A.C.K. Returns from Hiatus...Recipe Published in E-Book

Obviously, we took a little break from the blog for a while. We ended an exhausting school year and needed a vacation from, well, everything, including this. And to be honest, we haven't been very creative in the kitchen this summer, so we haven't had a whole lot to share anyway.

Meanwhile, one of our recipes, Scallop Crostini with Blueberry-Rosemary Sauce, has been featured in Our State's 2014 Blueberry Recipe Collection, an E-book presented by the North Carolina Blueberry Council that you can download and check out HERE. This boosted our culinary spirits so we decided to come back and share. We'll be back again soon. 


I Love You, Duck

Duck Confit with white beans and a fried egg, Eastern Standard, Boston

Dear Duck,
It's true that when I see you swimming around the pond I pass on the way to work that the first thing I think is how pretty you are. Gliding across the smooth water, leaving that ripple in your wake, your feathers glistening, the beautiful iridescent green of your small head contrasting so sharply against the landscape. So calm. So pretty. So in tune with your surroundings. 

Roast Duck, Hong Kong Eatery, Chinatown, Boston

Spicy Glazed Duck Wings, 20 Railroad, Great Barrington, MA

Duck Confit over lentils, Brasserie Jo, Boston 

But the second thing I think is how delicious you are. And how, when given the opportunity, I order you every time, everywhere, and eat every bite. One day, I will learn to cook you the right way, and that's not a threat, but a promise. I love you, duck. Quack!


"Daffy Duck" Spring Rolls, Sakura Garden, South Windsor, CT


Orange Slice Sebastians

Our neighbor's daughter turns 5 on Tuesday, and her kiddy birthday party was Saturday. The theme was Little Mermaid. Which meant we were over there Friday night helping make the goodies, 'cuz that's what we like to do. Check out the Orange Slice Sebastians J decided to make. Such a cute idea! The body is a candy orange slice, the arms are orange circle gummies cut in quarters, the eyes are gumdrops cut in half with eyeballs stuck on with frosting. They are sitting in the sand, aka brown sugar. Brilliant! And the kids loved 'em! Happy Birthday, N!


Onyx Pairing Dinner at The Hidden Still, Ellington

A few weeks ago, we were invited to a pairing dinner featuring Onyx Moonshine cocktails and several courses created by Sean Martin, the executive chef at The Hidden Still Restaurant and Moonshine Bar in Ellington, CT. And was that ever an amazing meal. First off, we fell in love with The Hidden Still on our first visit, and have been craving their Grilled Mac & Cheese and their Chicken & Waffles ever since (not that we haven't gone back for them, and for many other things, which we certainly have). And secondly, any reader of this blog knows of our affinity for the award-winning Onyx Moonshine. If not, you can read about it here, here, here, here or here

And you can read about it again, here, today, below, as this pairing dinner was freakin' awesome, and when they have another one (which they MUST), you must get a ticket and go. Seriously. And we'll be sitting at a table near you. Bring your appetite!!!

First Course: Crab cake with arugula salad and house made cranberry Onyx infused aioli. Paired with Onyx on the rocks (the best way to have it!).

Verdict: A luscious lump crab cake with Onyx and rehydrated dried cranberries in it, nicely paired with lightly salted arugula. The drink pairing for the purists in the crowd was just perfect.

Second Course: Sweet Tea and Onyx Apple Honey infused smoked tofu, fried in a tempura batter, with thai chili sauce, chow mein noodles, and cucumber, in a butter lettuce wrap. Paired with Onyx Pineapple Lime Punch - Onyx infused with blueberry and raspberry, mixed with pineapple juice, lime juice and maraschino cherry juice.

Verdict: Amy was nervous about this one (not really a tofu fan) but we both absolutely loved it. The mix of smokiness with the sweet tea and honey with the spicy chili sauce with the cool cucumber and crunchy noodles, all balanced with the sweet and refreshing punch? Plus the tofu was pillowy soft inside and perfectly fried. Oh yeah. 

