Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Grog Shoppe for Burgers in Schenectady NY

We recently took a three-day getaway to Schenectady New York to visit our niece Nicole at Union College. We couldn't have picked a better time to go! The Union College Men's Hockey team was competing that weekend for the Frozen Four NCAA Championship in Pittsburgh PA, and the entire campus was in a festive and celebratory mood to commemorate the occasion! And THEY WON!!

One place we always go when visiting is the Grog Shoppe on the corner of Erie Boulevard and State Street in downtown Schenectady.

The Grog Shoppe in Schenectady New York

A typical college hangout, the Grog Shoppe is known for their hearty food and appetizers at affordable prices. We've never been disappointed with the food there and always order one of their creative burgers.

A little known fact about the restaurant location and Erie Boulevard in general, is that it was once a section of the Eric Canal System. In 1925 it was filled in and renamed "Eric Boulevard" and is now a major thoroughfare in the downtown district.

On this visit we skipped the appetizers and ordered a couple of the Grog's famous hand pampered (hand formed) half pound freshly ground beef burgers.  Burgers come with chips and a pickle and you can request fries for an additional $.95. That's right! Only 95 cents! (prices April 2014)

Nicole and I both ordered the Grog Burgers with sweet potato fries. The Grog Burger is made with Bacon, Melted Swiss Cheese, a slice of Grilled Pineapple, exotic spices, and their own special sauce, served on a grilled roll. Crazy as a pineapple sounds on a burger it really tastes wonderful adding a subtle sweetness to the dish.

The Grog Burger
Yes, it's as good as it looks!

The Cowboy kept it simple and ordered the New Yorker Burger, made with melted cheese and bacon, with a side of fries.

The New Yorker

The Grog Shoppe serves everything from appetizers to dinners and burgers and deli-sandwiches. It's really got something for everything you're hankering for. Check our their menu HERE.

If you're in Schenectady - be sure to stop in!. It's a kitchy little place and a fun place to visit. Prices are great with burgers around $6.95 and dinners from $11.00 to $19.95.

The Grog Shoppe Dining Room

Off street parking is available next door and they're right across from the Schenectady train station.

The Grog Shoppe
277 State Street
Schenectady, NY 12305
(518) 374-199

Grog Shoppe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Arezzo Ristorante: Fine Food with a View in Westport CT

Media Sampling

Now that spring is here, as well as warmer weather, I can't wait to share one of the best places to have great food and delicious cocktails with a view --- the Arezzo Ristorante in Westport CT.

The Arezzo Ristorante in Westport CT

Located on River Street in Westport CT, the restaurant is situated on the Saugatuck River, and promises to be a hit for those who want to dine and drink al fresco this summer. Just look at that amazing view!

The Patio overlooking the Saugatuck River

The views are spectacular, as is the food. And service is just as amazing. Everyone from the fabulous bartender to the servers are knowledgeable and full of information about the restaurant history, food, ingredients, and preparation. 

We started our sampling with some cocktails and appetizers at the bar. The restaurant is currently in the process of re-vamping their specialty cocktail menu, but here's some of the items we tried.

The French Kiss Martini, the Cucumber Cocktail, and the Lemon Pop Martini. Although I loved both the martinis I have to admit that the Cucumber Cocktail with the Cracked Black Pepper on top was a refreshing way to start the evening. This will be a great cocktail to sip on on a warm summer evening.

Left: A French Kiss- the  French martini with Proseco
Middle: The Cucumber Cocktail with organic cucumber vodka and St. Germain topped with cracked black pepper
Right: A Lemon Pop Martini made with Purity Vodka and Limoncello and topped with Proseco

We then sampled some of the bar food available. Items were artfully arranged, garnished beautifully, and were all wonderful. My favorites were the shrimp and scallop skewer served with the perfect grilled sear with aromatic herbs, and of course, the lobster arancini.

The Margherita pizza, made with fresh tomatoes and basil, with homemade mozzarella.

