The Basque Beignet

Sonhos, beignets, pet de nonne — whatever you want to call them, well-made they are ethereally light, and addictive to eat. The batter is a pȃte à choux — a versatile egg and flour preparation that takes very little effort and can also be baked into an éclair, a cream puff or a savory gougère.  My first experience making choux was from a ragged copy of Larousse Gatronomique in a tiny shotgun kitchen in Hoboken in the early 1980s. At the time, Larousse was like an invitation into another world, that I had only glimpsed as a child in New York

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The True Ease of Making Soufflé

When you get down to basics, soufflés really are a very straight-forward preparation. A simple béchamel, the addition of savory or sweet ingredients to the base and stiffly-beaten egg whites — and Jacques Pepin subverts even that notion with his Maman’s  Soufflé , which simply beats whole eggs into the mix. The recipes and techniques are endless and a bit overwhelming when trying to choose, and that, ultimately, is a great thing.  Back in 2000, New York Times Food editor, Amanda Hesser, wrote a wonderfully comprehensive article, The Modern Soufflé: Bastion of Strength. She goes into terrific detail demystifying the

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Spacecat Brewing Opens in SoNo

NORWALK – There’s a new microbrewery in town. Spacecat Brewing, which had its grand opening on Friday, is now serving craft beer made in-house at its Chestnut St. location, by owner James Bloom, operations manager Jeff Dunn and head brewer Roger Krackow, formerly of Two Roads Brewing in Stratford. High vaulted ceilings and many-windowed walls – all throwbacks to when the space was the main factory of the J. & J. mill – punctuate the newly-renovated space. Brewing tanks and kettles visually star, set up behind the bar where visitors can watch staff work their magic while  they sip on

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The Essex moves to Old Saybrook, as Colt Taylor Looks Ahead

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OLD SAYBROOK — Chef Colt Taylor received approval from the Zoning Commission on Monday to relocate his flagship restaurant, The Essex, to 247 Main St. in Old Saybrook, the site of a former bakery.  The Zoning Commission unanimously approved a special exception for a restaurant with 42 indoor seats in the building’s 1,500-square foot first-floor space, as well as up to 20 outdoor seats. The commission approved the conversion of the building’s second floor from office space to two 700-square-foot accessory apartments on March 15.  Taylor said he “fell in love” with moving the restaurant across from the Katharine Hepburn Cultural

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David Spencer Pitches Beaujolais

It’s a cool fall day in Mystic, it’s raining, and I am sitting across a table from David Spencer – half of the husband-and-wife partnership, with Pamela Lynn, that opened Spencer & Lynn about a year ago.  I’m here to talk about fall wine, but more often than not it seems that our conversation pivots instead around people. “So, what we do is something that I think is a trend in New York, and a trend in the wine world right now — but it’s not a trend for us, it’s what we are passionate about – is sell wine

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A Roll, a Roll, a Sausage Roll!

Set in 1750, in the fictitious German Grand Duchy of Pfennig-Halbpfennig, Gilbert and Sullivan’s conspirators in the comic opera The Grand Duke, ate sausage rolls as a secret sign of their collusion against the parsimonious Duke Rudolph.   You must eat a sausage-roll, a sausage roll, A roll, a roll, a roll, a roll, a roll, a sausage roll!A roll, a roll, a sausage roll! A sausage roll! And you must! For that extra sheet of puff pastry, on a busy weekday, Gilbert and Sullivan conspirator or not, these are perfect. A 30 minute stove top sauté — a mirepoix of

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Start Your Christmas Cake Now!

Last week we unwrapped and cut open a Christmas cake, dark like mahogany, tall as a hat block, one we had tucked away on an upper shelf in a tin since last November, unsure whether a summer of neglect had made a hash of it. For the first six or eight months, each week, we had dutifully peeled back parchment paper, flipped and moistened the cake with a tablespoon or two of brandy – a recipe we adapted from Jane Grigson’s English Food – a chore we abandoned around mid-July. It was perfect. With three months until the end of

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The Rustic Apple Tart

There is little easier, more sophisticated or a delicious than this basic apple tart. And with apple season at hand, here’s a sweet that is nearly foolproof and can be made in 20 minutes, from rolling out thawed frozen dough, slicing apples, sprinkling sugar and dotting butter–it’s in the oven, done. At Scott’s Yankee on the Post Road in East Lyme, I picked up a half peck of Honey Crisp apples, a can’t-miss variety that’s in season in September, but most any other pie apple will do. The great thing about this recipe is that it can be adapted to

