Enjoying the best of Connecticut's Gold Coast :: The Thimble Islands

Enjoying the best of Connecticut's Gold Coast :: The Thimble Islands The Entertaining House

Enjoying the best of Connecticut's Gold Coast :: The Thimble Islands
The Entertaining House

Although I've lived in Connecticut for over 20 years, I only recently learned about the Thimble Islands. The islands which are comprised of granite rocks and ledges are a result of glaciation centuries ago. Depending on the tides, and what many might consider an island (is a rock an island?) there are between 100 and 365 which serve as a rest stop for migrating seals. The islands are not only beautiful but are fascinating. I had the great opportunity to take a 45 minute chartered tour through the islands this weekend. The ride was most pleasant, if not a bit choppy, and is a perfect little get away for kids and grownups of all ages. If you're looking to fill a day or part of a day, I highly recommend Thimble Island Cruises. Well behaved kids can stop off at Thimbleberry's for a scoop of ice cream afterwards! 

Lore has it that Adrian Block first discovered these islands in 1614 and that that Captain Kidd buried his valuable treasures amongst them.  Although they are said to be named for the thimbleberry plant which closely resembles the black raspberry, the plant is more common in Northern parts of New England.

The Thimble Islands are included in the National Register of Historic Places.  Among the islands are:
Horse Island, which at 17 acres is the largest of all the islands. It is owned by Yale University and used as an ecological laboratory for Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History.  Money Island is the next largest with 12 acres and is home to an entire village consisting of 32 houses a library, a church and a post office. Governors Island is just over 7 acres and home to 14 houses. Roger's Island, Bear Island contains a granite quarry which exported high quality stone to the Lincoln Memorial, Grant's Tomb, The Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Terminal and Columbia University. There are also Davis, High, Pot and Outer Islands, the latter is used by Southern Connecticut State University for ecological purposes. 

Those islands that are inhabited bear a total of 81 houses: 14 islands have only one home. As mentioned above Governor has 14, and Money has 32. The rest of the islands house between 2 and 6 homes all of which are built in a variety of styles. Some have tennis and basketball courts and one boasts a swimming pool. Some small clusters are connected by footbridges. At one point many homes were used year round but the exposed nature of the houses makes them dangerous during storms. Many local residents still talk about the Hurricane of '38, which killed seven people. The exclusivity of these homes has made them quite expensive, therefore residents are divided between local families who have owned their homes for generations, and more recent residents who tend to be wealthy. The least expensive houses, on Money Island, are appraised at about $600,000. Just 6 of the islands have electricity that is delivered through underwater cables, the other islands rely on generators, solar power, batteries, kerosene or propane.

Notable island residents include Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury Cartoonist) and his wife, Jane Pauley (Broadcast Journalist, former Today Show co-host), William Taft established his Summer White House on Davis Island and actor Frank Converse.

When the weather is warm ferries shuttle back and forth transporting people and goods to and from the islands. Prior to telephones, islanders hung a red flag on the dock to request a ferry visit.  Most island residents have their own boats, a couple own sea planes. 

For more information on tours and charters, visit Thimble Island Cruises

 

Enjoying the best of Connecticut's Gold Coast :: The Thimble Islands The Entertaining House

Enjoying the best of Connecticut's Gold Coast :: The Thimble Islands
The Entertaining House

Enjoying the best of Connecticut's Gold Coast :: The Thimble Islands The Entertaining House

Enjoying the best of Connecticut's Gold Coast :: The Thimble Islands
The Entertaining House

Enjoying the best of Connecticut's Gold Coast :: The Thimble Islands/Thimble Island Cruise The Entertaining House

Enjoying the best of Connecticut's Gold Coast :: The Thimble Islands/Thimble Island Cruise
The Entertaining House

Enjoying the best of Connecticut's Gold Coast :: The Thimble Islands/Thimble Islands Cruises The Entertaining House

Enjoying the best of Connecticut's Gold Coast :: The Thimble Islands/Thimble Islands Cruises
The Entertaining House

Enjoying the best of Connecticut's Gold Coast :: The Thimble Islands/Thimble Islands Cruises The Entertaining House

Enjoying the best of Connecticut's Gold Coast :: The Thimble Islands/Thimble Islands Cruises
The Entertaining House

Enjoying the best of Connecticut's Gold Coast :: The Thimble Islands/Thimble Islands Cruises The Entertaining House

Enjoying the best of Connecticut's Gold Coast :: The Thimble Islands/Thimble Islands Cruises
The Entertaining House

Enjoying the best of Connecticut's Gold Coast :: The Thimble Islands/Thimble Islands Cruises The Entertaining House

Enjoying the best of Connecticut's Gold Coast :: The Thimble Islands/Thimble Islands Cruises
The Entertaining House

Rhode Island off the beaten path :: Dave's Coffee

All good things are found off the beaten path. Dave's Coffee, Charlestown, RI. Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

All good things are found off the beaten path. Dave's Coffee, Charlestown, RI. Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

When traveling talk to locals and go off the beaten path whenever possible! 