The Focaccia Robiola di Arezzo, so delicious and drizzled with an amazing and earthy white truffle oil.

The Lobster Arancini with a saffron aioli and lemon for dipping. Delicious!

Rosemary Marinated Grilled Shrimp and Scallop Skewers

Italian Sausage and Roasted Pepper on Skewers

We then moved on to the dining area for some appetizers, wine and dinner. We started with Cavatelli ai Piselli, a homemade pea ricotta with hot and sweet sausage ragout, Risotto made with fresh porcini mushroom and truffle oil, and Short Rib Tortellini made with a braised au jus sauce.

Front: Cavatelli,   Middle: Risotto,   Back: Tortellini

Each of these dishes were wonderful! The creamy risotto, the flavorful cavatelli, and the the hearty robust tortelli. So, so, good!

For dinner we sampled both by land and by sea with a New Zealand Lamb Chop and a beautiful Halibut. Two things I rarely attempt at home and love to enjoy when I'm dining out. The halibut was excellent with a crispy sear, and the lamb was a perfect medium rare enhanced with the fragrance of  infused rosemary.

Paired with our dinner we enjoyed a hearty red and semi sweet Italian white wine.

White: Vento Vermentino Toscana - a semi sweet Italian white wine
Red: Pasetti Fonte Romano

Pan Seared Halibut
Caponata Puree, Fregola, and Vegetables

Roasted New Zealand Lamp Chop
Spinach, Tomato, and Yukon Gold Potatoes
We ended the evening with not one, not two, but THREE happy endings. Two delicious desserts of panna cotta and nutella pizza and a delightful after dinner dessert martini!

The Double Chocolate Martini
Made with Godiva Chocolate Vodka, Frangelica, Creme de Cacao, and Half & Half
Vanilla Panna Cotta
Fresh Berry Compote
Amazing Nutella Pizza
Topped with Powdered Confectionery Sugar

I cannot say enough good things about all the items we sampled, and surprisingly, although I'm not a a Nutella fan, the Nutella Pizza dessert was so incredibly good. I sampled it only to be polite and ended up going back for more.   And more.   And MORE!  Make sure you order it and any or all of the other delicacies we sampled!

My thanks to the wonderful staff who were all so helpful and informative and to the management and marketing team for hosting this delicious event!

See you on the waterfront at Arezzo in Westport!

Spring, Summer, Winter, or Fall - Great food and wonderful views!

Arezzo Ristorante 
5 Riverside Avenue 
Westport CT 06880 

View more pictures on the Home Place Facebook page - and while you're there don't forget to "like" us! More pictures HERE

Arezzo Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: We were invited to this promotional sampling at Arezzo Ristorante by members of  the Arezzo Management and Marketing Team, however, the views and opinions expressed herein are our own.

Macy's Culinary Council Chef Iuzzini at Oxmoor Center for Pre-Derby Day Dessert Demo

Louisville Kentucky Race Horse Fans - Save the date!

Wednesday, April 30th at the Oxmoor Center Mall Macy's! 

Don your Derby Day Hats and head on down to the Oxmoor Mall for a Pre-Derby Day Dessert Demo!

On Wednesday, April 30th Macy's Culinary Council Chef Johnny Iuzzini will be in the Macy's Oxmoor Center Mall to you how to create classic race day desserts!

Join Macy’s Culinary Council Chef Johnny Iuzzini for a galloping good time in the kitchen! Just in time for the big race at Churchill Downs, the one and only Kentucky Derby, Chef Iuzzini will be on hand to demonstrate the secret to preparing winning desserts that are perfect for serving up at any race day party.

Taste his delicious creations then take home the recipes to impress friends and family.

Afterwards, you'll be able to meet and chat with Johnny and have him sign a copy of his cookbook, Dessert FourPlay, which you'll receive along with a $10 Macy's Gift Card when you spend $35 or more* in the Home Department.

Johnny is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America with over 20 years of experience. He's also the recipient of the 2006 James Bear award for "Pastry Chef of the Year."

