Plan B Burger Bar – Glastonbury, CT

In the past few years, a number of really quality burger bars have sprung up in the area.   Now, as a rule, I’m not really a big fan of burgers.  Sure, at a family cookout I may have one,  but overall I’m not a big red meat eater, so when I go out I don’t normally have a burger – especially when you know you’ll just be disappointed by a sub par, over-processed pre-formed patty that came from god knows where.

Plan B, however, does things right and everything is of a super high quality (handcrafted, 100% natural goodness) and they have a really awesome beer list.  I really can’t ask for anything more than that.  What can be better than grabbing an amazing burger and some awesome brews?  Nothing.

They have three convenient locations in West Hartford, Glastonbury, and Simsbury.  Plan B’s West Hartford location is actually the first of these sort of premium gourmet burger bars that I had tried and while I was very impressed with the food, I didn’t necessarily want to go back any time soon.  Why, you may ask?  Well, their West Hartford location is a bit cramped.  It’s really more of  a bar atmosphere…  it’s kind of dark, the table’s are small and close together and there’s frequently a long wait.   These are things that normally wouldn’t bother me so much, but if I’m eating a big messy burger, I need some room – I need to be comfortable.

When I’d learned that Plan B had opened up a couple of new locations, I had to give them a try.  I still have yet to have eaten at their Simsbury location, but I have now been to the Glastonbury one twice and I can honestly say that they got it right this time.  It’s perfect.  Same great menu as the original and much more spacious – a large bar to relax in, outdoor seating , and a large dining area with lots of  GIANT booths that you can really get cozy in.

Last weekend,  I went to the Glastonbury location with my parents and my aunt Annie.  Here are a few photos that I took of our awesome meal.

Lobster Bisque:

Lobster Bisque

Dad’s Bacon Cheese Burger Served With a Tower of Onion Rings:

Burger and Rings

My Pretzel Burger and Sweet Potato Fries:

Pretzel Burger

Parmesan Fries:

Parmesan Fries

Everything was great and I’m sure I’ll be back again soon – probably with Kevin, as he couldn’t join us and I know he was jealous!

Smokin’ With Chris – Southington, CT

Think you can’t find good Barbecue in CT?  Then you clearly have never been to Smokin’ With Chris in Southington, CT.   Over the past couple of years, Kevin and I have visited the establishment many times ( I think we may be nearing “regular” status)  and we have never left disappointed.  This post is long overdue.    The fact that Kevin and I have returned so many times speaks to the overall awesomeness of this restaurant.

You see, Kevin and I really aren’t your typical barbecue fans… we’re generally not even big meat eaters, but we do appreciate good food and good beer – and at Smokin’ With Chris that is what you will get!  And you’ll get a lot of it –  I would consider both Kevin and myself to be  big eaters and I always take half home with me and  Kevin usually leaves very full.

They have great food, a great beer selection (they only have about 6 taps, but they’re generally all really good craft beers that you just don’t find everywhere), and if you go on the right night, great music.   The owner, Chris Conlon, is always there and can always be found speaking with the patrons.  It’s clear that he has a real passion for what he does there and that’s what makes the place so special.  Everything is just done right.

Some pictures (from my iPhone -sorry about the less than stellar quality) from our most recent visit:

Kevin started with the French Onion soup, which he said was quite good – and he’s something of an expert on the subject.

french onion soup

I had the pulled pork sandwich – which is what I usually end up getting – with a side of fries and they’re cucumber salad – gotta get some vegetables in there somewhere, right?


pulled pork

I chose to wash it down with the Flying Dog Raging Bitch, which is really an excellent IPA.

Flying Dog Raging Bitch

Kevin ended up choosing the Meat Lovers Combo, which is a TON of food… and I don’t know how he does it.  He chose sides of mac  n’ cheese and onion rings. I did  try a little of everything and it was all pretty awesome.

Meat Lovers Combo

Overall, it was another great trip  to Smokin’ With Chris!  As always, we both left very full.  If you find yourself with a craving for BBQ and are  in or around Southington, CT, this the place to go!

50 Ways To Reuse Your Old Beer Bottles

The other day I wrote about Whole Foods collecting customers’ used wine corks and I also mentioned that while that solves one of my problems, I still don’t know what to do with all the empty beer bottles that I haven’t gotten around to recycling (actually I think I said bottle caps, but the bottles themselves tend to pile up as well).

Today, I bring you 50 Ways To Reuse Your Old Beer Bottles.   For the record, I will probably not be doing any of these…  but you can – if you have LOTS and LOTS of time on your hands.  If you want to make some of these for me, you’re more  than welcome to.  I personally have my eye on number 26.  Someone please build me a beer bottle temple.  That would be sweet!

Or you could just, you know, turn them in at your nearest recycling center.  Just a thought…

Bellini – South Windsor, CT

Last weekend, my mother and I headed up to Evergreen Walk in South Windsor, because she had a few items to return at LL Bean.  After we were finished with our returns, we wanted to do a little lunch.  We were originally going to eat at Ted’s Montana Grill, but the sun was out and  it was turning into a really  beautiful Spring afternoon and it was just a shame to be stuck eating indoors.

Bellini, just across from Ted’s, had a very lovely patio area and I had never eaten there.  As the adventurous eater that I am, when given two options between a place that I’ve eaten on numerous occasions and a new place that I’ve never tried before, I’ll always choose the latter.  Bellini was a clear winner in my book – outdoor seating (as the weather gets  warmer, I’m always looking for places where I can dine alfresco) and I’d never been there.  Perfect!