Charlestown, Rhode Island is the second town, just next to Westerly, over the Connecticut border. This quiet town has often been described as Rhode Island's best kept secret with miles of unspoiled, secluded sandy beaches.  Like many other coastal towns in this state, people come here to relax, sail, and fish. Even though the town is on my way to Newport, it's a bit of a drive from I-95 and I've never had a reason to stop by - until one morning couple of weeks ago. A friend of mine was at his home in Quonnie, a section of Charlestown, and we decided to meet up for a cup of coffee on my way back home to Connecticut. It was then that I was introduced to Dave's Coffee, a wonderful certified organic coffee roaster located and a member of Fresh Farm RI, on the Post Road... slightly off my beaten path.

I programmed the address into my car's navigation system and was led to a line of parked cars that led up a hill to a small driveway and parking lot to a small and charming pink house. Dave's is not initially visible from the road. But once you know it's there, there's no missing it.

I parked down below and climbed up the stone steps that led me to the old truck with Dave's coffee on it. I walked past the pink house, had to snap a quick photo and then made my way inside where I met up with my friend. 

Inside the small house a line formed out the door, eager adults and blond children with sun-kissed skin still donning their dinosaur clad pajamas and pink frilly nightgowns waited eagerly and patiently.  I was busy looking around the whimsical store and paid no attention to the long line that moved quite quickly. The smell of the fresh coffee was intoxicating. I sized up the wonderful looking muffins and treats and willed myself to stay so no.... Finally it was my turn to order. I opted for a cappuccino and decided to pick up a couple of bags of whole beans to enjoy at home. I am one of those people who totally judges a book by it's cover. I selected my coffees for their names!

My cappuccino was perfect. I'm quite fussy, truth be told. I like a strong, bold cup of coffee. I want my coffee to taste like coffee, not like water, not like the milk I mix into it. I do not want my coffee to be too bitter or acidic either, but a perfectly balanced, perfectly fruity cup. My cappuccino was all that I had hoped it would be with a beautiful motif crafted on top with the foam to boot. Alas, I had to cover up the delectable artwork. We were taking our cups on the road. 

We brought our coffees back to my friend's house and set ourselves up out on the deck in back of the house. I was then coerced into trying some of the blueberry muffin. Not wanting to be rude to my host, I accepted. It was delicious! Big tender blueberries, buttery yet light these muffins were sublimely decadent, but not small, and best shared with a friend. Half a muffin is plenty for one person. Now I wish I'd tried some of the other baked goods! 

Dave's also makes Coffee Syrup that's so wildly popular you don't have to live in Rhode Island to get it. You can find it at Whole Foods as well as Crate & Barrel. Rhode Island also happens to be famous for its coffee milk which is a lot like chocolate milk but made with coffee-flavored syrup instead. Rhode Island is the only place in the world where you can get this drink. No one is exactly sure where this treat originated but it quite possibly could have come from Italian immigrants. This sweet milk was first introduced to the Ocean State sometime in the early 1930’s. Legend has it that it came about when a restaurant owner sweetened leftover coffee grounds with milk and sugar thus creating a sweet molasses-like extract. This syrup became instantly popular and was soon a favorite among Rhode Islanders. 

Dave's Coffee. Charlestown, RI. Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Dave's Coffee. Charlestown, RI. Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Dave's Coffee. Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Dave's Coffee. Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Dave's Coffee, Charlestown, RI. Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Dave's Coffee, Charlestown, RI. Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Dave's Coffee, Charlestown, RI. Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Dave's Coffee, Charlestown, RI. Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Dave's Coffee, Charlestown, RI. Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Dave's Coffee, Charlestown, RI. Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Dave's Coffee, Charlestown, RI. Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Dave's Coffee, Charlestown, RI. Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

So next time you feel like venturing off the beaten path, or if you're nearly Charlestown or Westerly, do stop by, It's well worth the trip. If you're not nearby, the beans, coffee syrup and other goodies can be ordered from their website. (I'm not so sure you can order the blueberry muffins though!)

Dave's Coffee actually has two locations, one in Charlestown and the other right in Providence. New Haven friends can find David's Coffee at Brick and Brooklyn friends can find it at The Brooklyn Kitchen. The rest of you can go their website to see if there's a location near you, or you can always order online.

Dave's Coffee
5193 Old Post Rd
Charlestown, RI 02813
(401) 322-0006

Dave's Coffee
341 S Main St
Providence, RI 02903

It's National Tequila Day :: Where to celebrate in Fairfield County

National Tequila Day. Where to celebrate in Fairfield County. Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

National Tequila Day. Where to celebrate in Fairfield County. Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

“Let us be your tequila story” is Geronimo’s mantra – and let’s fess up, as we all have one! This Friday, July 24th, is National Tequila Day. Whether you’re a mezcal (also spelled ‘mescal’) lovin’ slow-sipper or a heat infused jalapeno margarita party-goer, National Tequila Day will be adding to the summer fun at some of the area’s most progressive tequila joints.
 
