3.29.2015

About the Taste of Manchester 2015



Perhaps you read the recent post on La Via del Gusto and your interest was piqued. What is the Taste of Manchester and how does it work?

The Taste of Manchester is a single-night fund-raising event that supports the Manchester Dog Owners Group and is run entirely by volunteers. Your ticket offers you the opportunity to explore, in pub-crawl fashion, the flavors of Downtown Manchester, and support the local businesses in the City of Village Charm.

Each participating business will have a "Tasting" area set up either at their own location, or at one of the joint locations on Main Street, where they will offer a taste of their menu items. You can start anywhere along the route, and travel by foot or take one of the shuttle buses that will be available. Visit as many businesses as you like, but make sure you end up at the Army & Navy Club for the after-party and raffle drawings! 

This year's event will be held on Tuesday, May 12th from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. All the information you need, from purchasing tickets to finding out more about the participating restaurants to volunteering for the Taste of Manchester, can be found at one or more of the following sites:

Twitter Handle: @tastytownct  
This year's hashtag: #TOMCT2015

Get those tastebuds revved up and ready by reading about a few of the 2014 Taste participants below, and BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!!!







3.24.2015

Taste of Manchester: La Via Del Gusto

As part of the Taste of Manchester 2015 Marketing Committee, Amy has volunteered to write short features on the participating restaurants and share them via our blog here.This year's Taste of Manchester will be held on Tuesday, May 12th from 5:30 to 9 p.m. See the TOM webpageFacebook page, or Twitter @TastyTownCT (#TOMCT2015) for more information. 


La Via del Gusto on Broad Street

Think you need to go to Franklin Avenue to purchase great Italian meats, cheeses, espressos and pastries? Think again. In the Strano Bakery building on Broad Street, you'll find a hidden treasure - La Via del Gusto, an Italian cafe, bakery, deli and market, right here in Manchester, CT. The Italian name means "The Way of Taste," and this business is Manchester's way to the old world tastes of Italy. They will be participating in the Taste of Manchester 2015, their second year. 


Owner Claudio makes a cappuccino

Frothy, sweet, and delizioso!

CAFE: Business owner and ever-the-welcoming-host Claudio makes a mean espresso, or a cappuccino, if you prefer. Sip on one as you listen to Italian music and browse the multiple pastry cases in search of the choicest accompaniment to your caffeine fix. And speaking of pastries...


Fresh Bread

Creamy, crunchy cannoli

Lobster-Tail Pastry

BAKERY: One step into the building and the tempting aromas give it away -- La Via del Gusto specializes in freshly baked Italian breads and rolls, flaky pastries such as ricotta-stuffed sflogliatelle and cream-filled "lobster tails," cannoli (plain or chocolate-dipped) and assorted Italian cookies. All of these can be ordered in individual servings or by the dozen (pastries) or pound (cookies), to eat in the cafe or to take away. Just like their deli items...


Italian Cheeses

Sweet Sopressata, Sharp Provolone, Scamorza Garlic Bread, and Meatballs in sauce 
- the at-home feast of foods we bought at La Via del Gusto

DELI: Italian meats, like prosciutto, capicolla, salami and sopressatta are among the deli choices at La Via del Gusto. But what is meat without cheese in the old world? Parmigiano-Reggiano, scamorza, Grana Padano, provolone - take your pick. You're sure to find one that is crumbly, stinky, salty, smoky, or nutty enough to suit your needs. If you need a quick breakfast or lunch sandwich, look no further. Claudio's Classic Italian Combo is the way to go - ham, Genoa salami and sopressata with your choice of cheese, veggies, and special housemade roasted pepper cream, or any other combination for a grinder or panini you can think up, will be magnificently stuffed with freshly sliced Italian-style formaggi and carni.   


Serving up a hefty sandwich

MARKET: La Via del Gusto also has a market area with shelves overflowing with imported pastas of every shape, bottles of olive oil and vinegar, tomato sauces and other Italian specialty items. They also sell their own items such as meatballs, spaghetti sauce, soups and more. Which means you can buy the best ingredients to make your dinner from scratch, or get that dinner ready-made to simply heat and eat. 


Oils, vinegars, tomatoes, sauces


 Homemade Meatballs are vacuum-packed and ready to heat 'n eat

Pastas of every shape

So, Manchesterians, next time you are craving the culinary delights of Italy, rather than wrestle with traffic on I-84 into Hartford, keep it truly local and travel "the way of taste" to La Via del Gusto


The Menu

La Via del Gusto is located at 255 Broad Street, in the old Strano Bakery Building. They are open Monday-Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. Their phone number is 860-432-2122, and you can eat in the cafe, take items to go, and/or purchase catered platters and trays.  



