Tag Archives: Food Network

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

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.”

Millwright’s Anderson Scores Again With James Beard!

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tylera One of our favs, well-known  Millwright’s owner/chef Tyler Anderson, got some good news this week from the prestigious James Beard Foundation.

He’s one of the elite semi-finalists in the “best chef” category of  the  2014 James Beard Foundation Awards.

The competition includes  best restaurants, best new chefs, best regional chefs, best service and outstanding wines and spirits. Anderson was named as a “Best Chef” semi-finalist in the Northeast category and is one of two Connecticut chefs to make the list.

Also named a semi-finalist is Joel Viehland of Community Table in Washington.

Anderson, formerly with the Copper Beech Inn in Ivoryton and a onetime winner on Food Network’s reality show “Chopped,” opened his own restaurant in Simsbury about years ago. And his newest nod from James Beard is not his first. Last year he was named to Beard’s “Favorite Dish and Drink List.”

Awards will be presented in May.

For the complete list go here.


Food/Wine And The Grapevine At Mohegan Sun WineFest

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winefest5Oh yes, there was fine food ranging from cilantro Gremolata skirt steak and smoked lamb belly bacon  to fried chicken and lamb bourguignon,  and fine wines from Francis Coppola, J Lohr, Moet and Signorello at the 11th annual Mohegan Sun WineFest .

And there were celebrity chefs who were more like celebrity couples this year, with the well-known cooking personalities showing off their significant others at the three-day food and winefest1wine extravaganza.

Among the well-known peeps to see at Saturday’s sold-out Celebrity Chef Dine Around were Food Network’s Robert Irvine and wife Gail Kim (aka wrestler and fitness model La Felina), pastry chef and Sandra Bullock sis Gisine Bullock-Prado and husband, Ray Prado, and Terrance Brennan and girlfriend, Judy Lipton.

“This is a great event,” said Irvine. “It is one of my favorites and the people at Mohegan make it so easy for us,” said the “Restaurant: Impossible” host who was serving up Hudson Valley duck with preserved confit and py lentils.

Thewinefest2 (2) casino was more than hopping as crowds headed to ballroom and VIP areas for bourbon tastings, grand tastings, the dine around  and elite cru tastings, all providing the chance to break the dreaded winter cabin fever and get out of the frigid cold.

“It certainly is nicer in here,” said celebrity chef Donatella Arpaia, one of the event veterans who not only provided a cooking demonstration but also served up her signature meatballs at the dine around later in the day. “I think I have been part of this for eight or nine years and it’s one of the better ones I do participate in,” said Arpaia, one of several of the celebrity chefs who are veterans of the annual food and dining extravaganza.

Among the many celebrity chefs at the event were Kim Canteenwalla, who had a secret to share, He is planning a restaurant in West Hartford.

“We are still working on it but I have always wanted a place there,” said Cateenwalla, well-winefest3 (2)known for developing food and beverage venues at five-star resorts and co-founder of Blau & Associates.  His wife, Elizabeth Blau, hails from West Hartford, but that was all Cateenwalla wanted to share.

“It will be an American cuisine-themed restaurant but I can’t say anything else yet,” he grinned as he went back to preparing his charred octopus with roasted fingerling potatoes.

A not-so-secret secret making the grapevine was that very outgoing WFSB personality Scot Haney is turning 50 soon and is planning a very public celebration.

Haney is holding a birthday party on March 1 at Glastonbury Hills Country Club where he will turn twinefest12he landmark birthday into a fundraiser for the Chanel 3 kids Camp.

Among the special guests at the event will be WDRC radio personality Brad Davis who coincidentally, is also celebrating a landmark birthday around the same time. Davis will be in Florida celebrating his 80th birthday but plans to fly back for an overnighter to help Haney raise money for the good cause.

And speaking of radio personalities,  WTIC 96.5 FM radio personality Gary Craig was doing a bit of glowing at the dine around and it had nothing to do with the hundreds of wines being served.

It was apparently because he made the “pool.”

See Craig, who seriously dabbles in art and acting when not on the air, appears in the blockbuster “American Hustle” with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale.

And while his spoken lines are on the editing room floor, his appearance as a mobster in a bar scene is intact and he found out he is eligible for residuals when the Oscar-nominated film goes DVD.

“Make sure you watch the bar scene when you see the movie,” he advised. “You can’t miss me.”



‘Restaurant Impossible’ Features CT Eatery Wednesday, A’Vert Opens Tuesday

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irvine (2)Remember the Windsor 75 Diner/ Restaurant and its star -studded makeover a few months ago courtesy of celebrity chef and Food Network’s ‘Restaurant Impossible’ host Robert Irvine?

