Need some fresh air? You’re just a zip car ride away from nyc to Connecticut. In just an hour you can be immersed in greenery and detached from the busyness of the city. I think the reason I’ve survived my 10+ years living in nyc is my good fortune to be able to escape to CT to visit family and friends. Here are a few places I’ve been this spring that may be of interest this summer.
One of my best kept secrets for over 20 years for an authentic gastronomic get away. I discovered Sharpe Hill when my mom retired to the”Quiet Corner” of NE CT. It’s a naturally stunning area where you can drive aimlessly in the back country to find working dairy farms and all kinds of classic antique and book stores. Sharpe Hill is tucked away in Pomfret, a historic town where thankfully, time has stood still. What makes this place so special is the secluded setting, outdoor seating in their herb garden, and a thoughtful display of antiques from all over New England and Europe (where the owners originally found their inspiration for cooking and winemaking). I’ve tasted a lot of their award winning wines over the years, and what I keep coming back to is the cabernet franc (a bold, Bordeaux style Claret wine made entirely from their Cabernet Franc grapes), the Reserve Chardonnay (a lovely crisp and dry Burgundian style, bright and clean on the palate with a distinctive mineral character, a blend of 100% estate grown Chardonnay and Melon de Bourgogne grapes) and the Select Late Harvest (made entirely from estate grown, handpicked botrytised Vingnoles- with aromas of gorgeous honey, peaches and apricots and a nicely balanced level of acidity). Also intriguing is the St. Croix (A full bodied, estate bottle dry red made entirely from their St. Croix grapes, indigenous to Minnesota but grown on the estate). The wonderful thing about Sharpe Hill is that the food is as good as the wine. They have classic Lamb Chops and Filet Mignon but my favorite dishes go Creole…the Spicy Jamican Chicken served over rice with grilled bananas and fresh mango chutney and the Shrimp, marinated in a hot Louisiana sauce , wood grilled, served with lemon thyme rice. I’ll be there for sure again at some point this summer, and I’ve learned the insider trick that if you want to dine in the garden next month, make ressies now.
While you’re in the area, visit Roseland Cottage. A National Historic Landmark, it is a Victorian estate sold by the Bowen family to the town of Woodstock on the condition that it be kept hot pink! I have been visiting the “pink house” since my college days at nearby UCONN. The gardens are serene and there are all kind of curiosities on the grounds. According to Historic New England,, the private bowling alley at Roseland Cottage is the oldest surviving indoor alley in the country. It was built on one of the outbuildings at the same time the house was constructed in 1846. The Bowens held grand Fourth of July parties for twenty-five years at Roseland Cottage. Hundreds of guests were invited including three United States presidents, (Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, and Rutherford B. Hayes). Eventually these events grew so large that Bowen developed an elegant public park to host his July 4th celebrations, with gilded fountains, a boathouse, and private bungalows. The park, named Roseland Park, was first opened in 1876 and in accordance with Bowen’s will is still open to the public today.
On your way back to the city, pay a visit to Holbrook Farm in West Redding and say hello to John and Lynn (friends of my relatives for years). They make the best home made peanut butter and bread & butter bell-jar pickles around.
And finally, if you are in the area for a while, why not learn some Italian with lovely Lee DeMilo at Lingua E Cucina in Silvermine. Lee was gracious enough to invite me to her home this spring for an absolutely authentic Italian experience. Every dish was tutto tutto buono and her home a historic treasure.