Where to Eat: Tavern on Main, Cepachet, Rhode Island

Tavern on Main Chepachet, RI

Being so close we decided that we wanted to go over to Rhode Island for dinner one evening. My thought was to head toward the ocean, but I finally decided the best course would be to find a town that was within an hour of Windsor. I got on Google maps and found a town that was in a relatively straight path (once you crossed the river) and within the hour time frame, which led me to the town of Foster, Rhode Island. I looked for restaurants on Google that were within the town and came up with a restaurant nearby in Gloucester, Rhode Island that looked promising so yesterday after Jamison left work we set out to have our little Rhode Island adventure.

The drive over was a gorgeous one through the Connecticut country side. The restaurant we had planned to go to was 10 miles across the border. When we arrived however they were locked up tight. We decided to drive a bit further to see if we might come across something else up ahead and had pretty much decided that our trip to Rhode Island was a bust when we entered the little town of Chepachet. We had planned to turn around and head back to Connecticut when we passed The Tavern on Main and I was instantly intrigued. Jamison grumbled a bit, but he consented to stop (This is not his favorite type of establishment, he prefers tried and true chains…Yes I know! ;oP) and I’m so glad we did!

The building that the restaurant is in is the most adorable old historical building that just exudes charm, even from the outside you are drawn in. It’s not only charming, but also very inviting. The inside is just as fabulous! The old world charm surrounds you immediately. There was a quilt that was on the wall that I just fell in love with. The light was very low so I didn’t even attempt to take a picture (it was difficult enough getting the ones for this post) but I stared at it the whole time we were there. Apparently Tavern on Main even has it’s own ghost! I have to admit though I didn’t sense anything like that in building and I’m usually pretty good about feeling that sort of thing, but maybe he (or she) had the night off! ;oP

The staff is also fabulous. The hostess was very inviting and our waitress was just amazing. She was great with Lex and Lex loved her too. And the food? The food was amazing! Lex got the chicken tenders (do you see a pattern forming with her dining out food?), Jamison had the New York strip steak and I had the Lazy Man’s Lobster and it was simply divine!

Tavern on Main Chepachet, RI: Lazy Man's Lobster

So if you ever find yourself in Chepachet, Rhode Island be sure and stop in at Tavern on Main…Trust me you won’t be disappointed!

Chepachet, RI

Today is our last full day in Connecticut. Tomorrow morning we are heading up to Maine, and then will venture back across New Hampshire and Vermont and back into New York. We’ll spend the night somewhere in New York or Pennsylvania and then head back to Maryland on Sunday. We’ve had a really fabulous week. It passed so quickly!

Where to Eat: Piccadilly Pub

Piccadilly Pub

This morning Alexis and I headed over to New Haven. Yale was kind of neat, we drove around the campus and it’s a lot bigger than I expected, but there is a lot of construction and road work going on and there was no where to park. I asked a cop if there was any public parking and he grinned at me and said “Good luck with that!” So we took a spin around the campus to see the “sites” and then headed back north.

When we got back to Windsor I went to a restaurant for lunch that I had seen the other night that was a few exits up from our hotel, but it wasn’t open yet. So we got back on I-91 N and drove until I found something that looked interesting. We only went about 10 miles or so up the road, but without realizing it we passed in to Massachusetts and ended up in West Springfield. There was no sign on the Interstate saying we had passed into MA, nor was their a sign on the way back that said we had passed back in to Connecticut. When I got back to the hotel and pulled up the restaurant’s web site that was my first clue that Alexis and I had added a new state to our never been to list!

We came across a restaurant along the way called Piccadilly Pub and Alexis was amused by their building and their fall decorations so we stopped. Apparently they are a small chain and have several locations within Massachusetts. The restaurant was very quaint, with a homey, country sort of feel, and the service was great!

Now let’s talk about the food!

