling.

Then, my pasta dish arrived.  Initially, I was stuck between the Rigatoni and what I ultimately got, so I asked our waiter for his opinion.  He noted that the Rigatoni (sweet fennel sausage Bolognese) is very good but you can get it pretty much anywhere (true), and the Garganelli (eggplant, tomatoes, sheeps milk ricotta) would be more “authentic.”  I went with that and realized he did not steer me in the wrong direction.  The flavor combination and textural component were absolute winners.

For dessert my friend and I shared the Latte Chocolate Mousse Cioccolato, a layer of chocolate mousse that sat on top of a chocolate rice krispies crust and topped with a layer of chocolate ganache.  The layer of ganache and the mousse were good, not great, and I was not a fan of the chocolate rice krispie crust.  It just didn’t do it for me.  It tasted a bit stale and had an undesirable consistency.

Ok, back to the part about finishing the leftovers a couple hours after leaving dinner… True love in a dish or just pure gluttony? It’s hard to say.  There’s such a fine line.   What I do know is that my tastebuds are satisfied, the belly is full, and my heart is happy – and that’s good enough for me!

980 Farmington Ave
West Hartford, CT 06107
(860) 232-0407

Yelp Elite Party @ Burton’s Grill (South Windsor)

It pays to be Elite!

I joined the Yelp community in 2010 to receive consultation on places in the area I had an interest in trying, but didn’t write my first review until a couple of years later, this past January.  Shortly after, my dedication and commitment to being a contributing reviewer payed off when I was nominated to be an Elite member.  I’ve enjoyed food writing for a long time, and started my first blog, West Hartford Food Critic, a few years ago.  So, it only made sense to get my reviews out in a more public arena.  I was honored that the reviews were well received and looked forward to meeting other passionate Yelpers in the community.

My first Elite event was tonight and it could not have been better.  It was nothing short of a stellar time.  I got to meet fellow Yelpers in person, eat some scrumptious food, imbibe in some tasty beverages and have a blast doing it all.  I had eaten there twice before:  one less-than-memorable experience and the other a pretty good one.  This event gave me a wonderful preview of Burton’s more current offerings and left an excellent impression.

Food Highlights:

– Blue Point Oysters were fabulous + fresh

– Beet Salad was with Vermont goat cheese, candied walnuts, caramelized onions and micro greens was a wonderful combination of flavors (a new Yelp friend I met tonight who noted that he doesn’t usually like beets remarked that he actually liked this!)

– Fried Green Tomatoes on a black-eyed pea salad + bacon & chive vinaigrette was my least favorite of the bunch, but probably because I spent more time trying to figure out what it was than pay attention to the actual taste, flavor + mouthfeel.  I did, however, enjoy sharing it with two Yelp buddies.  That was fun.

– Sweet Chili-Glazed Salmon with a Soba noodle salad + ginger soy vinaigrette was positively fantastic

– Balsamic Steak Crostini which was balsamic-marinated NY strip, fig balsamic onion jam, blue cheese crumbles, and toasted ciabatta was a flavor combination that just rocked my world

All evening the food kept coming and  the beverages kept flowing.  I also enjoyed the icebreaker game we played that got us all mingling. Many thanks to Yelp Hartford Community Manager Emily and Yelp Providence Community Manager Hilary for a truly unforgettable event.  Thanks, also, to Burtons staff who were involved with this party.  A lovely time all around.

Here’s to many more Yelp parties to come!

100 Evergreen Way
South Windsor, CT 06040

The Meat House (Branford)

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Yesterday my man and I went to the opening day party of The Meat House in Branford.  This was the first location of this store I’d been to and I am definitely a fan!  I must have had four samples of the Sweet BBQ (or “bah-be-que”, which is how the guy on the grill said it) steak tips because they were just so dang good!  At one point, I did a happy dance after housing one large mouthwatering chunk.

Also had a deeeeelicious Boar’s Head hot dog with sauerkraut (yum), caramelized onions and ketchup + mustard in addition to samples of Chabasco Bakery bread, and other tasty morsels.  One of which was a chocolate chip cannoli from Meriano’s Bake Shoppe.  There was a DJ at the party (because what party would be complete without a DJ?) who gave me the mic to announce that “This cannoli is the best I’ve ever had.”  It most certainly was with it’s fresh crunchy shell, and creamy awesome filling.

