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Some truths about Hartford

Like I said in a previous smirk, when we told our friends in San Francisco that we were moving to Hartford, they warned us about everything that we wouldn't be able to get out in Connecticut. Well, we've been here for 44 days now, and here's my tally of the things they said that we couldn't get out here.

The sushi there is going to suck.
Well, anyone who has read the 6/27/99 smirk knows that Janet and I found a great sushi bar less than two miles from our apartment (Fuji on New Britain Ave&#41. Last weekend, we decided to take a drive and ended up at another sushi hot-spot called Murasaki.

Murasaki was the quintessential San Francisco sushi experience. The fish was excellent, the company was boorish, the chefs were aloof and the sake was overpriced. We left feeling simultaneously sated and slighted. It reminds me of every time I walked out of Sanraku on Sutter Street in San Francisco… except that at Sanraku they had Sapporo beer in the 21oz bottle, not the 12oz only.

Maybe you can find sushi, but what about dim sum?
Janet and I used to go to Yank Sing in San Francisco for a dim sum lunch every couple of weeks. Dim Sum there was the real deal: steam carts would come by and you would point to the dishes you wanted. Our average dim sum session would last for an hour or so, where we would end up sharing anywhere from 10 to 15 dishes (there are only 3-4 dumplings in each steam dish&#41 drinking a pot or two of pu-erh tea (a relatively esoteric semi-fermented loose leaf tea&#41 and spending between $50 and $65 for the meal. The loss of this weekend ritual concerned me, and I thought that my San Franciscan compatriots had me on this one.

Bzzt! Wrong! Green Tea Restaurant in Farmington (14 miles from home&#41 serves 20 to 30 different types of dim sum every Sunday morning. When we went there last Sunday, we were treated to excellent siu mai (a pork dumpling&#41, kuo teh (pan-fried potsticker dumplings&#41 and the best char-siu bao (steamed pork buns&#41 that I have ever tasted. Not only that, but when I asked for pu-erh tea, they brought out a pot for us on the house. I guess that not too many caucasians ever eat dim sum there, let alone order in Cantonese and request an obscure tea. We left feeling a few pounds heavier, and spent less than a Jackson ($18 before the tip&#41 to boot!

Ok. What about Mexican food?
Well, they've got me so far on the Mexican food front, but I have been told by reliable sources that the Parkville neighborhood sports a few great authentic Mexican joints. Unfortunately, there is no sign of a taqueria.

On the other side, Hartford has some great Jamaican, Portuguese and Brazilian restaurants… and since I can get everything I need to make burritos at our local Stop and Shop (they have a whole aisle dedicated to Goya products&#41, I don't miss the those L. Ricos burritos all that much.

By the way, if you've never had a fresh Portugese Roll (which I couldn't find for the life of me in San Francisco&#41 from a store-front bakery, you're missing out on one of the greatest culinary experiences.

How about Italian food?
Hartford's Italian section wins. Hands down. Not only do we have better Northern and Southern Italian food, but the pizza here is the best in the country (in my not so humble opinion&#41. You can go the premium route (like Luna's, Lena's or Harry's&#41, or just go out to Whitney Pizza for a good, greasy Greek pizza where they cut it in squares unless you ask them to cut it like a pie.

So, you say that the food is better there. How about the beer? San Francisco wins hands down, right?
First off, let me say that nothing beats the Toronado in San Francisco when it comes to beer. So, let's just factor that out and look at a level playing field.

Hartford supports three good microbreweries, and the surrounding area has another four or five breweries or brewpubs that are putting out good beers. Once you add in the whole Northeast, you have over 100 brewpubs and breweries shipping local craft beers to Greater Hartford Area.

Not only do you find local brews at all of the bars, fresh Anchor, Anderson Valley and Sierra Nevada are all shipped in from California, and Guinness Importing is based out of Connecticut, ensuring fresh European beer at almost every corner bar. Plus, if you get thirsty and want to buy beer for home, Crazy Bruce's runs head to head against San Francisco's Beverages and More. Just make sure that you purchase the beer before 8pm, Monday through Saturday, because the blue laws shut down the sales of closed bottles of alcohol after that (bars serve until 2am, 7 days a week&#41.

Well then, how about the arts?
San Francisco has a beautiful new library that nobody uses. Hartford, on the other hand, has the busiest library system in the country.

Hartford is also home to the Bushnell Theater, which houses a symphony, ballet, opera and takes in touring broadway shows. There's also Theaterworks (the equivalent of off-broadway&#41 and the Hartford Stage (the local stage company that hosts major talent like Andrew McCarthy&#41, as well as a number of major theater houses within an hour or so drive (Oakdale, Goodspeed, Shubert/New Haven&#41.

We have Real Art Ways in Hartford, a multi-functional theater and gallery for modern art as well as the Wadsworth Athenaeum, one of the most prestigious classical art museums in the nation.

Here's a long shot… bet you can't get Odwalla Juices out there!
You're right. We don't get Odwalla juice out here. We get Fresh Samantha's juices in Connecticut, and it's better tasting than Odwalla more cases than not.

Plus, we can get my favorite coffee, Torrefazione Italia, out here as well.

So, is there anything that you can't get in Hartford?
If you need cologne, you can go to Sephora (like in San Francisco&#41 or Nordstrom (again, like in San Francisco&#41. We have Borders Books and Starbucks Coffee and the Disney Store, just like in San Francisco's Union Square. But if you want the real funky stuff, you have to head to New York City… but since that's only a few hours away by train, that's really not so bad, is it?

Posted in Smirks.

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