Piccadilly Pub: Lobster Bisque

Alexis got chicken tenders and french fries, which looked very good. I decided to go with the lobster bisque which was excellent! The soup was creamy, cheesy and had little bits of lobster throughout. The flavor was also very fresh which can be tricky when dealing with seafood. I’d definitely eat there again!

Tonight we’re heading over to Rhode Island for dinner. If the restaurant is any good, you’ll most likely hear about it tomorrow!

Where to Eat: Mystic Pizza

Mystic Pizza

Growing up Mystic Pizza was one of my favorite movies. In fact I have it on DVD to this day. When we found out that Jamison was going to be coming to Connecticut to teach a class for work, and Lex and I would be tagging along for the ride, I knew I wanted to actually go to Mystic and eat at the original Mystic Pizza.

A few years ago I stumbled across one of their frozen pizzas and I have to admit, though I’m not normally a fan of frozen pizzas, this one wasn’t bad. The frozen pizza however did nothing to prepare me for the real deal. This pizza is fabulous!

The inside of the restaurant is completely charming too. There is an entire wall of Movie memorabilia (intermixed with other pictures of stars) and a flat screen playing the movie:

Mystic Pizza

Alexis told them as we were leaving that we’d be back next summer. I don’t know where she came up with that idea, but hey it sounds good to me!

Now what did we eat??

After reading several things online I decided to go with the House Special Pizza, which is topped with pepperoni, meatballs, sausage, green peppers, onions and mushrooms, because the general consensus was that all the pizza was good, but the House Special was the best. Lex got her standard pizza with black olives:

Mystic Pizza

The crust was perfect, the sauce was amazing and the toppings were just right! Luckily our room has a kitchen so we were able to bring back the left overs and put them in the fridge! The service was really great too.

Mystic Pizza

Mystic itself is beyond charming as well, in fact I’ll just go ahead and admit I’ve fallen in love with the whole state of Connecticut! The people are so friendly, it’s absolutely gorgeous and it just has an essence of charm that permeates the air! I could totally live here!

Mystic CT

We were lucky today in that the rain didn’t start until we were getting ready to leave. Lex had a ball playing on the board walk next to the Mystic River. We also strolled up Main Street as well on our way to Mystic Pizza and stopped in at a bookstore along the way.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to be miserable rainy so we’re staying in and catching up on lessons. On Thursday Alexis and I plan to venture over to New Haven and check out Yale. Adventures are so much fun!

I hope you all are having a fabulous week! I know we are!

Caramel Apple Cider

Caramel Apple Cider

I have a confession to make, and if you’ve been around Dianne’s Dishes a while you may have heard me make this confession before, I’m not a fan of coffee. I love the smell of coffee beans and when it’s ground, but the moment water hits it, it vastly loses its appeal to me. In fact when I was pregnant I couldn’t stand the smell of brewing coffee the entire nine months, it made me nauseous. I don’t like the taste of coffee and even if it is in infinitesimal amounts, like when it “enhances” the flavor of chocolate (don’t even get me started on that!) I can taste the flavor, and it’s a flavor that I just don’t care for. I’m an avid tea drinker, mostly iced green tea, but even hot tea works for me as well. On top of not liking the flavor of coffee, it doesn’t affect me one way or the other, so what’s the point?

So why am I telling you that?

Sometimes, especially this time of year, you just want a hot drink, and sometimes tea is not what I’m looking for. Sure there is always hot chocolate, but sometimes that isn’t quite what I’m looking for either. So what other options are there?

I may be one of the few people who frequents Starbucks who doesn’t drink coffee. My standard order is a venti unsweet green iced tea. Plain, simple and delicious. Yes I grew up in the South, but no I do not care for sweet tea, and believe me growing up in Tennessee you would be amazed how many people take it personally that you don’t want your tea sweetened. “Do you want artificial sweetener then?” they would ask and then be shocked when I said “No!” I like my tea straight up. I actually enjoy the flavors of the teas I drink. My standard order is what I order 9 out of 10 times. Occasionally I’ll get the unsweet Passion tea, or I’ll get a hot tea, but even in winter my normal order is still the iced green variety. But when I’m not in the mood for tea my two favorites of their hot drinks are their hot chocolates, and more often their Caramel Apple Spice.

