Eating Connecticut: A Taste of It All at A Taste in Simsbury 2013

Thursday night was no ordinary evening. Instead of settling down on the couch to help the wee ones with their homework, I was given the opportunity to have a much more glitzy evening. I was the lucky recipient of a ticket to A Taste in Simsbury, courtesy of my boss and his lovely wife, and it was my evening to shine. Or, at least, indulge. Maybe I should have worn the fat pants instead of a dress with horizontal stripes. I hope no one noticed them bulging at the end of the evening.

Look at that burger tower from Plan B Burger Bar!
Look at that burger tower from Plan B Burger Bar!

When you attend an event like A Taste in Simsbury, it really isn’t to stuff yourself. You do it to get a sampling of the awesome offerings right in your own backyard. Never been to Abigail’s Grille and Wine Bar before? Now you may want to stop in. You say you haven’t tasted Indian food before? Little India has you covered. And what about those fresh juices you’ve been hearing about for making cocktails? The guys at RIPE Craft Bar Juice can give you the inside scoop.

S'Mores Brownies from Republic Gastropub were rich, and completely addictive
S’Mores Brownies from Republic Gastropub were rich, and completely addictive

There’s nothing quite like a networking opportunity for your taste buds. Growing up, I did not have an adventurous palate. I’m trying to change that. While I might be nervous about sauntering in to a new establishment without having any prior experience with them, I can get my feet wet at a tasting like this and not be so intimidated. We’re all friends here, right?

The service at Plan B is always to be commended!
The service at Plan B is always to be commended!

What was my attack plan? I didn’t really have one. I had a general idea of where I wanted to go–sadly, I’m not a shrimp or scallops girl, so I did need to strategize around that–but for the most part, I wandered haphazardly from one booth to another, zig-zagging my way across the room several times. S’mores brownies from Republic Gastropub were followed by Limoncello Tiramisu Tart, which preceded a mini cheeseburger from one of my all-time faves, Plan B Burger Bar. I mixed it all up–apps, main courses, and dessert–and threw in some random beverages periodically, too. It was kind of fun just bouncing around.

Seasons New England Clam Chowder from Seasons Restaurant at Avon Old Farms Hotel
Seasons New England Clam Chowder from Seasons Restaurant at Avon Old Farms Hotel

Despite my pinballing, I did manage to visit just about every booth. It took me over 2 hours to do it, but someone had to. How else could I figure out which would be my new favorites?

Gorgeous handiwork on this wedding cake from Riverview, which was also the location for the event
Gorgeous handiwork on this wedding cake from Riverview, which was also the location for the event

To the best of my recollection, this is what I sampled:

Rizzuto's cavatelli with house-made Bolognese and Liuzzi Ricotta
Rizzuto’s cavatelli with house-made Bolognese and Liuzzi Ricotta

Your belly probably aches just reading about it.

Graham Central Station from J. Fosters
Graham Central Station from J. Fosters

What stood out?

  • The ribs Republic offered were cooked perfectly. I also loved their take on s’mores brownies with a meringue topping and chunks of graham cracker throughout. Their menu seems inventive and interesting–I’d like to try more off of it.
  • The cavatelli from Rizzuto’s was worth waiting in line for. Portions were dished out fresh from the pan where the sauce bubbled away, emitting the most wonderful aroma. The bit of ricotta adorning the top was delightful for running forkfuls of pasta through. I love creamy cheese mixed in with my pasta!
  • I can’t remember the last time I had clam chowder–I really am not much of a seafood person, unless it’s fried (because everything fried tastes good). Both of the clam chowders I sampled were superb and left me wanting more. But Seasons Restaurant’s braised beef shank put it over the top, bringing a whole new dimension to “fork tender.” It made me think of home and family.
  • I’m learning to like bourbon, and Plan B Burger Bar is helping with that. Their signature cocktail, which combined bourbon-soaked peaches, bourbon, and champagne, was intense. Deep. Multidimensional. And I loved it. Definitely more of a sipper than a slurper, but that’s better for public consumption anyway.
  • J. Fosters Graham Central Station stole my heart. It was extremely well balanced with the creamy and crunchy, sweet and salty, and the ice cream texture was a dream. What’s dangerous is that they’re located almost directly across the street from where I work.
Braised Beef Shank with English Pea & Carrot Ragout from Seasons Restaurant at Avon Old Farms Hotel
Braised Beef Shank with English Pea & Carrot Ragout from Seasons Restaurant at Avon Old Farms Hotel

To top it all off, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Cait of Cait Plus Ate. Our paths cross often, with both of us working in the same town, but up until now, we’ve only had a couple brief encounters at Peaberry’s Cafe while grabbing coffee on the way to work. Cait encouraged me to grab a plate of Indian food and give it a go. She showed me that hoppy beer helps calm the spice down. And when she brought me over to RJ’s Spirit Shop’s table to show me a Malbec she enjoyed, she also got us a little something more when she innocently asked What’s that bottle over there?–the next thing I knew, we were given samples-that-were-much-more-than-samples of a wine that sells for $200 a bottle! Wow! Thank you!

Limoncello Tiramisu tart with lemon filling, creamy mascarpone mousse, lemon sponge cake
Limoncello Tiramisu tart with lemon filling, creamy mascarpone mousse, lemon sponge cake

Would I buy a ticket to A Taste in Simsbury next year? You bet. For $50 a person, it’s a steal. There were 26 vendors to choose from and there were no limits on the portions you could take. You didn’t have to feel like a jerk because you wanted to try two flavors of ice cream or one of each item a restaurant offered. And those offerings? They were far more generous than you’d expect samples to be. The best part of all? Being able to talk with the people behind the food and getting to know about their preparations and style. That’s priceless.

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