Bodega Taco Bar in Fairfield and Darien, with a reputation for its innovative take on handcrafted Mexican street food, 100+ deep tequila offerings, and its edgy design will be offering $6 Bodegaritas, $5 Fireball Tequila and a high-octane night featuring the lovely Patron Tequila Girls offering tequila tastings and giveaways. The kitchen will be getting in the fun with over-the-top menu specials too!
Heritage Square |1700 Post Road | Fairfield, CT
980 Post Road |Darien, CT
www.bodegatacobar.com
 
Paloma in Stamford, Harbor Point’s waterside restaurant and gathering place, will be feature half price tequila “shots”, a special tequila cocktail menu and botanas. Beverage Director Olie Berlic created this tequila forward menu for Paloma with simple preparations and the use of premium Paloma_Drink_0125ingredients at the forefront. Our faves include; The Ginger Snap - spicy tequila, muddled fresh ginger, lemon and lime, luxardo maraschino and egg white, shaken and frothy; Tommy's Margarita - silver tequila, fresh lime and agave; and the Grace – passion fruit nectar, fresh lemon, orange blossom, sugarcane, Casamigos Silver Tequila and Champagne Vollereaux. Join Paloma Thursday, July 23 and Friday July 24.
15 Harbor Point Road |Stamford, CT
www.palomagrill.com
 
Geronimo in Fairfield, coming in at over  400+ bottles of tequila, celebrates National Tequila Day by paying homage to Casa Noble Tequila and their award winning Anejo, Resposado and Crystal Tequila – served neat or otherwise. This ultra-premium tequila is made from 100% blue agave and certified organic. Chef Tim Scott will also be featuring Casa Noble Tequila braised oxtail tacos. Hang out on Geronimo’s large patio which overlooks a bustling downtown Fairfield scene.
2070 Post Road | Fairfield, CT
www.geronimobarandgrill.com
 
Fun Tequila Facts
 
1. In Mexico, Tequila is enjoyed neat: without lime and salt
When it comes to lime and salt with their Tequila, Mexicans go for margaritas. Shots of tequila are drunk without the extras.

2. Tequila is closer to lilies than cactus
Many believe Tequila is made from cactus, but the Agave plant is actually in the lily family and not the cactus family.

3. All Tequila is Mezcal, but not all Mezcal is Tequila
Mezcal is a distilled beverage made in Mexico from Agave. Tequila is made from Blue Agave in the Appellation of Origin: Tequila Territory, primarily the state of Jalisco.

4. Tequila is made of at least 51% Blue Agave
Although Mezcal can be made from the 100s of different Agave varieties, tequila must contain at least 51% of Blue Agave and many believe it should be 100%. Tequila consisting of less than 100% Blue Agave are called Mixto.

5. It takes 8-12 years for the Blue Agave plant to mature enough to make Tequila
Tequila is made from the heart of the Blue Agave plant, called piña. The pina may weigh up to 200 pounds when harvested. Worms are prohibited in Tequila bottles but may be present in Mezcal. By law worms are prohibited in Tequila bottles. Agave Snout Weevil or the caterpillar phase of the Hypopta Agavis Moth may be in Mezcal bottles. They used to be included to prove the proof and/or presence of agave.

7. Tequila has terroir
Tequilas from agave grown in the highlands north of Guadalajara are fruitier and floral; whereas those from the valleys are earthier, and may be a bit spicier.

8. Much of the work in making Tequila is done by hand
Agave is hand selected for harvest and collected by hand. In premium Tequilas, the pulp is extracted from the fiber in large stone bowls by humans after being ground down in the tahona.

9.  Color is NOT a guarantee of Tequila quality
Tequila turns color from aging in barrel or by the addition of color additives. A premium white tequila will taste much better than an artificially colored young tequila.

10. The three main categories of Tequila are:
Blanco - Un-aged and bottled within two months of distillation
Reposado – Aged between two-twelve months in barrels
Anejo – Aged between 1-3 years in small oak barrels

Two additional categories seen include:
Joven or Oro – mixture of Blanco and Reposado tequilas
Extra Anejo - Aged 3-5 years in oak barrels
 
 

Dining out in Fairfield County :: Bistro Versailles

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Tucked away at the bottom of Greenwich Avenue in tony Greenwich, Connecticut sits a gem called Versailles. Locals know of it and have been flocking to this small sweet eatery since it first opened it's doors in 1980.  I've been for lunch many times and have always loved their salads. I have a soft spot for their Salade Nicoise that seems to always bring me back to my youth in the South of France. A couple of years ago the bistro was purchased by Marc and Evelyne Penvenne. (Many may recognize them as the owners of Meli-Melo Creperie & Juice Bar just across the Avenue.) Quite surprising, I had never had dinner there and was thrilled to join a group of writers, bloggers and photographers there last week.

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Typical of most bistros, the space is not terribly large. There's a sort of a casual and relaxed elegance to the atmosphere, but in regards to the food there's nothing casual about it whatsoever. At Versailles food is truly an artform that appeases all the senses - sight, smell, taste, touch. 

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

This experience started immediately when we were introduced by Marc to an aperitif called Byrr - even though it may sound like the foamy hoppy beverage, it's anything but. It's a sweet wine fortified with herbs, that on its own reminded me of an herbal sort of Port. It's often added to Champagne - much the way one would add, say a touch of Chambord. But forget about the Chambord, the Byrr has a depth that the latter doesn't and it's pomegranate-like color turns your glass of bubbles into a wonderfully aromatic and festive cocktail. 

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Along with our Byrr and Champagne we were presented with these delicate garlic and parsley tuilles - Delicate, light and aromatic, I tasted the garlic and parsley as well as butter, but there was a sweetness to these treats that I couldn't pinpoint. When I asked about it, I was told the recipe was a secret (un secret, Marc said with his French accent) and so with all due respect, I left it alone!

