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Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page

… Time for Tea…

In The Mount Veeder Blog on November 23, 2009 at 5:16 pm

It was the end of a good night, and she was ready to go home despite her car’s best efforts. Keys in hand, head up, and determined to make that car work, Shannon strode confidently out the front door.

From what I’ve gathered, the poor dear just doesn’t have much luck with autos. Her first one gave out a mere four days after beginning work. The clutch on the current one refuses to catch. Who knows what else has gone wrong with these vehicles? Yet no matter what happens, Shannon manages to get to work.

A while back, she began her shift with a tea tasting. A large pot of Japanese Sencha was brewing, and many a tea bag could be seen. A variety of teas were also in their raw form on plates: White, Green, Oolong, and Black.

The White tea consisted of plants’ buds that never had the chance to bloom. Due to their tiny size, they are typically collected by hand. Once the harvest is in, they are steamed and dried. They result in a semisweet and fresh tasting tea. The Green tea comes from leaves that are un-oxidized. Like the White tea, they are steamed, but they are also rolled before they are dried. These have a fresh, grassy taste. The Oolong tealeaves are somewhat oxidized and are then wilted. Afterwards, they are dried and result in teas with peachy-tropical flavors that have a light body and wonderful fragrance. The black tea is made by wilting the leaves and then rolling them. Next, they are oxidized and fired. These are almost foolproof at pleasing the palate.

While the group learned about the teas, tea bags made their rounds. The Hot Cinnamon Spice tea smelled like a fireball candy while the Paris tea gave off hints of caramel. As expected, the Dragon Pearl Jasmine tea permeated the air with a wonderful jasmine scent. At this point, the Japanese Sencha finished brewing and everyone gave it a go. Shannon adored it.

As the servers cleared up the teacups and other items, Shannon mentioned how she had some tests coming up. She received her undergraduate degree about two years ago but has returned to school in pursuit of a nursing degree. If she’s as determined to be a nurse as she is to get her car to work, she’ll do just fine.

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Special wines for a special day.

In Sommelier Corner on November 23, 2009 at 12:00 am

Lots of wine collectors love to showcase their fine selections by bringing out the best for family and friends at a special holiday dinner. What could be better than a fabulous meal paired with your finest cellared selection and your favorite friends to enjoy them with. Most great collectors have a cellar with many varieties and types to choose from. Older and rare bottles that are in need of being consumed are just perfect for this situation also. After all wine is meant to be enjoyed and not kept forever. Thanksgiving Dinner can be one of those wonderful occasions that warrant something a little different to be served with its traditional fare. Most menus this night will run the gamut of flavors, textures and aromas in need of numerous wine selections to comfortlessly accompany your meal. Enjoying both reds and whites at different courses of the meal makes the wine pairing a little easier and friendlier. Lighter wines may go well with appetizers and salads where a more fruity or robust wine will pair better at turkey time. And dessert still calls for something even more unique. When looking thru my cellar to determine this year’s choices I always consider the guests that will be joining us, the menu and also my personal choices of what I might like to serve. Pinot Noir seems to be a choice everyone loves so this year I have chosen to open one from Oregon a vineyard called the Four Graces. Brancott Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, from New Zealand will be a zesty way to start the meal off with. I always like to include a California Zinfandel and was going to try the  with its plumy, jammy & spicy notes. A few glasses of this year’s Nouveau Beaujolais with its fruity, young & light taste will also compliment the meal well. The main course calls for a cellar selection of two reds, one is the 2006 Caymus Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, a bold full body dry California red, and the other, a 1997 Brunello from Italy. A crisp Gewurztraminer with its aromatic flavor will be perfect for those who prefer a white with their meal. I would like to enjoy a few more selections but maybe that’s enough. Dessert is a great time to offer a few Portos and my selection of a 20 year old Tawny from Sandeman, a rare gem, golden amber in color with hints of apricots, honey, nuts & vanilla should work well. All the other ideas and bottles will have to wait for the next Holiday. I think we have met our Quota. Whatever you enjoy with your Thanksgiving Dinner will be just fine don’t forget it’s not about the food and wine as much as it’s about family and friends. But some great wine is never a bad idea. ENJOY…..

