Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Rockin V is Rocking Out my House!

During my family's trip to Napa, I formed a deep appreciation for wine barrels.  I learned barrels are used up to three times to store and ferment wine- but what happens when the wine maker is through with these giant wooden "Tupperware" containers?

They are reborn into wonderful pieces for the home!- enter Frank Villas, owner of "The Rockin V"- French and American Oak Wine Barrel Creations.

During our stay in Napa, we noticed that many gift shops sold lazy susan's made from tops of wine barrels.  I immediately wanted one to take home as a memento from our trip- the only problem was that they were overpriced ($150), and I wanted a lazy susan that actually came from a Napa barrel.  The store owner of the very last gift shop we entered gave us Frank's business card- thank goodness!  When we got home we contacted Frank right away- 10 days later, this is what we received and we were beyond thrilled!

The piece came with a tag with all of the necessary barreling information.  I also love the authentic stamping that makes each one of Frank's pieces unique!

After being so pleased with Frank's craftsmanship, we decided to purchase another one of his creations.  We have been needing a table to go next to our leather recliner in our living room for a while now, but it has been difficult to find a piece that can naturally fill this awkward space.  We contacted Frank, and once again, he wowed us with his work!   
Notice the staining outside of the table legs...that's a wine stain from the wine being stored inside of the barrel at one point!

If you are looking for a special piece of decor to add to your home, especially if you are a wine lover, or you need a one-of-a-kind gift for someone that has it all, contact Frank Villas at the Rockin V.  His creations range from the two pieces my family has purchased to clocks, candle holders and more. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday- My Favorite Places to EAT!

This post is really for my friends in CT who know that they can always come to me when they are looking to go out to eat and need a recommendation.  I figured I would lay it all out on the table here so my new friends and old friends can refer back to the best of best in my little foodie world!

10.)  USS Chowder Pot IV, Hartford, CT:  This place hasn't been updated in a very long time, but I keep coming back for here for the "chowda," which I think is the best I have ever had (I have sampled chowder from around the country so I am highly qualified to judge- haha).  I also like their "Lazy Man Lobster"- who wants to get their hands dirty and wear a silly bib anyway?  In this dish, all you have to do is enjoy drenching your succulent lobster pieces in warm butter!  Sometimes the wait to be seated is too long, but I think you can call ahead and put your name on a list.  If you are craving clam chowder that is actually filled with clams and is thick and creamy instead of all potatoes with a watered down broth, this is the place to go.  F.Y.I.- this restaurant is participating in CT Restaurant week which runs now through the 16th!

9.)  Bills Seafood, Westbrook, CT:  On the topic of seafood, Bills is a little place that I try to visit in the summer months as they have amazing outdoor seating overlooking a saltwater pound filled with friendly seagulls and lots of sunshine!  I ALWAYS get the hot buttered lobster roll (can you tell I have a thing for lobster- I don't know how you can not!)- it comes with a side of homemade slaw (non-mayo type!) and I usually upgrade to seasoned curly fries because they are fun to eat.  Seating is first come, first serve and some people can be very feisty when they've eye locked a table down.  This is a great place to go if you like seafood (non-seafood items are limited to burgers and chicken sandwiches- a.k.a. boring dishes!) and are on a tight schedule to eat out- with people in line to sit down starting you down, its hard to take your time.

8.)  Agave Grill, Hartford, CT:  Why I love this place-
*  Homemade Guacamole with warm tortilla chips
*  Generous Portions- what do you know, my favorite dish here is their LOBSTER enchiladas!
*  An AMAZING Sunday Brunch- try the breakfast burrito, you will be powered up all day.
*  Creative Beverages- they offer many different flavors of Margaritas and have a wonderful collection of tequila.
F.Y.I.- this restaurant is participating in CT Restaurant Week which runs now through the 16th!      