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Next waiters began to pass around delicate little bites of smoked salmon with creme fraiche, lemon and dill on thin slices of pumpernickel  and little squares of duck pate topped with cornichons.  I could have snacked on these all night long. Soon thereafter we all made our way over to our tables. As we did I got a glimpse of what was going on in the kitchen. Executive Chef Erik Erlichson was busily working away in the kitchen, carefully crafting each plate so that each looked as beautiful as it tasted. 

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

We began our feast with a Watermelon Salad that was perfectly paired with a light and crisp Baronne Fini Pinot Grigio. The salad consisted of a paper thin slice of watermelon, toasted pine nuts, baby arugula, ricotta salata which was salty but milder than the traditionally served feta and a small piece of candy-pickled rind that was unexpected and quite delicious. 

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Next we moved onto Chilled Maine Lobster served with hearts of palm, radish, tomato and cilantro which was paired with a light and well balanced Domaine La Colombe Rose. The lobster was tender, sweet and succulent and the cilantro offered a distinct and complementary flavor that I thought might overwhelm the delicate meat, but didn't. 

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Next we had the branzino. La piece de resistance. Iron-skillet-grilled with shaved fennel in a citrus emulsion and orange "oil." I will say without hesitation this is by far the best branzino I have ever had. Branzino is something I order on a regular basis. Chef Erlichson knocked this one out of the ballpark. Baseball fans would describe it as a home-run, football fans as a touch-down. As for me, this normally verbose girl was rendered speechless. The fish was perfectly cooked - soft, tender and flaky. The crust was delicate and crispy and brimming with flavor. The fennel and the citrus offered a slightly sweet balance to the savory. This was one of those dishes one wants simply to eat and enjoy, You don't want to interrupt the magic of flavors with bursts of conversation. The consensus at my table was that this dish was perfection, with one friend telling me that her eyes were rolling back in her head. Yes, it really was that good. Paired with the fish was a wonderfully surprising and refreshing wine, Ixsir, medium bodied, mellow, balanced, that came from Lebanon.  Interesting, I know. Delicious indeed. Marc certainly knows his wines and his pairings each were right on the mark

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

I could have stopped after the branzino and my night would have been perfect, but then the Crispy Hudson Valley Duck Breast was presented to us. I don't care much for duck personally. I've always found it to be too gamey, but my job was to sample all that was presented to me. Accompanied by a salad of confit, snap peas, and carrot ginger dressing, I cut into a piece - crispy exterior and rare interior - and took a bite. I let the flavors and textures dance around in my mouth before making any judgement. But I knew one thing instantly. I didn't hate this. This wasn't gamey or strong. It was, comparatively speaking, quite mild. The crispy skin complemented the pink, tender ... I didn't dislike this. At all. In fact, it was absolutely delicious. I cleaned my plate. There was not a speck or morsel left behind. With this we enjoyed a Cabernet blend by David Chimney.

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

When you're out and you eat one incredible dish after another you expect, at some point, that something will eventually come along that isn't as good as the rest. But that didn't seem to happen here. On this night everything I had the pleasure to try was sublime and this can be also said for the steak tartare. This filet mignon of grass-fed beef with house sauce and traditional seasonings was paired with a full bodied Ixir Altitudes Cab blend, also from Lebanon. 

When I think of the tartare of my childhood I conjure up images of raw meat, hamburger-like, topped off with a raw egg. My father adored this and ordered it often. The dish has evolved a good bit since my childhood and seems to enjoy a newfound popularity that usually involved the chopped meat mixed with something chunky, flavorful and savory. Here, cornichons, parsley, hardboiled as well as raw egg are just some of the items that are blended in to make this dish so divine. 

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

A French Bistro is just a bistro without some Moules Frites (mussels and French fries.) For me it's not just about the mussels as much as it is about the broth. Perfected. Perfectly balanced with wine and garlic, parsley and butter, I joked that I wanted to bottle up the remaining jus and bring it home with me. When the last of the mollusks had been consumed we feverishly dipped the crispy, tender salty frites into the broth. We were also given a side of a wonderful Dijon-mayonnaise dipping sauce for which the fries served as the perfect vehicle to deliver it into our mouths. I think we oohed and ahhed over this too. 

It would seem that with each and everything we tried, one was better than the next. 

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Bistro Versailles, Greenwich, CT, Image property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Eventually it all had to come to an end. Our came to a tart, sweet end with a chilled fruit soup topped off with Cedric's frozen yogurt, a perfect palate cleanser. Paired with this was a sweet, after dinner drink, Pineau de Charentes, a fortified wine made from a blend of fermented grapes and cognac. 

I've not had a meal like this in a very long time. 
I recommend every dish I sampled as it was all sublime, but it was the branzino that won my heart!

If you've never been to Versailles, you must. If you've not been in a long time, you might want to revisit this Greenwich institution. . Chef's hats off to  Executive Chef Erik Erlichson.

Versailles is conveniently located 339 Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich, CT and is easily accessible from I-95. 

Dining out in Fairfield County :: Paloma

Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

The face of downtown Stamford is ever changing and evolving. An area once considered to be seedy at best has undergone a vast transformation. Gone are the run-down factories and dilapidated buildings of yesterday replaced by large modern luxury highrises and a bevvy of fun new restaurants and bars. In fact this area is so newly developed that my car's navigation system trumps itself when I plug in an address. Luckily Google Maps comes to this directionally challenged girl's rescue!

