Saturday, October 19, 2013

To the illuminated mind, the whole world burns and sparkles with light. - Emerson

I am continually blown away by the intense beauty of the universe. I am so lucky to live where I do; every moment here is special. There's the quiet of nature, the charm of New England towns, and the best city in the world is just a train ride away.

The reservoir in Redding has always been a favorite spot. There's a rock that you can clamber down to, and while I know it's trespassing I can't help but keep going to sit there and stare out at the water lately. I used to go to the same spot in high school, but I haven't climbed down to that rock in many years. About a month ago I got the urge to go back. It was a totally unexpected thought but totally had to be obeyed. The sun was rising, and I pulled off the road and travelled the familiar route through the trees to my favorite spot. Sitting there, breathing the air, reflecting on my luck to be alive in that moment, feeling the cold rock against my back; I felt a contentedness so powerful it was a physical ache. It's not like the world is perfect or I'm blissfully happy all the time. I was a philosophy major! Of course there's some angst in my soul at all times. ;-) But lately, it's really hard to feel anything but the magic that surrounds me and feel grateful to experience it.

I share with you some of the photos I've taken reservoir-side recently:

I must also share an excerpt from Thoreau's "Walking":

"I wish to speak a word for nature, for absolute Freedom and Wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and Culture merely civil, — to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make a emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization; the minister, and the school-committee, and every one of you will take care of that. 

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering; which word is beautifully derived "from idle people who roved about the country, in the middle ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going à la sainte terre" — to the holy land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a sainte-terrer", a saunterer — a holy-lander. They who never go to the holy land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds, but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. 

He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all, but the Saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which indeed is the most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this holy land from the hands of the Infidels."

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Endless food, drink, sunshine, and happy memories at The 3rd Annual Greenwich Wine & Food Festival

An incredible experience, the Greenwich Wine & Food Festival on Saturday, October 5th, wins a solid spot in my list of most memorable and enjoyable adventures. From the moment I walked through the gates, I knew I'd entered a foodie Shangri-La. Bright sunlight, free flowing wine and beer, a waterside view, and true culinary masters surrounded me, as did a milling crowd of people who all share the same passion for good times and good food. 

I must sheepishly admit, I was thrilled to receive a press pass and a CTBites "blogger lounge" pass, and couldn't help but feel like a celebrity even as I wandered around starry eyed myself. The whole CTBites model is one I admire, from the content they put out to their logo and branding, and to be included in their list of guests was a special moment. I've always had a passion for food and cooking, and after starting in the restaurant management realm (AGM at Rizzuto's in Bethel), I have made a happy transition to writing about the culinary world. I do feel a pang of nostalgia for the unique culture of restaurant life, but I don't think the long hours are something I could have kept up for long. 

The atmosphere at the festival was so glowingly happy and pleasant, and the appreciation for both the event and the perfect weather was tangible. There was a silent camaraderie among festival-goers who all knew that the people around them were equally as pleased to be in attendance. Even in an incredibly crowded tent full of people stopping at random moments to take pictures, bumping into each other, and becoming increasingly full of alcohol, there was not a single instance of tension that I could detect. We were all just basking in the glow of a great experience. Who could ever be unhappy in the presence of fabulous food, wine, beer, spirits, and a gorgeous view? 

As the day wore on, people lounged by the water and recharged for a second or third spin through the tents, and by 4pm the Southern Bash tent was ready to go. Burgers (Shake Shack wins my vote for best), BBQ, and beer were in unlimited supply, and even with a full stomach and a rosy glow, we pushed on! 

I departed the festival in a euphoric state (yes, I'll admit my wine glass was rarely empty ;-)), and couldn't help but think to myself that I've found my calling and hope against hope that I can keep doing what I have been doing! I feel like a dork admitting it, but a big moment for me was when a stranger stopped me in the crowd and said "I follow you on instagram!" Social media has created such an interesting world! It's not isolating, it's a way to make connections that relate to real life. I think it's so interesting, and I feel so lucky. Nothing makes me happier than being around food, people who appreciate it, being able to document my experiences, and sharing my enthusiasm with others. I am thrilled to be a part of such a dynamic community of bloggers, reporters, photographers, and food lovers. 

For all 117 photos from the day, click here for HamletHub Redding's Album. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Changing Seasons, Changing Dishes: New Fall Menu at Bistro 7 in Wilton, CT

Now that fall is underway and the leaves are changing, there are new offerings on Bistro 7 Wilton's menu! As usual, the menu reflects what is available locally and seasonally.

New items on Bistro 7's fall menu: butternut squash soup, BBQ chicken chowder, crispy kale pizza, speck and herbed sweet potatoes, kale smoked caesar salad, organic wild arugula salad with butternut squash, hazelnuts, pancetta, and hazelnut dressing, seafood risotto, and braised short ribs.

I haven't tried all the new items, but here's a recap of the ones I can offer opinions on. (Note: dishes pictured are tasting portions)

BBQ chicken chowder: This was rich, thick, and smoky. I loved it. Perfect for a cool fall evening, and thick enough to dip crusty bread into to soak up every last bit!

Butternut squash soup: Rich and creamy, with parmesan shaved on top, which I thought was an interesting unexpected choice, but I really enjoyed the background flavor that it added.

Organic arugula salad with pancetta, butternut squash, and hazelnut dressing: An interesting combination of flavors! Slightly bitter arugula, smoky pancetta, and the nutty sweet tang of hazelnuts, which added a nice crunch, too. The butternut squash isn't even necessary, though it's good.

Seafood risotto with scallops and shrimp: By far my favorite dish out of the ones I got to try. It's creamy but not heavy or cheesy, and the seafood is really bright and fresh. The scallops were tender, which is often not the case when they're mixed in with other ingredients (and get overcooked). 

Braised short ribs with mashed cauliflower and steamed carrots: I'm not generally a meat eater, but this was buttery tender and fell apart on my fork. Amazing flavor! The mashed cauliflower was a new experience; I tend to favor potatoes, but I could barely tell the difference because the texture was so similar. 

There are also new desserts, including a bananas foster cheesecake and a pumpkin mousse topped with butternut squash seed brittle. Give either one a try - you won't be disappointed. I dislike bananas, and I dislike mousse...yet I liked both of these desserts. Go figure!