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

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“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

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

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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

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

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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

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Karaoke and “Superior” Fried Chicken at Rustic Cafe in East Lyme

EAST LYME — “Myth number one — you have to have the ability to sing,” explained Eric Foster of Old Lyme. “No, you have to make it appear you know how to sing.” The wood-paneled room of East Lyme’s roadside Rustic Cafe was loud with conversation — regulars at the bar, high-tops and cafe tables filled with people eating and drinking. Foster and four friends, joined by two CT Examiner staff, had arrived early for the karaoke, which on Friday begins sometime after 9 p.m. “The room needs to be loud and you need to be with friends, at least

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Seven Cups of Hot Cocoa and Hot Chocolate

Seven stops, seven cups of hot cocoa and hot chocolate later, I sat in my car surrounded by takeaway cups thinking that a large amount of thick, whipped cream made all the difference, and if that’s what you’re into Savour Café & Bakery in Essex should be your first stop this season. It was my third cup and the first words out of my mouth were, “this is by far the best.” And at the end of the day, I hadn’t changed my mind. Savour’s cup was smooth and rich with just the right amount of sweetness. The cream made

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Chef Everett Reid Returns with Hot Fried Chicken in Chester

CHESTER — Dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, taking a moment to speak with us after hauling an ice machine upstairs, chef Everett Reid, lately of L&E and Good Elephant, chatted easily in the cozy front dining room of his new venture in Chester on Thursday morning, just hours before the restaurant would first open for dinner. Before taking a break from the restaurant business and closing L&E in 2017, Reid was widely regarded among the best chefs in the region, and his return tonight has already sparked gossip in kitchens and social media. Prior to opening restaurants in Chester,

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An Ambitious Menu Brings New York to Essex

Chef-owner Colt Taylor said that more than 60 percent of diners at The Essex are from New York City. “It’s a destination restaurant,” Taylor said. “It brings that edgy dining experience you find in New York City. You’re not going to know what the menu will be, but you know it’s going to be great.” Last week, the tasting menu offered an expression of Connecticut in seven courses — starting with a dish of scallop, oyster, clam, native corn and local seaweed, followed by a venison tartare; rohan duck with persimmon and juniper; 9-year-old Holstein; a pawpaw custard. The Essex

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Dagmar’s Stollen and German-style Sweets a Favorite for the Holidays

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OLD SAYBROOK — “Of course Christmas is the time of the stollen but it’s such a good pastry, why not offer it throughout the year,” said owner Dagmar Ratensperger at her shop on Saturday morning where a stream of pastry lovers bustled in and out. “My customers know it and they buy it all year long but if you’re someone coming from Germany, they say it’s a little funny.”  The traditional fruit bread is eaten during the Christmas season in Germany, but at Dagmar’s Desserts it became so popular now it’s available all year round. This time of year, the

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Vincitori Apizza Serves up “Neo-Neopolitan” Pies, Chowder by Niantic Boardwalk

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EAST LYME — The region’s newest pizzeria brings New Haven-inspired pies to Niantic’s Main Street, with house-made sausage, and a savory potato pie. Their signature dish, the Vincitori, starts with a naturally-leavened dough, “covered with shredded mozz and with dollops of fresh mozzarella and then we put the sauce on top with fresh basil, which is the best of all the worlds,” said chef Dave Reeves. Reeves opened Vincitori Apizza with Eileen and Norman Birk, his aunt and uncle, in mid-November. It’s located at 294 Main Street, Niantic, the site of the former Eleni’s Pizzeria. Reeves brings 16 years of

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Cool Weather and Comfort Food in Chester, CT

We stopped into River Tavern in Chester early the other night for dinner, taking a corner table for two in the back dining room by the window. Staff was still sitting at the bar. Across the room, chef-owner Jonathan Rapp was maneuvering pans alone in the tiny open kitchen. After almost twenty years as one of the reliably best places to eat in southeast Connecticut, we didn’t really arrive expecting, or even wanting, surprises. And I have to admit that increasingly when I eat there – five times in the last year — I find myself picking from quiet and

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Finding a Turkey for the Thanksgiving Holiday

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IN THE REGION — Thanksgiving falls late this year, but turkey sales start early, and shops across southeast Connecticut are offering a variety of choices and price points for home cooks preparing for November 28. Walt’s Food Market in Old Saybrook is preparing for the holiday by making over 800 pounds of gravy, starting a full two weeks before Thanksgiving. “It’s nothing, but turkey, we don’t do any of that fake canned turkey gravy,” said Walt’s meat manager Dave Crosby. “We make our own stock from scratch, boil it down and make it that way all from turkey necks and

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Suggestions on a Sunday Drive… Litchfield and Bantam, Connecticut