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Nana’s… a Destination Doughnut

It’s been twenty years, at least, since I’ve had a doughnut as good as the cinnamon sugar sourdough at Nana’s Bakery & Pizza in Mystic. Made to order and served still too hot to eat in cinnamon sugar, chocolate, cardamom-Espresso or cacio e pepe, it might be the perfect way to spend a Sunday morning in Connecticut now that the tourist crowds have slackened off.  The 32 Williams St. waterfront location opens at 7 a.m., except on Wednesdays —  I wouldn’t blame you if you left off here and just drove over and tried one. What makes a doughnut that

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Joel and Lani Gargano Plan Expansion into Old Saybrook, Table22 Partnership

Joel and Lani Gargano, co-owners of Chester’s Grano Arso, are opening a new Italian marketplace and cafe in Old Saybrook early next year.  Located at 75 Main Street, Gargano Pasta & Italian Market will offer pastries, coffee, cured meats, cheeses, wine, beer, and fresh pasta, along with imported specialty products.  Visitors will be able to watch chefs make pasta from scratch and the restaurant will serve dishes like cacio e pepe, spaghetti pomodoro and bucatini all amatriciana.  “We wanted something that was just a cut above the rest,” Chef Joel Gargano said. “We want guests to be able to purchase

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Local Cheese and Beer Featured at Farm Dinner

COLCHESTER — A 5-course farm-to-table dinner featuring beer from Hop Culture Farms, cheese from Cato Corner Farm, with dishes using each cheese by Chef Tim Marotto from Vintage in Colchester will be held on August 18.  For each course, diners will sample each cheese on its own — paired with a beer — and then taste a dish that includes that cheese, said Heather Wilson, co-owner of Hop Culture Farms and Brewery, at 144 Cato Corner Road in Colchester. “Cato Corner and I have done collaborations in the past where we’ve paired beer and cheese, but because Tim is such a

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Taking in the Food Trucks and Fresh Air at Long Wharf

NEW HAVEN – I leave my car on a gray Saturday at Long Wharf and head to the water. It’s low tide, and a white egret presides over the sandbar — not a typical beach day, but a family I meet there has come for the fresh air. “Are the food trucks a draw?” I ask. They reply enthusiastically. They are hoping to check out the Caribbean Pizza truck. I make a note to do the same. I stop first at La Chalupa, where I ask María Corona what everyone who comes to her truck should try. “As we are

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Six Cones, Two Flavors: Taste-testing Ice Cream around South-central Connecticut

On one of the hottest June days in the state’s history, CT Examiner visited six of south-central Connecticut’s most celebrated homemade ice cream shops to beat the heat.  Walnut Beach Creamery, Milford  Steps from the sandy Walnut Beach in Milford, the single-batch Walnut Beach Creamery serves creative, refreshing flavors perfect for cooling down after a day relaxing by the sea. From baklava, ginger, and pistachio to honey vanilla and thai rice pudding, the shop thinks out of the box for savory, subtle flavors that somehow just work.  We ordered a waffle cone with two flavors: lavender and fig, and berry

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Cocotte at James Pharmacy to Offer Gelato, Sweets and French Cooking

OLD SAYBROOK — Lovers of gelato and pastry lined up for the soft opening of Cocotte French Cuisine and Desserts, which opened its doors at 2 p.m. on Friday in the James Pharmacy building at 323 Main Street. Co-owner Isabelle De Francesco said people have been knocking on the door for the last two months.  “They had two questions — when do you open, and, do you have gelato?” she said.  Besides a selection of 10 or more gelato flavors, De Francesco and her husband, chef Jeffrey De Francesco, are featuring a menu of pastries for summer — brioche, croissant,

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Consider the Shrimp Roll

One month after Gov. Ned Lamont eliminated nearly all pandemic-related restrictions on businesses, two thirds of Connecticut residents are at least partially vaccinated and COVID cases are lower than ever. Demand for dining out, restaurant owners say, is higher than ever. Warm weather and the beginning of a return to normalcy should mean that Connecticut’s restaurants are having an incredible summer. But restaurant owners are at a breaking point.  Margaret Colangelo, owner of the Po Cafe in Litchfield County, said she’s broken down in tears multiple times talking to customers, fielding their complaints about long wait times and missing menu

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Tacos al Pastor Stand Out at Middletown Food Truck Merengue

In the 1990s, Pedro Ramirez had a summer barbecue truck on Main Street in Hartford. When the building sold where he rented space, he ran a coffee shop in West Haven. And when Ramirez couldn’t find any of the food he liked to eat in Middletown, he and his family decided to open a food truck. “I just wanted to give something to the area. Middletown, Portland, Cromwell, Berlin, down to Old Saybrook, and there’s no Hispanic restaurants,” Ramirez said. “Sometimes I want a mofongo. You gotta go to Hartford, you gotta go to New Britain, Meriden. I just want

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Deep River Ice — Ice Cream and Italian Ice Opening in Early July

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Chelsea Fremut said she and her fiance David McDonald love Italian ice, and they wanted to share it with Deep River. And just in time for the summer heat, they are opening Deep River Ice – a new ice cream and Italian ice stand on Main Street. “There’s not really much else anywhere local, the closest italian ice is in Middletown or New Haven,” Fremut said. “We want to enjoy the community that I grew up in and see the kids enjoy it.” The italian ice is coming from Micalizzi’s in Bridgeport, where McDonald grew up and became friends with

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City Dock Opens at Custom House Pier in New London

NEW LONDON — Frank Maratta, owner of the new City Dock Restaurant/Oyster Bar, donned his sunglasses and sat down at a two-top not far from the enormous dark blue shipping containers where customers were ordering food and drinks. It was Wednesday afternoon after the restaurant’s soft opening on Saturday.  “I feel like an olympic hurdle jumper — there were so many hurdles. It’s been three years of going through the process,” he said.  Back in 2018, Maratta began to talk the city about leasing space on Custom House Pier for a restaurant made up of portable shipping containers that could

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Popular Hadlyme Spot Begins Serving Red and White Pizzas

Hadlyme Country Market co-owner Lisa Bakoledis was behind the counter on Tuesday serving up white and red pizzas for the first time to a lunchtime crowd at her popular shop at the turnoff to the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry. She will be making fresh pies from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (to pickup by 6) leaning on a tomato sauce Bakoledis says was borrowed from her grandfather. The new two-deck ventless pizza ovens in the 1905-era country store are set against a striking new mural backdrop by Tom Rose, a well-known decorative painter and owner of Black Whale Antiques. No word on

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Halls Road Project to Feature Local Produce, Lupo and Red Hen Chef

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OLD LYME —The little yellow house at 96 Halls Road — once a plant nursery, vacant for almost a decade — may soon become Long River Local, a retail food shop featuring local farm produce, prepared foods, sandwiches, salads and coffee.  “We want to connect chefs to farmers to consumers,” said Walker Potts, proprietor of Long River Farm in Old Lyme, who will supply produce to the new shop.  Local chef Shelley DeProto, of the former Red Hen in Old Saybrook and Lupo in Chester, has applied for a special exception change of use from retail to food service for

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Janine Sacco Talks Spring Wines with CT Examiner

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The arrival of invites to picnics and early summer parties reminds me that in spite of the cool spring weather, and the lingering COVID, it is already early May, when I like to buy a case or two of wine to have on hand for company. Nothing rich or particularly pricey. I’m looking for wine that pairs well with food, but doesn’t require it, on the balance more fun than cerebral — mainly whites, a couple of rosés, a light red, a sparkler — because they are joyful and versatile — but I want one that I wouldn’t feel guilty

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Spot-On Cooking at The Shipwright’s Daughter in Mystic

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MYSTIC — The kitchen was in a groove on a recent Thursday night turning out dish after dish — small and large, across a tightly-woven menu — spot-on. Roast chicken, potatoes, salt, jus, baby lettuce. Roasted maitake mushroom, cashew cream, spicy oil, garlic and ginger chips. A crudo of Stonington scallops. Smoked clam dip and Old Bay chips. It’s the sort of spare, unassuming cooking that reflects confidence in quality ingredients and technique – “convivial cooking,” as the chef David Standridge explained it to me — not cold. The other night he brought his family to eat – and along

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Candied Violets from the Lawn

It’s Spring, it’s Jackie, it’s Venus in a rage, it’s Carême and croquembouche,Crème Violette. Flower-filled cravats of dissolute color, Huysman and Proust in Parma, in lust.It’s Napoleon and Josephine, violets in your hair, violets, violets everywhere. Grab your snips and head out to the lawn — Viola Sororia with freckles or without — as many as you like or have the ambition to dandify. They take far less time than you might imagine. Hang yourself a horizontal wire, and have on hand one beaten egg white, superfine sugar — you can blitz your caster in a cuisinart if you haven’t

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Lyme-area Bakery Turns Out Superlative Focaccia, Sourdough Bread

For quick dinners, lazy weekends, and lunches, at $8 I’m not sure there is a better buy in the lower Connecticut River Valley than the focaccia turned out by Triangle House Bakery. I frankly have to reach back to memories of the bread from Arthur Ave. in the Bronx to recall the last time I’ve enjoyed focaccia this much. Delivered warm to Old Lyme and the immediate area, topped with parsley, shallot, and fontina, served with a simple salad, it’s what you should be having tonight. I expect Jamie Jackson, who opened Triangle House just weeks ago, to be entirely

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Irish Soda Bread… the Quickest of Quick Breads (and One of the Best)

Irish soda bread, like most recipes attributed by Americans to Ireland, has lean bones — in this case just flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. It’s a quick bread of the sort that became popular in the mid-19th century in America with the commercial availability baking soda and when half of all immigrants to the United States came from Ireland, many fleeing the potato famines that cost the lives of perhaps a million people. And like most things American, this austerity is supplemented with modest luxury, here dried fruit and caraway. The dough comes together in a less than 10

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A Better Corned Beef for St. Patrick’s Day

About a dozen days ago I stood across the counter from owner Paul Kozey at Walt’s Food Market in Old Saybrook and asked for a whole flat-cut brisket — the relatively lean portion with the familiar boxy shape separated from the odd-shaped point. Walt’s is a mid-century throwback, a familiar sort of small grocery on the Main Street with the meat counter in the back and groceries up front. A steady traffic of locals buys sandwiches, maybe the best in the area, roasts and prepared food. Kozey stepped into the back and brought out a few choices — none of

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A New England Grain Renaissance

“There is a world of difference between fresh and commercial flour,” said Andy D’Appollonio, the owner of Still River Farm in Coventry. A difference that can best be described with one word, according to D’Appollonio, taste.  “It’s more robust,” D’Appollonio, who started growing wheat on his farm six years ago. “The bread is brown, crusty with large air holes, it’s a big difference.”  D’Appollonio is part of a grain renaissance in New England. Small, grain farms like his have popped up across the Northeast, especially in Maine.  “Bakers want it fresh,” D’Appollonio said. “When you buy local you can ensure

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Angel Food Cake — Putting Flour to the Test

Angel food cake – a simple confection of whipped, sweetened, and stabilized egg whites – is one of the easiest sweets to make at home. Perfect served plain with tea, with a coulis or fresh fruit and whipped cream after supper. Happily, for the season it also a Lenten cake, one of few the cakes baked without the use of any fats — neither oil, or butter, or egg yolk. On Thursday, we baked two cakes to taste test a packet of cloth-bolted White Lammas cake flour that had been ground and mailed to us the prior Tuesday. The flour,

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New York-Style Cheesecake

We’ve been making versions of this New York-style cheesecake for about 20 years, sometimes substituting cream, or crème fraîche or sour cream for mascarpone, sometimes whole eggs and extra eggs, sometimes adding praline powder to batter, or substituting ginger snaps for graham crackers. All of which is to say that the batter-making is quite forgiving and open to invention — but the manner of baking is not. The magic of this recipe is in the burst of heat, followed by the long and slow cook, which gives the cake a uniform texture from center to edge that rarely cracks. The

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7 Sparkling Wines with Personality for the New Year

You know the feeling when you’ve happened upon a bottle of something momentarily extraordinary, and it seems like you’re the only one to even notice? All around you, laughter and conversation, which is really the point of most evenings after all, not the wine, and you wish you could stop everyone and everything so they would pay attention to what they are drinking. But you don’t, because they won’t. And besides what’s the fun in that? And then the moment (and the wine) is gone. That’s the loneliness of crowds — or at least a wine drinkers’ version of it

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