Albe Galotta, SWG Chef and Blogger

A special holiday gift for the foodie on your list…

In Uncategorized on November 17, 2009 at 4:23 pm

“A Julia Child cookbook maybe?” after all, the movie was so popular.  Good, but also just another book to add to the shelf.  How about a cooking class or some trinkets to experiment with in the kitchen?  If you are really looking for a gift to impress this self proclaimed at home master chef/ wine connoisseur a “Dinner at the Chefs Table” is a new trendy idea you should consider.  Many, but not all, chef’s tables are situated in the actual kitchen of the restaurant.  Others are located closely to the kitchen so the chef has easy access to entertain the guests at the table all night long while cooking an elaborate meal. The restaurants sommelier coordinates the wine and food pairings while working closely with the chef who creates an original menu comprised of many courses.  Starting with a phone consultation the sommelier will ask your food likes and dislikes.  It is important to make him or her aware of any food allergies although other than that it is best to trust the chef to just run with it.  Usually chefs prefer the menu to be a surprise.  Dishes like Buckwheat Soba Noodles with a Peanut Ginger Sauce and Braised Duckling or Hawaiian Tuna Poke with Flying Fish Caviar and a Crispy Rice Cake might make their way into a tasting menu that evening.  Courses that are unlikely to be found on the restaurants regular dinner menu such as Baby Stuffed Quail with Onion, Pine Nut and Gorgonzola topped with a Minted Herb Sauce will impress the truly epicurious diners at your table.  Wine pairings are served by the sommelier throughout the night with interesting narrations to keep guests entertained.  Each wine is served in the appropriate glass with selections progressing from light to heavy style and dry to sweet.  Sometimes a sommelier will include a palate cleanser such as a Cava, an effervescent Gruner Veltliner or dry Champagne between courses.  The finale might be a sweet dessert wine or a rich port tasting.  Prices range from $75 per person to $150 per person when including older highly sought after vintage wines.  Seating’s usually take place mid week when the chef has time to dedicate to what is about a three hour experience.  Most bookings can be made for up to six people and may be arranged for couples as well.  The part that most people like the most about the chefs table is that the chef actually comes to the table to deliver dishes.

Famous restaurants like Le Cirque, Daniel, and, Le Bernardin book their coveted chefs tables six months in advance or even reserve it for the unexpected VIP clientele that stop by mid week.  Daniels chefs table is called the “Sky Box” and is situated next to the chef’s office overlooking the kitchen with glass walls to soften the noise from the kitchen so you can carry on a conversation during dinner.  The chefs table at Mie N Yu a restaurant in Washington is actually suspended in a giant iron bird cage (the restaurants signature landmark) in the center of the restaurants main dining room.  This year upscale restaurants in smaller towns with passionate talented chefs seem to be joining the Chefs Table club as well.  The Litchfield Saltwater Grille books its chefs table Sunday through Thursday evenings for parties of 2-6 people.

Sample Chefs Table Menus from LSWG

Brett Clugston, SWG Sommelier and Blogger

… A Delicious Afternoon…

In Uncategorized on November 17, 2009 at 4:14 pm

There is nothing nicer than having the lounge full of excited energy. When the representative from the Brancott Winery arrived with some wine and ports, I knew it was going to be a good afternoon. The servers and bar staff trickled in, and by three thirty, they were ready to begin. Glasses of water and wine goblets adorned the table, as did the Brancott Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Bottles of Sandeman Port made their debut shortly thereafter.

From the back of the restaurant, footsteps could be heard, and within moments, a tray of desserts appeared, as did many a dimple. The smell of the bite sized portions of the warm bread pudding with cinnamon and raisins and rum caramel sauce wafted up to me. And the site of the chocolate mousse was almost too much to take… with a little mountain of whipped cream on top and a cookie wafer, it demanded attention. The fact that the mousse also contained amaretto and kahlua added to its appeal. Thank goodness I can at least enjoy smells!

The popping sound of a cork brought me back. Crispy with a hint of fruitiness as well as good acidity, the Brancott Sauvignon Blanc was a crowd pleaser. The pinot noir was up next, and it did not disappoint. Medium in color, it gave off whiffs of cherry and black pepper. It was decided that both of the wines were very user friendly. A server who typically preferred pinot grigio mentioned that she enjoyed the sauvignon blanc. As this type of wine is one of New Zealand’s best, it certainly seems a good one to branch out with.

Up next were the ports and the desserts. The two younger ones, the Founder’s Reserve and the Late Bottle Vintage (LBV), were warmly received. Paired with the chocolate mousse, the LBV was absolutely lovely or so it seemed to be from my vantage point. One of the servers declared that it seemed to transform the chocolate into a chocolate raspberry flavor, which seemed almost fitting given that the two young ports are red. As the servers enjoyed the last of the chocolate mousse, I learned that both of the ports had fruity flavors that could be appreciated by any palate.

