Sunday, July 25, 2010

Connecticut Valley Winery - New Hartford, CT

Yesterday we were pleasantly surprised with a call from Grandma, SHE had decided to take Jr. for the day. We found ourselves with an entire afternoon alone, so we headed to the most obvious place...Target. On the way home we decided to finally visit Connecticut Valley Winery. I had been driving by it for the last couple of years, admiring it's rustic beauty.

The winery is family owned, and the grapes are all grown in the state. Wine making is not easy and takes several years to come to fruition when growing your own grapes. I think a lot of people easily dismiss their local wineries, but let me tell you....there is a lot of heart and soul in that tasting glass. Don't discount them!

The tasting room is very spacious and airy, which lends to browsing their selections or savoring a glass at the nearby tables. The son of the owner, a very knowledgable young man, led us through their current selections, both red and white. A standout white was the "Chardonel", a late growing grape that produces a full bodied wine with a tinge of fruit. My favorite red was the "Black Tie Cabernet Franc", a dry, complex wine.  I personally love Cabernet Francs, and this was one of the best I have tried in recent memory.  I thought all of the wines were excellent quality, and it's clear the family takes the business seriously.

As enjoyed our glass of Chardonel out on the patio, we relaxed while others enjoyed picnic feasts and soaked up the gorgeous view. A little slice of heaven in our corner of the world. 

Connecticut Valley Winery

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ferme at Avon Old Farms Hotel - Avon, CT

Always in search of good eats for lunch, my co-worker and I decided to check out Ferme, located in a beautiful space at the Avon Old Farms Hotel. I read some positive reviews of it by my fellow Chowhounders, enough to pique our interest. We arrived on a recent weekday at prime lunch hour to find an empty restaurant. I have no idea how any restaurant in our area could be completely empty at lunch, as it’s happened to us on several occasions at various places. To those non-diners, I ask…are you patronizing your local businesses??

Ferme bills itself as a true farm to table restaurant, the menu reads like one long mouth watering description of local bounty. Cato Corner Cheese, Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Nodine’s bacon, among others. You can order half or full portions of most appetizers and entrées; we’ll discuss this later. The menu begs you to play nice and share with others, perfect for a group of friends or a quiet dinner for two.  Me, you and warm duck pâté…ooo la la

After obsessing about what to order, we decided on a cheese plate, roasted mussels, and meatballs. Yeah, I said meatballs! While waiting, we relaxed over two mason jars of chamomile coolers; a refreshing blend of chamomile tea, honey and lemon verbena. The drink list contains some interesting and classic cocktails, along with a thoughtful wine selection. An olive-rosemary martini, anyone?

Our cheese plate arrived, a generously sized assortment of Cato Corner Bridgid’s Abbey, Champlain Triple Cream and Point Reyes Original Blue. Complimenting each were apricots, honeycomb, marcona almonds and a fig jam. Every lunch should start out that way! As we wondered if we could finish our cheese fiesta, the mussels and meatballs arrived. As our server set the mussels on the table, our mouths gaped open. A half portion was set before us; a huge bowl, overflowing with mussels in a fragrant broth. Four large meatballs arrived in a small cast iron skillet, the size of tennis balls. There was nothing left to do but dig in! The meatballs were amazing, a rich mixture of meat and foie gras with hints of tarragon, Dijon in a cognac sauce. The mussels were a delicious mess, the roasting brought out their sweet flavor which was complimented by the saffron broth and sauce that was drizzled over the entire dish. A side of hand cut fries rounded out our lunch, and we were already making plans for our return. I snapped a quick photo of the mussels, but it doesn't do the dish any justice.

Now, about the prices and portions; you are getting some serious bang for your buck at Ferme. In the land of the $12 lunch sandwich, our mussels set us back $9 while the meatballs were a wallet-friendly $8. I will definitely return, hopefully soon to try it out for dinner. I haven’t seen much advertising from them, and I hope people will give them a try. Don’t let the fact that they are a hotel restaurant dissuade you; Ferme is a gem and an incredible value.