A few days ago I was invited to a press dinner at Paloma on the harbor in Stamford. I had heard mixed things, and made a point not to read any written reviews until I had had the opportunity to visit the restaurant myself. When it comes to food and dining the experience is truly subjective. When I like something I rave about it and when I don't I keep quiet or tend to steer people away from a particular dish. I have rarely gone to a restaurant where I didn't like anything on the menu. Often there are things I adore and sometimes a few items I do not like at all. It would behoove me to recommend something I really didn't like. While I do not take my "food reviews" too seriously, I know that I have a substantial following who appreciate my honesty and candor - I don't want to mislead anyone!

Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

As I pulled up to Paloma on the street level of an elegant new building I noticed immediately that there was no parking and no signage telling me where to go. I drove around looking for a spot. Cars lined the streets to but no parking to be found. I hate to be late to an event and so I was already a bit stressed and starting to panic. I pulled around to the restaurant again and from my car shouted out to the hostess standing in the doorway. "Where do I park?" As if I should have known, she tells me to park at the 3rd gate behind the Beacon building. I drive by. There are no gates. There are, however, garage doors. I pull up to a third door and press the button. It rings and rings and rings and rings. Finally someone answers. I tell them I am parking for Paloma. The gate pulls up in a quick and dramatic manner. I am told to look for the red elevator. As lacking as the parking signs were in front of the restaurant they were in this large empty, unattended parking lot. I'm nearly 10 minutes late now and have no idea where to find this Alleged Red Elevator. Somehow, after a bunch of left hand turns I see it! I park, enter the elevator and the doors open right into the restaurant where I immediately see all the chefs working away behind the glass.

Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

I love this open kitchen concept. I am 15 minutes late. Shit. I'm sharing this with you because I want to you to know that in order to  park you must drive behind the Beacon and pull into the 3rd garage bay. Once inside take a bunch of left hand turns and you'll find the elevator! 

I see the manager and I share my frustrations in regards to the parking. He shrugged his shoulders. "We are new here," he explained. I told him all the more of a reason to have proper signage or someone to guide cars in the right direction. 15 minutes late and a manager who seemed disinterested. Until I mentioned that I was meeting up with the press diners. 

As soon as I went outside my mood changed. The stress immediately melted away as I went to my seat overlooking the magnificent views of the harbor. Calm has been restored. A drink order has been placed. 

The Paloma Margarita. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

The Paloma Margarita. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Mojito. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Mojito. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Usually I stick with wine when I go out but I decided, instead to have fun with a cocktail. I ordered the Paloma Margarita. And it did not disappoint. It was, in fact, delicious! Made with chinaco silver tequila, Grand Marnier, house orange tincture, lime and hibiscus, this cocktail was neither too strong or too sweet. It was quite refreshing and the next time I find myself at Paloma, I will absolutely order it again. Later on I ordered a Mojito, and while it too was very good, I thought the Paloma Margarita really stood out as something special. 

Shrimp tostadas. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Shrimp tostadas. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Snapper Crudo. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Snapper Crudo. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Mushroom Tostadas. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Mushroom Tostadas. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Petite plates of appetizers greeted me at the table upon my arrival. Mushroom tostadas, Shrimp tostadas with creamy aji miralso and mango salso, and Tai Tiradito, a snapper crudo with aji rocoto sauce and crispy homini. I helped myself to one of the shrimp tostadas. While I am normally not a fan of sweet with my savory, the shrimp were tender and the mango salsa added a refreshing touch despite the fact it was sweet. I will sing the praises of the Snapper Crudo. One of my favorite dishes of the night.  This dish was tremendous - the snapper was so fresh and tender and the sauce had a lovely zesty spicy kick to it. I helped myself to several pieces and would have been happy to have made this my dinner. 

Albondigas. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Albondigas. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Queso Fundido. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Queso Fundido. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Grilled Mexican Corn. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Grilled Mexican Corn. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

A little while later we were served Albondigas - meatballs in a chipotle broth, mint and queso cotija, Mexican Street Corn with a chipotle crema, queso cotija and herbs and a Queso Fundido - a rich crispy creamy decadent cheese dish served with wild mushrooms and warm corn tortillas. There was nothing in this round I didn't like. In fact there was nothing in this round I didn't love. The meatballs in chipotle broth were so tender and flavorful. The chipotle broth added just the right kick and the meatballs seemed to just melt in my mouth. The Mexican corn was like a fiesta of flavors. The perfectly grilled, sweet flavors of the corn perfectly married the spicy chipotle crema and the fresh herbs. The corn is not on the cob which makes it so much easier to eat. Rounding out this trifecta was this incredibly decadent cheese dish. Served in a mini earthenware dish, piping hot, beneath a crispy golden crust was this incredibly soft and almost delicate cheese... perfectly runny. I sampled this straight up but it came served with warm corn tortillas.  How to best describe this... fundido means molten. Think molten lava cake, but in cheese format. Yeah... and it was that good. 

Cuban Style Chicken. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Cuban Style Chicken. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Next to arrive was the Cuban Style Chicken  - a marinated roasted chicken with a pickled salad and tamarind fried-rice, and the Braised Short Ribs with an ancho-cacao rub, seasonal vegetables and a horseradish gremolata. The chicken, served on the bone, was exquisite. I wish the skin had been a bit crispier but the meat was tender, soft and incredibly flavorful. I swished forkfuls around in the sauce. I couldn't taste the pickling on the salad but none of that mattered as soon as I had a forkful of the fried rice. The seemed to me to be a wonderful cross between a fried rice and a sticky rice. Whatever they did - It just worked. I ate too much of it! 