Space is limited, so reserve your spot by calling 1-877-55-MACYS (1-877-556-2297) beginning April 21 from 10am to 6pm.

     Macy's Oxmoor Center
     Furniture Department, 3rd Floor
     Wednesday, April 30th at 6:30pm

To learn more about the Macy's Culinary Council and upcoming events, log on to

Follow them on twitter @culinarycouncil

*Event subject to change or cancellation. Purchase must be made on April 30, 2014 at Macy's Oxmoor only. Gift Card and Dessert FourPlay will be distributed on April 30. One per customer, while supplies last. Seating is first come, first served. Macy's Gift Card valid April 30 - May 7, 2014.

Kentucky Derby Race day is Saturday May 3rd 2014

About Johnny Iuzzini
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America with over twenty years of kitchen experience, Chef Iuzzini honed his craft at highly lauded New York City dining locations such as The River Café, Daniel, Payard, Café Boulud and Jean Georges. In 1998 he traveled around the world and studied pastry at some of the finest patisseries in France including LaDuree under Pierre Hermès. In 2006, the James Beard Foundation awarded Chef Iuzzini "Pastry Chef of the Year." He has also been recognized as one of the "10 Most Influential Pastry Chefs in America" by Forbes, and as one of the “Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America” by Pastry Arts and Design. He has appeared on national television shows including the Today Show, Good Morning America, Martha Stewart, and Live with Regis and Kelly. While he was the Executive Pastry Chef at Restaurant Jean Georges, the restaurant received four stars from the New York Times, three Michelin stars, and was considered one of the world’s fifty greatest restaurants. Chef Iuzzini was the head judge of Bravo’s Top Chef Just Desserts for two seasons and the author of DESSERT FOURPLAY: Sweet Quartets From A Four-Star Pastry Chef.

Follow Chef Iuzzini on twitter at  @Johnny_Iuzzini

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pepe's Pizzeria in New Haven - and beyond!

Media Promotional Sampling

I have never lived anywhere in Connecticut other than New Haven County. In fact, I've lived in only two towns my entire life. Both towns are a short five minute drive from downtown New Haven.

And yet, I had never been to the iconic pizza parlor that set the standards for New Haven Style Pizza in Connecticut, Frank Pepe's Pizzeria Napoletana ..

Consistently voted one of "The Best Pizza Spots in the Country" by Food and Wine, and recently voted the #1 Pizza by the Daily Meal, Pepe's is known for their iconic tomato "pie" and their white clam pizza! Pepe's is located in the heart of New Haven's "Little Italy" on Wooster Street in historic Wooster Square.

On my very first visit to Pepe's, I had the pleasure of sitting down for a late lunch with Gary Bimonte, grandson of "old reliable" Frank Pepe. What I enjoyed most, besides learning about the family's nearly century old traditions of pizza pie making, were the heartfelt stories he told about growing up in the restaurant, and the family meals he shared with aunts, uncles, and cousins around the dinner table. To me, that's one of the best things about food, sharing and enjoying it with those you love, and breaking bread with old and new friends. Read more about Pepe's origins and history HERE.

The Pepe family history is rich with tradition, but the one thing that has remained the same is FAMILY. Be it the offspring of various family members cooking in the kitchen, cleaning tables, or what have you, the family is still involved in varying degrees to Pepe's today. Gary likely has the best job of all, that of quality assurance, and he spends his days traveling to the many Pepe's locations, ensuring the the same quality that originated in New Haven CT, is available in all seven of Pepe's current locations, the two New Haven locations, and in CT's Fairfield, Danbury, West Hartford, Mohegan Sun,  and NY's Yonkers. (Rumor has it that Pepe's is currently scouting locations in Boston's Brookline neighborhood, and a shoreline location in Rhode Island, rumors that Gary could neither confirm or deny.)

And what's on the menu at Pepe's? Pizza, pizza, and more pizza! A fresh garden salad is also available, in addition to Foxon Park Soda, Beer and Wine. See the entire New Haven Pepe's Menu HERE.