Third Course: Hot Cabbage salad with apples and pears, drizzled with an Onyx Apple & Honey vinaigrette. Paired with Spiced Apple Pie (The Still's house apple pie moonshine drink with a touch of cayenne).

Verdict: A nice wilted cabbage salad with hints of tarragon and a bit of sweetness with the fruits and vinaigrette once again balance so very well with a sweet-n-spicy drink. 

Fourth Course: Onyx bourbon braised Pork Belly, served on a bed of arborio rice with rainbow chard, smoked red peppers, and okra. Paired with Blueberry Sweet Tea with Blueberry Onyx (soon to hit The Still's summer cocktail menu!)

Verdict: The hit of the night, this "poor man's filet mignon" was infused with cherry-wood smoked Onyx before being expertly braised and served with all the right Southern-style sides. Having a sweet tea cocktail with it? Genius.

Fifth Course: Strawberry Quick Soup - chilled Cape Cod Cranberry Onyx, blended with Vermont Ice Apple Cream, with Farmers Cow Vanilla Ice Cream, garnished with fresh strawberries and mint. A dessert and drink in one, so no pairing needed. 

Verdict: Not sure how they did it, but this stuff tasted just like "Strawberry Quik." Sheldon Cooper would love it and so did we.



Press Release: Onyx Spirits Company Wins Gold at International Craft Spirit Awards

Connecticut Moonshine Wins Double Gold Medals
Onyx Spirits Company Wins Gold at International Craft Spirit Awards

May 19, 2014 (East Hartford, CT) – Connecticut’s first legally produced moonshine and first barrel aged whiskey have both won gold medals at the prestigious International Craft Awards Competition, an organization that reviews thousands of spirits, wine, and beer from across the globe. 

The competition took place from May 5-8, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Spirit brands were judged on a 100-point scale evaluating dozens of characteristics, including taste, aroma, mouth-feel, smoothness, etc. The judging panel was comprised of some of the liquor industry’s most renowned connoisseurs and experts.

Onyx Moonshine, the company’s flagship product, and Secret Stash, Connecticut’s first barrel aged whiskey, both won gold medals. “We started this company to show the world how delicious New England Moonshine can be. Then we barrel aged it, producing Connecticut’s first whiskey. We know our spirits are on par with the world’s most celebrated brands, and now, the international spirits community agrees,” said Adam von Gootkin, company co-founder. “Customers are putting down the vodka for Onyx Moonshine and we can’t age our Secret Stash fast enough,” he added.

Onyx Moonshine is available in package stores and restaurants throughout New England. A Cape Cod Cranberry Harvest Infusion was released in May and the second release of Secret Stash whiskey will be this summer.     
Onyx Sprits Company produces America’s first ultra-premium moonshine, Secret Stash, Connecticut’s first barrel aged whiskey, Onyx 111, a higher proof version of Onyx Moonshine, and a Harvest Infusion line utilizing local and seasonal produce. Onyx Moonshine was named the ‘Best Locally Distilled Spirit’ by the Hartford and Fairfield County Advocates in 2014. Onyx Moonshine was the Official Spirit of the 2012 GRAMMY Awards. The company was voted by Yankee Magazine as the “Best New England Micro-Distillery” and won two gold medals at the International Craft Awards Competition. www.onyxmoonshine.com


A Taste of Summer for Secret Recipe Club

This weekend we got our first glimpse of summer after a long, cold winter and a rainy, cool spring. Yes, this weekend it was warm and sunny, with highs in the mid-70s, puffy-white clouds and a beautiful breeze. As our friend J commented with a contented sigh, "This is San Diego weather." Indeed. Perfect for spending the evening on the front porch sipping a cocktail and enjoying a pre-dinner snack.

And it also happens to be Secret Recipe Club Reveal Day! As luck had it, this month we were assigned the blog Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom by Jamie, where we found some great recipe ideas for dinner, desserts, and breakfasts/sides/snacks. We were tempted to make "Creamy Chicken and Asparagus Pasta," or "Blackberry and Cream Cheese Mini-Turnovers" (and we still may!), but the porch swing beckoned, and we found the perfect pair of recipes to enjoy on it: Microwave Potato Chips and Brazilian Lime Cocktails. Our very own Taste of Summer, courtesy of Jamie! 