Braised Short Ribs. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Braised Short Ribs. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Short Ribs are the It menu item these days as they are everywhere. Some better than others. While I am not a meat person per se, I found these to be incredibly tender, but thought the flavor could have been a tad stronger. I really expected a bolder flavor here since all of our other dishes were. Where was the horseradish gremola? It was not served with or in the dish. I would be willing to give this dish another go, however.

Jumbo Shrimp over spicy grits. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Jumbo Shrimp over spicy grits. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Garganelli Pasta. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Garganelli Pasta. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

From there two more dishes magically appeared - Garganelli Pasta and Camarones de Ajo, jumbo shrimp served on a wonderfully spicy grits cake. I didn't particularly care for the pasta. Although made with chorizo, which I adore, I didn't like this dish. It felt heavy and greasy and somehow this dish didn't quite work for me. I really wanted to like it too. The Shrimp, however, were wonderful. The large, sweet shrimp were a wonderful flavor contrast to the delightfully spicy grits. 

Churros. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Churros. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Churros. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Churros. Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

To say I was full was an understatement. But dessert was coming our way and I had to at least take a small sampling. But the Churros arrived and I was done. I'm not a Churros person. But these aren't your mama's or your abuela's Churros. These are something else entirely. I have no words to describe. Unbelievable. Might work. As would decadent. As would heavenly. Like deep fried donut holes, these bites of deliciousness had a crispy exterior with an incredibly soft interior... the crunch and the soft... the sugary exterior as the decadent dolce de leche gently oozed out... a small ramekin filled with an agave-vanilla crema in which to dunk the already decadent bite of deliciousness. I had more than a small sampling. And as a result of this meal I have placed myself on The Supercharged South Beach Diet. And every morsel and every calorie ingested was so worth it! Life is short. Eat well!

Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Paloma, Stamford CT. Image via Jessica Moseley Gordon

Paloma offers a hip, somewhat sophisticated yet relaxed dining experience. The decor is a cross of island style and urban and provides a most welcome setting whether seated indoors or out on the water. Do give Paloma a chance... Do try the Snapper Crudo, the Albondigas, Mexican Street Corn, Queso Fondido, Cuban Style Chicken, Camarones Mojo de Ajo and for goodness sake, don't leave without trying the Churros!

Charming Connecticut :: A weekend getaway at the Inn at Mystic + Harbour House Restaurant

Inn at Mystic, Harbor House Restaurant Image property of Inn at Mystic

Inn at Mystic, Harbor House Restaurant
Image property of Inn at Mystic

Sometimes a quick winter getaway is as wonderful, if not more so than a summertime getaway. Sometimes when the weather seems at its bleakest and most dismal; when we feel most like hibernating, a little road trip is just what we need to jumpstart our minds and souls. So when I was invited to visit and review the newly renovated Inn at Mystic and Harbour House Restaurant I jumped at the opportunity.

Mystic is just about an hour and a half away from the Southeastern corner of Connecticut where I reside. We were due to leave mid-morning and arrive at lunchtime but the first snow of the season changed our plans slightly. I needed quickly capture some pictures of my sleepy little seaside village under a blanket of snow for a guest piece I have written for Yankee Magazine. (I will share more with you at a later date.) 

The Inn at Mystic sits on one of the highest points in Mystic with stunning water views and has long been popular as a destination point for weddings and other special events. The restaurant is popular among locals and tourists alike.

The Harbor House restaurant recently underwent an extensive  restoration. The building consists of an upper level area - a large dining room and bar - and a lower level with two smaller, more formal dining rooms with sweeping views of the Long Island Sound. We dined upstairs for lunch and were joined by Tim Brown who owns the property with his business partner Michael D’Amato. As we waited for our food, Tim told us about the restaurant's history, formerly the Flood Tide, and his visions for the property.

Despite its large size, the warm rich woods, deep red leathers and copper ceiling gave the room a cozy, warm and inviting feel on a particularly on a chilly, winter day. The restaurant offers a full-service bar that features 24 beers on tap, some of them craft beers, plus an assortment of traditional favorites and a range of cocktail specialties and wine. Outside boasts a large newly built deck that sees a lot of activity in the warmer months. We sat over by the large windows with incredible views of the Long Island Sound. As Brown continued to chat our food started to arrive. We sampled several different dishes that were selected by Brown. 

New England Clam Chowder with Paprika oil at Harbour House in Mystic, CT Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

New England Clam Chowder with Paprika oil at Harbour House in Mystic, CT
Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

We started off with the New England Clam Chowder. How can one visit a coastal town without trying such, especially on a cold winter's day? We loved the consistency of this soup, which was neither too rich nor too creamy, made with hickory smoked bacon and cherrystone clams. The soup had a nice smokiness to it, was filled with fresh, sweet clams and little bites of potato. What we liked most about this soup, was the addition of paprika oil drizzled over the top which added yet another element of smokiness. 

