I Brake for Cupcakes

Move out the WAY, New Haven…Cupcake trucks are no longer just a thing of the coast.

Yesterday, I caught word through the Twitter mill that there just might be a new kid on the block. Today I found out that the tweet-based rumors are true indeed! Hartford’s got a new treat truck in town- The Cupcake Brake. This sweet discovery is sure to lure us all into sugary indulgence (& possibly overdose), since we won’t have to wait months & months for New Haven’s mobile bakeshop to grace us with its presence.

Ok, here’s the scoop: Hartford’s truck is similar to its NH counterpart in some ways: the cupcakes are still frosted to order, but the Brake’s embellishments aren’t as glitzy as New Haven’s (so don’t go looking for edible gold & fleur de sol)…instead of fretting over fancy toppings, try one of the Brake’s mouthwatering cupcake fillings: Marshmallow, Chocolate Ganache, Peanut Butter, Boston Crème…ohhh my.

Almost as good as the custom cupcakes are their clever CT inspired names: Plain Twain, Mohegan Mocha, Charter Oak Chocolate, Colony Carrot, Yankee Lemon & more. Keep in mind- different flavors are available on different days.

Check out the website for their schedule, menu, FB/Twitter info & more: http://www.thecupcakebrake.com/

I love everything about Hartford to begin with but THIS just takes the (cup)cake…(har har)…Let me know if you successfully track down the truck before I do!

Natori Sushi

This past weekend, my sister, roommate and I enjoyed lunch at Natori Sushi, one of my favorite Asian restaurants in the area. A family owned eatery since 2001, Natori provides delicious Japanese food ranging from 50+ traditional and specialty sushi rolls to tasty cooked kitchen entrees (for those who shy away from sushi), salads, sashimi, a full appetizer menu and dessert selection (think fried ice cream or fried cheesecake).

Although we opted for take-out to eat our sushi outside picnic-style (soaking up that weekend sun), the restaurant’s interior is lovely & casual with paper lanterns, ample seating areas, and a panoramic photo of cherry blossoms adorning one wall. In all of my Natori experiences, service has been incredibly efficient- however I’m usually there for lunch so the place isn’t packed at all.

A few recommendations if you’re a sushi fan:

Peanut avocado roll

Avocado & crushed peanuts. This unlikely flavor combo is incredible ($4.00)

Ebi Tempura Roll

Shrimp gently fried with cucumber, avocado, spicy sauce & masago ($6.50)

Christmas Roll

Eel, kiwi, avocado & masago ($7.50)

All in all, another fantastic lunch at Natori Sushi. The weekday lunch special is particularly appealing: Choose Any 2 Rolls for $7.95 or Any 3 Rolls for $10.95 (excluding specialty rolls: Served with Miso Soup OR Garden Salad). Even beyond the lunch menu, all of the food is pretty reasonably priced. Take a look at the full menu here: http://natorisushi.net/SU—Sa.html

Natori Sushi

1500 Pleasant Valley Road

Manchester, CT 06040

860-648-2288

Also- Please let me know if you have recommendations for other Japanese restaurants in the area. Know of any in Hartford?

Sugarloaf Crafts Festival in Hartford

If you’re a fan of specialty gourmet foods and unique crafts, you won’t want to miss the Sugarloaf Crafts Festival in Hartford this coming weekend.

The event promoters kindly provided me with some free admission tickets to give away to my lucky blog readers! I have 3 left so if you’re interested in one, drop me a comment or email and we’ll figure out a way to get it to you. Read on for some awesome information about this weekend’s event:

About Sugarloaf Craft Festivals

For over 30 years, the nation’s most talented artisans have sold their contemporary crafts and fine art at Sugarloaf Craft Festivals, rated as one of the top craft experiences in the country.


The Sugarloaf Crafts Festival will usher in the spring craft season with the latest trends in contemporary crafts from Friday, March 26 through Sunday, March 28, 2010 at the Connecticut Expo Center in Hartford.

The Sugarloaf Crafts Festival will feature an eclectic mix of more than 200 artists whose work is exhibited in fine galleries, shown at museums, and acquired by prestigious collections, as well as new artists showcasing experimental techniques and bold creative vision. Craftspeople will display and sell affordable and innovative functional and decorative pottery, sculpture, glass, home décor, furniture and home accessories, gifts, fine art and photography.

The lively marketplace of the Sugarloaf Crafts Festival is enhanced by a full schedule of family entertainment. Master craftspeople will showcase their expertise in a range of media, including wheel thrown pottery, metal spinning, and wood carving in live demonstrations. The Festival also celebrates the skill of making small-batch specialty gourmet foods, available for sampling and purchase.

Friday, March 26 and Saturday, March 27 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m

Sunday, March 28 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Connecticut Expo Center in Hartford, CT

Admission is $8 for adults at the door and free for children under 12. Admission is good for all three days, and free parking is available.

For more information about the Sugarloaf Crafts Festival, directions, or to purchase admission tickets, visit www.sugarloafcrafts.com or call (800) 210-9900.

