Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Spring Strollin'

Having now attended two of them, I can honestly say there is no better event in New London than the Food Stroll. Food Stroll happens twice a year - once in the fall and once in the spring - and each one seems to get better than the last.

I blogged about the Fall Food Stroll back in October. The Spring Stroll this evening saw many of the same vendors but with different offerings, as well as some very exciting new editions.

Noe and I were actually very involved in the logistics of Food Stroll this time around - I was on the committee (though I was too busy to contribute as much as I did to Reel Love), Noe volunteered for some various manual labor, and we both sold tickets and helped with the set-up and tear-down. Having worked on the inside, I can truly say that a LOT of hard work goes into this event and Tracy down at Main Street deserves a huge shout-out.

We hooked up with my good friends Dena and Jeanette and headed out. We started at the far end of Bank Street and hit Stroll staples Jasmine Thai (pad Thai and sushi rolls), Hot Rod's (serving my two favorite varieties of wings - garlic pepper dry rub and Thai chili) and Dev's (goat cheese!) as well as Steak Out (formerly Cafe 57), which was serving some marinated steak. (I'll actually be eating dinner at Steak Out for a company dinner on Monday, so a review will be forthcoming.)

We continued down Bank to Lucca (crostini with tapenade - only OK) and the sweet-tooth triple-threat of Daniel's Dairy, Muddy Waters, and Passion Coffee House. Then we doubled back a little ways to mosey down Golden Street to the recently opened Red Lion Steak House. Red Lion served us a decent mini crab cake, but gave us an excellent-looking taking out menu featuring some mouth-watering sounding steaks, as well as chicken and seafood options. That menu, combined with the fact that the place looks amazing (long wood bar, sophisticated color scheme) ensures that we will be back sooner rather than later.

We made our way to the far end of State Street, trying out chili con carne and guacamole at Zavala (I still have mixed feelings about Zavala - I love the look and the location, but the food is extremely inconsistent and the service is terrible).

Jeanette, me, and Dena outside Zavala

We continued up the street, trying out a spicy carrot spread and vanilla bean cake at organic haven Mangetout (the cake was fantastic and the spread was really interesting) and some run-of-the-mill chicken tender offerings from Wings & Pies. Then we came to the Crocker House, the be-all-end-all of food strolling.

Gourmet Galley Catering always sets up shop at Crocker House, a great event space in the heart of downtown. At both strolls I have attended, we've been greeted at the door with booze. In the fall it was rum-spiked cider; in the spring, champagne - Crocker and Gourmet Galley wanted to showcase their wedding potential, so they staged a mock reception.

Champagne in the Crocker House lobby

We took our champagne and headed through the rainbow-colored lobby to the courtyard, where we found ourselves face-to-face with a cheese table containing various varieties of bleu, goat, and soft cheeses such as brie along with crackers and various accompaniments such as olives, nuts, and fruit.

Cheese station

After Dena and I reigned ourselves in from the cheese table, we headed into the ballroom where mini salmon and filet mignon (as well as cake - I just couldn't handle more sweets) were being served. For being mini-portions, everything was beautifully displayed (where did those tiny forks come from?) and miraculously, nothing was overcooked. I'd hire Gourmet Galley to cater my wedding based on this sample alone.

Palm-sized salmon entree

We decided to go ahead and get our drinks at Crocker as well, because they had a full bar and actually pour regular-sized drinks. Even though it was getting a bit chilly, we enjoyed them in the courtyard before reluctantly leaving.

Noe, Jeanette, and Dena in the courtyard

After Crocker, we thought it might be anti-climactic, but then we got to 2 Wives, a new brick oven pizzeria opening officially tomorrow. We tried their four-cheese pizza with pink vodka sauce, and if this sample is any indication, 2 Wives is going to give Apizzo in Pawcatuck a run for their money. Noe and I - and probably the girls and I - will be back soon for sure to try out some more offerings.

We finished the night at Tony D's - unfortunately, they ran out of their famous calamari before we got there. We still accepted our cheese tortellini gratefully, however, and sat down in the lounge to rehash all the food we had just tasted.

Food Stroll continues to get better and better. The restaurants really seemed to step it up this time as well, with new and more complex offerings. I'm sorry I couldn't mention everyone in this post - I inevitably left out a few - but I hope they all keep participating. And I can't wait to try Red Lion, Steak Out, Passion Coffee House, 2 Wives, and - opening in June - the State Street Grill (cool building and - wait for it - gourmet burgers). It's exciting to see New London get so many new and promising, it will keep me busy with my amateur food critiquing!


babygrand said...

Great post! I agree. Food Stroll just gets better and better. I manage The Crocker House, so I'm especially glad you enjoyed the food and the space! Pam Natale

Anonymous said...

Thank you Amy for all your kind comments!!

Bobby G said...

looks like a fantastic event! i need to roll! or Stroll, or whatever!

Anonymous said...

I bummed we didn't get to walk together. Next year, we have to plan details more carefully.:-)

harcoutbreton said...

i like springs... and i agree with you... food strolling is fun... i could it all day... sounds like you guys have a great time... thanks for sharing...