I’m not exactly blazing new territory announcing that the bread baked by Niles Golovin at Bantam Bread in the town of Bantam, just southwest of Litchfield, Connecticut is seriously good… certainly as good as any bread I’ve had since I last stopped in to Meyers Bageri for the grandtoftegaar — a Nordic-revival country sourdough — taking Metro North from Grand Central. Was it worth the drive from Old Lyme? For the pain de Campagne? Maybe. But then there is also the seeded semolina batard — a truly splendid loaf of sourdough, redolent of toasted sesame and sour ferment — and

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A First Stab at the Best Beef in Connecticut

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The first bite, cooked to just medium rare, was straight-forward beefy, coarse-textured, with a notable (not unpleasing) chew. Second and third bites carved from the marbled “cap” portion of the steak were unctuous and brought just a hint of blue cheese funk that can dominate much longer-aged beef. The 21-day dry-aged rib steak was from Grass & Bone, a hip craft butcher and dining spot just on the edge of the tourist bubble in Mystic (and some of the best coffee, at MBar), the brainchild of Dan Meiser and James Wayman, who in recent years have opened some of the

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The Hops-growing Agriculture Revival in Connecticut

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Standing along a row of towering hops vines, known as “bines,” Heather Wilson picked a pale green cone and broke it open to check for ripeness Thursday afternoon. “Rub the cone between your fingers — it should be papery,” she said. “You can feel there’s a lot of moisture there and they still smell a little grassy — it’s not ready to harvest.”  The right amount of moisture — not too little and not too much — is key to growing, harvesting and brewing hops, a crop that has not been grown commercially in Connecticut since Prohibition. Wilson and her

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Bufalina — Neapolitan Pizza Worth the Drive

There is enough conflict in the world without needlessly proclaiming any one place the very best pizza on the shoreline, but I suppose it says something that my two companions sparked to the idea on a Friday of a 20-mile trek on I-95 from Old Lyme to Guilford to sit outside on the patio for an early evening dinner at Bufalina. I don’t think anyone questions that Bufalina turns out some of the very best Neapolitan-style pizza in Connecticut — thin, soft, somewhat elastic crust, with a modest cornicione and a defining leopard-skin char. It takes only about 90 seconds,

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A Fleeting Summertime Pleasure of Winter’s Milk, Cato Corner Farm’s Myfanwy

“It’s a Welsh miner’s cheese,” Cathy Bradley explained, offering me a taste of a very approachable, creamy white seasonal hard cheese, reminiscent of a clothbound cheddar. I am standing in the bustling tasting room of Cato Corner Farm, widely considered among very best American cheesemakers, off a small rural road just south of Colchester. There is a small table with a dozen or so cheeses of various varieties — blue, washed rind, aged and milky fresh. I am here for Myfanwy (MA-VAN-WEE) a fleeting seasonal cow’s milk variety now available at the farm, and at farmers markets in Coventry, Colchester

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Cookbook Author Dorie Greenspan Talks Life and Food with CT Examiner

There are soups that I love in winter, pancakes for the perfect Sunday brunch, pasta offers endless possibility, but nothing is more reliable than a cookie. I began baking them before my head reached the counter and if ever I’m having a stressful week, even if it’s over 100 degrees, you can find me with an apron, flour in the air, baking cookies. It turns out, Dorie Greenspan, a James Beard award-winning and New York Times bestselling cookbook author, feels that way too. So, we drove up to Westbrook. We were sitting in his sun porch and thinking, oh this

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Worth the drive… Croissants from Loveridge Place in Pawcatuck.

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IN THE REGION  — The sheeter, or laminating machine, where Carla Gennuso creates doughs for croissants stood on its own in the center of her bakery, Loveridge Place, at 2 Prospect Street in Pawcatuck, as she talked with customers and staff Friday morning.  “That can really crank out a lot of work,” said Gennuso, the founder and executive chef. With the machine, Gennuso creates yeast-leavened laminated dough used for viennoiserie, including croissants, one of her specialties. Her plain croissant is perhaps the best we’ve had in our travels between New Haven and Providence — with three or four turns, that

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Refreshment and Respite at Caffé Marche in Old Saybrook

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OLD SAYBROOK — A little farther down Main Street, away from the town’s shopping hubbub, is an Italian cafe where one can find refreshment and respite, including homemade gelato and sorbet, pastries baked in-house, coffee, marble-topped tables, an outdoor seating area and wifi. Housed in the historic James Pharmacy at 323 Main St., Caffé Marche (pronounced “Márk-eh”) is named for the region of Italy located east of Tuscany along the Adriatic Sea, where co-owner Paul Angelini is from. “The whole philosophy here is to bring in someone as if they were going to go to the market region of Italy,”

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A Catalan Spritz

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Two parts dry sparkling wine, one part red vermouth, served on ice, with an orange slice and green olive – when prepared with good quality Spanish or Italian vermouth is our best answer for what you should be drinking in place of the dodgy stuff calling itself rosé.

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James Beard Nominee “Extraordinarily Gifted”

The first bite tastes like a blooming flower, and April mornings when every breath is heavy with the scent of new blossoms. If you would ask me for other words, descriptions, flavors, I have nothing. How else to explain the delicate layering of flavors and textures?

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