If you’ve never tried an Caramel Apple Spice it’s basically warm apple juice, with caramel syrup and whipped cream. It reminds me somewhat of hot apple cider, so I decided a year or so ago to play around with some apple cider and see what I could come up with. By pairing a few simple ingredients you end up with a fabulous fall treat that is fun to share. What’s not to like about that?

What You’ll Need:
1 cup of water
1 cup of natural brown sugar
1/2 gallon of apple cider (Note: It’s really easy this time of year to find a fabulous, locally made apple cider.)
Mulling spices (Note: You can put the spices together yourself, or you can purchase them already put together. I normally us cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, cloves, etc. But this go around I got a package from Whiskey Island.)
1 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup of organic cane sugar

In a small pot melt sugar in water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool. This will make a thin caramel sauce.

In a large pot place apple cider and mulling spices. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer covered for 30 minutes or so.

Just before you’re ready to serve, whip the heavy cream with the organic cane sugar, until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

When you’re ready to serve strain the cider. (Trust me, or you’ll be picking out bits of mulling spice as you drink…Not that I’d know that personally or anything! ;oP) Place cider in a mug, drizzle in some of the caramel into the cup. Next top the apple cider mixture with a dollop of whipped cream, and then another generous drizzle of caramel syrup.

Serve immediately.

Notes: No notes for this one!

Cheese Fondue

Cheese Fondue

Yesterday we started with dessert fondue and today we’re going to take a look at fabulous cheese fondue!

Cheese fondue is the perfect, decadent treat. With a few simple ingredients, you end up with a fabulous cheese dipping sauce that is delicious on bread, vegetables and even meat if you like. Simple, easy and delicious!

Now let’s jump right in to some cheese fondue!

What You’ll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
4 shallots, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 of a pint of heavy cream
1 3/4 cups of Colby cheese, shredded
1 3/4 cups of buttermilk cheese, shredded (Note: If you can’t find buttermilk cheese you can used Gouda or Monterrey Jack or even Swiss.)
1/3 cup of Parmesan, shredded (Note: The variety in the bottle will not work for this. You want to either shred it yourself, of get one of those containers out of the deli case that are shredded for you.)
4 ounces of goat cheese, crumbled

Sauté shallots in a little extra virgin olive oil with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until tender:

Cheese Fondue: Shallots

Add remaining ingredients and stir until cheeses are mostly melted:

Cheese Fondue: Ready for the Fondue Pot

Add cheese mixture to a fondue pot and set to low heat.

Serve with vegetables and hunks of bread:

Cheese Fondue: Things for Dipping

Notes: You can use most any cheese combo that you like as long as it is a meltable cheese. If you can’t find shallots you can substitute red onion instead.

Chocolate Fondue

Double Chocolate Caramel Fondue

First let me say thank you again to Rachel and Melissa for helping me out last week! I had a few more guest bloggers lined up, but they never sent me anything and I really appreciated both Rachel and Melissa for sharing such fabulous recipes!

Now let’s talk some fondue!

Recently Alexis has become intrigued with the idea of fondue. I can’t figure out where she came across the idea, but she asked me what it was and I explained the concept. She thought it sounded fabulous and wanted to try fondue, so when my Mom and my best friend Darlene were visiting from Tennessee last week we gave it a whirl!

I hadn’t made fondue in a while. I love fondue and think it’s a lot of fun, but Jamison isn’t a fan, so I don’t make it that often. I normally do three pots of fondue, a cheese variety (which I’ll share with you tomorrow), a pot of oil to cook meat/veggies and a chocolate dessert fondue. Today I’m sharing the dessert version with you…Who doesn’t want to start with dessert?

