Category Archives: Connecticut

Saybrook Point Inn & Spa Opens Tall Tales

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Saybrook Point Inn & Spa recently opened Tall Tales, at right. It’s next to Three Stories.

Two years ago, I was invited to visit Saybrook Point Inn & Spa and take a tour of the main property and its then latest addition, a luxury guesthouse named Three Stories. This past weekend, I went back to the inn to stay at a new and exquisite set of accommodations known as Tall Tales.

Opened in February 2016, Tall Tales is an elegant yet private Italianate-style guesthouse right next door to Three Stories. Like its neighbor, Tall Tales gives off the feeling of staying at a quaint bed and breakfast inn overlooking the Connecticut River.

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Tall Tales contains six rooms – two on each level sharing a common area – with each named after real-life individuals with significant ties to Old Saybrook. Each room also is decorated in different color schemes and furniture to reflect the character of their namesake. My room is called the Barbara Maynard, who is considered to the “Town Mother” of Old Saybrook for her involvement as a former First Selectman and Registrar of Voters.

If Barbara saw her room, I think she would be proud.

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On the second floor of Tall Tales, the Barbara Maynard room contains a private seating area off of the main bedroom. Not that this area takes away from the bedroom. My bedroom has an electric fireplace, with an adjacent balcony. With a four-poster, king-size bed, the fine linens reflect a Victorian period look yet feel comfortable for a present-day guest.

Its full bath contains classic fixtures, with a walk-in shower with a seat in place of a tub. Plus Tall Tales has Wi-Fi available in these rooms. The second floor also features a billiards room. On the first floor, there is a small kitchen area and an open-floor plan dining room where guests can grab a muffin or piece of fruit or use a Keurig to make instant coffee.

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Parking is available behind Tall Tales and Three Stories. Both guesthouses are located across from the main inn. For dining, the main inn’s restaurant, Fresh Salt, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus a weekend brunch. Its menus are seasonal and promote New England’s agriculture. The inn’s Sanno Spa features 11 treatment rooms and services such as facials, massages, and manicures and pedicures. Amenities include indoor and outdoor pools, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a ballroom and event spaces, and a marina that can accommodate vessels up to roughly 200 feet in length.

Editor’s Note: My stay at the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa was comped but the opinions expressed in this piece are entirely my own.

 

A Weekend in New Haven, Connecticut

photo 2(46)New Haven, Connecticut has always been a city of innovation: the lollipop, hamburger, phone book, and first public tree planting. Since the 1990s, the city’s downtown area been undergoing a revitalization of older buildings being repurposed into shops, restaurants, and bars. Yet, at the same time, New Haven has keeping up its history as a place for higher learning and culture.

And the best part is that you can see a lot of it on foot.

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For a work assignment with Info New Haven, I spent the weekend in New Haven during the 20th annual International Festival of Arts and Ideas. Held every June, this festival is a roughly two-week event of exhibits, lectures, and musical and artistic performances that take over just about every public space, gallery or theater venue in and around New Haven. Along with offering much discussion and insights on the arts, the nice thing about this festival is that 80 percent of these events are free. 01-JSSULMO3Le3QwM3kdrMsQao28BpAN2Q6YwsBo3LU For me, highlights included the evocative performance artist Taylor Mac and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darlene Love. I also got to see “Sinatra: An American Icon.” a temporary photo exhibit on the crooner’s legacy – he’s been to New Haven too – at the Yale School of Art. YQDi9QzCNdhCqidkf3rcZWnejjBiSUl1eb0hSQNCHEQ Culture is a year-round find in downtown New Haven. First there’s the Shubert Theatre, where many great long-running Broadway shows were first introduced. “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and a musical that would be renamed “Oklahoma!” made their debuts there. And then Yale Repertory Theatre stages well-established plays and world premiere productions.

