Soft breezes skip off the shores of Amos Lake, rustling through trees and across the grassy acreage that surrounds Dalice Elizabeth Winery, where second-, third-, and fourth-generation Italian Americans share the secrets of their polished craft. Having dispersed its all-natural specialty foods and wines internationally, the winery's founding family continually impresses the palates of casual indulgers and contest judges alike, churning out grape-to-bottle chardonnays, merlots, and sauvignons that cannot be found on the shelves of local stores. In addition to tastings, the winery hosts winemaking and cooking classes, during which glasses clink between aspiring chefs and vintners as they learn to entertain houseguests or polite burglars with style and ease.
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.
Small plates have become more and more ubiquitous in all types of American restaurants, but Bocado Tapas Wine Bar stays true to the dining style's Spanish roots, using recipes and ingredients traditionally found in Mediterranean kitchens.
As Bocado's menu explains, some of their tapas are very simple, and some are decidedly more sophisticated. The frias, or cold dishes, include everything from marinated olives to raw tuna with lemon-basil crema, sweet-potato chips, and chili avocado. The calientes, or hot dishes, are equally diverse, counting both pork meatballs and piquillo peppers stuffed with veal, mahon cheese, basil, and pine nuts among them. To try a little bit of everything, order the Bocado Experience, a meal for up to eight people that includes a choice of charcuterie, tapas, paella, and desserts, with the option to add sangria.
Besides sangria, the restaurant serves a lengthy list of exclusively Spanish wines. Most are available by the pour, glass, or bottle, which means guests never have to sip them from a big vat in the back.
Casa Di Lisa enchants eaters with a broad steak-and-seafood driven menu of authentic Italian cuisine. For starters, keep temperamental taste buds from shouting fashion advice to strangers with a distracting starter of beef carpaccio ($8), plated with capers and reggiano parmesan, or opt to begin with an order of clams casino ($7), cousin of the less-refined three-card-Monte oysters. Deep-sea divers can recapture the freshness of ocean-floor feasts with dishes such as swordfish au poivre and baked Atlantic cod (both $18) or lobster fra diavolo ($26). Inch-and-a-half-thick bone-in pork chops ($17) and a 24 oz. Italian-style rib eye ($26) inflame protein-powered passions; optional add-ons to the grilled goodies—such as jumbo stuffed shrimp ($8) and scallop and shrimp scampi ($10)—bring the opposing forces of surf and turf together for an appetizing armistice.
A fountain's mists drift over a cool, quiet water outside the windows of Vito's By the Water, where chefs have been cooking up traditional Italian food for many years. Following recipes that have been in the owner's family for years, they craft traditional entrees such as New York strip steak with demi-glace or lobster ravioli with vodka-cream sauce. They also adorn thin and Chicago-style deep-dish stuffed crusts with quality toppings such as baby clams, breaded eggplant, and seasoned ricotta.
Vito’s has also sponsored a “So You Think You Can Cook” competition, handing the kitchen over to nine aspiring chefs for a three-day cook-off. Like many timed cooking competitions, this one required the chefs to create a dish using a mystery ingredient, such as bacon or love. The winner received a farm-to-table dinner for 10.
BurgerFi's founder envisioned a timeless, casual American eatery, evoking the feel of a 1950s diner while adhering to the best modern food preparation practices. BurgerFi's unique menu and furnishings emerged from that equation. Cooks form each burger patty from all-natural, free-range beef, raised without chemicals or hormones. They also grill up similarly conscientious specialties, such as their Kobe beef hot dogs or the brisket burger, featuring 28-day dry-aged ground brisket beneath a combination of swiss and blue cheeses. They serve these creations alongside craft beers and wines.
The decor owes just as much to the owner's penchant for sustainable practices as the food. At each location, dining rooms features chairs made from recycled Coke bottles, recycled wood tables, and large fans that move plenty of air while consuming less electricity, putting less efficient fans out of a job.