7.)  Ginza Japanese Cuisine, Bloomfield, CT:  In my teen years I went through a sushi craze and spent all of my hard earned Dairy Queen money on spicy tuna rolls from here.  Once I found my sushi partner in crime (my sister) we were unstoppable raw fish eaters!  I've toned it down these days and had to lay off the sushi during my pregnancy, which was pretty difficult to do- but when I want to immerse myself in Japanese Cuisine, I go here. F.Y.I.- this restaurant is participating in CT Restaurant Week which runs now through the 16th!

6.)  King and I Thai, Hartford, CT:  I have only been to this place once but it left such a great impression that I wanted to add this restaurant to my list.  First off, it's a BYOB kind of establishment so we rolled up with a case of red wine and had ourselves a very good night!  It is recommended to make reservations ahead of time because the dinning room is tinier than my living room and seats about four to five parties at  a time.  Even though the restaurant is small, instead of pushing you out to allow others to get in, the staff here allows you to sit for hours- a great place to go with a group of friends!  Try the drunken noodles with  chicken- yum!    

5.)  AltaStrada, MGM Grand at Foxwoods:  Another restaurant that I have only been to a handful of times, yet left a good impression was this upscale italian eatery.  Before the baby came, my DH and I went on a "babymoon" (a weekend getaway for just the two of us) and we ate here.  Their menu is simple and offers many classic dishes (on menu called "Old School Favorites") that your "Grandma Nona" would make from scratch, except their version is better!  My go to is the Chicken Milanese with Arugula, Tomato, and Red Onion.  

4.)  Todd English's Tuscany, Mohegan Sun:  I live a little over 30 minutes from Mohegan Sun so it is convenient and fun for me to shoot over there for a great meal.  I'm addicted to the olive tapenade that they serve with warm focaccia bread when you are waiting for your main course.  When walking up to this place it is pretty grandious, with a giant waterfall that is quite noisy- make sure to sit inside of the restaurant for a more intimate dinning experience.  My DH likes to make up his own pasta dishes here (like adding chicken and pesto) and it is never an issue.        

3.)  Hilltop BBQ, Moodus, CT:  After going to Mohegan Sun's Food and Wine Fest last winter and sampling a pulled pork slider from here, this restaurant became our favorite BBQ hidden gem.  The location is out in the middle of nowhere, but it is worth the drive if you are traveling afar.  They have this sampler platter that my DH and I share, it includes:  pulled pork, beef brisket, St. Louis style ribs and Memphis style ribs, cornbread and two sides (we usually get mashed potatoes with gravy and collard greens).  You need to wear sweatpants to this place in order to feel comfortable after digging in to their wonderful selection of wings (a ton of different flavors), burgers, classic BBQ dishes, sandwiches and salads.        

2.)  Max Amore, Glastonbury, CT:  I have been visiting this restaurant with my DH since we were dating in high school.  I had the rehearsal dinner before my wedding here and many memorable get togethers include gathering around a table here with friends and family.  They have a great menu that changes with the seasons- I love to taste their risotto dish at the turn of each season-recently, their summer risotto consisted of fresh corn off the cob, and lump crab meat in a creamy sauce.  There was a time when my DH and I were coming here four times a week, sometimes twice in one day- it was our dinning room!  We each have dishes that we order over and over again because they are so good!  F.Y.I.  this restaurant is participating in CT Restaurant Week which runs now through the 16th!    

1.)  J.Gilberts, Glastonbury, CT:  One of the reasons why I listed J.Gilberts as number 1 on my list is because of the consistency of their service and quality of food- it is always excellent!  They have a great mailing list where I get awesome email discounts, hear about special offers and menus and they send you a $25 gift card around your birthday.  This is the ONLY restaurant where I will order steak because it comes out exactly the way you want it.  I'm not even a big red meat eater, but there is something about the way they do meat that turns me into a carnivore!  The portions are just right and the wine selection enhances your dinning experience.            

Notable Mentions:
*  Bricco Trattoria, Glastonbury, CT. 
*  NuNu's Bistro, Colchester, CT. also B.Y.O.B.= FUN!
*  First and Last Tavern, Middletown, CT.
* Luce, Middletown, CT.

Where are your favorite places in CT to sit down for a great meal?  Have you been to any of the restaurants I mentioned in this post?