So I took a trip up to Connecticut with my girlfriend this month. Not only did I get to introduce her to my family but I also was afforded the chance to introduce her to some of the rather impressive food and beer that the state I grew up in currently has to offer.
The first morning after we arrived, my parents took a special trip to Gaetano’s Deli and brought back some stuffed breads. Here we have both their pepperoni and their eggplant. Biting into these is like a warm hug from an Italian grandmother.
Dinner that night with my family was at Ralph-n-Rich’s and I couldn’t resist getting the Zuppa di Pesce; it’s a rarity in Tampa, so if I see it on a menu I will almost always order it. I finished the entire plate.
Day two was one I’d been looking forward to for quite a while. Until I was three years old we grew up five minutes away from Zuppardi’s Apizza and eating their pies for the first time was a seminal experience. I wanted my girlfriend to be able to experience that for herself. And she did.
We started with the Plain Cheese…
Then moved onto the “Special” – Meatball and Onion…
And then a White Tomato…
And finally we finished it all off with my absolute favorite, the White Clam. Sweet fancy Moses, do I miss Zuppardi’s…
Day three was something special. We’ve had a long standing debate on what constitutes a “real” Lobster Roll. I maintained that if it’s hot lobster on a roll with just butter, it’s a Lobster Roll. If it’s cold with mayonnaise and lots of crunchy vegetables, that’s a Lobster Salad Sandwich. As my girlfriend had never experienced the former, we headed to Lenny & Joe’s so she could try one.
Hot lobster, on a roll, with just butter. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with a “real” Lobster Roll.
And of course, I couldn’t have stopped at Lenny & Joe’s without also getting an order of another New England seafood staple, the Fried Clam Strips.
That evening we met some very old friends for a few drinks and a couple of apps at the Hub and Spoke. First up was the Burrata, which, interestingly enough, I had never tried before.
Second was the Bang-Bang Shrimp. This is not like the stuff you can get at a Bonefish Grill. This was pure fire. In a good way.
On our final day of the trip, my family headed to La Zingara in Bethel, which I maintain is one of the best Italian restaurants in the entire state of Connecticut. Their Lobster Risotto has to be the best version of Risotto I’ve ever tasted.
And of course Connecticut produces some dynamite craft beer. After years of never being up there during the fall, I was ecstatic that I had the opportunity to finally try Two Roads’ fall offerings. I really enjoyed their Ok2berfest Marzen and even though it was a little hoppier than I was expecting, I still found it topping my all-time lists.
My girlfriend opted for the Hanging Hills Brewing Company Dechtoberfest Lager which she really enjoyed.
Washed down that pizza at Zuppardi’s with a Festbier from Counterweight Brewing. This went really well with the pies, especially the White Clam.
While we were at Lenny & Joe’s we ordered the Thimble Island American Ale. This traditional Amber Ale was so off-the-charts amazing that we endevoured to do two things:
First, we made a point of finding Thimble Island’s Brewery which was only a short drive away from the restaurant so we could go in and try a flight. Every beer on the palate was incredible.
Second, we made a point of coming home with at least a sixer of the American Ale so we could enjoy it during the rest of our trip. The sweetness and the malt are just so perfectly balanced, I’m not joking when I say it’s one of the best beers I’ve ever had.
A quick lunch at Southport Brewing Company (which interestingly enough doesn’t brew its own beer) afforded me the change to try to Back East Brewery’s Octoberfest. This was a solid Marzen, and I dug the sweeter notes.
Next on our list was Tribus Beer Company. The offerings from this newer brewery were still summerish in nature but my girlfriend still enjoyed the smoked porter while I was impressed with the cherry sour.
For my final brew, I circled back to Two Roads with their Roadsmary’s Baby Pumpkin Ale. This one also tops my list of as one of the better pumpkin ales I’ve tried. Two Roads is the real deal.
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Ultimately it was a great trip and all the food and beer offerings made a simple trip to see my family really feel like a vacation. My girlfriend is already looking forward to the next trip and consequently I’ve started planning some more Connecticut food and beer-ventures in my head.
Been to any of the restaurants or tried any of the beers listed above? Leave a message in the comments section!
And remember… beer is freedom… and the food abides…
In my search for decent reds and ambers during the summer, I recently came across Abita’s amber offering. The Louisiana-based Brewery puts out some really flavorful craft beers most notably Turbodog and Purple Haze. I’ve been a fan of Abita’s beers for quite some time so I decided to give it a shot since I’d never tried it before. It’s hard to associate ambers with summer because of their richness and depth, but Abita’s is definitely one I could consider a “summer” amber.
Abita Amber pours a deep red color with a good two fingers of head. The aroma is slightly more floral than I would have expected and it’s more akin to something I’d see in a lighter beer. Flavor is a mellow caramel with notes of lemon and just a little hint of honey. It doesn’t seem to sit as heavy as beers of its type typically do which is why it makes such a good summer offering.
The only drawback is that I would not consider this a “sipping” beer as the warmer it got the more the flavor started to sour a little. Which is a shame because this would be perfect for just kicking back on the porch on a warm summer night.
A good brew all the same however.
Tried Abita Amber? Leave a message in the comments section!
And remember… the food abides…
One of my best friends is a fellow zythophile and I was asked to work more posts about beer into my rotation. Since Friday Happy Hour usually affords me the opportunity to try a new brew, I’ll try to post some beer opinions more often. For now let’s start with Red Brick Brewing Company’s Laughing Skull Amber Ale:
I’m a big fan of amber ales. I tend to gravitate towards the darker, spicier brews that are usually prevalent during the Fall and Winter seasons but since they all but disappear just after January 1st, I’m left spending the other 8 months of the year searching for a darker beer with a good flavor.
Laughing Skull by Atlanta’s Red Brick Brewing Company is a good addition to the springtime lineup. It has a hearty bread aroma which carries over to a hearty bread flavor. It’s malty and slightly sweet with little hints of citrus. There’s a slightly hoppy note upon the first sip which mellows afterwards into a nice grassy undertone. The flavors strike me as simple rather than complex which in this case is a good thing.
As evidenced in the photo above, it pours a rich red with a white head that unfortunately dissipated before I could get my camera out.
Laughing Skull gets a thumbs-up in my book.
Tried Laughing Skull? Have another beer you’d like me to try? Leave a message in the comments!
Happy Friday! And remember… the food abides…