Terreno tries seasonal Italian in Hartford; MJ23 reopens at Mohegan Sun
The latest restaurant opening for Connecticut celebrity chef Tyler Anderson is a reboot of Hartford eatery Porrón & Piña, now featuring seasonal Italian food instead of Spanish.
Terreno restaurant is located on the ground floor of the Goodwin Hotel at the corner of Haynes and Asylum streets downtown in the capital city. The previous effort resulted from Anderson teaming with Goodwin owners Randy Salvatore and Charles Mallory. Salvatore, also owner of The Blake Hotel in New Haven, brought in Anderson to run Hamilton Park restaurant and roof lounge High George last year after starting out with another chef.
Anderson’s TandA Restaurant Group (including restaurateur A.J. Aurrichio) runs Millwright’s Restaurant in Simsbury, Square Peg in Glastonbury and (until it closed last July) The Cook & The Bear in West Hartford — that one with Jamie “The Bear” McDonald, who runs four Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ outlets, including one on James Street in New Haven.
At a recent preview and tasting at Terreno, perennial James Beard Foundation nominee for best chef Anderson said the restaurant’s menu of “Cal-Italian” would be using local ingredients, simple presentations and healthy fresh food options. Anderson said it’s basically “seasonal” food, with the pomp and circumstance removed from the fine dining “although we do want to be a very fine dining service restaurant.”
The sampled food was tasty and well presented: Pizzette Genovese with raciette cheese and olives, Kale Salad with Meyer lemon and chick peas, and a very tasty Terreno Chopped Salad with pickled peppers, olives, mortadella and oregano vinaigrette.
In the entree category, Gnocchi a la Vodka with preserved tomatoes and herbs was lovely. Rigatoni with braised beef, pickled onions and kale was also a winner. And the Prime NY Strip steak was tender and nicely prepared. Roasted Chicken with fennel butter and winter vegetables comes on the bone and looked fine. Desserts included an Upside Down Citrus Cake with whipped cheesecake and cara cara oranges (red-fleshed navels).
“I’ve been very inspired by family since I married into an Italian family,” Anderson said at the tasting. “I cooked French food my whole life, but after being on ‘Top Chef’ with a bunch of people who were amazing Italian cooks, going to Italy and cooking ... on a dirt floor in Sicily, it has very much inspired me.”
The front corner location of Bar Piña continues down a hallway, meanwhile, serving similar food. But mornings it is open as a popular coffee shop with renowned doughnuts.
Terreno’s prices are modest to expensive on an a la carte basis. The location is good but not ideal since cheap or free parking is mostly a dream in the city. Watch out for Hartford paid lots and parking garages; they can be pricey.
Out at Mohegan Sun, a couple of developments recently: Michael Jordan’s MJ23 Sports Bar & Grill reopened recently from a weeks-long renovation.
It’s now being called an “elevated sports bar and grill” serving up contemporary American cuisine, with a 35-seater bar and 13 big screens and five projection TVs in a 7,449-square-foot space.
It’s always been a friendly place, thanks to the bartenders. Specialties include The Big Mike Burger with a double wagyu patty, onion, pickle chips, American cheese and Big Mike sauce, Garlic Bread with Maytag blue cheese fondue and Bacon Pops with maple syrup, black pepper glaze & honey mustard, according to a publicist.
Mohegan Sun has partnered with Noble, a consumer-centric digital commerce and marketing platform, for onsite mobile food and drink ordering experiences, it was announced recently.
Noble’s ordering technology is made to fit into a variety of hospitality, gaming and live event establishments. So guests can order and pay for bar and concession items, such as cocktails or hot dogs, via app, QR code on a web link or by text via chatbot. Patrons can choose their desired pick up or delivery locations and pay/tip via Venmo, Apple Pay or credit card. Best part: Noble’s platform also enables patrons to schedule orders ahead of time for intermission or halftime.
The Noble platform was first rolled out for test operations in mid-January at shows such as 90’s House Party and the Black Wolves games.
It’s easy to overlook Vue24 at Foxwoods, the classy eatery on the 24th floor of the Grand Pequot Tower. OK, maybe “overlook” is the wrong word. But the food is better than the remote location, in a sense.
The restaurant recently announced Local Tastes Thursdays: Farm, Sea, Table — not a novel concept in restaurants these days but thankfully inspired by the farm-to-table movement. It features locally sourced ingredients on a prix fixe, four-course menu ($60 this past Thursday, with Connecticut monkfish and Rhode Island pork on the menu) as it showcases local businesses. The restaurant also offers a la carte dishes and supplemental wine pairings.
And speaking of dining out, Monday, Feb. 24, brings CT Eats Week, a new initiative shepherded by the Connecticut Restaurant Association that it hopes will redefine the term “restaurant week” by giving restaurants full control over their pricing and their special promotion offer, according to a CRA release.
Look for specials at Cast Iron Chef Chophouse in New Haven, Bin100 in Milford and The Little Pub in Fairfield, among 159 participating restaurants. Proceeds will support the association’s culinary foundation, Connecticut Hospitality Educational Foundation, and there will be a Friday, Feb. 28 Connecticut ProStart Invitational at Gateway Community College, where high-school students will compete for scholarships and a chance to represent Connecticut at the 2020 National ProStart Invitational in Washington, D.C., in early May.