I’m telling you this because these are products that the meat house offers and what you’d find if you paid this place a visit.  In the refrigerated sections lots of marinated meats:  Sweet BBQ steak tips I had, honey teriyaki chicken, maple bourbon steak tips, to name just a few of the vast selection.  Also, desserts from Meriano’s Bake Shoppe such as the cannoli’s but also a variety of other Italian desserts.  Not sure how the refrigerated cannoli’s  compare to the fresh one I had, but if you’re concerned about that, just go right to the bake shop in Guilford and get ’em fresh!

Also, Meat House brand desserts like slices of chocolate cake and carrot cake looked good.  If you want a side of ice cream or gelato with your meat, they carry Gelato Giuliana and Farmer’s Cow.  CT products – keeping it local!  Additionally, nice selection of cheeses, pastas, sauces, chips, dips, Boar’s Head Deli, olive oils + balsamic vinegars with vats for sampling.  There’s also fish and other seafood for sale but I didn’t pay much attention to that on this particular visit.

Holy smokes.  I love this place.  GIVE ME THE MEAT!

103 North Main St.
Branford, CT 06405
(203) 208-1579

Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale (Madison)

The lobster roll with drawn butter from Lenny & Joe’s was so good I’ve declared to my boyfriend that I wanted to marry it.  It comprises of large, sweet, and succulent chunks of lobster meat generously bathed in a hot butter bath stuffed in a toasted buttered hot dog roll.  Crazy, crazy, good!  Each and every time we come, Boyfriend orders the fried scrod dinner (no fail).  It is a delicious flaky piece of scrod in a nice crunchy batter, crinkle fries, and coleslaw.  I’ve had the broiled scrod dinner, and while it may be a healthier option it’s definitely a little less delicious (and I found a bone last time, ew!).  Even still, we’re big fans of Lenny & Joe’s.  Boyfriend grew up in the area and he and his family have been coming forever.

Earlier in the day Boyfriend suggested we grab dinner from Lenny & Joe’s since we were already in Madison for something else.  Of course I said YES!  I tried the broiled sole this time.  Even better than the broiled scrod, and no bones!  The rice was fluffier this time around too, and had just a hint of butter (holy yum).  Cole slaw was good as usual.


The best part?

While we were waiting for our take-out orders I got a chocolate and vanilla swirl soft-serve ice cream cone from the Ice Cream Shack.  Dessert before dinner…hell yeah.  I swear the ice cream here is even better than Ashley’s soft-serve.  That’s right.  You heard me, Ashley’s fans.  I’ll say it loud and proud.  The ice cream is creamiest of vanilla and chocolate soft serve that is the perfect ending to a shoreline seafood dinner.

We called in to place our orders and even though they were busy the staff person was really patient with me on the phone when I asked her questions and went back and forth between scrod and sole.  I appreciated that and strongly believe it contributes to the greatness of this place.

I just love, love, love Lenny & Joe’s.

1301 Boston Post Rd
Madison, CT 06443
(203) 245-7289

Goldburgers (Newington)

I recently tried the Southern Hospitality burger.  It sounded so delicious on the menu:  One beef patty topped with golden BBQ sauce, housemade coleslaw, cheddar cheese and potato chips.  Doesn’t that sound amazing?  I thought so.

What I expected was a flavor explosion in my mouth.  I took a bite and waited for it…and then took another bite…and another.  It never came.  Flavor was alright, but nothing that excited my tastebuds the way other burgers have before.  Texturally, the potato chips added a unique crunch but, again, just kind of meh.  Nothing was wrong with the burger.  It just didn’t blow me away.

The guys behind the counter were cool.  The food arrived within 5-7 minutes as there were only two other people there.  Parking is easy with spots out front and a huge lot in the back that is shared with other businesses.  I’ll be back to try out other menu items and chuckle over the notes on the compliments/suggestions board.  My fav –  Customer:  “Stop being so sexy it’s distracting.”  Response:  “Just think if I wore tighter pants.

1096 Main St
Newington, CT 06111
(860) 665-0478