A Little Something Bakery

Last week at Starbucks, I overheard the woman behind me in line say, “They have the BEST cupcakes in the area!”  to the Starbucks employee.  Of course, I couldn’t let a comment like that go without inquiring, so I admitted to the nice lady that I overheard her and I was wondering where she was talking about.  She informed me that she was talking about A Little Something Bakery on Park Ave. I’ve driven by this place a million times but for some reason never felt the desire to check it out – until now!  So, before one of my regular walks at the reservoir I stopped on by to check out the bakery.  When I first walked in I was struck by the whimsical and playful decor (I loved the bright colors!).  The variety of delectable offerings caught my attention and held it for the entire rest of the time.

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With so many options, it was hard to choose just a few things to bring home.  Attempting to be mindful of my waistline and wallet, I decided that I would pick three items that day and come back at another time.  I opted for the coconut cupcake, the red velvet cupcake (which, according to the poll on the website, is a customer favorite), and a mini dirt bomb that is doughnut hole rolled in cinnamon and sugar.

The mini dirt bomb was very good (think:  a more grown-up and refined version of Stew Leonard’s cider doughnut holes – which I love – or the Rolls Royce of DD Munchkins).  Perfect consistency, soft doughy interior, slightly crunchy exterior, generously coated with cinnamon and sugar (and I think I detected nutmeg there too).  The bakery also has this available in muffin size.  The red velvet cupcake was perfect in taste, but the texture was a little too “moist” for me, in that it didn’t hold together when I was trying to halve it.  It crumbled apart, but the crumbs tasted good at least.  Cream cheese frosting was perfect in taste as well, but slightly too soft.  On the other hand, the coconut cupcake, while also good in the taste component, was a bit dry (like it had been sitting out for too long).  I suspect it wasn’t made the day I purchased, based on the texture, but it was close to being right.

I returned a few days later, eager to try a few other cupcake varieties.  Again, it was a tough decision but I ended up deciding on the spice cupcake with cream cheese frosting, and the chocolate cupcake with espresso frosting.  Both cupcakes were very good.  The spice cupcake paired with cream cheese frosting was the perfect way to start off the fall season.  The chocolate with espresso frosting cupcake was also good, but I was hoping for a more pronounced flavor in both the cupcake and the frosting.

All in all, A Little Something Bakery is a great local place to satisfy your sweet-tooth cravings.  The variety of goods coupled with the friendliness of the staff makes it a must-try if you’re in West Hartford.  I look forward to tasting the rest of the treats.

Quaker Diner

There is nothing better than greasy diner food on a weekend morning, especially after a night of drinking and dancing.  That is exactly what a friend and I did one snowy Saturday morning after we both woke up with a hangover. We decided to go to Quaker Diner which is an antique railroad dining-car style diner in West Hartford.

It was pretty close to noon by the time we arrived and there was a wait. The seating is based on a first come, first serve, seat yourself arrangement. If you can’t tell from the picture, its pretty small and narrow inside and it was slightly awkward to hover over the already seated patrons. But, hover we did and we scored a booth after waiting about 15 minutes.

The menu has exactly what you’d expect on any diner menu, the many combinations of eggs that come with toast and home fries, with choices of bacon (American and Canadian) or sausage, and omelets, pancakes, French toast. The coffee was the usual weak diner coffee, as expected – but good enough to do its job. Like one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Michael Symon, one of my favorite diner foods of all time is corned beef hash. What’s not to love about the salty, hearty, comforting goodness that is corned beef hash? My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

The food was pretty standard. Everything was pretty good with the exception of the turkey sausage. We got a side order to share and they were sort of flavorless and had a weird texture. Next time, I will go for the real thing.

I was amused by the Life’s Instruction Book chalkboard which the staff updates daily. On the day we went:

74) When traveling by plane don’t pack valuables or important paper in your suitcase. Carry them on board with you.

Off to dream about corned beef hash…

Quaker Diner
319 Park Road
West Hartford, CT
(860)232-5523

Osaka Sushi

I am lucky to have friends in the area who allow me to subject them to hours and hours of psychological testing for practice administration and report writing for my Psychological Assessment I, II, and III courses.  I reward them with food.  After one of these testing sessions, I took my friend out to dinner at Osaka Sushi in Middletown.  Here is the experience in photos:

Sake

Kani Salad

Seaweed Salad

Miso Soup

Triple Osakayan roll

beautiful soy paper wrapped around each roll

Spicy Triplet and Salmon Skin

very delicious crunchies

Sugarbelle

My tastebuds did not truly know love at first bite until they met the intoxicating combination of the cream cheese frosting coupled with the red velvet cupcake from Sugarbelle in Glastonbury, CT.

I made a trip to pick up some cupcakes for my roommates (and myself, of course) as a “thank you” for taking such good care of me when I got really sick over the weekend. Just look at these beauties!

They tasted even better than they look.

Sugarbelle Cakes and Confections
63 Hebron Ave.
Glastonbury, CT

Pho Boston

My sister and her boyfriend came to visit a few days ago and we decided to go to Pho Boston for lunch.

We started with a delicious appetizer of goi coun thit noung, which was fresh spring rolls with choice of meat (we chose pork) served with a peanut sauce. We all agreed this was phenomenal. The pork had been marinated in a sweet sauce and had a light crispiness to it inside the spring rolls. The peanut sauce is the thick, sweet, flavorful peanut sauce I love. Will be getting this again for sure.

We each got our own bowls of pho.

We also ordered a crispy chowmein with a combination of beef, pork, chicken and vegetables to share. I didn’t like this at all. I expected it to be something entirely different. I found the noodles to be too thick and flavorless, with a weird airy fried texture. The sauce was pretty bland for me, but I think my sister and her boyfriend found it to be ok.

