Smokin’ BBQ

smokin_chrisThe first time we ever experienced Smokin’ With Chris was actually at a wedding rehearsal dinner, and at the end of the night I was embarrassed that we hadn’t previously discovered this gem of a restaurant.

Why embarrassed? Well, I have always complained about how there isn’t enough good BBQ in CT and this place was right under our noses!

It’s like you’re at the friend’s house that owns a smoker, but they actually know how to use it! i.e., there hasn’t been a time where we’ve been to Smokin’ where we haven’t seen Chris, or where the staff haven’t made us feel right at home like friends or family. And, oh man, do they know how to smoke meat!

My latest experience with Chris’ smokin’ lair was meeting longtime friends and past colleagues the other week. I arrived early, so I went straight to the bar area which is separate off of the main room – they always have a killer, craft brew selection.

The ‘tender immediately made me feel welcome and also alerted me to their seriously impressive bourbon list. I guess it’s not surprising, since it is a meat-mecca of an establishment.

I chose the Eagle Rare ($9 for a heavy pour), and they gave me a choice of the stock bottle OR a bottle that they specifically cask ‘smoked’ to give it a new, earthy flavor! (Think High West Whiskey’s ‘Campfire’ – giving you some Scotch smoke, but not enough to offend the bourbon-leaning whiskey drinker).

Once everyone arrived, we nestled into the dining area that Thurs-Sun turns into something more like an Austin, TX backyard BBQ where you’re treated to live music as you dine. Tip: definitely do a Thurs-Sun night for your first experience.

Orders were all over the map, but no one was sharing – it’s just too good! Burnt ends, fried chicken, brisket, spare ribs, baby back ribs, you name it.

I got a half-rack of the baby back ribs with their backed mac & cheese and collard greens (Tip: there was still enough to reserve a small portion for lunch leftovers).

The ribs were a quality cut; melt in your mouthers, and a great balance of that drier, flavorful outer crust with a moist center. I still lathered them with Chris’ homemade sauce, because that’s how I do it! The mac was awesome as well with a nice kick to it (House made cheese sauce blended with chili powder, ancho, chipotle & cayenne peppers and topped with panko bread crumbs). I could not believe how good the collards where… I do like mine with the meat base, but I really liked these lighter, spicier collards (they sauté with onion, crushed red pepper & vinegar… and maybe go lighter on the ham hocks in the process).

Beer pairing: Long Trail’s Limbo IPA (7.6%) and BBC’s Steel Rail (5.3%; Berkshire Brewing Company). The alcohol from the higher-ABV Limbo really brought out the smokiness in the ribs and the Steel Rail was a perfect, light finisher for the mac and collards.

We were all extremely satisfied, and even though they close @9pm on Tues/Wed, we were not rushed out of the joint. It was more like when you’re at a friend’s place on a school night and it’s probably just time to go!

Do yourself a favor this winter and warm-up with Chris and crew at Smokin’ With Chris! (I know, I was REALLY close to busting out a Kriss Kross reference there…)

-The Sweet and Sweaty

Smokin’ With Chris
59 West Center Street, Southington, CT 06489
smokinwithchris.com
@SmokinWithChris
#SmokinCT

What’s for dinner?

*Just Served!

What are we having for dinner this week? That’s a discussion that takes place weekly in our house.  In the past this conversation would have led to a complicated menu with lots of dirty dishes, dinners at 9pm, and in the event of a disastrous dish… tears!  These days we take a much simpler approach and ask a few questions:

  • What’s on sale this week?
  • What do we have in the freezer?
  • What yields great leftovers?
  • What’s going to be relatively simple to make?

This week, we settled on a few regulars and are planning to try out a few new recipes from the January/February 2011 issue of Cooking Light Magazine!

Lemony Chicken Saltimbocca *just served!

lemony-chicken-saltimbocca-ck

Spinach with Garlic Vinaigrette *just served!

spinach-with-garlic-ck-x

This is on the menu for Monday night so we’ll keep you posted on how it turns out! If anyone else decides to give it a try, we’d love to hear about your results! Of if any of you other home cooks whip up a different tasty dish this week we’d love to know about it!

Tip: For those not familiar with Cooking Light, it is an amazing resource for healthy and delicious recipes! I absolutely love their magazine (obviously since I am still holding onto one from 2011) and their website! I buy their cookbooks and reference their “How To’s” regularly (hey even have a video available for this recipe on their website)!  If you follow them on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram, like we do, you can get recipe inspiration delivered right to you!

-The Sweet and Sweaty

*Lemony Chicken Saltimbocca – just served:

  1. Relatively easy – Few ingredients, but more dishes to wash than expected.
  2. The result actually looked like the picture, which rarely happens!
  3. Chicken – Split decision; A Sweaty thumbs up for the impressive combination of flavors from the sage, prosciutto, lemon, and chicken, but a neutral reaction from Sweet.

*Spinach with Garlic Vinaigrette – just served:

While it was definitely tasty, the raw garlic was too powerful and will surely slap some faces around during conversation in the morning. Basically, The Lost Boys could have used this recipe. A similar recipe comes to mind that normally calls for cooking the sauce/dressing, that helps tame the power of the garlic and red onion. Happy cooking!

*Just Served! – Check out the pic:
LemonyChickenSaltimbocca

Happy Hour at Atelier Florian

You don’t need to twist my arm to hit a concert in New Haven, as it normally means that a delicious dinner and cocktails will also be on the agenda… here we come Atelier Florian!

Since we were headed to College Street Music Hall that Friday, we found a sweet parking spot right near the venue on the New Haven Green. Tip: paying on the meter until 9pm in New Haven beats $8 in the garage.

We then walked on down to Atelier Florian which was only a couple blocks away, near the corner of Chapel & Park.

Atelier Florian’s tag is “sophistication in the European tradition, with fabulous sea-to-table dishes and sustainable meats and produce”. Let’s face it though, we really just wanted a new experience at a place with some happy hour pricing (4-6:30pm).

Not having a reservation, we were happy to pony up to the bar. Isn’t the bar where everyone tells you to eat these days for real excitement?

Oyster shooters were a must. Tip: If there’s a raw bar menu, GET a shooter! They could have amped-up the horseradish in their cocktail sauce, but it was still worth it at the half-off happy hour pricing.

The beer selection was solid for a ‘Euro-sea-to-table’ restaurant with representation from Palm, Two Roads, Allagash, and more (the owners also own Rudy’s, so I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise). If you’re into cocktails, there are close to a dozen choices including a signature, gin sage martini that was quite nice (note: tap beer, wine, and ‘Florian’ cocktails were all half-off).Atelier Florian

On to the half-priced apps from which we choose the Crispy Brussels – w/ maple salt, fiore sardo (raw, hard cheese made from whole sheep’s milk), and lemon. Very solid with just the right amount of sweet from the maple. I know they have been all the rage the last few years, but why stop?!Atelier Florian_Brussels

For an entree, I chose the Umami crusted steak burger and my wife the Turkey Sliders, which were both lunch-priced. Not being surrounded by so-called umami  dishes here in CT yet, I had to try this “5th taste”. I didn’t reach a new dimension, but the burger was a delectable mouth full with gruyere, caper aioli, onion jam, tomato on a toasted brioche. No need for details with the Turkey Burger Sliders as they were just so-so.

We’re tempted to give the sea-to-table entrees a try next time around since we only scratched the surface with their meats and produce. I’d still say it’s a recommendation for a pre-show or post-work happy hour. Although, we would love to hear from anyone that’s dug into their dinner menu!

-The Sweet and Sweaty

Atelier Florian
1166 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT
atelierflorian.net