A Couple in the Kitchen Connecticut restaurants

3.16.2015

Luck o' the Irish Cereal Treats



It's time for St. Patrick's Day and we had our annual corned beef and cabbage dinner with the neighbors over the weekend. We saw this twist on the Rice Krispie treat all over the Internet and thought they'd be perfect for the kids. We were right. N, who is 5, surely loved them, but (shhh!), so did we.

Luck o' the Irish Cereal Treats

Ingredients:

cooking spray
5 tablespoons butter
1 10-oz. bag large marshmallows
5 cups Lucky Charms cereal
1 8-oz. bag white chocolate chips
3-4 drops green food coloring

Coat a 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add marshmallows and stir with silicone spoon or spatula until melted. Stir in cereal until everything is mixed together. Press into prepared pan with wax paper and allow to cool. Melt chocolate chips over low heat in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Add food coloring and spread chocolate over the treats. Cut and serve.


Here are a few more St. Patrick's Day Ideas:











2.23.2015

Beefsteak at the Culinary Institute of America - A Celebration of Gluttony


Cheers to the Beefsteak!

When M emailed "Are you interested in going to a Beefsteak at the CIA?" I responded "YES!" without even looking at my calendar. Or knowing what a Beefsteak was. Yeah, I have my priorities. I informed Chris, and over the next couple of weeks we figured out the logistics with M and R, and drove up to Hyde Park on the last Saturday afternoon in January.
Heading into Farquharson Hall


Souvenir Beer Glasses

Our first impression

We knew we were in for a celebration of gluttony when we walked in and they handed each of us a beer glass, a paper butcher's hat, and an apron. This was a Beefsteak, after all. Now you're probably wondering, as I was, "What exactly is a Beefsteak?" According to the Culinary Institute of America, the food experts putting on this shindig:

The Beefsteak originated in New York City in the mid-1800s by organizations wishing to raise money for politicians, friends, or any cause. In the early days, Beefsteaks were men-only, all-you-can-eat events with diners sitting on crates and eating with their fingers, as no utensils were provided. Beef, beer, and brass bands were the focus of the evening, and gluttony was the order of the day! 

The only veggies of the night

Giant hunk o' NY Cheddar

If that was the promise, the CIA's 2nd Annual Beefsteak granted it, although, thankfully, women were allowed, as were utensils (although those were optional, hence the aprons). The event was held in the stately Farquharson Hall, a divinely elegant setting for such a raucous event. Girls in red flapper dresses and black feather boas kept those glasses filled with Brooklyn Brewery beer all night. White-jacketed servers delivered course upon course, served family style to communal tables where strangers became fast friends. The band entertained throughout, even hosting a sing-along in between courses. At one point, whole bottles of bourbon hit the tables and still the food kept coming. Boy, were we thankful that we planned to stay the night.

And the band played on...

On each table sat a vegetable plate that held the only vegetables we would see all evening, long loaves of crusty baguette and a hunk of aged New York cheddar pierced through with a giant knife. These were the amuse bouche, and we nibbled as we settled in for the night.


Roasted Oysters on a bed of rock salt

Lump crabmeat salad

Jumbo Shrimp cocktail

Shortly thereafter, the first course was served. Typical of a steakhouse dinner, it consisted of a trio of seafood preparations: roasted oysters in a lively shallot mignonette, a lump crabmeat salad that we were tempted to eat with our fingers (but resisted), and perfectly seasoned jumbo shrimp cocktail. Tantalizing, indeed, and we anticipated what more may come.


Lamb chops, before

Lamb chops, after

Bacon-wrapped lamb kidneys

Sliders
The second round started with our favorite dish of the night - the most tender and succulent lollipop lamb chops flavored with rosemary and lemon. All that was left on that platter was a pile of bones. That was followed by bacon-wrapped lamb kidneys (tasty for some, but overshadowed by those chops), then beef sliders served on Parker House buns with a smoky-spicy ketchup made just for the event. 


Whaaaaat????

Cheers to the Beefsteak!

Check!

Our hosts must have realized diners would need a gustatory break at this point, and offered one in the form of an intermission and a sing-along. By now, in addition to the ever-flowing brew, the bottles of Bulleit Bourbon had been delivered, and several male diners, having charmed the flapper girls out of their feather boas, were wearing them around their necks as they delivered rowdy versions of "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "Yankee Doodle." 


