Yankee Shares Best Of 2014 In CT

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If you haven’t had enough of those “best of” lists, here is yet another one.

Yankee Magazine has published its “Best of New England 2014” list and Connecticut has its expected and not-so-expected winners.

yankee1In categories including “Best Fine Dining,” “Best Aquarium Experience and Best Zoo, the veteran winners include Golden Lamb Buttery in Brooklyn, Mystic Aquarium and Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, respectively.

But then there are the not-so-usual categories and winners that might send you to some new places as the weather turns warm.

Among them, Best Pizza Outside New Haven, Vero Pizza in Plainville; Best Bridge Stroll, Old Drake Hill in Simsbury; Best Small Art Gallery, The Artists’ Path in Bantam, and Best Forest Flower Hideaway, Rhododendron Sanctuary in Voluntown.

“Best of” picks by editors also include categories like Best Lighthouse Tour (Custom House Maritime Museum, New London; Best Swimming Pond, Wadsworth Falls State Park, Middletown; Best Half-Price Happy Hour, Litchfield Saltwater Grille, and Best Birdwatching Sanctuary, Stewart B. McKinney Wildlife Refuge, Westbrook.

And when it comes to the Top 20 Connecticut events, the magazine’s recommendations include the May Market at the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington on May 9 and 10, the Florence Griswold Museum Garden Fest May 30 to June 15, the Nutmeg Games in New Britain on July 12 to 27 and the Riverfront Dragon Boat & Asian Festival in Hartford on Aug. 16 to 17.

For the complete story go here. 

Best Taco In CT? Food Network Says “Si” To Hartford Agave

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agavetacoWhen it comes to tacos in Connecticut, Hartford’s Agave is the place you must go, according to the new issue of Food Network Magazine.

Titled “50 States, fifty Tacos,” the May feature  lists the best tacos in each state. Agave Grill is not only named “best” in Connecticut but a picture of its spicy BBQ pork tacos is the spotlighted art in the centerpiece story.

“We got a call in January that we had been chosen and it’s been surreal,” said Al Ferranti, one of the partners in the Hartford Restaurant Group that includes the popular Allyn Street Mexican restaurant. “We were so surprised but it has been awesome that a place in Connecticut is being highlighted for its tacos,” he said. “So many people think of New Mexico or Arizona or Southern California,” he said. “We just got an email from someone in New Mexico who saw the article and is asking for our recipe.”

The win was twice as sweet (or spicy) because Agave is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month.

“We’ll be doing some double celebrating,” said Ferranti, about future anniversary party plans.

The magazine, calling its 50 picks “worth the trip” notes fans claim the Agave pork taco is “as close to Mexican street food as you can find in Connecticut.”

“The tacos started as street food from our taco truck,” said Ferranti about its seasonal “to go” food cart. “People kept asking for them in the restaurant so we just added them to the menu.”

Ferranti said he is not surprised that the tacos, which can also be filled with vegetables, chicken or carne asada, are such a hit.

“We use really good ingredients he said, noting that Mexican chihuahua cheese, not American cheddar, is melted onto the tortilla before it is filled with high quality meats, a choice of sauces, pico de gallo, and marinated cabbage.

“Most restaurants use lettuce in their tacos but we like the cabbage because it has more crunch,” he said. “And we marinate the cabbage in a cilantro vinaigrette to take some of the bite out of it.”

To see the entire article go to foodnetwork.com/magazine

UHART Grad Is Ringling’s Circus Ringmaster

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Johnathan Lee IversonJohnathan  Lee Iverson is coming to Hartford soon. The University of Hartford Hartt School grad will be here as the ringmaster of the fame Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus “Legends” which will open at the XL Center on May 8. Iverson, who received his degree in voice performance from the West Hartford University, became the first African-American and the youngest ringmaster in its history, and is now celebrating 15 years as the exuberant master of ceremonies of The Greatest Show On Earth. A New York City native who, at 11 years old, was a member of the famous boys Choir of Harlem, Iverson was enthused, flamboyant and absolutely bombastic as he Spilled the Beans with Java.

Q: So what characteristics do you need to be a good ringmaster?

A: Definitely confidence, but you have to be careful with that word nowadays. People can construe confidence as arrogance and it’s really not. Great confidence is when you prepare and who you are and what you are not. You don’t need to be handsome, although I am (joking,) and you do need to have a presence and a well-trained voice.

Q: Do you ever feel a lot of pressure or stress? I mean you kind of set the tone for the whole show.