We were not at all disappointed with our choice.  Their  lunch  menu consisted mainly of lighter Italian fare – lots of panini, salads and soup options, wood fired pizzas, and some smaller pasta dishes to choose from.

After much debate, we both chose the lunch combo of your choice of panini with either soup or their house or caesar salad.  We each chose the Balsamico Panini – with balsamic glazed chicken, caramelized, onions, roasted tomatoes and provolone – and she had the Caesar salad while I chose House salad, which was really the start of my meal.  They also both came with a couple of potato wedges, which while unnecessary were quite good.  It was all really excellent.

Panini

I would definitely recommend Bellini to anyone looking for a quick lunch while shopping at Evergreen Walk – especially if it’s a nice Spring or Summer day and they want to eat outside.

Whole Foods To Begin Wine Cork Recycling Program

Whole Foods recently announced that they will begin a program to collect customers’ wine corks.  They have partnered with Cork ReHarvest to find various ways to recycle the used corks, which will be sent to several different manufacturers who will turn them into interesting household items.

I think this is a pretty neat idea, because if you’re like me you drink a lot of wine… and you’re left with a lot of random corks lying around the house in various drawers and baskets.  Sometimes they find their way onto the floor and the cats manage to get a hold of them and turn them into toys to be batted around the house.  It would be nice to be able to actually do something useful with them (though I’m sure the cats will be disappointed).

I actually have a trivet made of wine corks that my parents brought me back from a trip to New Hampshire.

wine cork trivet

I think this is a pretty cool idea and I like that it gives me chance to finally empty out  my junk drawers.  Now if I could only find something to do with all the bottle caps…

Dinner At The Pond House – West Hartford, CT

Before seeing Wally Lamb speak last week, my mother and I did a little dinner at The Pond House Cafe in West Hartford, CT due to it’s proximity to the venue.  The Pond House has long been one of our favorite lunch spots while dining in the area, but this is the first time either of us had eaten there for dinner and overall, it did not disappoint.

With views of  beautiful Elizabeth Park, where the restaurant is located, the scenery really makes the experience special.  Large windows look out onto a patio, where on can dine in the nicer months, and beyond the patio lies  the pond and of a lot really spectacular flowers.

I could go on and on about how lovely the area around the restaurant is, but the decor inside is also quite attractive.   The interesting art on the walls, the large windows mentioned above, and the sort of post modern furniture give the place a a really fun and somewhat relaxed atmosphere.  It all feels very open and I’ve always found it to be a comfortable place to dine.

And the food is really great, too.  Their menu just makes me happy.  The other night when I went with my mom,  we both had a very difficult time deciding between a lot of different entrees.

In the end, I settled on the chicken wrap with baby arugula, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and smoked Gouda.  It was pretty awesome.

Chicken Wrap

Mom decided on the crab cake served with basmati rice.  I of course had try hers and it was also really yummy.

Crab Cakes

We also split a huge side order of sweet potato fries.  I consider myself to be something of a sweet potato fry connoisseur and these, I must say, were quite excellent!

Sweet Potato Fries

Overall it was a really great dinner and I definitely hope to check it out again. My only complaint would be that they are BYOB… and we know how I enjoy the drink!

Wally Lamb Speaking on Mark Twain

Mark Twain Centennial CelebrationWally LambI recently had the privilege to see best selling author and Connecticut native, Wally Lamb, speak at The Hartford’s Wallace Stevens Theater about his recent novel, The Hour I First Believed, and it’s use of the Mark Twain House in honor of the Mark Twain Centennial Celebration.   The novel includes both past and present day scenes from  the home.

While I’ve been a long time fan and have read some of the other works by Lamb, I have yet to read The Hour I First Believed, but after hearing him speak about the novel I am definitely adding it to my list.   It was really interesting to hear him speak about it and read passages from it.  I found it particularly fascinating that he was able to write about so many very different events – such as Hurricane Katrina and the shootings at Columbine High School – and Mark Twain in the same book!

Lamb also spoke a bit about the work he did with the women at York Correctional Institute in Niantic, CT in the writing program he headed for them, which eventually lead to a collection of some of their stories that he edited, entitled Couldn’t Keep It to Myself . It was really quite interesting and touching.  This is definitely another book for me to add to my ever-growing list.

At the end of the event, he did a brief Q&A with the audience and spoke a bit about his writing process, which can be slow going and at times a bit torturous.   Overall, it was a really awesome experience, and I’m really glad I had the opportunity to go.

Study Shows Beer Could Be Good For Bone Health

We all know that wine had gained a lot of attention for it’s potential health benefits, but recent studies show that beer, also, could be great for your health.  IPA’s (my personal favorite) could be especially beneficial for their high levels of silicon, which is known to help decrease bone thinning and promote new bone formation.  It is believed that it could potentially help prevent osteoporosis.

So drink up folks!

Sarah Palin’s Keynote Speech at Wine Wholesalers Expo

So apparently, earlier this week Sarah Palin gave the keynote speech for the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America’s 67th Annual Convention… and, big shock, it didn’t go so well.  Number one, why would one invite Sarah Palin to give the keynote speech for a wine convention (besides the obvious assumption that most of us need to drink heavily while listening to her speak)?  And Number two, they paid between $75,000 and $100,000 to experience that?  I think I need a drink.

If you can stomach it, you can actually listen to the speech and all the horrible wine puns that come with it.  For the record, I only lasted a couple of minutes…