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.

IMG_3030

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.

IMG_3031

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.

IMG_3034IMG_3035IMG_3036IMG_3038IMG_3039IMG_3041

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

Advertisements

Hartford Baking Company (West Hartford)

(photo credit: Yuchen Z. of Yelp)

Over the past year and a half it has become my absolute favorite spot in the area.  When I think about my upcoming move down to the Connecticut shore, I know that this is the place I will miss most out of all the other places I go.  I’m so much of a regular that I’ve become friendly with many of the employees as well as many of the other regular patrons.  It is my top choice for all of the following:  getting work done with the free wifi, picking up my favorite cold brew coffee ever, and/or having breakfast or a snack.

(photo credit: Scott K. of Yelp)

As much as I loved their brie and jam for breakfast, I used to pray that they’d create an scrumptious breakfast sandwich – something a little more substantial.  One day, soon after, their HBC egg sandwich was born:  two eggs, aged Cabot cheddar, spiced potatos, and onion jam on a pain de mie roll.  It is fabulous.  I used to think the potatoes were superfluous but after having the sandwich a few times I now think it is pretty perfect.

(photo credit: Hartford Baking Company Facebook page)

I continue to love their baked goods:  scones in all the flavors, financiers, brioche.  Their bread cannot be beat.  The sticky buns, cakes + cupcakes, and and other sweet treats always catch my eye with their beauty.  Recently, they’ve introduced other new stuff like their own version of a grab-and-go oatmeal blend, homemade granola bars, and more sandwich options.  I had their tuna melt last week and it was was heavenly, especially coupled with their flawless cappuccino – another “best ever.”

(photo credit: Sarah D. of Yelp)

It’s been incredible, and a great honor, to watch HBC grow and flourish over the past year.  As more and more people became aware of it’s awesomeness, it has gotten busier and busier but remains a cozy and wonderful place.  Without a doubt, this will be the place I miss the most after I move.

(photo credit: Alex K. of Yelp)

P.S. – They were kind enough to share their cold brew method with me.  That was one of the best moments of my life.  I love Hartford Baking Company!

625 New Park Ave
West Hartford, CT 06110
(860) 570-1579

Burtons Grill (South Windsor)

Image

I decided to come here for lunch on Sunday since it had been a long time since my last visit.  So happy with that decision because I had an impressively delicious lunch that I’ve continued to think about throughout the week.

The spacious restaurant was about half full when we arrived.  We were seated right away  and brought bread and a tasty garlic and herb butter spread.  I ordered the Steak Sandwich, described on the menu as:  “seasoned, grilled sirloin served on griddled ciabatta with a pesto cheese spread, roasted red peppers, arugula and provolone cheese, drizzled with barbeque ranch, served with hand cut french fries.”

Holy deliciousness.  The flavors went together beautifully!  The steak, which I requested at a medium doneness, was more medium rare in some bites.  I didn’t mind at all, but I’m sure it would have freaked some people out.  I ate half for lunch and tried to save the other half for lunch the next day, but I could not.  Later that night I had to have the other half for dinner since I enjoyed it so much earlier in the day.

The fries?  They were the best I have had since I went to Nosh in Portland, ME a couple years ago and overdosed on their bacon-dusted fries.  The difference is that these didn’t have any special magic bacon powder fairy dust coating them.  They were just flawless in their simplicity from the perfect execution on the part of the chef.  Well done, crispy crunchy (dark caramel/tan in color) exterior with a soft and smooth inside.  Un-freaking-believable.  I was so addicted, I continued to mindlessly eat them even as the waitress was taking away the plate. I told her, “I’m sorry.  Those fries are like magnets to my fingers.”

