Tag Archives: Mohegan Sun wineFest

It’s A Wrap For 2013 Sun WineFest

by Categorized: Uncategorized Tagged: , Date:

cc5winewinefest3They came, they cooked, they conquered.

That’s the lowdown in a tasty nutshell on this past weekend as dozens of celebrity chefs and wine and libation purveyors converged at Mohegan Sun’s annual WineFest.

And this year was special because it marked the 10th anniversary of the event considered one of the state’s largest, attracting more than 10,000 people to three days worth of food, wine, demonstrations and really good eating and drinking.

“We try to do something different every year to keep it fresh,” said Vicky Cirilli, whose Cirilli Productions has coordinated the food and drink extravaganza since the start.

Besides lots of eating and drinking, the weekend also included a sold-out bourbon tasting with Adonis cigars, Grand Tastings, a Grand Cru, oyster shucking and grape stomping contests and the very popular Celebrity Chef Dine Around.

The who’s who list of celebrity chefs who were “in the kitchen” for the dine around that benefited the Channel 3 Kids Camp included pastry chef Gesine Bullock-Prado, sister of actress Sandra Bullock, Food Network’s Robert Irvine, Zagat proclaimed “Hostest With the Mostest” Donatella Arpaia, Bobby Flay, Jasper White, PBS show host Mary Ann Esposito, “Iron Chef” competitor Elizabeth Falkner and WineFest veteran, Kim Cateenwalla.

“I’ve been part of this for nine of its 10 years,” said Canteenwalla, co-founder of Blau & Associates, who was preparing wasabi pea and ginger crusted tuna for the enthusiastic crowd. “It’s fun, it’s a way to show diners your best and it’s a way to run into other chefs. It’s a nice blend of social and professional.”

And there was some new talent with Connecticut roots.

“It’s a great event,” said former West Hartford guy, William Kovel, as he put the finishing on his short ribs being served with Ciroc French martinis. “And it’s for the kids, a good cause,” added Kovel, who owns the award-winning Catalyst Restaurant in Boston and whose sister, Christy Kovel, is communications director at the CT Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Mohegan Sun WineFest Begins With Bourbon/Cigars

by Categorized: Uncategorized Tagged: Date:

sw2 A sold-out crowd opened this year’s Mohegan Sun WineFest Friday night.

The Bourbon Tasting, presented by Beam Inc., featured fine bourbons ranging from Jim Beam  Devil’s Cut  to Basil Hayden, Plan B Burger food (with help from Hartford’s Tisane)  including bourbon-laced short ribs and wild mushroom ravioli and  Adonis cigars for those who liked the quintessential bourbon/cigar experience.

Producing the three-day signature event for the 10th year in the row was Vicky Cirilli, of Cirilli Associates.

sw1“Every year we offer something new, something to make it different,” she said, noting that the popular bourbon event was moved to a bigger venue to accommodate a crowd of 350 people.

Saturday includes the first of the Grand Tastings, main stage demonstrations by celebrity chefs including Donatella Arpaia, Robert Irvine, Pat LaFrieda and Mark Pastore, Mary Ann Espositio, and Todd English.

The Mohegan Sun Grape Stomp sponsored by Ciroc Vodka and the Celebrity Chef Dine Around are also on tap for Saturday.

For more pictures go here.


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

by Categorized: Uncategorized Tagged: , , , , Date:

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.


Baby It’s Cold Outside But The Weekend? Hartford Hot

by Categorized: Uncategorized Tagged: , , , Date:


Yes, it’s cold outside and the first reaction is to stay inside!

Don’t look at the thermometer. You can and still have some fun this weekend, with lots of warm indoor choices. Like…




sunThe Mohegan Sun WineFest kicks off Friday and continues through Sunday. The annual food and wine event features celebrity chefs, wine and beverage  tastings, food and beverage demonstrations,  a Grand Cru, a celebrity chef dine-around, a Bubbles & BonBons champagne and dessert event, an oyster shucking competition and the competitive grape stomp. Tickets are still available and prices and times vary. Go to mohegansun.com for information.

