Beer, Bourbon and Hockey

It was a blustery evening in Connecticut last night. What started as a beautiful, sunny day turned into a dark, windy and stormy evening–perfect for going to a hockey game!

We decided to go to watch the Hartford Wolf Pack play the Providence Bruins in an AHL Calder Cup playoff game. I’ve loved watching live hockey since college and was fortunate to go to a number of Atlanta Thrashers games (who are now, unfortunately, the Winnipeg Jets). So this was a perfect night out!

Part One: Beer and Bourbon

We started our evening with dinner and drinks at Trumbull Kitchen (which is part of the Max Restaurant Group here in Connecticut). It was just about a block from the XL Center (where the Wolf Pack was playing) in downtown Hartford. The restaurant had a warm, cozy feel–especially coming in from the wind and rain.

We kicked off our meals with a Lagunitas Coffee Porter (which started with a heavier coffee taste, but melted into hot chocolate on the tongue as it warmed up) and a Blackberry Manhattan (which was light and just a little sweet without the typical alcohol burn of this type of cocktail).

We shared a Vermont Cheddar and Bacon Fondue for our appetizer. The combination of crisp fries and melted cheese was like eating a stuffed, baked potato. I tried the cheese with a little of the bread that came to the table and actually preferred that to the potatoes (more of the cheese flavor came through).
Our main course was a Stone Pie (their version of a pizza) with spring asparagus, herb puree, ricotta cheese, zucchini squash and parmesan. There were a lot more peas on the pizza than asparagus (which surprised us since it wasn’t listed among the ingredients on the menu–and my husband isn’t the biggest fan of peas), but the crust was the thin and crispy style we like and the ricotta melted in our mouths.

We got two salads along with the pizza; a shaved Brussels sprout salad with Moody Blue Cheese vinaigrette (which I didn’t order because I don’t like blue cheese–but in the end it only had a couple of specks of blue cheese, so didn’t really taste of it at all) and a kale and baby spinach salad that supposedly had aged gouda cheese and toasted pecans (but both the cheese shavings and pecans were tiny and sparse, leaving a pile of greens and small handful of tomatoes). So the salads didn’t particularly impress us.

Overall, Trumbull Kitchen was a decent place to eat. The food was respectable even if it didn’t completely match the descriptions in the menu and the service was average (it took about 15 minutes after we sat to get water–though we did request sparkling instead of still, and it took our server about 10-15 minutes to bring our bill after we requested it–but it was getting busy by that point).

We would have tried dessert, but the fire alarm went off just as we were finishing our meals, so we didn’t really want to stick around to find out if it was real (the servers were scurrying around like nothing was happening while the host was holding a towel over the alarm box by the front door).

Frankly, I was a little surprised they didn’t evacuate or at least find a way to let the patrons know what was going on. We saw the fire trucks pulling up just as we walked away from the restaurant, but went on to our hockey game before we found out what was going on.

Part Two: Hockey

Neither Matt nor I had ever been to an AHL game before, so we weren’t sure entirely what to expect. It ended up being all the thrills of a professional hockey game (big guys gliding effortlessly around the ice and regularly slamming into the glass siding surrounding the rink with such force it’s amazing the glass doesn’t shatter in a million pieces) minus the pricy tickets (we sat one row behind the net for about $25/person).

There was a decent turnout considering it was a cold, rainy Wednesday night (though I suppose they’re much more used to that weather up here in CT) and, since the teams are feeders for the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins, many fans were decked out in jerseys for their favorite NHL teams.

Aside from loving the less expensive tickets, we really enjoyed the pace of the game. There were far fewer stops than in an NHL game since they didn’t have to break for commercial, so the only pauses were between periods or for injuries and penalties. Live sports the way they were meant to be!

One of the coolest parts of the evening was being in a place that meant so much to Matt. He was there as a cheerleader for the University of Connecticut (UCONN) men’s and women’s basketball championship wins back in the 2000’s and pointed out the banners hanging from the rafters celebrating those achievements. It was great getting to enjoy a hockey game in the same place he had so much fun watching and cheering for basketball years before.

The AHL hockey season will be over in just a couple of weeks, but our experience definitely has us considering season passes if we eventually land in a city that has a team.


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