This seems to be a local favorite so I suspect it fills up pretty quickly on the weekends. We went around 1pm and there was a pretty long line. Somehow, we managed to get to the front pretty quickly though. Not the the place for a romantic dining experience (go to Lotus in Vernon for that), but certainly a good option for delicious and inexpensive Vietnamese food.


Pho Boston
144 Shield St.
West Hartford, CT

Miya’s Sushi

Kate and I visited Miya’s Sushi during New Haven Restaurant Week.  We had the most creative and nonconventional sushi eating experience ever.  If you live in the New Haven area and you haven’t been, you really should go.  Though I didn’t love everything we had that night, I did enjoy most of it.  Most of all, I really loved the entertainment factor Miya’s offered.  The menu alone is worth a trip.  I am continually amused by the names of some of the rolls like Ride The Wild Donkey, Hot-Headed Cowgirl and The Bad Tempered Geisha Boy.  Also, with rolls like the Passion Without Words and Softest French Kisses, you just might get lucky if you bring a date.

An added bonus was we got to meet the chef-owner, Bun Lai, who is not only incredibly talented and but also very easy on the eyes. 😉

For more pictures and Kate’s full review:http://thecoquettishcook.blogspot.com/2009/11/miyas-sushi-new-haven.html

Miya’s  Sushi website:http://miyassushi.com/index.html

Shish Kabob House of Afghanistan

First, I’d like to give a shout out to my friends who not only introduce me to top notch restaurants such as the one I am about to tell you about, but also for accompanying me and making my dining experiences that much more enjoyable with your presence.  I appreciate your exploratory nature, matched with mine, and your fearlessness of trying what might be considered exotic.

I had my first ever experience with Afghani cuisine yesterday at Shish Kabob House of Afghanistan and I am very glad that I did.  I honestly was not sure what to expect but was pleasantly surprised all the way through.

The table started with a shared appetizer of Mantoo which were steamed dumplings filled with mildly spiced meat and onions topped with yellow split peas and a special sauce of homemade yogurt, with mint and garlic.   I have to confess, when this arrived I was a little put off by the smell.  It was unfamiliar, and almost raunchy smelling, but the waitress had assured us that it was one of the most popular appetizers so I was more than willing to give it a try.  It was love at first bite!  (Isn’t it amazing how things that can smell so bad can taste so good?).  The “skin” of the dumpling was very delicate and tender, with an almost fall-apart-in-your mouth quality.  The filling was perfectly seasoned, mild but not boring – and the yogurt sauce gave it this tangy deliciousness that went so well with the flavor combination of the seasoned meat, the herbs, the garlic and mint…mmm.

For the main, I had the Beef Shammi Kebab which was “ground beef seasoned with mixed spices.  When ordered freshly chopped scallions are infused into the meat giving it an assertive taste and charbroiled on skewers, ” (from the menu).  This came with your choice of either spinach or brown rice, and choice of a side.  I had spinach rice and the eggplant.   While the beef was definitely good, it took a backseat to the eggplant which deserves a “holy yum”! The eggplant is “sliced and steamed, fried and topped with tomato sauce, homemade yogurt and dry mint”… I couldn’t get enough of this stuff.   I was also interested in trying the other sides.  Lucky for me, two of my dining companions had the pumpkin and I took one taste each from their plates (it was THAT good).   It was actually a pumpkin puree, garlicky and creamy, with the consistency of mashed butternut squash.  Because I probably should mention it, the spinach rice was good.  It didn’t taste much like spinach but it was basmati rice with flecks of green and merely served as background noise for the rest of the stuff on the plate.

When your flawless meal ends on a high note, it gives you a feeling of satisfaction similar to how you’d feel after reading the perfect ending of a good book.  This was the case when my meal concluded with the  Ice Cream Afghani Style, which is vanilla ice cream flavored with rosewater with pistachios and what appeared to be chopped dates sprinkled over it.  It was such a hit – just the right amount of rosewater to take the spotlight, but not too much as to overwhelm, with the textural components of creamy, silky ice cream paired with the chopped pistachios and nuts.  I honestly can’t wait until the next time I have this again.

Also noteworthy about the restaurant is the decor, ambiance, and atmosphere.  When I first walked in I was struck by the beauty inside.  It has this simple elegance, which I love, decorated with Afghan art, beautiful lights, and traditional pieces.  When we were there yesterday there were two men playing Afghan music which added a very nice element to the dining experience.

I should note that there was one thing I did not love about this restaurant, but it was very insignificant compared to the rest of the experience so I didn’t factor it into my overall assessment.  Do not order the ginger ale.  The server will tell you they have ginger ale but what she will give you is something that tastes like a mix of Sprite and iced tea.  Instead, go for a Taj Mahal, a light Indian beer that is crisp and refreshing and paired very well with the heavier food.

Overall, it was one of the most enjoyable dining experiences I’ve had in a long time.  To give you an idea of how much I liked the food, I left the restaurant at 10:30p, went home, and ate the leftovers at midnight.

36 LaSalle Road
West Hartford, CT
(860) 231-8400


Happy Halloween + Black-Bottom Cupcakes

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before

blackbottomcupcakes2

after

Happy Halloween 2009!

Yesterday, one of my roommates had a pumpkin carving party at our house.  She had planned a nice dinner and I offered to make dessert.

What could possibly have been more festive (and delicious) than black bottom cupcakes topped with candy corn?

Black-Bottom Cupcakes from The Great Book of Chocolate, David Lebovitz

Yield: 12 cupcakes

For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, regular or reduced fat, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup unflavored vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

These will be making an appearance again next Halloween.