Hebron Maple Festival

I just found out about this. Apparently, Hebron, CT holds an annual Maple Festival in March! The event was supposed to be held last weekend but due to the bleak weather it’s been postponed to this upcoming (rumored to be warm, sunny) Saturday and Sunday- March 20 & 21st. I love New England…

Here’s what I learned. Each year, tons of Connecticut residents attend the festival to enjoy and experience a weekend filled with maple related events. According to the fair’s website, the goal is to bring families together and provide noncommercial, inexpensive enjoyment during a quiet time of year.

http://www.hebronmaplefest.com/

Here’s some of what you can expect:

Educational self-tours, demonstrations and a variety of maple products at each of these local sugar houses:

Wenzel Sugar House

Woody Acres Sugar House

Winding Brook Sugar House

Pierce’s Sugar House

There’s also a wide range of food options (described on website- lots of your typical fair food: fried dough, burgers, sandwiches, etc.) including some maple variations if you’re brave enough to sample maple milk, maple kettle corn, maple cotton candy or maple pudding cake, and other maple inspired baked goods…You’ll also have the opportunity to purchase maple syrup, maple candy and other treats & crafts.

Visit http://www.hebronmaplefest.com/maplefest-brochure.pdf for a full schedule of events and attractions. Many are geared toward children and families.

Take a look at the map in the brochure to see where these events are taking place…they appear to be scattered around town.

DIRECTIONS

RT 2 to Exit 13, East on 66 to Hebron center

RT 85 to Rt 66 intersection Hebron center

RT 6 to 66 then West on 66 to Hebron center

…..

Have a great weekend!! Even if you bail on the Maple fest, find a way to spend SOME time outside!

The best of the Emerald Isle

So, in the grand spirit of St. Patrick’s Day (a day early, perhaps), I’m going to let you in on one recipe that truly makes my heart happy. Irish Brown Bread. It’s the most wonderful taste in the world- alone, alongside soup, or paired with cheese, butter, jam, nearly anything. The Emerald Isle is famed for this rustic, traditional loaf- and I spent about 4 months eating it when I lived in Galway. Here’s a photo from the last time I made it:

Here’s what ya do:

Total Time: 20 min

INGREDIENTS

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups whole-wheat flour
  • ¾ cup quick oats
  • ½ cup wheat germ
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1¾ cups buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp honey

PREPARATION

1. Heat oven to 425°F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix flours, oats, wheat germ, baking soda and salt.

2. Whisk together buttermilk and honey. Add to flour mixture; stir to combine until soft dough forms.

3. Turn dough out onto floured surface. Divide in half. Shape each half into a round loaf. Place loaves 3 in. apart onto prepared baking sheet; bake 10 minutes.

4. Reduce temperature to 400°F. Continue baking 10 minutes longer or until bread sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool 15 minutes.

So there you have it. Quick, easy, and delicious. I also like to pick up some Kerrygold Irish Butter & make a cinnamon-honey spread with it.

That said, here’s my grand plan for St. Patricks Day: Come home after a long day, indulge in some fresh brown bread, Dubliner Irish cheddar, some Guinness & Beef stew, maybe a Galaxy bar (Thanks Mrs. Byrnes!), and unwind with a mug of Barry’s Irish tea or Cadbury hot chocolate and a collection of Eavan Boland poems. Too much? A little overboard? Absolutely not. Sounds just about right. :)

The Adam’s Mill

On a recent Sunday afternoon, I stopped by The Adam’s Mill in Manchester for lunch with a friend. Our appetites initially leaned towards brunch (as it was still being served) but we decided to settle on the “lighter fare” lunch menu, which turned out to be a great choice.

Adam’s Mill is a unique eatery for several reasons. It’s located in a restored 1880s paper mill once run by Peter Adams, renowned as one of the most successful paper manufacturers in the US at the time. Fun fact: even Mark Twain used Adams Mill paper for writing his books! The mill was transformed into a restaurant in 1982 and has been operating as such since then.

But I digress. Anyway, as the restaurant offers dining on two levels, my friend and I were seated upstairs in a lovely sun-filled area by the window. This entire level had a great ambiance- bright, airy with dark wood accents and beamed ceilings—sort of a rustic feel but inviting at the same time.

We split a delicious appetizer to start: baked brie over a pool of raspberry puree with toasted almonds. This tasty spread was served with a warm loaf of French bread. Highly recommended.

As for lunch, we didn’t opt for anything too exciting- just some wraps, but I was still pleasantly surprised. I ordered the Cardarelli Wrap, which includes grilled herb chicken, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, baby greens and balsamic glace in a warm flour tortilla. Fairly simple but extremely delicious. It was also served with the restaurant’s house cooked potato chips. Usually I can take or leave a side of fries, chips, whatever, but these were much tastier than I expected.

Service was great but the restaurant wasn’t terribly busy. I’ve heard quite a few mixed reviews about this place- about food and service being hit or miss- but I’d certainly recommend stopping by for a relaxed lunch if nothing else. The Mill also serves up quite a range of appetizers, salads, entrees- some items more unique than others. The brunch menu appears hearty but rather basic. Take a look here: http://theadamsmill.com/brunch.html

Prices are reasonable. Most of the lunch menu items are below $10. If you decide to stop by, let me know what you think.