Image

100 Evergreen Way
South Windsor, CT 06074
(860) 432-4575

Cora Cora (West Hartford)

IMG_1306

Taking advantage of the fact that we were both home on Monday as a result of the remnants of the Blizzard Charlotte / Snowpocalypse / Winter Storm Nemo, my roommate and I decided to go out for lunch.  We didn’t want to go far as the roads were still pretty bad. Lucky for us we’re not far from a handful of great dining options.  Cora Cora is among them and it my first choice.  I’d read about their lunch special and had been wanting to check it out.

IMG_1287

A review of their online menu revealed three course offerings ranging in price from $11.50 to $13.50, but their in person menu had one fixed price of $13.50 as their lunch special.  There were many different appetizer and entree options from which to choose, and also a choice of rice pudding, ice cream, or jello for dessert.  In addition, the lunch special includes a beverage with the options being several Coca Cola products and their specialty drink, “chicha,”  a Peruvian beverage with purple corn and pineapple.  It was fruity, refreshing, and had a hint of spice similar to cinnamon.

IMG_1293 IMG_1296

All of the appetizer and entree options looked good to me but I finally decided on the Cora salad and the seafood fried rice (chaufa de mariscos) while my roommate ordered the ceviche and the sliced rib eye in house special sauce, red onions and tomatoes served on a bed of french fries, with white rice (lomo saltado).  We shared all of it to maximize the experience of trying all the dishes ordered and everything was terrific.  The salad was presented nicely and was dressed in a light orange vinaigrette. The ceviche, made with tilapia, was fantastic.  The meat for the rib eye was ordered medium and came out perfect with a hot pink center and was juicy and flavorful.  The fries + sauce + rice of this dish, when combined, was heavenly.

IMG_1298 IMG_1301

One the menu it states that the portions are smaller so I was a bit concerned about how filling lunch would be, but we were both stuffed before dessert even arrived (and we both have impressive appetites).  We only had several bites of the warm rice pudding that we both ordered, but it was delicious like everything else.

IMG_1303

Coming here for lunch that day was a great decision.  We were incredibly pleased with our experience.  The service was excellent too.  We enjoyed our time here so much it made us wonder why we don’t come here more often.  From now on we will.  I have a feeling we’ll be here again very soon!

IMG_1289

P.S. – Dip the warm bread they give you (and if they don’t give it to you, ask for it) into the yellow dipping sauce that is meant for the cancha (the giant corn kernels).  Holy yum.  So good!

IMG_0012

P.P.S – Is it just me or does anyone else get the urge to pet or run your fingers through the fuzzy murals hanging on the walls?  Probably just me.

162 Shield St
West Hartford, CT 06110
(860) 953-2672

Noodles & Company (West Hartford)

Yesterday I got to try Noodles & Company for the first time – for free!  How, you ask?  A  coupon for a complimentary bowl of noodles for my birthday that i discovered from my Yelp friend Lesley.   Thanks, Lesley!

I came alone for lunch and the place was completed mobbed when I arrived between 12:30 and 1pm.  There was a line of people waiting to order and every table was full even though the place is not small.  Like everyone else in line I visually scanned the room for a place to sit.  By the time I placed my order a table had opened up.  I took my little number indicator and placed it on the table.  This is how they find you to bring you your noodles when they’re done cooking, by the number on your table.

I tried the truffle mac and cheese and had a small garden salad on the side.  The truffle mac was slightly above average with al dente noodles, a good amount of woody mushrooms throughout the dish giving it depth of flavor and texture, a nice truffle taste that was noticeable, fresh herbs that were almost a little overwhelming, and shaved parmesan.  While I liked it, it wasn’t what I was expecting – an ooey gooey baked macaroni and cheese texture.  Instead, it seemed like the noodles were cooked first then everything was thrown together in the bowl, which makes sense from a business perspective, considering all the other noodle dishes they have.  But, it was still pretty good.  I’d get it again.  The salad was ok, serviceable.  The balsamic dressing that came with it was better than balsamic  that I recently had at a more “upscale” restaurant.