Next up were the older ports, which had turned a tawny color as they aged and went well with vanilla, caramel, and honey flavors. The 10 year Tawny Sandeman port sported upfront fruit flavors and went really well with apples and blue cheese, though it definitely had enough substance to be enjoyed on its own. It’s older sibling, the 20 year Tawny Sandeman port was a bit classier. In the realm of cocktail attire, it would be known as the little black dress. Elegant with hints of dried fruit, this complex yet balanced port is sure to please, especially when matched with the aforementioned bread pudding as it heightens the caramel flavor of the sauce… the reappearance of the servers’ dimples stood testament to that.

But as with all good things, the tasting came to an end. The servers enjoyed the last of the desserts as they cleared the goblets and the water, and chatted about the wonderful possibilities that they had been introduced to. As for me, I couldn’t help but wonder about the next generation of ports… they’re all changing, and with time, always becoming better.

Thanksgiving is not just for the Turkey’s …

In Uncategorized on November 13, 2009 at 9:34 pm

turkeyfeathersTell me who you know that doesn’t love Thanksgiving dinner? I’m sure it’s a small list.  Another thing  I’m sure of is the list of foods we serve at the Thanksgiving table is a large one. With every holiday menu being a melting pot of what the world has to offer, it seems we no longer just cook what was served at the first Thanksgiving table. Most Thanksgiving tables across the country support the basics of what was prepared at the first gathering but many families serve their ancestors traditional festive fare to go along with the carved bird or to be served as a first or second course.  Serving a special family recipe dessert is also a wonderful way to add family tradition along with the so often expected Pumpkin or Apple pie.

Menus these days seem to incorporate everything from seafood to ethnic dishes & vegetarian offerings to exotic fare, with little to be left untried. Even the way a turkey is cooked these days has had a few changes, as we are seeing it deep fried, boiled, BBQ, cooked in a crock pot, smoked, micro waved and even cooked with a beer can inside as long as it reaches 180 degrees before serving. Side dishes for the feast are becoming more inventive and a little less traditional. With truffle mashed potatoes, Spinach Rockefeller, pasta with seafood and vegetables dishes of ever type on every chefs menu taking the place of fresh corn, baked yams and green beans, things seem to be changing. Whatever you decide to serve your family for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner whether it be just what the Pilgrims and Indians enjoyed or whether it ‘s steeped in your family’s heritage, what’s most important is that you all sit down together and be thankful at how blessed we can be to  enjoy a home cooked meal in the company of friends and family.

Our family has longed enjoyed a large gathering of family and friends each year at the Thanksgiving dinner table. With 22 or more and still growing it seems to be the most anticipated meal of the year.   Our menu changes a bit as many of our guests bring their special creations to add to the feast. With Mammy’s amazing chicken wings, Susan’s homemade sausage bread and Grandmas meat pie, to go along with the SWG’S contribution of 5 lbs. of jumbo shrimp cocktail that always gets the party started. Sometimes Uncle John brings this unreal smoked trout from a local guy up in Woodstock N.Y. That is if he shows up. And this year we are thankful for Corey bringing his beautiful girlfriend who in turn has offered to make her families traditional holiday dish, Chinese Spring Rolls, that we hear are downright sinful. Right about now Nina, Brett’s pretty black pug has to be put in our room like Max had to because they start getting a little over excited.  There’s this year’s new fan dangled exotic cocktail being shaken at the bar by Corey and before you know it after a few games of pool the traditionally long roasted turkey can be seen being removed from the oven and rested before carving. It’s time for dinner Daryl tells all the guests, as we all sit down at our designated places.  One long table for everyone to be together, Albe never wants a separate kids table to be in his house.  Uncle Vito would never be happy without the first course being stuffed shells or manicotti.  “I have to have my pasta”, he would say.  So, as soon as Grace has been said it’s all hands on deck for the best pasta course you ever enjoyed with your family. Our good friends from Maryland started a new tradition.  After 40 plus years of enjoying Thanksgiving on the farm that she grew up on with her mother and her family the Wiehler family joined our table for dinner last year and hopefully for many more years to come.  Stewart and Lisa always choose and bring the most perfect wines to pair along with our expertly carved bird. There is always corn pudding, something with pumpkin in it, apple sauce to die for, mashed potatoes and sausage stuffing that is as homemade as can be.  Vegetarian requests are a welcome addition to the menu and cheerfully accepted. Salads and vegetable dishes vary each year some made by guests some chosen as to preference but all eaten by the end of the day. Homemade Anadama bread, Zucchini bread, Cranberry nut bread and biscuits leave little room for dessert. But it’s not over yet. Most years we are smart enough to go around the table and have everyone tell what they are most thankful for. I really miss this when we forgo this ritual, but when we do, it’s a very rewarding experience. We make a few toasts, we tell a few stories we drink a bit of wine but most of all we spend time together that everyone remembers for a life time.

