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.
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.
The brewmaster and chefs at Southampton Publick House pour pints of award-winning hand-crafted microbrews and furnish their varied menu with classic pub grub. Inaugurate your meal without swearing upon a slab of beef by sipping an appetizing cup of new england clam chowder or potato ale soup with bacon and cheddar ($5 each). Heartier appetites can beckon for the brewer's burger and french fries ($9; add cheese, sautéed onions, bacon, or mushrooms for $0.75 each) or the crispy, lager-dipped fish 'n' chips ($14 lunch, $18 for a dinner portion). A side of sweet potato fries ($6) makes for a dashing entourage for a 12-ounce new york sirloin ($25) or a nearby Idahoan congressman.
At The Wine Press, aficionados crush, press, rack, and bottle their own brand of wine. Overseen by the shop's staff, amateur winemakers craft their silky reds with the same process as modern-day wineries. Through this process, they learn how much time and care goes into winemaking. They can produce varietals such as sangiovese or pinot noir or create hybrids such as a cabernet-merlot or a sentient pinot-human. To show off the possibilities of winemaking at their facility, The Wine Press also leads guided tours and wine tastings during the summer months.
Ballou’s Wine Bar revolves around three prized delicacies: chocolate, wine, and coffee. From those staples, dozens of indulgent dishes ensue, including chocolate, Nutella, and peanut-butter-chocolate fondues and homemade truffles developed by Debbie, half of the husband-and-wife team that runs Ballou’s. Her chocolate fondue and homemade truffles are so deliciously decadent that they’ve earned the wine bar a spot on the Best of New Haven Reader’s Poll list for best desserts. In addition to rich desserts and froth-capped cups of cappuccino, guests can order wines from local and international vineyards, as well as a wide selection of pastas, sandwiches, and flat breads.