The Main Event - Roasted Dry-Aged Sirloin with Blood and Butter Gravy

Enough said...

Suddenly the lights flickered to announce the end of intermission, and in marched a parade of waiters holding meat-filled trays aloft. This was the star of the show, the main event course of expertly roasted dry-aged sirloin with "blood and butter gravy" and house-made potato chips. The beef melted in our mouths and we groaned with delight and indulgence, not admitting to being full, yet inwardly wondering how we could smuggle slices of this tenderness back home (alas, we could not). 


Really? There's more? Doughnuts...

Mini-Cheesecakes...

Profiteroles...

Bourbon bread pudding...


As if anyone could stuff another bite into them, dessert was delivered at last. Cream-filled profiteroles drizzled with dark chocolate sauce, cinnamon sugar-rolled doughnuts, New York style mini-cheesecakes and bourbon bread pudding. We picked at each one, but we were at the point of satiation. The evening was winding down. Our aprons were spotted with stains and our stomachs were bulging. We exchanged pictures with our new friends and vowed to see them next time. Just to make sure, I turned to M and R and said, "We are coming next year, right?" 

M replied, "I'd buy my ticket now if I could." Ditto that, my friend.

Cheers to the Beefsteak, cheers to gluttony! 


The remnants of a most amazing evening.




2.19.2015

Lychee Sorbet for Chinese New Year, Year of the Goat



Amy writes:
I grew up in a mostly white neighborhood, and when I was in third grade, the Wu family moved in. I was immediately enchanted. They spoke a different language. They ate different foods. They celebrated different holidays. I felt so lucky that Cheryl was in the same grade as me, and made it my mission to be her best friend. 

Image result for happy new year in chinese
Image from: http://www.mypictgallery.tk/happy-chinese-new-year-in-chinese-writing/

Perhaps I had the teaching gene even then, because I already loved to play school, and when I found out her grandfather Ya-Ya, who lived with them, wanted to learn to read English, I joyfully volunteered to teach him. He had a worn, yellowed paperback book with short paragraphs written in Chinese and interlinear English. I spent hours at their kitchen table, reading with him, and when I look back I can only imagine what a picture that must have made - 8-year-old me "teaching" old Mr. Wu. But it was a success, on some level. After a few months, he could read children's books to Cheryl's younger sister. 


My place setting

I tell you that story because I believe this experience is where my life-long fascination with Asian culture began. And it explains why I like to celebrate Chinese New Year. This year, I invited a few of my girlfriends over to celebrate with me, and, of course, I went all out. I know the traditions, having been invited to the Wu household for their celebration for a couple of years before they moved away. I decorated with red, brushed "Happy New Year" in Chinese characters on rice paper for each guest, dug out my Chinese porcelain, and made sure to have some Chinese candy on hand. 


My "tablescape"

But the point was to cook, and to share my love through my cooking.I brushed up on the symbolism of the foods traditionally served on New Year and based my menu on those. I made everything from scratch - roasting the pork, wrapping, and making the dipping sauce for the dumplings; creative a sesame sauce for the soba noodles; marinating and making a stir-fry sauce for the tangerine beef; and even the dessert.  Here is my version of a Chinese New Year feast:


As you can see, for dessert I made lychee sorbet. The recipe is almost too simple to be good, but it truly was. It was a sweet ending to the meal but not too sweet, with hints of grape and melon and ginger all at once. It came out of the freezer at the just the right texture sorbet ought to be - not too icy, perfectly creamy - thanks to the egg white, a tip I found here. I served it with an almond cookie for crunch, but a fortune cookie would be a nice touch as well. One warning - the sorbet MUST be prepared at least a day ahead of time.

Gan bei, everyone! 

I do apologize if I've made any language errors.


Lychee Sorbet
serves 6-8
Note: must be prepared at least one day ahead of serving

Ingredients:

2 cans of lychees in syrup (sizes vary; you want 20 ounces or 500-530 grams)
2 teaspoons caster sugar (although white granulated sugar works fine)
1 1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 egg white

Drain the syrup from the lychees into a small saucepan. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat and boil for one minute. Place the drained lychees, sugar syrup and ginger into a food processor and process until lychees are finely chopped. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a shallow baking dish and press on the lychee remnants to extract all the juice. Cover dish and freeze until solid, about 6 hours. Place the frozen mixture into the food processor again and add the egg white. Process on low until egg white is fully incorporated and mixture is smooth. Return mixture to baking dish and freeze again, another 6 hours.