A: That is where the confidence comes in. Confidence is about knowing and understanding and being realistic. I always say everything has a science and an aesthetic. The science is what you have to build something, so as a ringmaster you understand the mechanics how you do what you do and what is going on around you. There is no pressure when you are confident. A ringmaster is a paid braggart. the guy who gets to talk smack but he backs it up with what he is presenting. And our circus will more than validate what I am barking about.

Q: Since you began in 1998, how many shows have you done?

A: I contend a Ringling ringmaster could easily be counted among the busiest vocalists in the world. It is a fun fact to think about. I mean, millions of people have heard my voice. We just started the tour in January and I have already done 150 shows. This tour still has another year and three quarters to go so how many shows have I done during my career, I couldn’t even guess.

Q: What did you family say when you came home and announced ‘I’m joining the circus to beJLI Family Photo ringmaster!’?

A: They said ‘what is that?’ They were worried I was going to be working with animals and once they realized that was not the case, they were okay.

Q: You are billed as the first African American ringmaster and the youngest ringmaster in the history of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Do you feel like some kind of trailblazer?

A: You know how it is. When you are the first guy to do something, it is considered a great experiment and people see it and say “okay this might work out.” the first person to do anything is the one under all the pressure. But the second one to do it, he’s got it good. When the first one hits a homerun it opens the window for others. Let’s be real. Even the NBA and NFL were very boring until they let the blacks play.

Q: What are the myths about the circus and what are some of the realities?

A: The greatest myth of course is that this maniacal idea that we mistreat animals. For our circus, the animals are treated professionally and in extremely humane conditions. There are a zillion agencies that regulate our industry and our animals are well taken care of.

Another one of the great myths is that the circus is made up of n’er do wells or people with no skills. My answer to that, your favorite movie star has 99 chances to get it right when they are filming something. The performers in the circus have one shot or it could cost them their lives. If we are going to define art as something that reaches an audience, circus wins it hands down. For circus artists, what they do is their being. They are not playing a character or a role. Even without makeup you can tell who the clowns are. When you are an acrobat, that is what you are and those are the skills you have and do. You can’t be a make-believe ringmaster or animal trainer. The circus is a calling, a vocation. Not a side project. You don’t do it for the money. It is what makes your blood beat.

Q: What can Hartford expect when you come to town?

A: Hartford has a sensitive history when it comes to the circus and the city has been generous to us considering that sensitive history. We are bringing a good show, always the greatest show on earth. We put so much into it. Our audience is at the forefront of our minds, because they are trusting us with their time, money and imagination. We have prancing pigs, leaping kangaroos, a unicorn, even a wooly mammoth and lions and tigers, the king of the bit cats, Alex Macy, the First Family of the Motorcycle Globe, the Urias Family, the Medeiros Troupe hair hangers, the pre-show Animal Open House and some of the most beautiful dancers in the world.

Q: Do you remember the first time you went to the circus?

A: I was probably 8 and it was at Madison Square Garden. The one thing that stuck with me is I had a crush on the girl next to me and paid more attention to her than the circus. But I remember the big parade and that the show was billed as having a unicorn and I was so upset when I found out that while it was a “uni” corn, it was a doggone goat that had just one horn.

Q: What is something no one knows about you?

A: I trained to be an opera singer but I don’t sing in the shower. I tried it but it just seemed weird. When I go into the bathroom I just focus on whatever it is I’m doing in there.


Ticket prices begin at $18. Information: xlcenter.com

Cottle On New Reality Cooking Show

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chefkcWell-known chef Kevin Cottle got his first taste of national television when he finished runner-up on Season 6 of Chef Gordon Ramsey’s Fox reality show, “Hell’s Kitchen” several years ago.

Cottle, a Connecticut favorite who will soon open his Fire at the Ridge restaurant at Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort, is back on the tube again, Las Vegas-style.

Cottle is a competing chef on a new Food Network show called “Kitchen Casino.”

Hosted by former “Apprentice” winner, tv personality and entrepreneur Bill Rancic, the show pits four chefs against each other in three casino-themed cooking challenges, slots, poker and roulette.

“It’s a little crazy,” said Cottle whose segment airs on May 12. “In the slot machine challenge, youBill Rancic pull a lever and get three ingredients that you have to use to make a dish that is judged,” he explained. “In the roulette wheel challenge, you step back and the kitchen stations spin and you end up having to finish a dish that someone else started.”