333 N Main St
West Hartford, CT 06117
(860) 206-9986

Beachland Tavern (West Hartford)

I gave Beachland Tavern another shot recently and had better experience than the one I initially reviewed.  I came with my roommate to get some beers, wings, and a salad during the time of the college football playoffs.  It was wild in there!
Photo0080
We sat at the bar and got a few Goose Island brews.  We ordered wings that were coated in a combination of buffalo hot sauce, barbecue sauce, and a gorgonzola sauce.  Very tasty.  I also ordered a cobb salad.  This was huge and delicious.  The grilled chicken tasted fresh and was cooked perfectly, there were large amounts of crisp bacon, ripe slices of avocado, egg, tomatoes, and lots and lots of gorgonzola cheese.  Almost too much, but more is better than less in a situation like this.  The gorgonzola dressing went very nicely with this salad and was addictive with a slight hint of garlic.  This salad is easily two to three meals depending on your appetite.We also enjoyed an ice cream sundae and that was fine.
Photo0079
Overall it was a nice time.  The bartender was great, the atmosphere lively, the food and drinks satisfying.  I’m glad I came back and I see myself coming by more frequently, especially since it’s close to my apartment.

1128 New Britain Ave
West Hartford, CT 06110
(860) 263-7167


Pho Saigon (West Hartford)

Before Pho Saigon came into existence I frequented Pho Boston whenever the craving hit for the tasty Vietnamese noodle soup.  Now, I am here much more often than at Pho Boston even though I make the occasional visit there just to mix things up sometimes.  They’re both about the same distance from my apartment which is no surprise since they’re practically in the same plaza.

Pho Saigon was recommended to me by a Vietnamese friend a year and a half ago.  I have had a number of the phos there both dining in and for takeout.  The seafood pho is amazing.  I had it a while ago and remember large fresh shrimp, delicious fish balls, imitation crab meat, and a flavorful broth.  I was very happy with it.  It was a total cheat, though, because I am allergic to shrimp so I only had it that one time.  I usually go for some combination of rare steak, tripe, meatball, flank or brisket.

Tonight I got takeout for two: rare steak pho and also the grilled chicken pho.  Since I’d be traveling with the pho for about an hour, I asked for uncooked rice noodles so that I could just cook it up at the boyfriend’s house and add it to the broth and the rest of the goods when it was ready  (a tip given to me by a nice Pho Boston employee when I got pho takeout there in the past – so the noodles don’t get all soggy and gross from sitting in the hot broth too long.  Rice noodles will do that.).  The woman on the phone was a little confused about my request for dry noodles initially, but when I explained my situation she complied.  Both the rare steak pho and the grilled chicken pho were tasty as usual!

989 New Britain Ave
West Hartford, CT 06110
(860) 953-1122

Edible Arrangements (New Britain)

My brother and his fiancée had the chocolate dipped fruit box delivered to my apartment for my birthday.  I received a call from the delivery person when he was outside the apartment but was not in the area since i was not expecting a delivery.  I was an hour away and wouldn’t be back until much later so I asked the delivery guy if he’d be able to come back later in the day.  He made it sound like it would be an inconvenience and said, “I’m not sure if I can come back later, ” clearly agitated.  Not knowing what else to do, I called my roommate and hoped he’d be around to pick it up for me – and luckily he was.

IMG_0771

When I finally got home I noticed the beautiful red Edible Arrangement box with a cute white design.  Opening the box revealed four chocolate dipped green apple wedges, four chocolate and white chocolate dipped banana bites, and four chocolate covered strawberries.  They were beautifully arranged and they all looked great.  I immediately ate a banana bite and a chocolate covered strawberry and they both tasted fresh and delicious.  I was really impressed by the quality of the fruit and the chocolate.  What a great idea for a birthday surprise!  Perfect for any occasion.  Just hope your delivery guy is a little more accommodating than mine (if they have more than one).