Well, the restaurant is up and running with a new look and a new menu and on Nov. 6 there will be a bit of a party there at 10 p.m.

Owners George and Therese Calos are inviting fans to stop by, order up something to eat and watch the episode of the show together at their place at 35 Poquonock Ave.

Andavert speaking of food, West Hartford restaurateur, Treva owner/executive chef Dorjan Puka, has opened his new restaurant, A’Vert Brasserie, at 35 LaSalle Street. 

“We are just doing it quietly for now,” said the slightly harried Puka as he put the final touches on the authentic French brasserie Monday, just hours before the doors opened for its “soft” opening. “But after a few nights we will be ready.”

The space was formerly occupied by Thirty5 Bar & Grille, which closed seven months ago. 



Irvine Comes To Hartford to Talk Technology

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MaryEllen Fillo/Hartford Courant

 Chip Miller, executive chef at Hartford’s Society Room was under a little pressure Monday night. He and his staff were not only cooking for members of the CT Restaurant Association but also a special and discriminating guest as well, celebrity chef Robert Irvine.

Star of the Food Network’s “Restaurant: Impossible,” Irvine was in town for the “Robert Irvine Culinary Event” presented by Comcast Business and the association. Irvine was just in the area a few weeks ago when he did a tv makeover of The Windsor 75 Diner and Restaurant  but was more than happy to come back to Connecticut, and this time, its capital city.

“Very nice, this is a beautiful place,” he said as general manager Sean Zier gave him a quick tour of the former bank-turned-banquet facility. “I know they put millions of dollars into this and it shows,” said Irvine. “I don’t see a restaurant makeover necessary here.”

But what a restaurant needs in this day and age was part of the reason Irvine was in town. Besides his cookbook “Impossible to Easy: 111 Delicious Recipes to Recipes to Help You Put Great Meals On The Table Every Day,” Irvine was talking technology, specifically social media, a mandate not an option any more for even the most reluctant restaurateurs.

“If you don’t get into using the social media to promote your business you will be out of business,” he emphasized. “That’s the way business is being done today. Social media is huge.”

Interestingly, while really good smells were coming from the kitchen, Irving was emanating his own.

“I call it “Black and Blue,” it’s my own blend,” said Irvine explaining the couldn’t-be-ignored men’s cologne he was sporting as he patiently posed for picture after picture with fans during the cocktail hour. ‘Smells good, doesn’t it?”


Irvine and ‘Restaurant Impossible’ Do Magic Makeover in Windsor

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Mary Ellen Fillo/Hartford Courant

It was big doings in downtown Windsor Thursday as celebrity chef Robert Irvine and his Food Network reality show “Restaurant Impossible” unveiled the two-day makeover of ailing Windsor 75 Diner/Restaurant.
“Apples, all I want are apples in those bowls,” barked out Irvine as show staff, restaurant employees and volunteers rushed to finish the makeover before the 7 p.m. opening and taping of the new and improved downtown eatery. 

“Color coordination, that’s what we want,” he said as he dumped the bowls full of oranges, lemons, limes and apples and redid them as part of the staging in the counter area of the family-owned restaurant.
It was a whirlwind week for restaurant owners George and Therese Calos who have been struggling with the business located in an old home that was once a funeral parlor and then a florist. The two handed the place over to Irvine and company on Tuesday and within two days, and $10,000 later, the facelift included a new look, a major clean-up and a new menu that inclurestaurantimp2des “The Windsor Burger.”
“I am just so happy for them,” said Kristin Hoffman, who with husband Bob Hoffman, were among the hundreds who scored precious dinner reservations and the potential to be part of the reveal for the show. “George and Therese do so much for the community,” she Hoffman. “Many of the community organizations hold their luncheon meetings here. They are so deserving.”

Irvine however, was less gentle.

“This was a tough one,” he said as he had crews scurrying around to finish last minute painting, wiping up wood floors, staging spanking new counters and shelves and getting food prep work ready for an anxious crowd that began lining up well before the 7 p.m. opening time.

Among those helping out was Irvine’s wife, pro wrestler Gail Kim.The two recently celebrated their first anniversary.
“I think it ended up just being another day,” laughed Kim as she helped with the last minute cleaning. “I don’t even think we exchanged gifts.”
While diners oohed and ahhed over the new look and the new menu at the place, the owners were sworn to secrecy and can’t talk about anything, lest they spoil the show.
But Irvine had a little bit more to say.

“Let’s put it this way,” said Irvine. “You have an old building and that in itself is a challenge. Put that in the mixing bowl along with a family that has to change when it comes to the way they run this business,” he said, turning more optimistic. “Add me and you can make restaurant impossible, possible, and that’s what we did.”

