Fusion Bakery & Patisserie (Middletown)

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With the start of the new year and the possibility of a beach getaway in the not-so-distant future, I started my healthy eating diet today.  That all came to a screeching halt when I decided, on a whim, to stop in at Fusion for some cupcakes.  It was (pretty much) on my way home from my boyfriend’s house and I had wanted to try it for a while.  Today seemed to be as good a day as any other especially since it is my one week anniversary since turning 30, but really, who needs an excuse to eat cake?

I popped in an hour before closing time and it appeared many of the items were sold out.  That didn’t turn out to be an issue at all as I found plenty of things that I wanted.  Per usual, I ordered a red velvet cupcake in addition to a small cherry cheesecake, a Guinness cupcake, and a gluten-free chocolate cupcake.  I ate the first two items in the store and took the other two home for later.

I was the only patron in the bakery at the time so I sat at one of the many tables and savored each bite of the cherry cheesecake and the red velvet cake.  Both were very good. A few words about the red velvet cupcake:  it’s made with only a small amount of red food coloring and gets most of its color from beet juice, a natural coloring agent.  I’d read about this before but had never used it in my own baking of red velvet cupcakes even though I have been  planning to since my last batch.  Now I’m even more inspired.  The reason they don’t use beet juice exclusively is that “some of it can evaporate and leave the middle of the cupcake a grey-ish color”.

The other two cupcakes were also quite enjoyable.  The Guinness was nice and moist and there was only a trace of the Guinness flavor but it was very good.  The frosting complimented it well.  The gluten-free chocolate was great flavor-wise but was a bit dry.  Not something I wouldn’t get again, though.

In addition to the cupcakes, cakes, cookies, breads, brownies, creme brulee, truffle tarts, lemon tarts, macarons,  etc., Fusion also carries a large assortment of Lake Champlain chocolates.  There’s also a beverage case that sells Avery’s sodas as well as other drinks.  If you’re craving something sweet, Fusion is your kind of place.

100 Riverview Center
Middletown, CT 06457
(860) 344-9024


Dish Bar & Grill (Hartford)

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I caught wind of the New Year’s $20.13 prix fixe menu available until Sunday thanks to a friend and came here for dinner with my roommate last night.  Making a reservation through Open Table was the easiest thing ever.  It was the first time for both of us.  Fortunately, I had a much better experience here than the few times I’ve been to it’s sister restaurant in Canton.

Initially, I was struck by the decor.  It manages to be sleek and sexy, yet comfortable and inviting.  I loved the stonework on one of the beams facing where we were seated.  The fireplace and the small waterfall were eye-catching from our seats.

We had to ask for the special menu but it was brought out to us as soon as it was requested.  It was a bargain considering the prices off the regular menu – a steal even!  I was pleased that the prix fixe menu contained items from the regular menu, so if you really fell in love with something (as we did) you could have it again and again.

All the choices looked delicious but we both finally decided on the Citrus Cured Ahi Tuna as the starter, the Red Wine Braised Short Rib of Beef as the main, and for dessert – the Chocolate Cream Pie for me and the Vanilla Agave Creme Brulee for him.  Also, the table next to us ordered the Kettle Cooked Potato Chips and Farmhouse Cheddar Fondue appetizer (off the regular menu) that was so attention grabbing that we ordered one too!

Kettle Chips and Cheddar Fondue, as my roommate put it, were “fancy chips and dip.”  Oh they were, but they were so much more.  Words cannot describe how addictive these were.   Seriously.  Could not stop eating!  We managed to polish most of them off even thought it was quite a large portion.  We ran out of the fondue before we ran out of chips.  I wish the ratio had been a little more balanced but the fondue was incredibly tasty.

The one disappointment with our entire meal was the Citrus Cured Ahi Tuna.  It was lacking in flavor and the tuna didn’t taste as fresh as it could have been.  Unfortunate, since it had so much potential.  Everything else, however,  was excellent.  We were both impressed by our braised short rib which was served with a red wine sauce on a bed of perfect cheese grits, three roasted carrots nestled gently against the beef.  The flavors and textures of this dish came together beautifully.

