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.
At ShelaLara Vineyards & Winery, vintners work with modern equipment to produce more than 20 different wines. Using grapes and fruit imported from California and other sun-soaked regions, the enophiles fill tanks with sweet elixirs including their in-house specialty wine slush. The glacier wines, fruit essences, and vintage wines run a colorful gamut from the off purple of the sky just after sunset to the hue of warm honey. ShelaLara’s winemaking process, including fermentation, bottling, and 21-gun salutes following spills, all takes place in Rhode Island.
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.
Founded by certified beer judge Michael Bernier, DIY Brewing Supply equips and educates patrons in the arts of at-home fermentation procedures and food construction. Beginner's brewing classes steer students through four hours of crafting an extract beer and ingesting significant brewing concepts. Aspiring homebrewers learn to settle down yeast and barley for a midday nap in the mashtub, as well as how to perform simple troubleshooting should a batch end up tasting like lasagna. Winemaking classes help students study grapey elixirs on the journey from fermentation to sanitation to staining cashmere sweaters. Students can also round out their education with a mozzarella-making class and a one-hour coffee-roasting class, where they roast 1 pound of coffee.
After learning the tricks of the brewing trade, guests can stock up on the tools with DIY's extensive selection of wine and beer-making equipment. Homebrewers can create their own batches of booze with kegs, recipe lists, yeasts, and plenty of literature and books.
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.