Simple Belgian-style Overnight Yeast-risen Waffles

The waffle is a childish thing, an ethereal dream that wins the race more often than it should when eating out. At home, as children, we bought them frozen, popped them in the toaster and soaked them in Log Cabin syrup and butter. I loved them anyway — at least the idea of them. Later as a young adult I bought my first waffle iron, an Art Deco Arvin, at a tag sale and learned that making waffles at home was a very simple task — if you can measure a teaspoon of salt, you can make a waffle from

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Los Charros Cantina Celebrates Reopening and Cinco de Mayo

Guitarist Ron Murray is performing at Los Charros Cantina in Centerbrook for a celebration of Cinco de Mayo planned by Chef Colt Taylor. The popular restaurant, which Taylor describes as an “homage to authentic Mexican street food,” is fully reopening, after suffering a burst pipe and devastating flooding in January 2021, with a new game room featuring foosball, darts and shuffleboard, and an ages 21-and-over bar area called Coco X. Bar Manager Nancy Wood mixed up for us a Jalisco-style punch of tequila, Prosecco, squeezed lime, orange and pineapple, and Jarritos Mandarin soda, that she describes as a “sangria, but

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Sugar Kelp on the Menu as Underwater Harvest Underway 

OLD SAYBROOK – After finishing off a scallop dish with cucumber-kelp salad and a white chocolate custard dessert topped with candied kelp at Liv’s Oyster Bar Thursday evening, Jessica Hampton was ready to try the Shark Bait cocktail – also infused with the sea-cultivated vegetable. “Smells so refreshing,” she said before taking her first sip on the outdoor patio. “Like you’re at the shore.” It was the popular restaurant’s first night of serving kelp-inspired recipes during a New England Kelp Harvest Week promotion that runs through May 1, and coincides with the annual harvest.  Nearly 50 venues in Connecticut and

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One Week in, Port Of Call Shows Polish

MYSTIC – Blindfold me, sit me down at a bar, and serve me a drink, and 10 times out of 10 I guarantee you I can pick out the ones shaken, stirred or built by Port of Call Beverage Director Jade Ayala and Sebastian Guerrero, who heads up the bar program. Whether I am drinking boozy variations on a Manhattan or Negroni served ‘up,’ or jewel-toned Caribbean-inspired sweet-tart cocktails served on pebble ice, there is nothing loud, slick or perfunctory about the drinks here. The bar shows polish — classic formulas, sensitive subbing in of the oddball spirit or two,

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Cocotte Turns Out Top-Notch French Cooking Without Pretense

Since Cocotte opened last June on Main Street in Old Saybrook, chef Jeffrey DeFrancesco has begun turning out some of the least pretentious, best food east of New Haven from a tiny kitchen with a young understudy, while his French wife Isabelle works the front of the house (apart from her other job) with a parttime staff of servers and an ethic that is as uncompromising as it is convivial. “The other side of French food is a very communal thing,” Isabelle, the more voluble of the two, explained to me the other day. “Your favorite restaurant – it’s usually

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A Remarkable Showing Of Twenty-Something ‘Volcanic Wine’ at Mystic’s Shipwright’s Daughter

Even at elevation, 2019 must have been a scorching summer in Egra, the spiritual home of Bikaver, Bull’s Blood, a Hungarian red blend dating back to the 19th century or earlier, that leans heavily on Kékfrankos, a local variety of Blaufränkisch. Across central and southeastern Europe it was the hottest summer in more than a century. In the glass, the 2019 Gal-Tibor Bikaver was spicy, dried fig and raisin, with enough acidity to keep things lively – a bargain for around 22 bucks from Spencer and Lynn in Mystic, and by the glass at Shipwright’s Daughter, where Sommelier Kathleen Standridge

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Mrs. London’s Bakery to Open Westport Location in February

WESTPORT — Max London, whose parents started the well-regarded Mrs. London’s Bakery in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. in the late 1970s, has announced plans to open a second location of the bakery at 44 Church Lane in Westport. “We’re targeting early February, hopefully for Valentine’s Day,” London told CT Examiner by phone on Monday.  London, who grew up in his parents’ bakery, said it has always been a dream to expand the Mrs. London’s name and brand.  “It’s my family’s name and we’re proud of that and proud of the fact that we can still put out a great product, and

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Far Breton

You’ve no doubt tried one of several close relations of a far, a kind of rustic confection from Brittany that falls somewhere on the continuum of cake, pancake, and custard, sweet and savory. Yorkshire pudding, Dutch baby, clafoutis, popover, crêpe, far Breton – all are simple batters of egg, milk, flour, and butter cooked variously gossamer thin on a stovetop, or in the case of a popover to showcase an ephemeral puff in a ripping hot pan, or as clafoutis at a modest depth to accent its cake and sweet fruit. The batter, which rises and falls in the oven,