This is a very simple, very delicious dessert sauce. It takes only a few minutes to put together, but it still has a bit of a wow factor, not to mention being completely delicious. Who says good has to be complicated?

What You’ll Need:
2 cups of caramels
1 – 4 ounce bar of semi sweet baking chocolate, roughly chopped (Note: I recommend Ghirardelli or Green and Blacks)
1 – 4 ounce bar of white chocolate baking chocolate, roughly chopped (Note: See note above)
1/2 pint of heavy cream
Fruit, pretzels, pound cake, etc. for dipping

Ok, are you ready for simple?

Good!

Double Chocolate Caramel Fondue: Chocolates and Caramel

Place ingredients in a glass bowl. Place bowl in your microwave and microwave on 20 second intervals, stirring between each cycle, until sauce is smooth and melted.

Place melted mixture in a fondue pot on low heat and use to dip fruits, pretzels, pound cake, etc. I like to dish out the mixture into a small dish for each person so they can dip and double dip to their heart’s content.

Notes: You can use any type of chocolate you like. I’ve used dark and milk in the past. You could even leave out the caramels if you liked (but who would want to do that!) but I’d increase the amount of chocolates to 8 ounces each if you did and up the amount of heavy cream to 3/4ths of the bottle. Or you could sub 1/2 cup of peanut butter for the caramel too. This also makes a fabulous topping for angel food cake or ice cream.

Dan Dan Noodles

dandannoodles

This week I have several guest bloggers lined up. I hope you enjoy! Up first is fellow Marylander Rachel from Coconut Lime. Be sure and stop by and say hello!

Note: I meant to have this go live this morning, but we set off on our adventures and I completely forgot! Next guest entry up on Wednesday!

Ingredients:
10-12 oz ground chicken or pork
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 inch knob ginger, grated
1/4 onion, finely chopped
1 cup chicken or pork broth
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2-3 tablespoons (jarred) pickled mustard greens*
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon chili oil
1 tablespoon black vinegar
1 tablespoon ground Sichuan peppercorn

canola oil for frying

to serve:
roasted peanuts for (optional)
chopped green onions
16 oz fresh Chinese egg noodles (cook according to package instructions)

Directions:
Heat some oil in a wok or large skillet. Add the chicken/pork, onion and light soy sauce, and cook through, stiring to break up any large chunks. Add the remaining ingredients and stirfry until cooked through and all ingredients are evenly distributed. Add noodles and stirfry for 1 or 2 minutes to coat. Serve in bowls sprinkled with additional peanuts or green onion.

*Look for these at Chinese or more generally Asian grocery stores.

Yield: 4 meal-sized servings

My thoughts:
Dan Dan Noodles are a street food (dan dan refers to the pole that was used to cart the noodles around on the streets) in China but I love making them serve as a whole meal. Normally I make the noodles with pork but this time I had ground chicken on hand so I used that instead. I think the chicken is just almost as tasty, both absorb the flavors well. If you want you can whisk together the dark soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame and chile oils, vinegar and peppercorns ahead of time and let them sit at room temperature until you are ready to use them-the rest of the dish cooks up quite fast so it is good idea to have them ready to go.

Dan dan noodles are what I think of as “stealth” spicy-they don’t seem spicy when you are eating them but afterward-thanks to the peppercorns and chile oil-you realize your lips are tingling.

A note about those optional peanuts: peanuts are present in most Stateside versions of dan dan noodles but are not strictly traditional. I personally can take or leave them in the dish so feel free to adjust to your taste.

Oven Dried Tomatoes

Oven Dried Tomatoes

Some people turn up their nose at sun dried tomatoes, but I’m a huge fan. I love their sweet, concentrated burst of flavor! You can get the same type of results by oven drying any basic tomato, and its especially fun to do with those late season tomatoes, that you might have a lot of right about now. It’s a simple way to dry your tomatoes to be used later in any recipe that calls for sun dried tomatoes, or even just as a fabulous, healthy snack!