As for art, pay a visit to the Yale University Art Gallery, which houses modern pieces like Rothkos, Pollocks and Picassos, sculptures, antiquities, and decorative pieces. And admissions is free. Another place to visit is the Yale Center for British Art. Although it’s closed until spring 2016 because of conservation project, keep it mind as it holds quite a collection of British art outside of the United Kingdom. photo 3(35) Culture aside, New Haven might not be thought of as a college town but Yale University has been a fixture in New Haven since the 1700s. The public can visit the campus through private tours led by undergraduates, who give a history lesson about this Ivy league institution that has its surprising facts. For example, I learned that Yale’s dorms are called colleges and about a tradition involving rubbing the left foot of the statue of a former president for good luck.

While exploring New Haven, consider rewarding your appetite. One way to get familiar with New Haven’s restaurant scene is through Taste of New Haven, a food/drink tour company. Founder and New Haven native Colin Caplan took my group around on a tour of six diverse restaurants. photo 4(27)  photo 3(34) Michele Herrmann's photo for MB Class

Cubanos

Our stops included:

Meat & Co., an artisan sandwich shop in New Haven’s Ninth Square Historic District. It’s the innovative and rotating combos that make their sandwiches interesting and tasty.

Ordinary, a dark-paneled restaurant and lounge. This place started off as a Colonial tavern (in those days called an ordinary because alcohol could be sold there) and later was the Hotel Taft with famous guests including Babe Ruth and Hollywood greats like Katherine Hepburn and Marlon Brando stopped in. The Ordinary is also quite a nightspot, and cocktails like “Cricket Hill Smash” fit the bill.

Miya’s Sushi, a three-decade, family-owned restaurant that implements environmental practices in sushi making by using sustainable seafood. Miya’s has even gone a step further in creating a menu of dishes made with invasive species (non-native plants or fish).

Soul de Cuba, a home-style café focusing on Afro-Cuban culture. There’s a sense of family here, as photos of the employees’ relatives grace the walls, along with great cubanos and fresh mojitos. photo 3(33) Pizza is New Haven’s signature dish brought over by Italian immigrants and first served in bakeries. The city’s most recognized pizzeria is Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, or mainly known as Pepe’s, a 90-year-old “apizza” establishment with a history of using coal-fired ovens to bake its thin crust pies. To get a taste of New Haven pizza, Caplan took us to Bar, a restaurant/nightclub with a brewery that serves a unique white pie with a mashed potato and bacon topping. Two other standouts have their respective legacies. Louis Lunch Louis’ Lunch has been credited as the birthplace of the American hamburger. Today, this continuously family-owned place still uses cast iron grills from 1898 to cook freshly made burgers — with no need for ketchup. And don’t ask for it. Claire’s Corner Copia serves vegan and gluten-free orders extending to sandwiches, salads, breakfast orders, Mexican entrees, smoothies and desserts.

Next to Claire’s, Basta dishes authentic Italian with a modern twist. Start off with the Sicilian Calamari, Farfalle Funghi or Farfalle di Stagione Con Fagoli. For dessert, definitely get their coconut chocolate bites or tiramisu.

For overnight stays in New Haven, here are two suggestions. First, the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale is not even 10 minutes from Union Station, and close by the New Haven Green. Its John Davenport’s restaurant has sky views of the city and serves regional cuisine with breakfast/buffet, brunch, lunch and dinner options. And The Study at Yale has a studious feel from bookshelves and reading chairs in its lobby area and guestrooms. Its farm-to-table Heirloom Restaurant incorporates regional and artisan food finds in Connecticut and the surrounding New England region.

Disclosure: My time in New Haven was as a guest of INFONewHaven, based on an itinerary they provided.

Seeing and Staying in Old Saybrook, Connecticut

Having grown up in Connecticut, I’m embarrassed to say that most of what I’ve seen of my state’s coastal region is by driving along our portion of I-95. But my latest work assignment was to change that.

