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max's oyster bar, a favorite local haunt

Yesterday was a perfect Saturday.  Waking up late to a blanket of fresh white snow, we heard early-on that travel plans to New York had been cancelled...with "found" time on our hands, we set out to do absolutely nothing more than relax.

Other than firing up the new snow blower for the first time (whoa!) and finally purchasing that pair of snow boots I've been promising myself, we frankly didn't accomplish a thing.  Well, other than soaking up a truly restful winter day.  Our late wakeup meant a late first meal (about 1:00 PM) so by the time we snuggled into a large booth for dinner, in the unusually quiet Max's Oyster Bar in West Hartford Center, it was after 10:00 PM.

Why isn't this brief write up just an "update" to our previous post about one of our favorite restaurants?  Because last night Oyster Bar was different.  At first, I thought it was the magic of the snowy day that changed the experience...but now I know, "what we made of it" transformed a special occasion spot into a perfect cap on the end of our low key day.

Click here to read about some other times at Max's Oyster BarInstead of exploring the wine list, Allie just had a glass of Sancerre and I ordered Max's  Brewtus Maximus beer (made locally by Hooker Brewery).  Instead of my usual interest in the raw bar, we shared a house chopped salad (perfectly diced tomato, carrot, scallion, bell pepper, and crisp lettuce in a light vinaigrette with blue cheese crumbles).  For dinner, Allie loved the grilled salmon served with a bright but balanced miso broth, exotic mushrooms, and baby bok choy.  With my beer, I couldn't resist the fish 'n chips...crispy, light...wonderfully fresh.

Maybe my favorite part of the meal: dessert!  Foregoing the usual banana cream pie, we went for the "chocolate melting cookies"...the small serving of 3 warm, literally melty, chocolate wonders had us swooning...

In sum, Saturdays are often for going-out-and-going-crazy, or unusual indulgences, but last night may have been my favorite trip to Max's Oyster Bar ever...  Of course it's fun to go out with a group of dear friends, have a large platter of fresh oysters with cocktails, discover the last '07 bottle of Chardonnay on the wine list, order the special entree, and negotiate a "few desserts for the table to try"...  But then, looking back on last night and all of our previous, countless trips to Oyster Bar, I've learned that the "usual" Oyster Bar extravagance is what we make of it...and while there isn't more fun to be had...last night was special.  The service was spot-on, the food fresh-fresh, and everything was truly delicious...maybe most delicious of all was that Allie and I, just the two of us, discovered a new Max's Oyster like our snow day: a place to warm up, keep your voices low, and relax...  So, cheers to a favorite local haunt...whatever you choose to make of it.


brew your own

The number one alcoholic beverage consumed in America is beer.  That's not a's delicious.  And, while all under the name "beer" there are literally countless styles.  Lucky for us (in the majority that LOVE the stuff), I don't think there's ever been a better time to find exactly what you're looking for...or, get bold and try something new.  In addition to easily finding everything from the big name American lagers to unpasturized local craftmade brews, you can ALSO make your own. 

Assembling the ingredientsCheck out my latest batch of IPA (India Pale Ale) detailed in pictures below.  India Pale Ale is one of my all time favorite styles...hoppy and delicious.  I am just beginning to scratch the surface of this hobby, and I'd highly recommend you give it a try... 

You'll need to get set up with the basic equipment ($100) and then a set of ingredients (which will range in price depending on the style - IPA tends to be a bit more expensive at $40 for enough to make roughly 2 cases of fresh beer).  You reuse the basic equipment each time so once you've made a few batches, your cost is VERY low (roughly $0.75/beer!).  Oh, and, although you need to be a bit obsessive with cleanliness (and sterilizing), to make basic beer is very easy.  Your only necessary cooking skill: boiling.First, you "make tea" with the grains.Like a scene out of Ghostbusters! This will be a few weeks.After the hops have been added and you're ready to cool it down, you can use a wort chiller (or my lower tech ice bath - shown here once all of the ice has melted and my brewed not-yet-beer is down to about 70 degrees).Once the brewed mixture is down to about 70 degrees (you'll be adding yeast and don't want a higher temperature to kill it or this will never become beer!) you strain the the sediment out and add fresh water to the concentrated you have about 5 gallons of "pre-beer". Now, you "pitch" the yeast and WAIT (mine took something like 8 days) for the beer to ferment...this waiting it the hardest part of brewing!Although these pictures will give you a sense of how straightforward this project can be...(trust me on the fun part too!), the easiest way to try out homebrewing is NOT to buy one of the many books for sale, nor is it to read about making your own beer.  Just do it!  How?  Lucky for you, just as there has never been a better time to buy beer, there similarly has never been a better time to try making it yourself. 

Although there are countless places, I'd recommend paying a visit (whether in person or via the internet) to one of the oldest in the business.  Brew and Wine Hobby in nearby East Hartford, Connecticut is the best.  Owners Bill and Rich are terrific guys with endless patience for even the most basic questions.  They love what they do and getting others into it. 

Be sure to click on their logo at the end of this post, and, tell them your friends at The Wise Old Dog sent you.Sterilized caps ready for bottling day. Bottled!This batch is so easy to drink! My last bout with IPA produced a really delicious beer that caught the nickname "goodnight" because of its super high alcohol contrast, this one is terrific alongside a burger...subtle grapefruit and floral but nice strong hops.Click to visit Brew and Wine Hobby