And the desserts were exceptional as well.  Even though I was stuffed to the gills by the time dessert got to the table, the deconstructed chocolate cream pie was so divine that I nearly licked my plate clean, even with the big portion.  My roommates creme brulee was equally fantastic.  This was a lovely first experience at Dish that has me interested in returning for more.

900 Main St
Hartford, CT 06103
(860) 249-3474

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.

Thai Room (West Hartford)

I had plans with a friend  to get Thai food in the Center last night but something came up and we had to reschedule.  That didn’t change the fact that I had been thinking of pad thai all day and couldn’t shake my craving.  Since Thai Room is one of the closer Thai restaurants to me I decided to get take out and enjoy it alone in front of the boob tube.

Tom Ka Gai (Coconut Chicken Soup):
Some of the best I have had anywhere.  Excellent coconut based broth with the perfect consistency, extremely flavorful with a nice amount of heat, and chock full of white meat chicken pieces, mushrooms, green and red peppers, onion, galangal, lemongrass, lime leaves, cilantro and scallions.  Mmm.

Som Tum (Green Papaya Salad):
This was my first time having this dish and I thought it was great.  Veggies were very fresh and crunchy, nice balance of sweet, sour, and salty.  Peanuts and fish sauce dominated the flavors.  Very good.  A first experience that left a positive impression.

Pad Thai:
Prior to opening my take-out container, I was struck by how heavy it felt.  I opened it to find a densely packed rectangle of mouthwatering pad thai with ample amount of bean sprouts on one side, and two large lime wedges and crushed peanuts on the other side.  More delicious food = happy eater.  Noodles had a good mouthfeel and were very tasty.  I ordered mine with tofu and it was awesome.

Great decision.  Loved it all.  Craving satisfied.

156 Shield St
West Hartford, CT 06110
(860) 953-8975

Marty’s (Washington Depot)

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The first thing I saw when I walked in was the funky zebra striped couch.  Further in I noticed a warm and cozy space furnished with equally contemporary decor that I really enjoyed.  One of the hippest-looking cafes I’ve been in here in Connecticut, I’d say.  A welcome change from the chains and also more aesthetically pleasing than other non-chains.  A few comfy-looking couches, a section of books, many tables including a large one by the bathroom for big groups, occupy the space nicely.

My boyfriend and I ordered a couple of iced coffees while we were here today.  Small for me and medium for him – and together it was six bucks and change.  I thought that was a bit pricey for what we got.  I told him that and he said, “Hey, it’s Litchfield County.”

The counter is located in the middle of the cafe and there were many delicious-looking treats like coffee cakes, rice krispie squares, brownies, cookies, etc. but we passed on the food because we had just eaten lunch before going to the cafe and had already had dessert.

Woman behind the counter did not exude warmth and attentiveness that I typically experience at the West Hartford and shoreline coffee spots I frequent, but she wasn’t overly unpleasant either.  Similarly, when I was waiting in line to go to the bathroom I commented to another employee who was wiping down a table close by, how impressed I was with what they had done to the space visually – and I received a lukewarm response.

The coffee was good and the iced held up with a nice bold flavor, as someone had mentioned to us before we made the decision to go.  If I am ever back in the area I would certainly come back.  Good coffee and cool space trumps mediocre service, at least in this case.

4 Green Hill Rd
Washington Depot, CT 06794
(860) 868-1700

Bella Gusta (West Hartford)

Finally made it to Bella Gusta!

Located next to Grant’s in West Hartford Center, it’s smaller than I imagined (having O’Live a Little in S. Windsor as my comparison point) but still has many high quality and interesting-to-the-tastebuds olive oils and balsamic vinegars from around the globe.  Prices seem to be a bit lower than O’Live, too.  I adored the richness of the Fig Balsamic, the sweet notes in the Strawberry Balsamic and the complex flavors and heat of the Harissa oil.  The Blood Orange olive oil would probably be wonderful with fish or in salad. Will probably be back for those soon.