Also on Friday, let’s talk witches and anniversaries.

The program, to mark the 350th anniversary of the execution of the last suspected witches in Connecticut,  is called “The Farmington Witch Project.” It will include music, theatre, food and wine and a book signing  by author Suzanne Ress, who will also read from her book,  “The Trial of Goody Gilbert.”

By the way, between 1647 and 1663, Connecticut tried 34 people for witchcraft, and hanged 11.  The last people executed were Mary Barnes of Farmington and Rebecca and Nathaniel Greensmith of Hartford, on January 25, 1663.

The program will be held at the Amistad Hall at First Church, 75 Main St., Farmington at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35 in advance or $40 at the door.  For information go to brownpapertickets.com, the Stanley-Whitman House at 37 High St., Farmington or call 860-677-9222.

westendOn Saturday, there will be one giant dinner party going on in Hartford’s West End when the group gets together for its annual “Dine Around the West End.” The event is a progressive dinner with about 250 neighbors meeting at one house for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, breaking into groups and going to several homes for dinner, and then reuniting again at another home for dessert and coffee.  The Village on Albany Avenue is donating the hors d’oeuvres. The Pond House Cafe is donating the desserts.

ntownOn Sunday Hartford will be rockin’ as in “Downtown Rocks for Newtown” beginning at 3 p.m. at The Great Hall in Union Station.

Members of Downtown Hartford’s restaurant and bar community are working together to present the one-day music festival  to raise funds to support those affected by last month’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The festival will feature over 50 local, regional and national acts performing across 9 stages. The host venues are The Great Hall at Union Station, Up or On the Rocks, Black Bear Saloon, Black-eyed Sally’s, Pig’s-eye Pub, The Tavern Downtown, Pour House, Rocking Horse Saloon, and The Russian Lady. A variety of genres will be included on the performance bill, which already includes Max Creek, who headlined a New Year’s Eve celebration at The Great Hall at Union Station.

Tickets are $30 and more information is available here.

parade_optAlso on Sunday, you can head to Damon’s Tavern on Prospect Ave. in  Hartford at 2 p.m. for a Hartford  St. Patrick’s Day Parade fundraiser. Each year, participating communities choose their own honorees and this year the Hartford choices are Sister Judy Carey and Johnny Vaughan. Donation is $25 and includes music and raffles.

The parade, by the way, is March 9.

And don’t forget Taste of Hartford continues with most participating restaurants offering $20.13 three or four-course dinners. Go to tasatehartford.com for a complete list of restaurants and menus.

Enjoy and stay warm!

Sweet Star Power, Bullock Style, Coming to Sun WineFest

by Categorized: Uncategorized Tagged: , , Date:

GesineCelebrated pastry chef Gesine Bullock-Prado has written several cookbooks including “My Life from Scratch,” “Sugar Baby,” “Pie It Forward” and “Bake It Like You Mean It.” She is also one of the featured celebrity chefs who will be whipping up really good things at the Mohegan Sun WineFest Jan. 25 to Jan. 27. Java was intrigued because a) she lives in Hartford (VT) b) because she is a pastry chef, and c) because she is new to the WineFest this year. It wasn’t until hours before a Java interview, that I realized she is also the sister of actress Sandra Bullock, has her law degree and at one time, ran her sister’s production company, Fortis Films. Gesine lives with her husband on  their working farm with an assortment of animals and pets, including a dog who likes to chew up the bedspreads. A marathon runner, Bullock-Prado is also a contributing editor to a slew of magazines and can often be seen on a  variety of television show cooking segments. She was sweet and accommodating as she prepared to come to Connecticut to be part of the Celebrity Chef Dine Around on Jan. 26 and the Bubbles and Bonbons event on Jan. 27, and Spilled the Beans with Java.