Recently, I drove up the interstate but this time I headed directly to the town of Old Saybrook. For a three-day visit, I was sent to stay at the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa, located right where the mouth of the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound meet. The back of main inn is also next to the Saybrook Point Marina, so waterfront views are clearly all around.

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Heading back inside, I got to scope out some of the main inn’s guestrooms (more than 82) which have fine furnishings that all reflect the simple elegance of country living decor. And then there are two outside accommodations that have their distinct setups. The first place is the Lighthouse Suite; yes, an actual lighthouse.  Often in mind for couples or newlyweds, the lighthouse is set away from the main property and it’s set up as a studio apartment.

photo(153)photo(159)Or, guests can go to where I was staying instead. Across the street from the main property, Three Stories is the inn’s renovated guesthouse (originally a single family home built in 1892) that opened in summer 2014. It instantly reminded me of a bed and breakfast when I walked in. On the main floor, there’s a living room and a breakfast area for grabbing a cup of coffee and a snack. On the lower level, there is a pool table and private lounge for hanging out (a worker jokingly called this area “a man cave”).

photo(157)photo-13photo 2photo 3-2Three Stories gets its name from dedicating its guestrooms to a number of important Old Saybrook residents. Mine was for Ann Petry, an African-American author. There is also a room for Katharine Houghton Hepburn, the mother of actress Katharine Hepburn and a leading suffragette. And one for Anna Louise James, who was a history-maker on her own right: she was one of the first women and African-American pharmacists in the United States (and yes, she ran a local pharmacy). Three Stories’ original owner and railroad engineer William Vars has one, too.

photo 1-2 photo(158)As a family-owned luxury inn, amenities include indoor and outdoor saltwater pools, a state-of-the-art fitness center and a full-service European spa called Sanno. For my spa visit, I had a Harvest Organic Facial, which featured Eminence skincare products made with pumpkin, yam or red currant. It was a very fall-inspired facial. The scents – and the treatment – were invigorating.

With dining, the inn’s restaurant, Fresh Salt, is about showing off New England’s culinary wonders. Menus are kept to what’s seasonally available and and incorporate sustainably grown and raised ingredients. Seafood is a big deal in this region of the United States, so it definitely has its place. And being from here, I felt I had to have it for dinner, so I ordered a combination platter of Connecticut oysters and scallops with Rhode Island calamari. It was quite good.

photo-15Overall, Old Saybrook makes for a nice weekend getaway, perhaps for a couple celebrating an anniversary or getting engaged. Families, too, will enjoy  You can get to there by rail (both with Amtrak and Metro North) or car. It’s also nice to see the town on two wheels. Bring a bike with you. If you don’t have one, Saybrook Point Inn & Spa offers free bike rentals. Helmets are included and you get a map of the area.

photo 1photo 4Starting from the inn, there are two routes you can take. I started with the shorter one, about a 3-mile or so trek over the Causeway to Fenwick, an adjacent borough and a summer colony. Katharine Hepburn lived in a beachside house here until her passing in 2003 and I stopped to take a quick look from afar.

Or you could also take the 10-mile loop ride up to Main Street. You will make your way to Old Saybrook’s downtown area lined with shops and restaurants as well as historic homes and an arts center/movie theater named for Katharine. For meals, I recommend Liv’s Oyster Bar, which has a nice happy hour with an the oyster of the day special, and Paperback Cafe, for breakfast and lunch.

photo 1(3)photo 1(2)photo 3(2)Nature lovers should head over to Fort Saybrook Monument Park, a 17-acre park right across from the main inn. You can get a nice panoramic view of the Connecticut and learn more about Old Saybrook’s history through storyboard displays and a bird sanctuary.

And let’s not forget about spending time on the water. Through one package, Saybrook Point Inn & Spa provides a leisurely sunset cruise aboard the Real Escape, a 56-foot private yacht that departs directly from the Saybrook Point Marina. The marina also offers charters for fishing, day cruisers, and groups and can accommodate seasonal boaters, the marina accommodates vessels from 13 feet to 130 feet.