Jamie's "Microwave Potato Chips were salty and crunchy, and it was great knowing that they consisted of a mere three simple ingredients - potatoes, olive oil, and salt. We used Malted Vinegar Sea Salt for a little salt-n-vinegar chip flavor. And who would ever have thought to make homemade potato chips in the microwave? Jamie's recipe is brilliant, and perfect for an anytime snack. The Brazilian Lime Cocktail is one of several of Jamie's "Best Tropical Drinks." It's her version of a Caiporoska  - a Caipirinha made with vodka instead of Cachaca. It was tart and refreshing, and reminded us that summer is right around the corner. We added a topper of club soda to give it some fizz.

Microwave Potato Chips
minimally adapted from Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom


2 cups 1/8-inch potato slices
olive oil
Malt Vinegar Sea Salt

Toss potato slices in olive oil. Drizzle additional olive oil on a large microwave-safe plate and arrange the potato slices on the plate in one layer without any overlap. Sprinkle with salt. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, flip, sprinkle again with salt, then microwave on high for an additional 3 minutes, until starting to brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels, and allow to cool slightly as they will become crispier as they cool. 

Brazilian Lime Cocktail
mimimally adapted from Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom

Ingredients (per cocktail):

1 lime, cut into 6 wedges
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 ounce vodka
1 ounce club soda

Place lime wedges and sugar into a large glass and muddle limes with sugar to release juice. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add vodka and ice, stir and top with club soda. 

Check out other recipes from today's Reveal Day below, including our black beans (and her own) on From Brazil to You


The Return of the Worlds Kielbasa Festival

Amy is from Chicopee, Massachusetts, and one thing everyone knows about Chicopee, Massachusetts, is that it was the home of the Worlds (sic) Kielbasa Festival. From its humble beginning in 1974, the Kielbasa Festival grew and became a town tradition for 22 years. It was held in the parking lot behind the now-defunct Fairfield Mall, and highlights included carnival rides and games, polka bands, a kielbasa eating contest (amongst plenty of other Polish foods), and the crowning of Miss Chicopee. 

The biggest draw, however, was viewing the King Kielbasa, the world's largest Polish sausage, made by Chicopee Provision Co. each year. It was housed in its own tent, and at its glorious peak in 1994, weighed in at 623 pounds and was 27 feet long. Chicopee residents, Amy and her family usually among them, and countless other festival patrons waited in line to wander their way around the giant winding kielbasa display. It was a sight to see, indeed, this huge, smoky meat product, and it wasn't just the kielbasa itself (a man-made wonder), but all those people paying their respects to it. The king of all sausages. The Worlds (sic) Largest Kielbasa. Alas, the last King Kielbasa reigned in 1995 and after that, the K-Fest was no more...

...until this year, when "The Kielbasa Festival, LLC" brought back Kielbasa Fest 2014. Held at Szot Park this weekend, the K-Fest, at first, seemed like so many others from years before. It offered carnival rides and games, polka bands, a kielbasa eating contest (amongst plenty of other Polish foods). Some places were doing some very unique things with kielbasa, that's for sure. There was even a kielbasa yakisoba, although we didn't try it.

We remained purists, eating a kielbasa dog, then a kielbasa and pierogi plate, and listening to a polka band. We grabbed a couple of Genesee Cream Ales and bought an "I (Heart) Kielbasa" t-shirt. But there was something missing. Something was not quite right. Everything seemed smaller, and a little less exciting. And (oh no!), there was no King Kielbasa. It was a bittersweet moment, that realization that some things can't be recreated, that you really can't go home again, that the King Kielbasa remains only a distant childhood memory. We browsed the memorabilia tent, which also served as the beer garden, and waxed nostalgic about the good old days. Amy hummed the refrain from the Polish National Anthem and we went home, full but a little unsatisfied.

Viva, King Kielbasa!!!


Taste of Manchester is Tomorrow!