New England Clam Chowder with Paprika oil at Harbour House in Mystic, CT Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

New England Clam Chowder with Paprika oil at Harbour House in Mystic, CT
Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

Flood Tide Crepes at Harbour House in Mystic, CT Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

Flood Tide Crepes at Harbour House in Mystic, CT
Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

Next to come to the table were the Flood Tide Crepes, an historic house favorite that Brown kept on the menu at the request of his customers. A plate of 3 crepes was presented to us with lobster and mushrooms in a Madeira cream sauce. The huge chunks of lobster did not disappoint. Next to arrive, piping hot, at the table was the Wood Fired Mac and Cheese. While this is not something I would ordinarily order (must watch my girlish figure!) I will gladly steer everyone to this dish. The "mac" was neither the elbows or shells often used in this type of dish, but orecchiette, which worked perfectly, Wisconsin cheddar cheese and huge chunks (full claws!) of lobster that are topped with panko bread crumbs and then baked in the exposed brick oven. 

Wood Fired Mac and Cheese, Harbour House in Mystic, CT Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

Wood Fired Mac and Cheese, Harbour House in Mystic, CT
Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

We also had the Tuna Tacos. while fresh and flavorful, these tacos didn't stand out from the crowd. The Copper River Salmon, in a sweet and savory rub came next, in a small, hot cast iron skillet over a bed of spinach with roasted potatoes. And finally, we were treated to a platter of Jumbo shrimp and delicious Noank Oysters. It should be noted, for the locals, and those nearby, that during happy hour, every Monday through Friday from 3:00-6:00 pm, you can get $1 oysters with your wine, beer or cocktails. 

Tuna Tacos at Harbour House in Mystic, CT Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

Tuna Tacos at Harbour House in Mystic, CT
Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

Noank Oyster, Harbour House in Mystic, CT Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

Noank Oyster, Harbour House in Mystic, CT
Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

Room with fireplace, Inn at Mystic Image Property of Inn at Mystic

Room with fireplace, Inn at Mystic
Image Property of Inn at Mystic

Stuffed from much too much good food, we decided to quickly check into our room before heading back out to walk through the town of Mystic. The Inn was recently renovated - it was clean and fresh, but I would not say it was modern by any means. Some of the rooms have fireplaces and jacuzzis in them and I'd suggest asking for one of those rooms - especially if you're looking for a relaxing and romantic getaway. Our room was clean but non-descript, it was sort of what you might expect from a New England roadside inn that seems more like a motel than an inn. We deposited our bags and drove into town. 

West Main Street in Mystic, CT Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

West Main Street in Mystic, CT
Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

Bank Square Bookstore in Mystic, CT Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

Bank Square Bookstore in Mystic, CT
Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

The Drawbridge in Mystic, CT Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

The Drawbridge in Mystic, CT
Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

The Drawbridge in Mystic, CT Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

The Drawbridge in Mystic, CT
Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

Mystic, CT Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

Mystic, CT
Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

There's quite a bit to do in Mystic in the wintertime. The old port is beautiful, but may be quite chilly in winter, so bundle up! Olde Mystic Village has lots of shopping - quaint, touristy boutique type stores. The aquarium is thoroughly enjoyable and is open year round, but do check first in case of inclement weather. (They close in substantial snow.) West Main Street in the town of Mystic is charming with lots of boutique shops, a wonderful bookstore, and some bars and restaurants where you can pop inside and to up with a warm cup of coffee or crisp mug of beer. There's an arts center and the Florence Griswold Museum is in Old Lyme. During the early 20th century, the Lyme Art Colony (located in Miss Florence Griswold’s boardinghouse) became America’s most famous summer art colony. Today this museum shares the story of how Connecticut played a pivotal role in fostering an authentic American art.

West Main Street in Mystic, CT Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

West Main Street in Mystic, CT
Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

We meandered up and down West Main Street and in and out of the charming shops, before stopping in at a local restaurant, The Ancient Mariner, for a drink before heading back to the hotel to rest up before dinner. More food - how could we possibly?!

Formal dining room at Harbour House in Mystic, CT Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

Formal dining room at Harbour House in Mystic, CT
Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

Fortunately we scheduled a late dinner and returned to the restaurant just after 8:00pm. This time we were seated at a lovely window-side table downstairs in the formal dining room with the fireplace. Despite the dreary weather the Harbour House was quite lively that night.

We perused the dinner menu and decided to start with the Native Calamari served Tuscan style with feta, olives and marinara. We loved the idea of them doing something a little different here but were slightly disappointed. The calamari was good - flavorful and crispy - but we felt as though the feta was sort of deposited upon it as an afterthought. We still believe that this dish has potential to stand out and think that the kitchen ought to play around with it some more. I have some ideas for this... 

For our entrees we ordered the Stonington Scallops and the Lobster Roll. Really we wanted to try so much more, but our already full stomachs had just so much room. We ordered our scallops blackened which came on a bed of mashed potatoes. They were truly cooked to perfection and loaded with flavor.  My lobster roll didn't disappoint either. I'd been craving one for quite a while and this one hit the spot. Mine was served up warm on a just slightly buttered roll. I like it that way. I do not want to taste too much butter when I eat my lobster rolls - I want to enjoy the sweetness of the fresh meat. As in our earlier dishes, they were more than generous with their lobster portions. The large, crispy fried potatoes that accompanied my sandwich were great too - and served as the perfect accoutrement. Perfectly content with all the food we'd consumed, we opted not to get more dessert but continued on with our wine and beer. Yet, despite this two desserts were brought over to us. We sampled a divine Pumpkin Cognac Cheesecake and an over the top decadent Chocolate Marquis made with Grand Marnier. I happen to love chocolate and orange and this didn't disappoint - neither did the cheesecake, and I'm not really a cheesecake person. Both of these phenomenal desserts were made by Harbor House's pastry chef.