But then, taking in the scenery in Old Saybrook is just as great.

Editor’s Note: My lodging, meals and spa treatment at the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa were comped but the opinions expressed in this piece are entirely my own. I paid for any meals I had outside of the inn.

 

 

Claire’s Corner Copia: A Vegetarian Delight

Lately I’ve been more open to trying vegetarian dishes. So when I got invited by Visit Connecticut to have brunch at a well-respected vegetarian restaurant in my home state, I couldn’t pass them up.

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Over the years, I had heard a lot about Claire’s Corner Copia, a fixture in downtown New Haven for almost 40 years. Last Saturday, as part of Connecticut’s Open House Day, I joined other bloggers to dine at this cozy and colorful eatery on Chapel Street, near Yale.

Claire’s Corner Copia was founded in 1975 by Claire Criscuolo, with her husband Frank Criscuolo, based on the couple’s shared belief in the importance of healthy eating. Each also grew up in a family of bakers and cooks. Still today, Claire owns her “corner copia,” which has a quite a large menu of entrees, soups, salads, smoothies and desserts with vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free ingredients.

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Lines–and waits that come along with them–can happen here quite a bit, but my group lucked out. I ordered a roasted eggplant flat bread pizza with organic baby spinach, mozzarella and garlic oil on a whole wheat tortilla. Other guests chose different salads, quiche and other pizzas with pesto or as a caprese (which the second one was great). I thought my pizza was pretty good. I’m used to picking up slices, but with this version I had to end up using my knife and fork. Next time, I would probably try a salad or sandwich instead.

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The desserts at Claire’s are really visually appealing. Treats are an eclectic mix. They include vegan chocolate cupcakes  (which I definitely recommend), a rainbow colored assortment of frosted cupcakes, as well as cakes such as carrot cake, a Lithuanian coffee cake, and a lavender cake (another good choice; I bought a slice to take home). There’s an assortment of cookies too.

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Overall, meal portions are well sized, and prices reflect what you find in New Haven. Also note: If you eat in, your food is brought to you by servers, but you’re the one that has to bus your finished plates and utensils. And if you know New Haven, parking can get a bit hairy. I recommend using the parking garage on Crown Street, and then take the short walk over to Claire’s.

In all, Claire’s is worth a visit. Leave room for dessert.

Editor’s note: I was invited to a brunch at Claire’s Corner Copia held on behalf of Visit Connecticut, in which all the attendees’ meals were comped.

Chocolate Expo Comes to Connecticut

Like chocolate? Great. Live in or near Connecticut? Even better. The Chocolate World Expo is bringing its sweet self to the Nutmeg State on Sunday, January 26, right at The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk.

Traveling around the New York’s Greater Metro area, this tasty show offers all kinds of delights made by local and regional vendors. Plus, there will be free samplings. Need I say more?

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Source: Chocolate World Expo

Chocolate will come in just about any shape or form. There are common choices like cakes and candies and dipped fruits and pretzels to even more unique options like chocolate covered bacon. And besides gourmet chocolate, vendors also might feature bath products, baked goods and specialty foods.

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Source: Chocolate World Expo

At The Maritime Aquarium, booths will be set up throughout its galleries, on both the venue’s upper and lower levels. While getting a taste of different delectables, visitors can check out marine life displays ranging from jellyfish to seals.

Plus, the cost of admission to the expo includes admission to the Aquarium. Just make sure your taste buds are ready. And definitely your wallet!

Hours for the Chocolate World Expo on January 26 are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is $15 adults, $10 children ages 3–12. The Martitime Aquarium is located at 10 North Water Street, in Norwalk’s SoNo district.

Go on a Dishcrawl of SoNo, Connecticut

Imagine a pub crawl that centers on eating instead of drinking. That’s the main course for Dishcrawl, a digital start up founded in 2010 in San Francisco that schedules specialty food experiences. These nationwide foodie crawls are currently being served in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and even Connecticut’s Fairfield County region.