Be sure to visit a Pepe's location near you. And if you have the opportunity, visit the original Pepe's in New Haven, CT.

Here's some of the pics from our visit!

Pepe's Pizza and another New Haven staple - Foxon Park Soda
White Birch Beer and Apizza is a match made in pizza paradise!
The tomato pie pictured below is classic Pepe's pizza at its best. Simple fresh ingredients guarantee an equally fresh taste. Crisp thin crust. Absolutely delicious.
The one, the only, original Pepe's Tomato Pie
Sliced Tomato, herbs and spices, and grated parmesan cheese

Ahhhhh. Moving on we sampled the white clam pizza made with fresh clams and garlic, lots of garlic! Succulently sweet clams and zesty garlic make the perfect pairing on pizza!

The White Clam Pie
Fresh clams on the classic New Haven thin crust pizza
Thin and crisp - but never burnt on the bottom
The secret? The only thing that we could learn was that the dough is a bit "wetter" than norm.

I always thought that New Haven pizza couldn't be duplicated anywhere because of our unique water...but Gary assured me they worried about that too, and test the water in every location!

For more pictures visit the Home Place facebook page, and don't forget to "like us" while you're there
More pictures HERE

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
157 Wooster Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Visit a Pepe's location near you!

In ...

West Hartford CT

Danbury CT

Fairfield CT

Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville CT

Yonkers NY

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer: We were invited to this promotional sampling at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana by members of  the Pepe's Management and Marketing Team, however, the views and opinions expressed herein are our own.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bodega Taco Bar's Cinco de Mayo Weekend Celebration

Bodega Taco Bar Gears Up For Their Cinco de Mayo Celebration Weekend

Both the Fairfield and Darien Locations will serve up a fun mixture of margaritas, food, and festivities! 

Bodega Taco Bar is keeping tradition alive and well with their popular Cinco de Mayo Fiesta. With the maiden voyage of the Bodega Food Truck this month, there will be even more to celebrate. Beginning Friday, May 2 thru Monday, May 5, the indoor / outdoor festivities include Bodega’s signature Mexican inspired fare, tequila tastings, cocktail specials, live music and dancing.

Celebration highlights include our self-proclaimed "Year of the Pig" menu which includes; roast suckling pig plato, pork belly lollipop, pork chop stack with green apple chimmichuri, roast pork mexi-ramen bowl: cracklin' pig taco, and pork and crab dumplings. Sunday Family Cinco Brunch is family fun day with a piñata, games, and Bodega’s version of "touch a truck" with the new Bodega Food Truck. Tequila infused revelers can dance to Latin DJ spun tunes at both locations Saturday night.

The first  Bodega Taco Bar opened its doors in the spring of 2011 in Fairfield and has gained a reputation for its innovative take on handcrafted Mexican street food, creative cocktails, and its edgy design. Fans were thrilled when Chefs Michael Young and Luis Chavez, along with restaurateur Mario Fontana opened the Darien location in 2012.

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo the Bodega way.
For full schedule check out Bodega’s Facebook page HERE

Heritage Square |1700 Post Road | Fairfield, CT | 203.259.2624
980 Post Road |Darien, CT | 203.655.8500 | Special events, private parties and catering |7 days L-D-Br

Friday, April 11, 2014

Makeup, Hair, and More from Rachel Zoe's Spring Summer 2014 Collection

Rachel Zoe Spring Summer 2014 Collection

For my inaugural Fashion Friday post, we're featuring the fabulous stylish turned designer Rachel Zoe, whose Spring Summer 2014 collection featured easy wearable clothes, with models sporting a fresh and natural look, perfect for every age and body type.

Rachel Zoe's stylist background comes through at each of her design shows. No where is it more apparent than in the holistic style of the entire show, from hair - to makeup - to accessories.

Rachel Zoe wowed the crowd during her Spring/Summer 2014 show highlighting easy breezy casual styles. 