Air date for the show has not yet been set, according to producers.

Skip a Meal Today Hartford , It’s A Food-Filled Weekend Of Fun!

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calendar_clip_art-1.29213820_std[1]Food (and hopefully some sun, eventually) take center stage this summer weekend.

It begins Thursday when Food Network’s celebrity chef Robert Irvine shows off his best business side in Windsor at one of his “Restaurant Impossible” makeovers.

The big reality show unveil at Windsor 75 is taped Thursday evening. It includes a restaurant full of fans lucky enough to nab a reservation for the big night that will feature the done-over restaurant’s new look, new menu and new attitude.


Courtesy of Food Network

For those who are not familiar, Irvine’s show involves choosing a restaurant in need and with $10,000 and lot of staff and volunteers, does a makeover aimed at putting the place back on the right business track. No date yet on when the episode will air.

On Friday, Gifts of Love will hold its annual “Ready, Set, Cook” fundraiser featuring celebrity chefs who take mystery ingredients and do their best to turn them into contest-winning entrees.

Celebrity chefs include Matt Cormier from The Meat House in Avon, Michael Lee from Max’s Oyster Bar in West Hartford, Jordan Stein from the Pond House and Luis Vasquez from Cugino’s of Farmington.


MaryEllen Fillo/Hartford Courant

The event will be held at the Community Farm of Simsbury.

Information: giftsoflovect.org

There will also be some good food and some really good jazz at the Goshen Fairgrounds beginning Friday as part of the annual Litchfield Jazz Festival. The event opens with a reception and gala on Friday night, followed by the first night of performances including headliner, two-time Tony winner Christine Ebersole. Tickets for the festival start at $30 .


MaryEllen Fillo/Hartford Courant

Information: litchfieldjazzfest.com

On Saturday, it’s parade time in downtown Hartford beginning at 11 a.m. as the city celebrates West Indian Independence Day. Following the parade, head to Bushnell Park for live entertainment and West Indian food.

It’s summer so let’s extend the weekend out a bit. and for a good reason.

Remember the movie “Memphis Belle?” Well, that famed restored WWII B-17 “flying fortress” bomber will take to the skies over Hartford on Aug. 12.

The visit, sponsored by The Liberty Foundation as part of its 2013 “Salute to Veterans” tour, will be over Brainard Airport Monday but the public can get an up close and personal ground tour of the aircraft or take a flight on Aug. 17 and Aug. 18.


Courtesy of The Liberty Foundation

The public exhibit will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Memphis Belle’s historic last mission and its first visit to Hartford.

Information: libertyfoundation.org



It’s Mohegan Sun WineFest Time! Let The Eating/Drinking Begin!!

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rirvineThe chefs for Mohegan Sun WineFest are arriving!

Just finished interview with “Restaurant: Impossible”  and “Dinner:Impossible” star Robert Irvine, one very happy newlywed with a book and a protein bar coming soon!

The very cut Food Network reality show star, who recently wed pro wrestler Gail Kim, says the two are workout partners as well as partners in every other way, business and otherwise.

His new book, out later this year,  is a combination of his at-home fitness program and recipes all aimed at healthy but tasty meals.

And the snack bar? Robert Irvine’s Fit Crunch, a layered high protein bar with 15 or 30 grams of protein and intended for children and adults.

“It is so good,” he enthused. “You will be so surprised.”

Irvine is not only one of the featured chefs on the main stage at Saturday’s Grand Tasting, but will also be whipping up lamb ragout at the Celebrity Chef Dine Around Saturday evening.

For more pictures go here.


Caseus Cheese Sandwich Food Network Mag CT Winner

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Where would we be if it weren’t for the sandwich, that go-to meal between two slices of bread?

Food Network, known for, among other things, its ” best of” nationwide rankings of certain foods like burgers and pizza, has  published its “Fifty States, Fifty Sandwiches,” results, a  “who’s who” of the best sandwiches around the nation.

The Connecticut winner? The grilled cheese sandwich at New Haven’s Caseus Fromagerie/Bistro.

It’s not just any grilled cheese sandwich. The Whitney Avenue  fromagerie uses six cheeses and extra thick rustic bread for its award-winning, mouth-watering melt.

“Sliced bread is the measure against which we judge all the best things in life because without it we wouldn’t have one of the most ingenious food inventions of all time: the sandwich,” the Food Network Magazine article notes. “Starting six months ago, we scoured America for the country’s most delicious sandwiches and we learned two things: One, you can put pretty much anything between two slices of bread, and two, almost everything tastes better that way. ”

To see the best in other states go to: http://bit.ly/Qb9q3b