400831_10151055106943099_179744370_nIn Fairfield County, a Dishcrawl around South Norwalk is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 7 p.m. Nicknamed “SoNo,” this section of the City of Norwalk has a happening dining and nightlife scene.

“The purpose of this communal gathering is to bring people together over food and to highlight the best restaurants in the area,” said Jesse Leeds-Grant, Dishcrawl’s Fairfield County ambassador. This evening of food and footsteps will be quite filling.

general2In setting up the itineraries for all of Dishcrawl Fairfield County, Leeds-Grant handles every task with preparations, from selecting the locations to initiating customized menus.

For each Dishcrawl, Leeds-Grant picks four restaurants to go to and dine in. “I try to choose restaurants that embrace the community and have a common love of the ‘foodie scene.’”

Leeds-Grant also is the guide for each crawl, leading guests from one establishment to the other.

IMG_9836Dishcrawl Fairfield County had its inaugural event in May, crawling along Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich. The Fairfield County happenings take place about once a month. Other Dishcrawls have jaunted through Old Greenwich, Stamford, and New Canaan.

Along with varying locations, each Dishcrawl involves different tastes. Once the participating restaurants are set, Leeds-Grant works with owners and chefs to create a specialty menu with unique flavors.

Tickets for the November 20 Fairfield County Dishcrawl in SoNo are priced at $45 each. Hurry; they go fast. They can be purchased at http://dishcrawl.com/sono/.

Connecticut PopShop Market Springs up in Fairfield

If a pop-up shop can make a business stand out, why not add in a few more merchants and turn the single venue into a one-stop shop?

Under a year ago, three stylish professionals from Fairfield, Connecticut decided to do just that by launching the PopShop Market. And the latest market will “pop up” in Fairfield this Saturday, October 5, at the Fairfield Theatre Company.

IMG_4793For their “pop up,” founders Andrea Espach (a graphic designer), Ashley Kane (a fashionista) and Kelly Scinto (an event planner) drew inspiration from open-air marketplaces in cities like London and Brooklyn. In keeping with the event’s “pop up” concept, the location is kept a secret until about a week or so before the scheduled date.

“The location is chosen based on where we feel the market’s theme would be represented best,” explained Scinto. For example, a “Back to School” inspired market happened at Yale in New Haven. This month’s PopShop Market is returning to Fairfield Theatre Company, following its stint there this past June.

IMG_4799Along with finalizing the site, Scinto and her business partners hold an equal say in who and what’s going in the marketplace. The showcase may be set up like a flea market yet with goods one might find at a trunk show.

Working in unison, all three ladies act as curators in selecting participating vendors by thoroughly doing their homework. They scour blogs and browse through Etsy shops to select locally-produced finds. Luckily for them, their work pile appears to be going down, as Scinto mentioned more vendors are now reaching out to them to inquire about future slots.

For Saturday’s PopShop Market, 50 sellers will tout antique and repurposed furniture, artwork, beauty products, jewelry, and clothing, all produced by artists, designers or merchants. To keep the younger set of shoppers busy, Hands on Pottery will hold a complimentary pottery painting station.

As browsers and buyers build up their appetites, the event will have a culinary mix of menu offerings. Edible options will include yes, pop-up restaurants. A collection of local-based food trucks will dish out mealtime servings throughout the day. For breakfast, Sugar and Olives in Norwalk, Connecticut will offer some tasty choices, and Deadly Grounds Coffee will be selling their wicked java. As the day goes on, Walrus + Carpenter, from neighboring Bridgeport, will be manning the “BarCar,” serving up signature cocktails and local craft beers. A mini-farmer’s market is also planned.

Admission to Saturday’s PopShop Market is free. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fairfield Theatre Company is located at 70 Sanford Street, off of the Post Road section of downtown Fairfield. Visit http://popshopmarket.com. Try to make it down or, if not, have to wait until the next one comes up.