With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tasting Hartford

Image courtesy of www.woodntap.com

The Summer 2011 Taste of Hartford has come and gone, as always, too soon and before we were able to visit every restaurant we intended to. To be quite frank about it, we use the Taste of Hartford to check out restaurants whose regular prices might keep us away. During this two-week Taste of Hartford, we visited two of Hartford's most well known downtown restaurants; Dish and Trumbull Kitchen.

We visited Dish for an early mid-week dinner. Dish was decided on because (1) a quick decision had to be made and we remembered hearing in passing that Dish had a great Taste menu and (2) the convenience of finding it for our out of town dinner companion. We have been to Dish before, in fact for the winter Taste of Hartford.

If there is one thing curious about the Taste of Hartford, it is that some restaurants don't give or mention the Taste of Hartford menu unless asked. Nonetheless, we got our menu and got our order in. For a starter we took the roasted mussels in saffron cream with shallots. This was a surprising choice only because we had just read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential where he wrote that mussels were one of the few things he wouldn't order at a restaurant due to likely improper storage. Not heeding the advice of a well established professional, we figured we'd gamble on the. We won. (Though we passed on one mussel that hadn't fully opened as a safety precaution). They were delicious.

Next up was a main course. The Dish Taste menu had impressive dishes of pork, hangar steak, pasta, salmon and tomato heirloom pie. When we saw the pasta was served with octopus and bone marrow, it was a slam dunk easy decision. Having always heard that bone marrow was very tasty, we didn't want to pass up the opportunity.

After a great main course and starter, it was onto dessert, a Greek yogurt panna cotta. Now we almost never have dessert and the fact that the dessert got completely finished says more about it than we could write about it. An excellent solid meal.

If there was one thing bizarre about our dinner at Dish, it was the other customers. Not the customers behavior, but the sheer size of the customers. Many are familiar with the stories that obesity is the current American epidemic and it's our guess that obesity is about to undergo the type of full scale assault that tobacco has undergone the last couple decades. This evening proved the case in point. While seated at an area with a reasonably sized walking path between us and the wall, almost half the customers could not make it past without us pushing up flush against the table. It was like when you go to Fenway Park and realize the seats are designed for 1910's size people, the customers at Dish have outgrown the walking paths!

The next week saw a dinner planned with my grandmother and her husband. Trumbull Kitchen was chosen for not only it's excellent food, but the relative ease to get to it and the fact that it has a professional, well dressed clientele. Just the type of place you want to show Grandma when she comes into town.

By late afternoon problems started to surface. First it was clear there was going to be rain. This normally wouldn't be a problem except for the fact that as people age, precipitation seems to move towards the scale of falling lava and away from falling water. Still, knowing there was a garage and valet parking, this wasn't overly worrisome.

About forty-five minutes before the reservation a real problem cropped up. It came to our attention through Twitter that this was the night that Britney Spears was performing at the XL Center. Our reservations were for 5:45. Too late to cancel, there was no doubt this was going to get interesting.

Trumbull Kitchen was absolutely teeming. It wasn't exactly the ordinary Trumbull Kitchen after work crowd either. The dining room and bar were packed with 20 and 30 something concertgoers with their bodies packed into the tightest possible dresses. Hardly a scene offensive to us, but probably not what old Grandma was looking for. After explaining that this wasn't the normal crowd due the concert, we were hit with more bad news, no Taste of Hartford menu due to the crowd from the concert.

This had the the potential to be a problem. The last thing we intended to do was have our Grandmother spend a ton on dinner. That Social Security tab is already bringing down the whole country ya know? Sensing our apprehension at the Taste menu not being available, the hostess said she'd work it out. When she returned minutes later, we were informed that if we waited a few minutes for the concertgoers to start clearing out, they would serve us the Taste menu.

The Taste menu was great. Coincidentally, all three of us ordered the spring roll, sirloin and scallops, and blueberry and peach crisp. We've ate at Trumbull Kitchen a handful of times, lunch and dinner, and they never fail to deliver. What went above and beyond on this visit was the service at Trumbull Kitchen. Not only did the hostess and the waitress go out of their way to accommodate our party, but the manager even stopped by to make sure everything was going well and explain that the concert had made the restaurant exceptionally busy. Service above and beyond.

We always wish the Taste of Hartford would run longer and that we visited more local restaurants during the promotion but from our two experiences on this Taste of Hartford, we feel safe calling it a success. A great job by Dish putting a unique dish with octopus and bone marrow and the menu and a great job by Trumbull Kitchen with some top notch service. Two high end restaurants that any city would be proud to boast of.


  1. This is not the "Taste of Hartford" like all things good, they ended the real "Taste" years ago. A great event that brought thousands downtown.

  2. We ate at Max Downtown and Costa del Sol, and both meals were wonderful!

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