No gourmet holiday meal would be worth reminiscing about if it didn’t finish with everyone’s home baked delights that put you right back on the couch watching more football.  Ray and Lisa are responsible for the imported cigars that stink up the back yard while the coffee and espresso are being brewed inside. Corey tries to get a poker game going but is won out by Albert setting up the ping pong table and beating every challenger from any coast. After hours of catching up and hours of endless eating and after how many times saying things like “I remember when” and “you are so grown up” the festive day comes to a close.  Somehow by now Brett is fast asleep on the couch and Big Jim is making a turkey sandwich in the kitchen, while the Boston crew hits the road and the Westchester group say their last goodbye’s you think back over the day, count your blessings and realize what a great day it was.

That’s how we, the owner’s of the SWG, spend our Thanksgiving Day.  Sorry we won’t be open. We hope you and your families have a wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner. Come see us on the weekend, Friday, Saturday & Sunday are always busy right after Thanksgiving and the SWG is the perfect place to bring any guests that you still are entertaining. Thanks for reading our blog and thanks for enjoying the SWG all year round.  HAPPY THANKSGIVING.!!!!!!!

Albe Galotta, SWG Blogger

…With Time Comes Wisdom…

In The Mount Veeder Blog on November 10, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Somewhat quiet, but thoughtful. Occasionally quirky humor. Dave has been working here for over two years now. As the sole male server, the joke around the house was that he had lost his roost when two men were hired to work at the bar. His response? A mere shrug of the shoulders and laugh.145_mt_veeder.jpgfull

Dave married a bit later on in life and has a daughter in junior high at the moment as well as one in college. I have heard talk of him working as a massage therapist too. If I were 3-d, I’d definitely request his services… standing all day as a poster isn’t exactly easy work. Try standing and smiling like a statue for a few minutes. You’ll understand.

I remember one day overhearing a conversation of his with a new server. She was a little nervous. The lobster dinner special was on: soup or salad, lobster with corn on the cob and potato, plus dessert. It was the middle of the summer, and fifteen reservations were expected to walk in the door within the next ten minutes.

Sure there were three servers on, but five tables, at once, when you’re new… that’s something to get the jitters going. Dave looked at her, notebook in hand, and said that it would be okay. Just get to each table as they sit down, announce the specials, and get the orders in as quickly as possible. And remember to check the ticket in the kitchen… you know, make sure that everything is set to go. The new girl nodded.

Was the night busy? Heck yeah. Did Dave, the new girl, and other server take good care of everyone? Absolutely. Like Dave had said, everything was fine. Sure there had been fast feet and a lot of talking, but that’s how life in the restaurant is: it’s busy.

Dave can be reached for massage appointments at dchillmt@yahoo.com

“Prep ahead” and make the holidays a breeze.

In The Kitchen on November 4, 2009 at 3:33 pm

lgKey Lime Kiwi Mint SaucePossibly one of the most underrated bits of advice a head chef can give their staff is, “Always prep ahead”. In any fine restaurant that has a head chef that’s worth his or her weight in salt, he or she will continuously instill in their kitchen staff that you must always be ready. Having all your products prepared in advance and ready for that day’s service is the most productive way of assuring that things will go smooth when the doors open and everyone wants to eat at once. Great food and great ambiance are one thing but being under prepared and not ready is always the down fall of any operation. If a guest is dining at your restaurant and has to wait an unexpected amount of time for their meal, chances are they will not be willing to return to enjoy your place in the future.

With the holiday season approaching this may be the best time for you to apply this tried and true method in your own home.  Start by making a list of some of the things that you will need to organize or buy long before the holidays get started.  If you plan on having family and friends over for a meal or just a get together over cocktails, this might be a perfect time to start getting some of the products in the house so you can eliminate last minute shopping and all the usual running around. To start, come up with a first draft menu of the food and beverages that you might be serving when the guests do arrive.  This will give you a good idea of some or most of the things that you will need to have or prepare.  Having this information in advance will allow you to be more organized and eliminate last minute confusion and rushing around.