Q: What brings you to your first Mohegan Sun WineFest?

A: I’ve really never really done one before, I actually stayed away from them. Then I was given the opportunity in Connecticut and thought “what the hell.” I think I stayed away from these events when I had my pastry shop because owning the business was so exhausting between the tax on your brain and body. I haven’t had the shop for a few years and have been writing the cookbooks and teaching. I am refreshed and just felt the need again to feed millions of people again. It’s a resurgence. I need to get the need to have a pastry shop again out of my system!

Q: When did you know you wanted to be a chef/baker? Was cooking important in your family when you were growing up?

A: My mother was a baker. I have been baking since I was a wee one. We were raised Germany so I grew up with this love of pastry arts from Europe, Austria, Germany, Hungary, but was also an American where Oreos are divine. We ate micro-biotic as kids but on the holidays, my mother took out the big guns and did wonderful baking. We were all very keen on sugar because we didn’t have it in the house except for Christmas. When I got to college I was able to finally have an oven of my own and while everyone else was studying for the bar, I was baking gingerbread houses. I find baking to be a release and a comfort.

Q: You have your law degree, you ran your sister’s production company, you owned you own very famous bakery and now?

A: I write my cookbooks, I teach. We have a little farm, a lovely plot of land. We have orchards with currants to gooseberries and raspberries. We have bees coming in the spring so we can have our own honey and we have maple trees we tap and make into syrup. We grow our own hops and brew our own beer. I make the excuse that the beer has a connection to baking. I am a marathon runner and run to raise money for cancer causes. And as a pastry chef, you have to run because of the butter, it has to come off the butt somehow.

Q: What is the one thing a visitor could always find in your refrigerator?

A: Butter. That’s the lovely thing about Vermont and New England. There are wonderful creameries. Vermont Creamery just came up with a maple and sea salt butter. Wonderful.

Q: What would be your perfect meal?

A: For me it’s seasonal. It will usually involve butter and eggs and a crusty bread. I am pretty easy, especially at dinner, a  lovely loaf of bread and cheeses and home brew and some homemade cured sausages.

Q: TV reality shows on cooking are everywhere now. Would you ever do a show?

A: I am doing one for PBS called “Life From Scratch” that will be about the sweet and the savory and looking at foods and ingredients literally. We are shooting in the spring. I think the popularity of cooking is a lovely thing. Cooking is terribly comforting and I think there is a broader range of people now who love it. And people aren’t just cooking anymore. They are going out and getting chicken coops for their yards so they have fresh eggs. People are getting more conscious about what they are putting in their bodies. And baking truly brings you back to family memories, the wonderful smells that emanate from an oven.

Q: Your philosophy about baking, especially for those who are afraid of failure?

A: I started baking in earnest after my mother died. Some of our favorite moments are around butter and sugar together. We both had a need to perfect something. I keep trying until I have mastered a recipe. I approach a recipe and say ‘I will be the master of you’ even if I make mistakes to get there. I tell people to keep trying until you have mastered the recipe. It can be done. I feel like the master of all the things I like to do.

Q: Since you are the baker, I assume you are the one responsible for birthday cakes in your family?

A: It is not even a question that when we get together I bring dessert. Although on a recent birthday of mine we were in Paris and chef Pierre Herme made my cake. As far as my sister, whatever I make she likes. She’s easy peasy.

Q: What will you be cooking at the Sun WineFest?

A: For the chefs big thing, probably Gateau St. Swanare, a choux pastry, pumpkin caramel swan thing, and for the Bubbles & Bons Bons, a lovely little maple cream that is a cross between a mousse and a crème Anglaise. And a little maple cotton candy.

The Mohegan Sun WineFest includes the Celebrity Chef Dine Around, seminars, the elite Cru Tasting, Grand Tasting, Bourbon Tasting, Oyster Open, Bubbles & Bons Bons and Grape Stomp. Ticket information and schedule are at mohegansun.com.