Today I purchased a bottle of the Cranberry Pear White Balsamic ($12.95) for myself as well as a bottle for my boyfriend’s momma for Mother’s Day.  It had a nice sweet tartness to it and seems just a bit milder than the dark balsamics.  Also, they were beautifully gift-wrapped free of charge!  There’s also a section of lovely packaged presents that you can give to others (or to yourself!) that include the sampler of six trial bottles of different oils/vinegars and also prettily packaged products wrapped in bows for a nice presentation.

I went in there with the full intent to purchase truffle salt but they were out.  At $6.99 that’s a bit more affordable than the $29.99 truffle oil.  I recently had a truffle butter that was so good I find myself craving that flavor from time to time (or, more like all the time).  Will likely back for this very soon.  (Update 5/18/12 – went back to get it today and it’s phenomenal.  Used it on roasted potatoes and also on eggs and it just brought these foods to a whole new level.  Can’t wait to find new uses for it!)

For the dog lovers: I met the owner’s new puppy today, Bella, a 14-week-old Wheaton terrier who just melted my heart.

This store is a fantastic addition to West Hartford Center.

981 Farmington Ave
West Hartford, CT 06107
(860) 216-3961

Pho 75 (Windsor Locks)

What is better than a hot bowl of pho to warm you up on a cold, rainy, spring day?  Not a whole lot.  This morning I decided that today would be the day that I make the trek to Windsor Locks to try this place out.  Living in West Hartford, I have access to many pho restaurants and have tried most of the ones around but after reading some reviews and hearing great things about this place I wanted to expand my pho horizons.  So off I went today, on a solo lunch mission for some tasty warm broth, toothsome rice noodles, and meat, meat, meat.

I guess I never realized that Bradley International is right across the street.  Never having been there before it was a double win to try this restaurant out for the first time and also learn the route to the airport.  I walked in a little before noon and there was only one other person in there when I arrived.  Soon after my arrival, it began to fill up and before I knew it almost half the restaurant was full with a mix of groups of four and two, and about a handful of people dining alone.


Looking through the menu I realized the prices were higher than other pho joints I’ve been to in the Hartford/West Hartford area.  Truth be told, I was shocked to see  $7.00 banh mi, especially when my staple bahn mi at Huong Viet (that used to be Mini Saigon when I first started going there years ago) is about half that price and packs full on deliciousness.  I didn’t splurge on the relatively pricey sandwich but instead ordered what I came for:  pho.  I ordered the small #1 and a Vietnamese espresso.

When the pho arrived after a very short wait it was in a noticeably smaller bowl than what I am used to, but the size of the bowl was deceiving because there was a whole lot of noodles and beefy goodness (brisket, tripe, tendon, meatballs – yum!) to devour.  An accompanying dish of fresh basil, bean sprouts, lime wedge, chili pepper and jalapeno peppers was provided along with the beef noodle soup.  The broth had excellent flavor, richer than broths I’ve had at other pho establishments.  The noodles were plentiful and great.

I asked for the Vietnamese espresso iced and it arrived in two parts:   a glass of ice and a separate glass of the espresso itself was still dripping into a layer of sweetened condensed milk.  I poured the contents of the freshly dripped espresso + milk mixture into my glass of ice after giving it a stir.  The glass of ice had been sitting out during the time I was eating the pho so it had melted a little bit creating a bit of water at the bottom of the  glass.  I knew the espresso would become slightly diluted if I poured it in as is, but dilution was no cause for concern because I knew it was going to be some potent stuff anyway.  This stuff is always very strong, and I love that.


Ordering this turned out to be one of the best decisions on my part because it was superb.  Luscious, flavorful,  and sweet but not cloying.   It is not as bitter as the one Pho Boston serves and is less sweet.  It was divine.   There could not have been a more perfect ending to my already satisfying lunch.

Mmm.  An all around excellent lunch date with myself.  So glad I came today.

209 Ella Grasso Tpke
Windsor Locks, CT 06096
(860) 627-7575