Buy a few cases of beer, soda, non alcoholic beverages and wine and have them ready long before the first person stops by for a holiday visit.  Fill the freezer with a few specialty items that will help you out and make you look good in a pinch when the unexpected guest shows up. Make sure the pantry is stocked well with various dry good items that correspond with your menu selections. If you plan on using any holiday paper products you might want to take a trip to the party goods store and pick up enough to get you thru December. As far as any specialty items you might have on your menus that need to be ordered in advance this might be the time to call your butcher, or your fish monger or even your florist, it’s never too early to put your order in.  Bakery goods seem to be another item that is well worth organizing in advance.

When doing the advance planning of all the things you might be stocking up on so you can eliminate the last minute running around, the Litchfield Saltwater Grille on line store may be just what you need.  This holiday season Chef Albert Clugston III is offering a new line of JARS that are just the perfect items to stock up on so your stress level stays a bit more in line.  With more than 15 gourmet products ranging from jams to preservers & chutneys to sauces, in pint and quart sizes we are sure you can find a few things to help out at meal or party time. And our gourmet JARS make great gifts also.  When making holiday baskets they add a wonderful homemade touch of class by anyone’s standards. Chef Albert’s Mango Citrus Marmalade or Golden Pineapple Raisin Jam could come in real handy as a gourmet way to finish off that great pork roast or the roasted chicken breasts you started in the oven. Try our Port Wine Fig Shallot Compote as a topping on something as simple as Brie Cheese on a toast points and you will have the neighbors always stopping by when they see the lights on. Any guest served a roasted lamb rack finished with Chef Albert’s Key Lime Kiwi Mint Sauce would think you slaved all day in the kitchen.

So try and make the holidays a little less stressful this year and take the advice of the Litchfield Saltwater Grilles Chef Albert who always says “Prep Ahead” so you’re ready when it gets busy.  And take the advantage of the SWG doing all the work preparing our new JARS and having them ready for you to enjoy.  Call, stop by or look up our on line store @ www.litchfieldsaltwatergrille.org and order you JARS now before your running crazy.

Albe Galotta, SWG Chef and Blogger Read the rest of this entry »

…And a bit of Blue…

In The Mount Veeder Blog on November 4, 2009 at 3:24 pm

145_mt_veeder.jpgfullMany of our servers arrived only to depart quickly a few weeks ago. It took some time to piece it all together, but it became quiet clear: there had been a wedding! Amid table cleaning and glass shining the story came out…

A two hour drive landed our ladies, and gentlemen, at a farm museum in Queens. Horses and cows meandered about their pens while roosters and pheasants paraded around the grounds at their leisure. Flowers, tables, chairs, food, drink, and people were everywhere.

The wedding planner bustled between the barn and the white tent where the wedding was to take place. Friends, family, and caterers arranged 200 chairs for the service and set up the dinning room in the beautifully finished barn. Vaulted ceilings, candles on every windowsill, and white linens turned the simple setting into a place fit for a country ball.

A few hours later, the bride appeared at the tent entrance. Several of our girls laid a lacey runner for her and accented it with rose petals. She walked down the aisle, glowing as only a bride can, and joined her husband to be.

In the mean time, the caterers filled their trays with figs wrapped in prosciutto and mini crab cakes with a mango ginger sauce. As they finished preparing the hors d’oeuvres, a beautiful song began: a young woman was singing for the new couple. It was a fitting way to finish the service.

The newlyweds and their guests emerged from the tent to find drinks and nibbles awaiting them. As the wedding party took pictures, the caterers refilled their trays with Kobe beef burgers, and the bartenders worked their magic. Glasses of wine were poured, juices were opened, water bottles were passed out, and the on tap beer was enjoyed.

As the photographers put their cameras away and the sunlight began to fade, the party made its way inside. A huge buffet had been set up. There were grilled vegetables, poke tuna with pink sea salt, yellow fin tuna, tomato mozzarella and basil salads, filet mignon, cannelloni, and much more. A caterer made two plates of food for the newlyweds and brought it to their table.

The wonderful food was complimented by touching speeches from the guests. As the discourse and dinner wound down, the dj began. Within thirty minutes, the floor was bouncing, as were the guests. It was a lovely evening for everyone.

And there I was, stuck in the lounge. Not that I could have partaken in the dancing or the meal, but it certainly would have been nice to see everything. Oh well. Perhaps there will be a party here soon…

For more information about The Litchfield Saltwater Grille and Connecticut Caterers Wedding Event Services click here…