Celebrity judges making appearances on the show include Michael Chernow, Madison Cowan, Danyelle Freedman, Gavin Kaysen, Aliya Leekong and Kristin Sollenne.

Billed as a “high stakes game of luck and strategy,” the new show premiered April 7. It airs on the Food Network on Mondays at 9 p.m.

“It felt good to be on television again,” said Cottle, who was approached by the network to be on the show. “I had never really planned to do a show again,” said Cottle, who could not spill any of the details of his segment including whether he won the $30,000 grand prize. “But then I got the competitive itch again and this show just intrigued me.”

Trashion, Tourism Cocktails…Coming Up Hartford!

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calendar_clip_art-1_opt It’s a long weekend coming up for some, one that is filled with renewal and faith of religious observances.

But there are also a slew of other things to do this weekend ranging from Easter-themed egg hunts and Passover traditions to an eclectic mix of cocktails, an Earth Day fashion show and more.

rawlogo82x62[1]Thursday is Creative Cocktail Party day at Real Art Ways in Hartford. The monthly event includes dancing, art, food, live music and cocktails of course.  For more information go here.

Earttrashion 44h Day is April 22 but the party starts in Hartford on Saturday.

That’s when “The Hartford Trashion Fashion Show” will be held at Hartford City Hall. Runway designs are made from recycled materials including bubble wrap, duct tape, junk food bags, straws and other materials. A $50 per ticket VIP reception begins at 6 p.m. and includes admission to the show. General admission tickets are $20. For more information go here.

And looking a bit ahead, it’s award time for Connecticut tourism efforts.

The 2014 Pineapple Awards, which recognize those individuals and organizations that pineappleexemplify tourism excellence in Connecticut will be announced at the 2014 Connecticut Conference on Tourism at the Connecticut Convention Center on April 24. The Pineapple Awards honor people and organizations from the three state tourism districts – Eastern, Central and Western and are presented in four categories including Excellence in Tourism Image, Tourism Ambassador, Excellence in Tourism Service and Hospitality, anFineArtFlowers_wadsworthatheneumF-10-2_WEB[1]d Volunteer of the Year.  For more information go here.

Also looking ahead, the Wadsworth Atheneum hosts its annual Fine Art & Flowers weekend on April 25 and 26. It  features floral arrangements and garden designs inspired by works of art in the collection created by community florists, garden clubs, and designers and a marketplace featuring hand-made goods for sale by local vendors.

This year’s honorary chair is WNPR’s Ray Hardman, who will be the special guest  at a Farm-to-Table Dinner on April 26. On April 25, professional floral designer Bill Graham demonstrates how to accessorize your “little black dress” by creating one-of-a-kind floral arrangements to mBest_Of_Cover-crop (2)atch any occasion followed by lunch. For information go here.

And finally, need help deciding what to do or where to go or eat or shop?

You might want to check out what’s been voted best on the CTNow 2014 “Best Of Hartford” list, volume 1. Congrats to all the winners!

Terryville ‘Roo’ Needs Your Vote, Eat Cake With Miley

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terryville_ct[1]And in the “this and that” world of Java land…

Terryville High School, or rather its kangaroo mascot “Roo” needs your votes.

Apparently the high school’s unusual mascot is a finalist in a USA Today online competition featuring “America’s strangest, most interesting and just plain comical mascots.”

“Roo” has already been voted best mascot in the state, beating out some other schools and mascots in the state including the Avon Old Farms Winged Beaver, the Berlin Redcoat and the Kingswood-Oxford Wyvern in West Hartford.

As the state winner, Terryville High’s marsupial is now pitted against the Morse High School Shipbuilder, from Bath, Maine, in the Northeast Region contest. Voting on the regional level ends at 2 p.m. April 17.

If Terryville’s “Roo” wins that contest, it moves on to the national voting round which begins April 18 and continues through April 25.

Last year’s winner was the Centralia, Illinois Orphan.

The athletic department of the winning mascot’s school will receive $2,000.

To vote for the Terryville High School mascot, go to contest.usatodayhss.com.

This is for Miley Cyrus fans.

The controversial singer/performer is coming to Foxwoods Grand Theater on April 25 with her provocative Bangerz Tour and to welcome her and her followers, there are some special deals.

