Tag Archives: Restaurants

Tacuba’s taco bar (Branford, CT)

 So I’m majorly in the mood for Mexican food for second dinner tonight. (Un)fortunately, it’s 12:30 in Princeton, NJ thereafter this hr there is no Mexican food to be found for sale anywhere. What I did find though was a partially completed post about a wonderful Mexican joint that I recently got to check out. While I was visiting my best marathon running buddy Dr. Annabelle we also had a most gluttonous fantastic dinner at Tacuba’s taco bar In Branford, CT. This little place is a nondescript hole in the wall with a menu full of wonderful.

The menu

So we went for dinner with big appetites and were welcomed by a beautiful selection of appetizers and entrée options. We totally wanted to try everything!

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Between the three of us  (Yes, I can count. Unfortunately the waiter who took the photo of all three of us was dderrrunnnkkeerrr than we were and the result more closely resembled a lesser known work by Degas than a good mediocre picture of us. Thank you Mike for stepping up to the plate and showing him how it’s done.) we ordered a shit load of the menu and there wasn’t so much as one complaint. We decided to start with an appetizer of guacamole and damn. Now the guac was good, damn good, but it also came with fresh, warm, sea salted chips and three different dipping sauces (hot, mild and pineapple). Taken together I couldn’t have asked for more!

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the guacamole

Next we shared the lobster arepa. WOW! There were big, tender lumps of lobster in a rich tomato cream sauce topped with avocado , sour cream, oaxaca cheese and served with a fresh grilled sweet corn cake. I have dreams about the lobster arepa. One word of warning is that it is damn rich, but this makes it a great dish for sharing. Three good eaters had a few bites during dinner, were satisfied and brought the rest home to enjoy later.

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the lobster arepa

Then, we each ordered a taco platos. I got two vegetarian tacos and one fish taco. Our waitress was seriously talking up the vegetarian taco, how it was the absolute best item on the menu. Now, this isn’t a complaint but of all things that this place serves, the vegetarian taco is nothing to write home about. I don’t know what the hell she had eaten, but it was not the same thing I was served. Like I said, don’t take this the wrong way, it was fine, it was more than fine (especially considering it’s just sheet of smashed corn and binder filled with some veggies) but the fish taco — O.M.G. Now this is something that I will write, call and smoke signal home about. The fish was fantastic, lightly breaded and fried lumps with avocado, lettuce, sour cream and a special sauce. It’s the fish taco that’s the best item on the menu! The taco plates were served with rice and beans that complemented perfectly.

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taco platos: ensenadas y vegetarianos con frijoles y arroz

Finally, our arms were twisted into splitting the tres leches cake for dessert. Served with ice cream and banana it was the perfect way to end the meal.

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tres leches cake

The staff 

 Aside from our waitress having a difficult time identifying the best item on the menu, the staff was great. Our waitress(es) were excellent. It seemed like more of a casual group effort by the wait-staff than normal and this made it a really nice dining environment.

The ambiance

Walking inside it was like entering a little restaurant somewhere far from Branford, CT. It was dark (in a good way) and quaint and cozy and friendly and chatty and bustling. We sat at a table with chairs on one side and a bench along the wall on the other, right across from the bar and kitchen window. It was fun to be in the middle of the action yet we still had enough space to enjoy good conversation and company. I’d imagine kids would love it…and the wiser generation should pack their strongest cheaters and double-check their batteries (well worth it though ;-).

$$

Pricing was what I expected more or less. Not exactly the dollar menu, but very reasonable for a small business serving niche food in a great environment. Excellent quality and appropriate portions all around. We each spent ~$50 on a dinner that included a butt-load of different fantastic dishes and cocktails.

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Bella’s Cafe (New Haven, CT)

My bestest marathon buddy Dr. Annebelle and I recently had an amazing 2 pm brunch at Bella’s Cafe in New Haven, CT. This little find is tucked away in the Westville community and is must if you’re visiting CT. (Seriously! It only takes 2 hrs to drive across the whole damn state! And New Haven is in the middle.) Almost as awesome as their food, is the support that they give to a number of local charities. 🙂 They also do catering, and man would I love to get this instead of pizza at lunch meetings once in a while! As if this isn’t enough, the icing on the cake is that they are local and family owned (…and operated? Sure, why not?)

The menu

So we went for brunch (yes, 2 pm is brunch time) but the entire menu looked amazing. Of course we started with mimosas and (white wine) sangria. The mimosa was good and I will have dreams about the sangria. Now this brunch was after completing our weekend long run of +16 miles and we were both pretty effing hangry.  I really could have ordered half the menu (and consumed it myself) but (thankfully…in retrospect…) was  restricted to a human sized lunch portion.

Dr. Anne and I got to dishes to split and I think we made particularly good choices with the… 

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Crunchy Breakfast Burrito

and the…

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Fried Polenta

The CBR was awesome! It was a fresh flour tortilla stuffed with beans, onions, peppers and a mystery ingredient that I’m not going to disclose but semisuccessfully picked around. The burrito was then lightly fried and topped with two over easy eggs and salsa!! The spice combinations were great, there was just enough kick and the eggs on top were perfect (rather than being scrambled into a homogeneous mush and packed inside the burrito…shamelessly diluting all of the inside goodness in the process…)

While the CBR was awesome, the FP was fanfreakingfenomenal! It will costar with the sangria in my dreams. So this little treasure was two dense, yet moist and creamy, and lightly fried patties of polenta (not mushy or dry or tasteless in any way as polenta is so often reduced…) over an excellent arrabbiata sauce. The seasoning was herby (but not too much…yes that’s a word…on my blog it is anyway…), savory and had a nice kick. Broccoli rabe (with just the right level of bitterness) topped the polenta and all was topped with two perfectly poached eggs. I don’t even really like poached eggs but my mouth is watering as I write this! Get the polenta!

