At City Steam Brewery Cafe, the owners concoct some of the area’s finest beers, scoring “best of” awards from Hartford magazine and Connecticut Magazine. They also brew potent batches of laughter inside their 200-seat comedy show-room theater. Ensconced in the historic Brown Thomson and Co. building, which was the state’s largest department store in 1877, Brew Ha Ha once was known as the Last Laugh Comedy Club, where fledgling unknowns such as Ray Romano and Kevin James vied for laughs in the smoky rathskeller of a restaurant.
Reborn in 1997 under a new moniker, the standup speakeasy keeps its calendar packed with nationally touring comics and local joke slingers. During shows, guests can toast with mugs of handcrafted beer and make edible sculptures of their favorite comedian using menu’s custom burgers, pizzas, and omelets.
Dotcom Wine & Spirits, winner of the 2010 Best of Hartford award, is fully stocked with bottle buddies for all shapes, sizes, and species of wine. Its staff of expert sommeliers helps weaves wine wayfarers through the extensive collection of oenophilic ornaments. Grape-stompers can tiptoe through the glassware selection, which includes the Stolzle Burgundy receptacles ($9.99) and the Riedel Vinum Bordeaux two-pack ($69.99). Remove sediment from older wines with a Ravenscroft Omega decanter ($59.99), or pick up a six-bottle wood wine box to ensure that your wines will never feel lonely at night again ($39.99). Pop open a bottle's gob with Dotcom's Gattorna corkscrew ($50) and reward well-behaved blends with a slide down the aerating funnel ($19.99). Ample outdoor parking means that grape enthusiasts can amble through Dotcom's warmly-lit, wood-paneled aisles to remind the more than 5,000 wines on the shelves to play nicely with their accessories.
For more than 90 years, the same soft morning sunlight has poured over the fields of yellow sunflowers, tasseled stalks of sweet corn, and rows of grapevines growing at Rosedale Farms & Vineyards. In that span of time, five generations of Rosedales have tended to the farm’s fresh vegetables, fruits, and flowers, sharing them with the Simsbury community and even earning a nod in the Washington Post. It wasn’t until 2005, however, that the family produced its first vintage from its 4-acre vineyard of French hybrid grapes. Since then, the winery’s estate-grown vintages have earned several awards, including a double gold at the 2010 Vineyard & Winery International Eastern Wine Competition. Today, at the winery’s onsite bar, staff members pour samples of varieties such as the Simsbury Celebration, which distinguishes itself with a creamy structure, mineral overtones, and a penchant for hiding beneath lampshades. Additional events include fall farm fests that include free hayrides and corn mazes. Partnering with the Max Restaurant Group, Rosedale Farms & Vineyards also features chef-to-farm dinners, during which chefs prepare four- to six-course banquets using ingredients plucked straight from the fields.
For 40 years, customers have flocked to Avon Clock & Lighting to acquire ticking and radiating accouterments for their homes, snatching up timepieces and fixtures from renowned manufacturers such as Seiko Clocks, Hinkley Lighting, and Hanover Lantern. The sprawling showroom brims with a shimmering trove of table lamps and chandeliers. Kitchen clocks calmly rotate their hands around a perfectly round face, and grandfather clocks chime stories of walking 3 miles uphill in the snow to get repaired by one of Avon's knowledgeable employees. Each of Avon Clock & Lighting's products comes with a one-year guarantee, and the accommodating staff offers free home consultations.
Glasses lift into a treble-laden symphony of toasts and from a distance, many of the elixirs they contain seem nearly the same. Up close, 28 wines by the glass and more than 75 unique varietals by the bottle span a rainbow of hues, from reds deep and earthy enough to appear almost black to white wines barely kissed with a delicate straw color. In The Hidden Vine Wine Bar and Lounge's dedicated room for tastings and classes, guests further hone noses and taste buds to make nearly imperceptible distinctions in flavor and bouquet.
Drawing upon family recipes held close to their hearts, culinarians fill two dining areas with inventive dishes including bruschetta draped in paper-thin soppressata, peach honey, and hanger steak. Beneath diamond-shaped burgundy paintings, forks chatter against plates of fresh pasta and patrons sidle up to the marble bar for a chilly cocktail. A patio begs diners to let the warm sun aid in digestion or in calming outraged bulls delivering pamphlets to the eatery's crimson ceilings.