The 5th Annual Taste of Manchester is upon us! Tomorrow (Tuesday, May 13th) from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m., as long as you have a ticket, you can sample all the flavors @TastyTownCT has to offer.

To help you plan your evening, go here for a map with a list of participating restaurants and locations, as well as what they will be offering. 

Be sure to get a door prize ticket at each restaurant you visit. Prizes will be drawn at the end of the event in the Army Navy Club on Main Street. Visit the 4 Golden Ticket locations (Antonio's, Hungry Tiger, Main Pub and Rocco's - who have participated for all five years) for a special door prize ticket.

And go here to check out the restaurants we featured here at A Couple in the Kitchen.

See you tomorrow night. Tweet your evening along with us @TastyTownCT #TOMCT2014. 


Nuts for Nuts (Candied Nuts)

The week before Easter, we bought a tin of butter roasted nuts from T. J. Maxx. We just love the random food selection in that store. We put them out on Easter and Amy's mom loved them so much we let her take them home. Then the cravings set in. Amy just had to have some sweet and crunchy nuts, something that made her think of the ones she gets on the streets of New York City.

Thankfully, there's this thing called "The Internet," where we found a copycat recipe for the NYC original Nuts for Nuts. Honestly, it took about 5 minutes to make a batch, and while they were not exactly the same, they were good enough for the time being. Until we can get to NYC again, anyway. (We booked our hotel room yesterday.)

Next time, we might experiment with a little salt, or cayenne, or...who knows what? Let us know if you come up with something delicious!

Nuts for Nuts Copycat Recipe

2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Once the sugar has dissolved, lower the heat to medium and stir in the nuts. Cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally. At the 2-minute mark, stir vigorously for one minute. The water will evaporate and the sugar will crystallize onto the nuts. When this happens, turn off the heat but continue to stir until the sugar browns slightly. Pour coated nuts onto a plate to cool.


Taste of Manchester: Top Shelf Brewing Company

As part of the Taste of Manchester 2014 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 13th from 5:30 to 9 p.m. See the TOM webpageFacebook page, or Twitter @TastyTownCT (#TOMCT2014) for more information.

You’ve heard of the microbrewery. But did you know there are breweries that create even fresher, more seasonal, more specialized beers? These are known as “nanobreweries,” and there is one right here in Manchester, Connecticut, located in the old mills on Hilliard Street. It's Top Shelf Brewing Company.

Top Shelf (motto "Drink Local!") was opened last fall by friends Mike Boney, Joe Frost and T.J. Lavery whose goal was to bring to Connecticut the nanobrewery experience that is so popular around the rest of the nation. We stopped in recently to chat with Mike about Top Shelf.

As Mike explained, Top Shelf offers about 15 different beers that rotate on a seasonal schedule. Each beer is brewed as a double batch which makes about 80 gallons. Much of this is available at the brewery for tastings (Fridays from 4-7 and Saturdays from 12-4), purchase at the brewery in bottle or by the growler, or, as of this spring, on tap at local restaurants such as All Stars Sports Bar and Hartford Road Cafe, both in Manchester. Speaking of Hartford Road Cafe, this is where you can sample Top Shelf during this year's Taste of Manchester on May 13th! 22-ounce bottles can be found at local liquor stores as well, although Mike tells us they will be transitioning to six-packs this summer. Something to look forward to!
We thought about describing all of Top Shelf's beers for you, but the batches go so quickly this post would be old news before it was published. So we'll let you know that the current beer selection can be found on the Top Shelf website as well as their Facebook and Twitter pages. 
We CAN tell, you, though, that the spring/summer brews, to be sold in a 2-to-3-month limited release, sound amazing. There's "Anytime Stout," "Double IPA", "Silk City Saison," and one in particular that is calling Amy's name, "Strawberry Basil." Sounds refreshingly summery!
Be sure to hop the Taste of Manchester bus down to Hartford Road Cafe to welcome Top Shelf Brewing Company to the Silk City and sample some of their nanobrews. Tickets for the Taste of Manchester are going fast, so get them now if you haven't already. We'll see you then! 

And remember - Drink Local!