Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant (West Hartford)

Barcelona is one of the sexiest restaurants in West Hartford. It’s the perfect place to bring a date or lover or dine with friends. There is something very intimate about sharing a bunch of small plates. It is the perfect opportunity to try a variety of different dishes.

Friday was the first time I’d been back since they renovated. I loved the decor and ambience before but it did seem like more space was needed. Now it’s even better than ever. We arrived sometime between 6 and 7pm and got a table in the outdoor dining area. One of our two waiters brought over a menu and it did not take me long to select the Aviator (Ransom Old Tom Gin, Liqueur de Violettes, Luxardo Maraschino, Lemon Juice) as my beverage of choice.

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Shortly after we placed our order we were brought a complimentary watermelon, cucumber, and feta salad from the kitchen. It was light, summery, and refreshing. The official start of summer isn’t for about another week but summer started for me that night in my mouth with the first bite of that salad.

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We also shared the spicy eggplant caponata, the kale salad with toasted hazelnuts, grilled hanger steak with black truffle vinaigrette, pork belly a la plancha with mustard, and 12-hour braised short ribs. For dessert – churros with a chocolate sauce for dipping. Everything was terrific My favorites of the night were the multidimensional flavors of the caponata, the tender and flavorful short rib, and the crispy and soft churros, but honestly, I loved it all.

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My dining companion commented that the kale salad tasted “healthy, in a good way” – the acidity of the balsamic drizzle was nice against the butteriness of toasted hazelnuts. The pork belly would have been too dry without the wet of the mustard, but together it was good. The hanger steak was an ideal medium rare and the black truffle vinaigrette had a smokey complexity that added depth to the dish. We also enjoyed using the warm, crusty, delicious bread as a vehicle to sop up the sauce from the eggplant caponata.

We had a great time here and I look forward to a return visit soon. I would also love to check out a wine or cooking class in the near future.

971 Farmington Ave
West Hartford, CT 06127
(860) 218-2100

Haywire Burger Bar (Westbrook)

ImageHalf the week I am a resident of the shoreline, and the other half of the week, I live in the burger capital of Connecticut:  West Hartford.  Prior to Haywire’s arrival my boyfriend and I would talk about how the shoreline desperately needed a burger joint.  Finally, Haywire opened.  For some reason, it took us a while to get here even though we both love burgers.  After an unsuccessful attempt to dine here a month ago, leaving because the wait was too long, we finally returned on Friday.  Glad we did.

ImageWe sat at the outdoor patio area.  The menu contained many enticing options – it was hard to choose, but I finally decided on the Brie Burger which has brie cheese, apricot preserves, and bacon.  The boyfriend ordered the Frico which comes with crispy provolone, pickles, onion and spicy ketchup. The crispy provolone cheese was quite a sight!  There was so much of it, it reached out way beyond the sides of the burgers.  I was lucky enough to have one of the big slabs of crispy cheese and it was delicious.  We were both very pleased with our burgers.  The fries were average, but satisfying enough as they came out hot, crispy, and salty.  They were listed as shoestring fries yet came out thicker than I imagined.  Not a complaint at all, the thicker the better (for the most part).

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My boyfriend thought this was as good as Plan B in West Hartford, but I respectfully disagree.  Plan B has always reigned supreme in the Connecticut burger scene, in my opinion, and continues to.   A few gripes:  out of soap and toilet paper in womens restroom (hostess was kind enough to let me use her hand sanitizer) and the parking lot is far too small.  The restaurant was not at full capacity and many people, us included, had to park at nearby establishments and walk.

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730 Boston Post Rd
Westbrook, CT 06498
(860) 391-8479

 

Hen & Heifer (Guilford)

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Hen & Heifer is an excellent addition to the shoreline, particularly Guilford, with it’s delectable array of French pastries.  When I learned of their upcoming opening several months prior, I began stalking their opening and, finally, two Thursdays ago, they opened their doors for business.  I went today to find out what this place is about.

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I walked in a couple of hours before closing.  Immediately, I noticed the macarons, They had vanilla, raspberry, salted caramel, and milk chocolate.  They weren’t as puffy as I have seen at other places but they still looked very good.  Since it was just about the end of the day, they’d sold out of some things (like croissants – which they explained they make 4-5 dozen of every morning but they tend to sell out within a couple of hours).

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There were still plenty of treats left such as charming, good-sized, sugar cookies in the shape of chickens (they’d sold out of the cows earlier), a chocolate tart, lemon olive oil cakes, whole wheat carrot muffins, banana financiers, coffee cake, madeleines, and a yogurt jam granola parfait that looked that looked exquisite.  They make their own rhubarb jam and granola while the yogurt is made fresh at a farm nearby.

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Beverages available today included coffee from Ashlawn Farm in Lyme, CT, hot and iced (iced coffee brewed Japanese style, which is a hot brew placed immediately over ice), housemade lemonade infused with cardamom and black pepper, fresh squeeze orange juice, and bottled beverages: Fever Tree Ginger Ale, Saratoga natural spring water, and Coke/Diet Coke.

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I was curious about both the iced coffee and the lemonade so the owner and his employee, Brett, gave me a sample of each over ice.  While cold brew is my preference for iced coffee, theirs was quite good with some vanilla + caramel syrup mixed in, and a splash of milk.  The lemonade was sweet and tart, the black pepper and cardamon adding an extra element of interest to the strong lemon presence.

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After much deliberation, I finally, with the help of the owner, decided to try the cannele, which originates from the Bordeaux region of France.  He was absolutely on point with his recommendation.  This new-to-me (I’ve never seen it elsewhere and he noted that it’s even difficult to find in French bakeries in NYC) pastry was described by him as  custardy, like creme brulee, but also bread-like.  I took it outside to enjoy at one of the outdoor tables.  The outside seating area is small but wonderful, having an intimate feel similar to sitting on a friends deck or patio while soaking in the sun.

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The cannele was impressively delicious.  With each bite I was met with a firm, slightly crunchy exterior delicately scented with a touch of honey – the result of lining the uniquely shaped copper baking pan with a combination of butter and beeswax.  This contrasted beautifully against the soft and custardy interior that was speckled with vanilla bean.  It was amazing.  After finishing, I immediately went back in to get another for my boyfriend, because something this good needs to be shared!   In addition, I picked up a salted caramel macaron for myself, and it was fantastic as well.

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The inside space is quite small with minimal seating.  There is more seating outdoors.  The owner, trained at the French Culinary Institute, was a pleasure to talk with as was Brett.  I’m thrilled to have Hen & Heifer join the Guilford food scene.  I will be living here full-time by next month and I’ve a feeling I will be coming to Hen & Heifer quite regularly.

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6/2/13 Update:  Tried the almond croissant, chocolate croissant, and yogurt parfait today.  Heavenly.

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6/9/13 Update:  I can’t get enough of this place.  I brought back the beautiful glass container for the yogurt today and got a caramel for returning the jar.  I bought two more yogurts, two caramel mararons, one chocolate macaron, and a fresh squeezed orange juice.   All delicious.

23 Water St
Guilford, CT 06437
(203) 689-5651