What You’ll Need:
Tomatoes

Preheat oven to 200 F.

Oven Dried Tomatoes: Plum Tomatoes

Rinse and dry your tomatoes. You can use any type of tomatoes you like. This go around I used plum tomatoes, but I like to do this method with cherry or grape tomatoes too. If you use cherry/grape tomatoes you can skip the next step and go straight to the “drying” process.

Slice tomatoes and lay out on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking sheet:

Oven Dried Tomatoes: Ready to Dry

Some people add herbs, salt or even sugar at this point, but I like to do them plain.

Bake for 4-6 hours checking every 30 minutes or so until completely “dried”:

Oven Dried Tomatoes: Done!

Remove from oven and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container. (Note: If you store them in the fridge they’ll last a very long time.)

Notes: No notes for this one!

Stuffed Mushrooms

pf9e

What You’ll Need for the Stuffed Mushrooms:
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 a red onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 – 16 ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of finely ground black pepper
1 – 3.5 ounce container of crumbled goats cheese
1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
2 large packages of button mushrooms, stems removed
1 cup of seasoned breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a large pan saute onion until caramelized (about 5-10 minutes):

pf6

Add garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add spinach, sea salt, black pepper, goat cheese and Parmesan and stir until cheese mostly melts:

pf8

Remove spinach mixture from heat and set aside for a moment.

Remove stems from your mushrooms and place them in a baking dish:

pf7

The stems usually just pop right out. If you find one that won’t, gently use a knife and remove them. (Note: You can reserve the stems to make mushroom broth later.)

Place a dollop of the spinach/cheese mixture in the center of the mushroom:

pf9

And then top with a bit of the bread crumbss:

pf9a

Repeat process until all the mushrooms are filled. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown:

pf9c

Serve immediately.

Notes: You can make the filling ahead of time and store it in the fridge for a day or two before making the stuffed mushrooms. If you have any filling left you can also use it as a dip. The mushrooms can even be frozen after they are baked by placing them on a baking sheet and then freezing for 3 or 4 hours. Then they can be removed to an airtight container and frozen for several months. To reheat place them on a baking sheet and place in the oven at 400 for about 10-12 minutes.

Baked Apples

Baked Apples

Another wonderful thing about fall are apples! If you take a drive out through the country you’ll come across numerous orchards that have tons of fresh, crisp, fabulous apples! Beautiful leaves and tons of apples. What could be better than that?

There are many things you can do with apples, but one of my favorite ways to use apples, though I rarely make them, are baked apples! With a few simple ingredients you’ve got a fabulous autumn treat that can’t be beat. It’s also versatile because you can use it as a side dish or dessert. Who doesn’t like multipurpose dishes?

What You’ll Need Per Person:
1 apple, cored
A small chunk of bread
1 tablespoon of butter, cut into six pieces
1 tablespoon of natural brown sugar
Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Core apple:

Baked Apples: Cored Apple

Chop butter into bite sized pieces:

Baked Apples: Butter

Next stuff the chunk of bread in the bottom of the apple to stop up the hole and then press the butter down into the apple and “pack” it in:

Baked Apples: Bread and Butter

Top butter with brown sugar:

Baked Apples: Brown Sugar

All of the sugar might not fit in the hole, but that’s ok. Just get as much of it into the hole as possible and the rest of it can just top the apple and even fall down into the dish.

Sprinkle with cinnamon:

Baked Apples: Cinnamon

I like a lot of cinnamon, but you can use as little cinnamon, or as much as you like.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until apple is tender and slightly browned. Remove from oven and let sit five minutes and then serve.

Notes: If you wanted to make this a dessert you could top it with whipped cream, but I like it as a side dish to pork. The bread is there to keep most of the butter and sugar inside the apple as it bakes.