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Burst Pipe Causes Major Water Damage to Los Charros Cantina in Essex

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ESSEX – Cascades of water from a burst fire-sprinkler pipe were still raining down through all four floors of his Los Charros Cantina when chef and owner Colt Taylor arrived Sunday morning after getting a pre-dawn call from state police. “I saw a bunch of fire trucks and I went in the door with them and the water was just pouring down,” a despondent Taylor recalled Wednesday as he supervised clean-up of what he estimates could be $1 million in damage that will close the popular 3-year-old Mexican restaurant for at least a month. “It was heartbreaking.” A cold snap

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Soft Opening on Saturday for Long River Local in Old Lyme

OLD LYME — On Friday afternoon, Chef Shelley DeProto had been working for 18 hours straight, getting ready for the soft opening of Long River Local, a retail food shop at 96 Halls Road located in the little yellow house that was a plant nursery a decade ago.  “We’ll be open from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday,” DeProto said, surveying the refrigerators she had been filling with grab-and-go foods. “We have the best chicken soup — what’s included is you can choose matzo balls, rice or egg noodles.” Coffee, baked goods, retail foods like cheeses and pasta, and prepared

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Farm and Winery Planned for Middletown Parcel Under New Regulations

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MIDDLETOWN – Looking for a fresh start and a new career, Joe DeFrancesco bought a farm at 519 Miner St. in the Westfield area with plans for a quaint winery that would serve as the foundation for his farm business. DeFrancesco is the first to apply for a farm winery since the Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission approved several new uses for farms in town – looking to give farmers more options for revenue as the high cost of land and low margins continue to threaten the stability of small Connecticut farms. Having grown up on a farm in Haddam,

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Holiday Gingerbread… and it’s Vegan

A delicious riff on traditional British sticky toffee pudding with prunes in place of dates. Although vegan, the results are far from a compromise. This recipe is plain old good. Lots of freshly grated ginger and generous winter spices make a perfect pairing with a dollop of whipped cream or dairy-free topping. A great holiday recipe that’s easily made, and improves when made a day or two in advance. Notes Muscavado sugar is a dark, rich tasting, unrefined sugar.  You can also use jaggery powder, which I picked up at Raj’s Cash and Carry in Groton. Ingredients ⅔ cup vegetable

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Quick Deadlines for Holiday Baked Goods, Order Soon

Bakeries across Connecticut are taking orders for holiday pastries and cakes to celebrate the season – but the deadlines are fast approaching. CT Examiner talked with a number of bakeries about what’s popular this year and when customers need to preorder for pickup before Christmas.  Dagmar’s Desserts www.dagmarsdesserts.com (860) 661-4661 / 75 Main St., Old Saybrook Accepting orders through Friday, Dec. 17 Stollen is the specialty of Dagmar’s, which is available at the bakery and online. She offers stollen in quark, marzipan, cranberry walnut varieties available in medium and large or family sizes.  “Stollen is wildly popular. Apple strudel is

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All Smiles at Relaunch of The Essex in Old Saybrook

OLD SAYBROOK — The relaunch of Chef Colt Taylor’s The Essex at a new location on Main Street in Old Saybrook is good news for a town that appears poised to make a significant leap toward becoming a dining destination in the eastern half of the state. Taylor, who also owns Los Charros Cantina in the nearby town of Essex and is planning at least two other restaurants in the area, including an outdoor spot, Smoke on the Water, at Saybrook Point has a way of attracting talent and goodwill as was evident on Thursday night, when a few dozen

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Questions Abound as Area Restaurants Head into the Holidays

For restaurants, caterers and events venues, the curveballs have kept on coming, in the form of supply chain bottlenecks, labor shortages, and renewed concerns about COVID-19.   “It’s been challenging, that’s for sure, without a doubt,” said Greg Gardner, general manager of J.Timothy’s Taverne in Plainville.  But where challenges arise, there’s also room for innovation — and restaurant owners say they are looking ahead, preparing special offerings for the holidays and into the New Year, and expanding on some of the quick pivots they were forced to make last year.   Expanded takeout in particular seems to be sticking around. Angelo Marini,

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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

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A 3 – 2 – 1 Pie Pastry

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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

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Lobio (a Georgian Bean Salad)

One of my favorite things about living in St. Petersburg was walking into the Haymarket, one of the large open-air markets in the city. The abundance and color, honey vendors from Altai bragging loudly, tempting you with sample spoons, piles of melons trucked up from Azerbaijan, dried fruit from Uzbekistan, pickled everything—mushrooms, cabbage, garlic, cucumbers. Best were the tables and overfilled buckets of spices and teas from everywhere. Golden heaps of marigold from Georgia, in petals and powder, tart European barberry, crushed or whole, and blue fenugreek. You are encouraged to taste everything. Much as the Dutch have rice tables,

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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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