The staff

Our waitress was a bit odd (I know, I’m one to talk…) but she was good.  Since it was 2 pm and there were all of 4 tables in the restaurant, everything was super fast and correct (the first time).

The ambiance

Bella’s is a chic little restaurant and bar open only for breakfast, lunch and brunch. The dining room is open and light and super pleasant. I think they might even have some tables out on a patio, but given that it was 700 F outside and 200% humidity (at least) I paid no attention to these options.

$$

If you’re looking for a dollar menu this might not be the best fit for you. But, if you’re looking for great food at a very reasonable price, then you’ll be totally satisfied. Both the quantity and quality of all the grub we got was outstanding. ~$25 for a great bunch (adult beverage for optimal post-16-mile-run-on-a-hot-day hydration included) at a chic little family owned joint that supports local charities…sign me up!!

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Teal tables, Pinto and Big Gay Ice Cream (edited to include a visible table pic)

Per usual, the big plan was to go for a nice, relaxed Sunday run. Get up early and get it out of the way. Well, “early” turned into 9:30 and 94F w/a heat index of 101F. W.H.A.T?? Just to further quantify that temperature for you, 95-100 F and 80% humidity appears to be at or above the upper limit of what a particular 2001 Volkwagen Beetle’s indicator components can handle. Stay tuned for complaints on Wednesday. (In related news, while NJ drivers don’t find the need to indicate their turns, the sure do seem to expect other people to indicate theirs!!)

So, instead of going for anything even remotely resembling a run, I took on the important (and much over due) task of finding some bedroom furniture. As luck would have it, I was as skilled at finding wicked cute table + mad sale as I was at ditching my run like a bad habit. Oh happy day!

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As if this little teal treasure isn’t enough to make one’s day, I had Sunday night plans for dinner with friends in The City! (Note: in case you are not from NY, NJ or CT, “The City” apparently obviously refers to NYC.) This was going to be my first trip in since living with Dr. Annabelle in CT. Man! Time flies!

Any-who, against my better judgement Dr. Sami, Alex and I drove in to meet our friend Miss M, at Pinto on Christopher St and 7th Ave South. Per Miss M’s suggestion, we prayed to St. Theresa for an available parking space “near” the restaurant (Definition: near < back across the Hudson).

My. God. Now I feel as if I’m about to tell you that we saw a ghost, but we totally did! Not only did we find an available parking spot, but we we could a free available parking spot, within 4 blocks of Pinto! Incredible!

Pinto turned out to be an adorable little (think <30 seats) Thai restaurant and bar. The staff was efficient yet we never felt rushed and courteous and attentive but not smothering. My first excellent decision of the night was a glass of white wine and the stuffed tofu appetizer…

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My second great decision of he night was the pumpkin curry…

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I was a little hesitant considering the heat and humidity of the day, but it was perfect. There was just the right amount of spice, the peanut sauce was rich in flavor but light, the tofu was light and fluffy, the pumpkin and squash were burst of flavor and the cucumber were cool refreshing complements to the rest. It was perfect.

Rumor has it that the green curry and lamb massaman were damn good too. In the end though, the crab fried rice in young coconut just had to go and steal show…

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What is it about eating out of something besides a bowl or plate that makes food so much more fun tasty?

As my top quality photographs demonstrate, the one thing that could be improved was the lighting. Again, the ambiance was great, but it was just a bit dark for my taste.

On the way back to the car we just had to end the night with a stop off at The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop.

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A ice cream cup with rainbow sprinkles seemed like the only right way to go…

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All in all, it was a fabulous way to end the weekend. Although, it sure did make me miss city life. It made me soooooooo miss city life…

Anyone out there with a favorite restaurant or ice cream shop in their favorite city?

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Baldpate Mountain and Cafe 44

Dr. Trot went on adventure today!

As the ass crack of dawn…while it was still only 85F…a few new-found “friends”, guilted into this role by Jamie via Patrick I presume (thank you Jamie and Patrick :-),  escaped from the death grips of Princeton and drove ~20 miles to Baldpate Mountain for hiking! The thickly wooded “mountain” was really nice. There were over 12 miles of marked (and, importantly, largely shaded) natural trails for hiking and horseback riding.

Baldpate mountain

Baldpate mountain

There were a few creeks, ponds and old ruins to check out along the trails. I totally wish I would’ve brought a camera to snap a few pictures. 😦 We came upon an abandoned farm at the end of the white trail with collapsing remains of the house, 4 or 5 farm buildings + well/milk storage thing next to a little pond. Cool 🙂 We hiked around 5 miles (this might be way off as I am stupid and forgot my GPS watch in the car :-/) in a little over 2 hours. I’d definitely like to come back to either re-hike the same trails as today or check out some of those that we didn’t get to.

I’m not sure if we were supposed to pay, but we didn’t. 

Driving home hunger set in and because Princeton has awesome face-feeding opportunities, we decided to check out Cafe 44YUMMY!! I’m not sure if it was because I was knocking on the door of hangry by the time my food arrived (by our own doing…we arrived ~2 pm after trucking through the woods for over 2 hours…the service was plenty fast) but it was delicious! I had a fresh mozzarella and veggie sausage omelette (I should have added some veggies) with potatoes, toast and coffee. Again, there are sadly no pictures. Shame on me. I guess that just means I am obligated to a make a second trip. 🙂

Hope everyone has had a nice Saturday!

Does anyone have favorite hiking trials in their area or more importantly in my area?

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