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

More

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,

More

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

More

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

More

Immersive Pop-Up Dining at Hartford’s Goodwin Hotel

HARTFORD — Theater and indoor restaurant dining have, for many, been casualties of the pandemic. With a long winter ahead, Chef Tyler Anderson of Hartford’s historic Goodwin Hotel is hoping to provide a respite. “We have a hotel that’s slow because of COVID and a restaurant that’s slow for the same reason,” Anderson said. “I’ve seen other hotel restaurants turn guest rooms into private dining rooms as a way for people to have a COVID-safe meal indoors. We just wanted to take it to the next level.”  Starting on January 8, guests can visit the Goodwin for an immersive mystery

More

Christmas Candy Near and Far

Just 10 days and an entire box arrived, carefully wrapped, from Le Bonbon au Palais in Paris. The smell was impossibly good as I opened the package to reveal cellophane-wrapped Christmas candies, poppy-scented Coquelicot de Nemours, sugared Perles du midi, fairy-green coins of barley sugar and anise from Vichy, stripe-wrappered trifles from Valenciennes in violet, rose, lemon — it was magical. Aggies, alleys, oilies, commies and catseyes – every marble you might have played or pocketed at one time, however modest, had a secret history of sorts passed down imperfectly, child to child, a pecking order calculus of use, pleasure,

More

Local Cider for the Holiday

MIDDLETOWN — The beauty of the tasting room at Spoke + Spy Ciderworks in Middletown is that customers can try a variety of ciders to see what they like, said owner Ron Sansone. “I think a lot of people have preconceived notions of what dry is, and it’s maybe the experience they’ve had with wine, but it’s different with apple,” Sansone said. “I do think the dry wines are generally favored by older people or people with more developed palates, and the sweeter ones are more younger people just getting into cider.” All the ciders are made with local fruit

More

A 3 – 2 – 1 Pie Pastry

/

So you want to make a pie for Thanksgiving… Here’s an exceptionally easy recipe that reaches back to French pastry technique, using just a fraction more butter than a typical American pie to achieve a more forgiving pastry and a classic tender-flaky result. The recipe itself is a simple proportion: 3 parts flour, 2 parts cold butter, 1 part cold water (by weight). And the idea is to sidestep a few basic problems of pastry that begin when you add water to flour by first ‘waterproofing’ the dough with a little bit of extra butter. A basic two crust 9-inch

More

Thanksgiving Turkey Buyer’s Guide

For many, this Thanksgiving will be quieter and smaller than previous years because of COVID-19, but for most, roasting a turkey is still an essential part of the tradition and the holiday. Turkey farms around the area are seeing brisk sales, with the smaller birds selling out quickly. There is still time to pre-order a bird, but time is running short. Below are a few choices in the area, including one non-turkey alternative.  Gozzi’s Turkey Farms, 2443 Boston Post Rd, Guilford  (203) 453 2771 www.facebook.com/Gozzis-Turkey-Farms (this link doesn’t work well!) Order ASAP by phone Price: $3.09/pound Pick up: the week

More

Indian Pudding Revisited

A pie or two for Thanksgiving is expected, so why not this year try something a little different, an Indian Pudding — a dessert with a whiff of old school New England, but still a novelty for most guests. In its most basic form, Indian Pudding is a type of English hasty pudding, a sweetened porridge, adapted to American staples, cornmeal and molasses. If that sounds strange, don’t be put off. Most recipes are a near dead-ringer for pumpkin pie, without the crust, and others are closer to a rich porridge custard, but our choice — adapted from Nick Maglieri

More

Thanksgiving Wine Suggestions

Bright red fruits and lighter-bodied reds – Gamay from Burgundy and the Loire — an herbaceous cool-climate Cabernet Franc from Canada, a Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and two wines from the Italian Piedmont, a slightly frizzante Pelaverga and a modest red blend from a maker better known for Barolo, headline our wine picks for Thanksgiving. For whites, the suggestions were exceedingly diverse – lesser known white varietals including a Verdicchio from the boot of Italy and an Arneis from Italy’s Piedmont, both known to finish with a flavor of almonds, an Albariño from Galicia in Spain,

More

Deviant Donuts Sponsors Fundraiser for Garde Arts

MYSTIC — Today through Sunday, Deviant Donuts will donate $1 of every donut purchase to support the Garde Arts Center in New London.  “If people want to come out, I always say the earlier the better,” said Kourtney Stoy, one of the shop’s three bakers. “Usually by 10 or 11 we start to run out of some of the options available on the menu.”  Stoy said the bakery sells about 4,000 donuts on the weekends and smaller quantities during the week.  The bakery, located in Olde Mistick Village, has created specialty donuts for the fundraiser featuring designs based on famous

More

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

More

Cato Corner Adds Mozzarella to its Range of Well-Regarded Aged Cheese

COLCHESTER — Clad in white rubber boots and a white hairnet and mask, cheesemaker Mark Gillman picked up a scrub brush from a bucket of sudsy water and scoured the front of his white apron.  “Cheesemaking has been called a glorified cleaning job. You spend a lot of time cleaning equipment and also cleaning yourself,” he laughed as he scanned rectangles of milk curds stacked on a nearby stainless steel table, ready to be transformed into mozzarella via a process of heating and stretching called “pasta filata,” sometimes called “spun paste” or stretched curd.  Gillman, who runs Cato Corner Farm

More

Take-out from Bar Bouchée in Madison

When you think take-out, you typically think pizza or Chinese. It’s a simple meal, or at least quick. But for the last six months, many other sorts of restaurants have been trying to change that. Fine dining restaurants like Bar Bouchée in Madison adapted their menus and meals for taking home. I have to admit, I was skeptical about gourmet to-go, but in mid-August I decided to give it a try. Instead of calling close to the dinner hour, as you might with pizza, at Bar Bouchée you select your pick-up time hours – or even days – ahead to

More

Fragrant, Crackling Ribs a Standout at Taíno in Middletown

Ribs were the standout when we stopped into Taíno Smokehouse in Middletown, CT, regarded among the better places for barbecue in Connecticut, for takeout. If we had known earlier just how inviting the vine-draped patio would be, we probably would have stayed for lunch. We ordered their top-tier beef brisket, American Wagyu sourced from the suddenly faddish Snake River Farms, and house-made sausage, but the St. Louis pork ribs had ‘it’ — a backyard quality of the pit, fragrant, crackling, lost in many larger and commercial operations. My companions were especially taken by the cheesy corn — a creamed-corn-like side dish

More

Shoreline Menus Finds Success Providing a Local Alternative For Food Deliveries

“During the height of the pandemic, I did 75 percent of my sales through delivery,” said Alex Foulkes, the co-owner of Penny Lane Pub in Old Saybrook. “Going into this fall, I think restaurants that have a good delivery presence will make it and those that don’t, won’t. You’re going to see a lot of die off, unfortunately.” As dining moves indoors with the cooler weather, Foulkes says he hopes that his other venture, Shoreline Menus, can help local restaurants and main streets survive. Launched less than two years ago as an alternative to GrubHub and DoorDash, Shoreline Menus offers

More

An ‘Elevated Lobster Shack’ Opens on Essex Island

“We fell in love with the island, just the feeling that you get. We felt like when you cross the ferry, you’re actually on vacation as soon as you arrive on the little island,” said Christina Pahis. “You feel almost like you left Connecticut.” For eight years, Essex residents Avni Krasniqi and Pahis have owned and operated Haywire Burger Bar in Westbrook, CT, and on June 8, the couple opened Siren Kitchen & Bar on Essex Island at Safe Harbor Marina. “We saw that the space has become available, and we said, ‘Let’s just kind of satisfy our curiosity and

More

Niantic Farm-to-Table La Belle Aurore Emails Plea to Customers

Dawn Bruckner said that even when the pandemic first hit, she never considered closing. “With the food supply getting super hinky, I knew our farmers would always be there, and we would be able to get the best ingredients to [our customers].” And her customers responded graciously to her remaining open. “There was just a huge outpouring. People I hadn’t seen in years were coming in, asking ‘Are you guys okay? What do you need?’” Bruckner said. “They were buying things and were grateful we were open because they could get better produce, better food, better meat. It was amazing,

More

When Life Gives You Red Currants

Good white bread, tart red fruit, a few tablespoons of sugar, a splash of water — in less than a half hour, with no particular skill and a little patience, you can make a splendid English summer pudding. I guarantee you, no sweet better conveys the pure fresh flavors of raspberries or red currants, is more refreshing after a light evening meal or luncheon. All the things you think you want — the butteriness of shortbread, the creaminess of ice cream, the rich, thickened fruitiness of cobbler and pie — summer pudding proves the addition of subtraction. Tempted to improve

More

Penny Lane Pub Owner Alex Foulkes Receives Architectural Approval for Post Road Restaurant “Maple & Main”

/

OLD SAYBROOK — The Town of Old Saybrook Architectural Review Board approved the design proposal for a new restaurant, “Maple & Main” on Boston Post Road. Alex Foulkes, owner of the Penny Lane Pub on Main Street, has proposed converting an existing one-story commercial office building, located at 813 Boston Post Road, into a restaurant serving breakfast and lunch with occasional banquet services after normal business hours, according to the application materials. Foulkes requested approval for 75 seats, including 63 seats in the main interior dining room, seven seats under the front covered porch and five additional outdoor seats. The

More

The Holy Grail of Backyard Pizza

On my fourth go – with supermarket dough no less – I had achieved (or at least glimpsed) the Holy Grail of backyard pizza, a Neapolitan-style pizza in just under 90 seconds, telltale leopard-spotting on the cornicione, a bit of char on the undercarriage. As a personal expression, I was turning out in these first attempts pizza competitive with the best in the state. After twenty years of pizza making and all sorts of stoves and stones and grills – none actually better than a cheap grad school Magic Chef that melted the kitchen linoleum each time it came up

More

High Hurdles as Restaurants are Forced to Adapt to an Uncertain Future

As the restaurants struggle to stay open and adapt to an uncharted future social landscape and uncertain timeline, the state-mandated closure of full-service dining rooms has decimated much of the food service industry.   Since March 16, when Gov. Lamont’s ordered a halt to eat-in service at restaurants across the state, restaurants without a substantial preexisting takeout business have seen a drop in sales of between 70 and 90 percent, said Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association by phone Monday. Dolch said that in Connecticut 8,500 restaurants employing about 160,000 workers make up 10 percent of the

More

Easter Orders… Flowers, Roasts, Sweets, and Hot Cross Buns

OLD LYME — “It’s a way for them to connect and say hello and happy Easter and still feel like the holiday is still coming,” said Barbara Crowley, owner of the Chocolate Shell, who is providing a customized, shippable “Easter basket in a box” as well as regular Easter baskets this coming week.  “I fill the boxes as if it were an Easter basket. I put the grass in there and everything. I try to give the person what they’re asking for and they give me a price range to work within and I fill it depending on roughly the

More

‘Tis the Season: The Original Sazerac

/

The earliest American cocktails, or most of them, cobblers, old-fashioneds, juleps, sazeracs — all dating to some time prior to the Civil War — combine a base spirit, often brandy or whiskey, a bit of sweetener in the form of simple syrup or a sugar cube, herbal bitters, and more or less garnish. 3 oz rye whiskey, a sugar cube soaked with angostura bitters, muddled with a bit of fruit, built with enough additional ice so that it no longer floats, and you have an classic old-fashioned. With a copious fruit garnish, you have a cobbler. Drop the fruit garnish,

More

After a Decade of Explosive Growth, Small Breweries in Connecticut Take Stock

/

“Breweries are destinations, they are really experiences. But of even more pressing significance is to support local and drinking local. It’s easy to go to your grocery store and pick up a macro-brand beer but that’s not going to help anybody in Connecticut,” said Phil Pappas, executive director of the Connecticut Brewers Guild by phone on Wednesday.  In less than 10 years, the craft brewing industry has grown exponentially to over 100 breweries and about 6,000 jobs across Connecticut. Prior to 2012, there were only about 12 to 15 breweries in the state, Pappas said.  “These are all relatively new

More

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

More

Local Farms Are Planning Crops, Signing up CSA Shareholders for Summer Season

//

The New England landscape may appear cold and desolate, but small farmers across the region are growing seedlings in hoop houses and planning summer harvests.  As a means of obtaining “seed” money, many of these farms set up CSA –Community Supported Agriculture — programs that allow customers to invest in a share of the business in advance of the growing season. Farmers then use the invested money in the winter and early spring months to buy seeds, supplies and equipment. In exchange for sharing the upfront costs, shareholders later receive produce during the summer and fall months.  Now is the

More

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

More

With Stores Opening in Darien and South Windsor, Pasta Vita Feeds Families, Fosters Community

/

OLD SAYBROOK — In 1992, Rich Cersosimo, a new IBM retiree, and Lou Castanho , a chef just four years out of culinary school decided to work together to make and sell wholesale ravioli. They named their venture Pasta Vita. Four years later, they began catering to the retail market and Cersosimo and Castanho haven’t looked back. “We were producing all this pasta in Old Saybrook and yet loading it on trucks, shipping it away and we couldn’t feed any of the people here,” Castanho said. “We had people coming to the back door and asking for dishes to take

More