There is the Miley Meet & Greet and Seat Upgrade Contest, which gives concert goers a chance to meet Miley or win a seat upgrade for two by submitting and posting a photo of the Grand Theater stage via Instagram or Twitter. There are also exclusive Miley Cyrus hotel packages like the $899 VIP hotel package including a deluxe room overnight stay at the Fox Tower and two premium seats or the $699 package that includes two standard seats and an overnight stay.

For those of you planning to dine at Foxwoods that night, there will be limited edition desserts at restaurants throughout the property including the “Wrecking Ball” – a hard chocolate ball with a chocolate Miley Cyrus silhouette sitting on top of the ball and of course, two Miley Cyrus inspired cocktails, the Bangerz Martini and The Miley Shooter. Go to foxwoods.com for information

New Reporter At Fox CT

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Laurenvictory Lauren Victory  has joined Fox CT as a General Assignment Reporter.

Victory comes from WPTZ in Burlington, VT where she worked as a video Journalist/Reporter for the past three years.

“Lauren is a talented reporter and will be a strong addition to the FOX CT news team. Her solid reporting and passion for storytelling will be a benefit to our viewers,” FOX CT News Director Coleen Marren noted.

Victory graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL with a degree in Journalism and Political Science.

Hartford Is One Of The Happiest Cities In The USA, Honest!

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Hartford-Most-Productive-Cities[2]In case that ‘Husky High’ and all that is basketball-related  is starting to wear off Hartford, there is more good news!

An online site called “CreditDonkey” has posted a story claiming Hartford is one of the 10 ‘Happiest Cities’ in the United States.

Drawing conclusions from a mix of data including unemployment rate, average wages and a “frustration index,” the report claims Hartford comes in at a qualified  # 3 “largely because the salaries and benefits are so high there – if you can find a job.”

The story also gives Hartford big props for amenities including  a more manageable commute and low-frustration offices.

Coming in at #2  is Buffalo, New York and at #1 Rochester, New York.

For the complete story go here.

‘Know Your Value’ Hartford Conference Panelists Announced

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Lisa color.2The Raben Group PortraitsLucy Danziger for SELF MagazineMore female star power is coming Hartford way in May as part of the first “Know Your Value” conference for women on May 16.

Joining the headliners, former CT newscasters-turned-celebrities Gayle King and Mika Brzezinski, will be a threesom  you may recognize.

They include Lucy Danziger, well-being life expert and former editor-in-chief of Condé Nast’s SELF magazine, Lisa Hughes, vice president and publisher of The New Yorker and Melody Barnes, CEO of Melody Barnes Solutions LLC, a domestic strategy firm, and former Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

Conference topics include “Lessons Learned,” “Leaning Back and Leaning In,” “At the Bargaining Table” and “Your Best Self,” addressing stress, health and sleep. The daylong program will be held at the Hartford Marriott Downtown.

The conference is being produced by Brzezinski and two well-known Connecticut media personalities, Duby McDowell, president of McDowell Jewett Communications and Diane Smith, president of Diane Smith Media.

For more information go here.

Goodspeed Opens 2014 Season With Sox-Twisted ‘Damn Yankees’

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gspeed13While the Red Sox and Yankees were duking it out in the Bronx on Friday, the pinstripe vs. Beantown rivalry was also going on in East Haddam as Goodspeed opened for its 2014 season with the musical classic, “Damn Yankees.”

In deference to a state that is divided between the two teams, the 1955 Broadway show, originally pitting the Yankees against the Washington Senators, was tweaked a bit with the showdown featuring the Sox instead.

And that change meant setting the proper stage.

Entergspeed11 well-known Goodspeed supporter Mike Chaiklin, also a Red Sox diehard, who not only arranged for the Red Sox “ball girls” and Wally the Green Monster mascot to stop by, but also the Sox 2013 World Series trophy, to make sure the audience knew well-ahead of time that this production of “Damn Yankees” was going to be something a bit different.

“He wouldn’t have minded, I think he would have been proud that people are stills singing his songs,” said Janie Ross Coulter, about the change-up in the play that features songs including “Heart” and “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets.”

Her father, the late Jerry Ross, wrote the musical score for the original Broadway production in 1955 gspeed14with Richard Adler. “The songs in the show are simply joyous,” she said.

For many audience members who remember the former tv show “Moonlighting,” the evening included a bit of double-take, especially at the after party. Among the cast members in “Damn Yankee” is Allyce Beasley, who –plays “Doris” in the Goodspeed production, but was easily recognized as the ditzy  Agnes Dipesto, office receptionist in the popular tv series that starred Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis.