the road | the food | a new direction

Category: Connecticut (Page 1 of 4)

Checking in at: Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Fairfield CT

Frank Pepe pizza was once the insider’s choice for America’s best pizza, unless that insider professed a love for their competitor down the street in New Haven, Sally’s. Then the pizza renaissance happened. America discovered days-long dough fermentation, Italian double-zero flour, hand-made charcuterie toppings, the freshest of homemade cheeses. They took trips to Naples and wrote volumes on the science and art of “real” pizza. Continue reading

The Shack, Groton CT

REVIEW

When The Shack opened in East Lyme in 1989, it was practically a shack, albeit a shack that quickly became known for the quality of its breakfasts. Thirty years have come and gone, and there are now two additional Shacks not all that far from the original, in Waterford and Groton, and that first Shack has found a new, more modern home in East Lyme. They’ve also expanded their hours, now serving all three meals (except on Sundays, when it’s still breakfast only). Continue reading

David’s Place, Oakdale CT

REVIEW

We love coastal drive-in restaurants, even more than we love diners. There’s something about dining on fried seafood and inhaling the inimitable aroma of onions and potatoes and vaporized cooking oil mixed with the salt air that gets our juices flowing. If we’ve just spent the day in the sun, within sight and sound of the water, it doesn’t even matter if the drive-in is ten miles inland, as David’s Place of Oakdale, CT is. Our memories supply the salt air. Continue reading

Checking in at: Holmberg Winery, Gales Ferry CT

Holmberg Orchards was started in the late 19th century by Swedish immigrants. The operation is still in the family, run by the third and fourth generations. It’s that fourth generation, Russell, who has introduced fermentation to the family business. They’ve planted grapes and produce both traditional wines and fruit wines from the Holmberg orchard. Those fruit wines are notable for two reasons: they are actually made from the juice of fruit (not grape wine flavored with fruit “essences”), and they have a clear and clean taste of the fruit from which they are made. We find them particularly drinkable and enjoyable, in a country wine sort of way. Continue reading

Checking in at: Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough, Noank CT

We had a gorgeous, sunny day for our kind-of-annual visit to Abbott’s on the eastern Connecticut shore. There was once a time, many years ago, when we were able to say that we’d tried everything on Abbott’s menu. No more; they continue to add to their offerings. There’s a steamed artichoke, bowls of pasta, ribs… presumably for fish-frowners dragged here against their will. We sampled the lobster deviled eggs for the first time today: they are fine, the eggs themselves are a little sweet in a Miracle Whip kind of way, and the lobster is totally unnecessary. Which we say about lobster mac ‘n’ cheese as well. Continue reading

Paul’s Pasta Shop, Groton CT

REVIEW

We live in a part of the country where casual Italian restaurants are more common than fast-food restaurants, so you might figure it’d take a lot just to get us to walk through the doors of an Italian eatery when we travel, not to mention come away impressed. But impressed we were with Paul’s Pasta Shop of Groton, which would have fit in quite nicely with the rest of the old-time joints back in our old NJ Italian neighborhood (when it was still an Italian neighborhood). Continue reading

Smakosh Restaurant, Uncasville CT

REVIEW

The name of the restaurant is Smakosh, which doesn’t sound familiar to American ears. Is it someone’s name? What ethnicity is it? Turns out that it’s a Polish word for gourmet, and if you figured that out ahead of time you might assume that Smakosh is a Polish restaurant. There are a smattering of Polish dishes on the menu, although most of the offerings are straight-ahead American breakfast and lunch foods like Benedicts, western omelettes, burgers, and tuna salad. It’s those Polish dishes, however, that brought us here, as well as the fact that they, like us, consider pierogi a more than suitable breakfast option. Continue reading

Buttonwood Farm, Griswold CT

REVIEW

We’d heard good things about the ice cream at Buttonwood Farm, but it was a dreary, drizzly evening as we motored through the rural Connecticut countryside. Surely we’d be their only customers when we arrived, if they were even still open. Perhaps on this most uninviting day for ice cream they decided to close up early. Turning in to Buttonwood from the country road, we were astonished to see an ice cream stand and parking lot bustling with activity. What were they all here for? Was there some sort of event we were unaware of? Continue reading

Checking in at: Milford Point Brewing, Milford CT

The brewery started last year, and the taproom’s only been open since April. Milford Point is a nano brewery, the term used nowadays to signify a very small scale brewing operation. For most of their first year they gave tastings, filled growlers, and sold kegs to local bars. Finally, with their tap room, folks can stop by for a fresh pint. They are Milford’s first brewing operation and, only a year later, they are, by our count, one of three Milford breweries. It’s a hot time for brewing! Continue reading

Sift Bake Shop, Mystic CT

REVIEW

We had no idea that the owner of Sift, a bakery smack in the center of all the action in Mystic, made a well-publicized appearance on the Food Network earlier this year (we abandoned the channel many, many years ago). Not that it would have made any difference to us either way – we found ourselves in the area at breakfast time and Sift just looked promising. Continue reading

Senator Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium, Norwich CT

REVIEW

Last time we visited, the home team was the Norwich Navigators, the AA club for the San Francisco Giants, and attendance was dismal. Today, the team is the Connecticut Tigers, a short-season single-A farm team for the Detroit Tigers. That’s very low in the baseball pecking order – for many of these kids this is their first professional baseball experience. It’s pretty amazing to watch: feels like the game consists mostly of walks, strikeouts, and misplays. We say misplays rather than errors because the scorers rarely call anything an error. It’s kind of surprising to see guys play the field much like they do in your pickup softball game. Honestly, though, there were a couple of guys on each team that could clearly field their positions well. Continue reading

Checking in at: These Guys Brewing Company, Norwich CT

These Guys Brewing opened in Norwich in late 2015 and have since earned a reputation for their dining, an unusual accomplishment for a brewpub. We weren’t there to eat, however. We enjoyed a Gen Pop (“hazy, cloudy New England style IPA all Mosaic, easy drinking w/ delightful bitterness”) and a Queen B’s Pale Ale (” deep golden American Pale Ale brewed w/ honey malt & 3 hop varietals”), both well-made, amber-to-orange colored brews. Continue reading

Twisters Ice Cream, Mystic CT

REVIEW

Let us tell you a little story: There is a restaurant in Mystic named Kitchen Little. It was a tiny restaurant with a loyal following, located for decades at 135 Greenmanville Avenue. The land on which Kitchen Little sat was owned by the Mystic Seaport. A few years ago, the Seaport decided to sell off some of its real estate holdings, particularly those that had little relation to its core mission. One of those properties was 135 Greenmanville. Kitchen Little had a next door neighbor, also a restaurant, by the name of Sea View Snack Bar. The owners of Sea View purchased 135 Greenmanville from the Seaport and proceeded, according to Kitchen Little’s owner, to triple the rent, forcing Kitchen Little to move. Continue reading

Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough, Noank CT

REVIEW

Before we’d ever been to Maine, lobster, to us, was rich man’s food found in white tablecloth restaurants. The first few times we went to a Maine lobster pound we laughed at the incongruity of the single-serving bag of potato chips that always accompanies the cooked critter. After dozens of lobster-in-the-rough meals (lobster-in-the-rough being the Maine term for ultra-casual lobster restaurants served out-of-doors, usually at picnic tables near the shore) we now find it impossible to enjoy Homaris americanus anywhere south of the New England-New York border, and certainly not anywhere we wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing shorts and sandals. Continue reading

Snotea Caffe, Groton CT

REVIEW

Ice cream, frozen custard, sherbet, Italian ice, water ice, snow cones, sorbet, New Orleans sno-balls, Hawaiian shave ice, Mexican paletas, Filipino halo-halo… we’d thought we pretty much exhausted the lineup of frozen treats available in the U.S. But there’s been a new player on our shores for the last couple of years, and we finally gave it a try: snow, also known as snow ice or shaved snow. In Taiwan, the birthplace of snow ice, it’s called xue hua bing. Continue reading

Gary Bimonte of Pepe’s Pizza in The VIP Lounge

The VIP Lounge is a weekly Boston Globe interview of a usually D-list celebrity with some passing connection to Boston. The same eight travel-themed questions are asked of each interviewee — Aisle or window? Guilty pleasure when traveling? This week the VIP is Gary Bimonte, one of seven grandchildren of Frank Pepe, founder of the greatest pizzeria in the country, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven, CT. There are now eight Pepe’s pizzeria’s in the northeast, the most recent of which opened, very successfully, in Chestnut Hill mall in Boston. Mr. Bimonte is manager of quality control, popping around to the eight restaurants to ensure the pies are up to New Haven standards. Check out his VIP Lounge interview here.

America’s 32 or 33 Best Pizzerias

Thrillist does this once a year — compiles their rundown of America’s top pizzerias — and they’ve just released their fourth edition. The biggest news has to the absence of Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana of New Haven, CT. They did include Sally’s Apizza, Pepe’s down-the-block and up-for-sale rival, on their list, where they note that Pepe’s was dropped because of their continued expansion and resulting inconsistency. Sally’s the only pizzeria in New Haven to make the cut? And only two from the entire state of Connecticut (the best pizza state in the U.S.)? Continue reading

Shad Derby Festival, Windsor CT, May 21st 2016

Each year in Windsor, CT (a little bit north of Hartford) shad (the state fish of Connecticut) swim up the Connecticut and Farmington Rivers to lay their eggs in fresh water (similar to salmon). The people of Windsor observe this biological fact with their own annual event, the springtime Shad Derby Festival. The festival is really a series of sponsored events spread throughout the month of May (this year, from the 1st through the 21st). Some of the events that have already taken place include the Fishing Tournament, the Shad Derby Gala, and the Coronation Ball. Continue reading

Great Fries Are Important, Too

We love top-notch burgers and dogs as much as anyone, and it’s not really going out on a limb to assert that quality French fries, preferably hand-cut from fresh potatoes,  are an equally important factor in the burgers/dogs/fries formula. It’s not that uncommon for food savvy folks to praise the potatoes that come out of McDonald’s fryers, and we’ll concede that they aren’t bad (we don’t find them particularly praise-worthy either) but we’re talking about fried potatoes that can compete in the major leagues, several levels of quality above the fast food chain circuit. Continue reading

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