Aside from the beautiful pieces of clothing that came down the runway was equally beautiful cosmetic work done on the models. Each model wore thick braids made from pieces of loose hair and some pieces of hair that had already braided into fishtail braids.

The braids were kept very loose and textured looking almost dry and frizzy. Thin pieces of hair were pulled out from the front to give a messy, rushed hair look. 

Eyebrows were kept thick while on the eye was a tan toned metallic eye shadow thinly placed right on the eye lid, not passing the crease. Lips ranged from muted colors like pink, reds, and orange all in a satin finish. Eyeliner in a light brown was used along the lower lash line.

Charlotte Tilbury, lead makeup artist, on about the beauty look:
Brushed eye brows for natural looking brows. Maybelline’s Dream Fresh BB Cream for fresh honey toned skin. Maybelline’s Color Tattoo on the lid up towards the brow bone. A healthy flesh on the face, with bronzer and blush and mascara placed on top and bottom lashes. Maybelline’s Totally Toffee and Red Rebel lipstick mixed for lip color with no rough edges.

Antonio Corral Calero, lead hairstylist, on about the hair look:

The look is inspired by a girl in a safari; she may not be able to wash her hair for a couple days. There’s a lot of texture, a lot of braids. We pull some pieces out that fly away. It’s about simplicity and feeling hot. We have seen a lot of braids and ponytails, tons of variations of ponytails. Anything goes, it’s all about how you interpret beauty. We’re at a time of our lives were it’s about personality and adapting style to your own personality.

Sunshine Outing, lead manicurist, on about the look:

We went with a white blended with a nude. Maybelline’s Color Show Lust for Buff and Porcelain Party were mixed together. For summer trends, half moon manicures, are big. Nail art is still huge; expectations are getting bigger and bigger.

Lead makeup artist: Charlotte Tilbury
Lead hairstylist: Antonio Corral Calero
Lead manicurist: Sunshine Outing
Makeup products used: Maybelline New York
Hair products used: MORRACCANOIL
Nail products used: Maybelline Color Show


Sunday, April 6, 2014

OPI Celebrates Ford Mustang's 50th Anniversary

Ford Mustang’s 50th Anniversary Inspires Limited Edition OPI Nail Lacquer Collection

OPI Products Inc., a subsidiary of COTY Inc., and Ford Motor Company today announced a unique collaboration featuring the iconic Ford Mustang. The popular pony car – celebrating its 50th anniversary in April – will serve as the inspiration for a line of OPI limited edition nail lacquers that will launch internationally in July. 
Photo Provided by
Used with Permission

“OPI is thrilled to partner with one of the world’s top automotive companies in celebrating 50 years of Ford Mustang,” said Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, OPI Co-Founder and Executive Vice President. “For women, cars and nail lacquer offer a way to express personality. This new collection will deliver elements of sophistication, luxury, power and style fitting for both OPI and Mustang consumers.”

The collection’s hero shade, Race Red, is a tribute to one of Mustang’s most iconic colors. “Ford Mustang inspires passion like no other car, and we are excited to be working with OPI on an exclusive collection that captures the spirit of our iconic car,” says Melanie Banker, Mustang marketing manager. “There is no better way to express Mustang’s bold personality and the excitement it creates than through color.”

Celebrating an Icon
The Ford Mustang is about to become the newest member of a very exclusive club – vehicles in continuous production for 50 years. Over the last five decades, Mustang has gained worldwide popularity and has become an enduring part of pop culture with more than 9.2 million Ford Mustangs sold and roughly 3,000 appearances on film and TV – including its upcoming big screen appearance as the hero car in “Need for Speed.”

Mustang’s unique combination of style, performance and affordability established an entirely new class of sporty cars, and its next chapter unfolds with the all-new Ford Mustang. Its most advanced version yet, the 2015 Mustang features an all-new sophisticated design – clearly inspired by its 50-year heritage – and a host of new innovative technologies and connectivity systems.
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