204 Main St
New Britain, CT 06051
(860) 223-0085

Bricco (West Hartford)

Image

One of my dearest friends treated me to an early birthday dinner at Bricco on Tuesday.  Truth be told, we had originally planned on Arugula since neither of us had been, but it was New Year’s Day and they were not open.  Bricco was, though, and it was an easy choice.  We’d been here a number of times before, once even for my birthday two years ago.  We were pleased to find it was not packed when we arrived just before 8pm.

We settled into one of the large comfortable booths in the main dining room while we perused the menu.  I was a bit  disappointed that that the online menu was not consistent with the menu that they had that day.  I had read the menu online earlier and my heart set on something that was on the online menu and not on the in person menu.

Anyway, we both ordered salads – goat cheese for her and the Boston Bibb for me.  My salad was easily the most memorable salad I have had in a long time – quite possibly the highlight of the entire meal.  The lemon vinaigrette was the ideal dressing for the greens, red onion, thinly sliced english cucumbers, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, and flavorful crumbles of gorgonzola.  I will fantasize about this salad until I have it again.

For dinner I had the pumpkin lasagna.  It was good and the portion was large but I found it overpriced at $18 or $20.  I enjoyed my friend’s goat cheese ravioli more.  We shared two desserts:  the Butterscotch budino with whipped cream & hazelnut biscotti and also the Bricco’s Lemon Sampler:  lemon tart, Meyer lemon cheesecake, and  house made lemon curd ice cream (we get this sampler time).  Dessert was excellent.

It should also be mentioned that we stayed well past closing time, not realizing that they close at 9 on Tuesdays.  We were not rushed at all and our waitress was as patient as anyone in that situation could be.  This type of service, the quality of the food, and the overall ambience will keep us coming back.

78 Lasalle Rd
West Hartford, CT 06107
(860) 233-0220

East West Grille (West Hartford)

A breakfast review –

East West Grille has a unique and tasty breakfast.

And great coffee.  So important with breakfast.

And cozy atmosphere.

When it’s not super crazy crowded (actually, it’s never been all the times I have been there), it’s a fun place to sit and relax while the friendly waiters and waitresses cater to your food related needs.  I love the red booths, plants-a-plenty, and the abundant amounts of sunshine that makes its way through the diner car windows.  I felt the East West Grille magic when I came in for breakfast with my roommate this past Saturday morning.  I definitely enjoy eating in more than take out.  I have never been terribly impressed by lunch or dinner, and I think the atmosphere really adds to the positive experience.

So, breakfast is served F, Sat, + Sun. and you have your typical selections offered at any old diner like choice of eggs, breakfast meat, toast (white/wheat/rye), but as you continue to read down the list you will come across some more interesting and intriguing options.  Examples:  Asian Vegan Tofu Scrambled? Yum.  Nutella breakfast sandwich.  Yes, please!  Touch of Laos Huevos Rancheros? Mouth is watering…

I got the East West Skillet and LOVED it.  It had Laos sausage, mushrooms, pork green chili sauce, onions, and shredded cheese and serious yum factor.  All of the ingredients came together harmoniously.  The Idaho skillet also looked delish.  My roommate got the Nuevo Burrito and really enjoyed it.  It had spicy tomato rice, scrambled eggs, homemade Laos sausages, sautéed bell pepper and onions, smothered with pork chipotle green chili, topped with Mexican shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro and scallions.

I considered ordering the rice porridge because it sounded similar to the Chinese style rice porridge “jook” that is the ultimate comfort food and a standard breakfast item to Chinese people across the world.  I asked if it was similar and our waiter told me that it is, but this version is thicker.  It comes with Asian fried dough, just like jook usually does.  Maybe next time.

I didn’t even make it to the page of the menu that listed the home-made pancakes, waffles, and fresh toast, but they sure sound delicious.  I look forward to coming back soon to try many other things including the housemade corned beef hash (*swoon*), cranberry walnut pancakes, lao sticky rice toast, bahn bao, and the aforementioned rice porridge.  Holy yum.

Oh yeah, and their coffee rocks.

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