Beer on Tap at Harbour House in Mystic, CT Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

Beer on Tap at Harbour House in Mystic, CT
Images property of Jessica Gordon Ryan & The Entertaining House

At around 9:00, maybe it was 9:30, the band started to play and at that point, even downstairs in the quiet, formal dining room, it was getting hard to carry on an intimate conversation. We did for a while then decided to go upstairs to the bar where we found a local band playing some good ol' 80s tunes to a large local crowd who were thoroughly enjoying themselves. We bellied on up to the bar, settled in and enjoyed the scene. The band was decent, but most importantly, the crowd was lively. For locals looking for a fun night out this seemed to have been the place to be. When the band hung up their instruments, we headed over to our room at the Inn and settled in for the night. 

The inn was pleasantly quiet. We didn't hear any of our neighbors, and despite being on the ground level, right off the parking lot, we didn't hear much from the outside either. 

The next morning, as we were getting ready to check out and take a drive through some of the surrounding towns, we contemplated trying someplace else for breakfast, but decided to use the breakfast voucher that came with our room and try breakfast. The dining room in the bar area was clean and bright with no trace of last night's bar crowd. The sun shone in brightly, and the crowd seemed slightly different as well. Perhaps other hotel guests, or a different local crowd. We had one last chance to try the Harbour House menu. And truth be told, I was rather looking forward to the breakfast and brunch menus. We ordered the Lox and Bagel and the French Toast.  The bagel and lox were good - and hard to believe but it is possible to mess this up. As a New Yorker I can say the bagel passed the test. But it was the French Toast that really got me. Their version is made from a baguette dipped in a cinnamon vanilla batter and served with fresh Maple syrup, accompanied by strawberries and whipped cream. The cinnamon and vanilla really stood out to add an incredible flavor yet did not overwhelm. After sampling the French toast I wished we had ordered one of the egg dishes instead of the bagel and lox. For those wanting something on the sweeter side, I fully recommend their French toast - it was one of the better ones I've had. 

***

Harbour House Restaurant, Inn at Mystic Image Property Inn at Mystic

Harbour House Restaurant, Inn at Mystic
Image Property Inn at Mystic

My overall summary:

The Inn was was lovely, and very basic. You really want one of the rooms with a fireplace. If you're looking for someplace a little more luxurious, this won't be the place for you. While our stay was incredibly quiet and relaxing, I do wonder how quiet the front facing rooms are in the summertime when more people are outside, in the parking lot and in the pool. 

The Harbour House Restaurant was lovely. We really enjoyed both the casual setting of the bar area, and the more intimate setting of the more formal dining room. We had a few really great items off the menu. Most was pretty standard - good, but not over the top. The beer selection was impressive. As were the prices. The food, and drink, were priced incredibly well. I would easily stop back for a bite and a drink en route to Newport or Maine this summer. I'd love to experience the outside deck when the weather is nice. 

Owner Tim Brown and his staff went above and beyond the call of duty. They were courteous, attentive, and incredibly polite. The customer service here is excellent. 

I think the Harbour House is still trying to figure out what it is exactly and where it fits in with the restaurant scene in the area. I applaud any establishment for trying to figure out what works and what doesn't in order to keep the dining rooms full and the customers happy. The nighttime bar crowd, for example, differed from the breakfast crowd, which differed from the dinner crowd. I can see that Harbor House will quickly become a hit with the locals looking for a great night out, but I think it can be so much more than that. 

On a scale of 1-5 sailboats I'd give the Inn at Mystic and Harbour House Restaurant 3.5 boats.
For more information about the hotel, restaurant and all their offerings, please visit their website.

Charming Connecticut Island for Sale

Built in 1912, this charming 3,871 sq. ft.  Nantucket style cottage on Potato island off the coast of Guilford is for sale. The spectacular 4 bedroom 3.5 Bath residence is located on its own private island. Renovated to perfection the house boasts a wrap around porch, with 360 degrees of breathtaking views, park like grounds with heated pool and a deep water dock. Located just 85 miles outside of New York City, this spectacular vacation residence is the perfect antidote to civilization. Manhattan is just an hour and 40 minutes,  and Boston in 2 hours 30 minutes by car.  The local airport is just 15 minutes away.

This enchanted private island oasis designed to maximize the most sought after views of coastal New England while respecting the traditions and spirit of this archipelago just off the mainland of the famed village of Stony Creek in Branford CT.

Described as palatial when originally built in 1912, this now captivating home was completely renovated to preserve the original character while providing every modern convenience. The experience begins in the quaint village of Stony Creek. Potato Island is one of 23 inhabitable islands that many say resemble the coast of Maine. 

The majestic home sits on just over an acre of property that contains perfect park-like-lawns and a spectacular heated pool. The pool was designed to offer a level of privacy while maximizing the surrounding water and island views.

Inside the home, the attention to detail is immediately noted with a large fieldstone fireplace to the right that anchors the large living chic yet casual dining. The home's original character has been preserved with hardwood floors and bead board which perfectly complement the more modern design elements. From the dining room one can bask in the late afternoon sun and then enjoy the most magnificent of sunsets. The kitchen boasts state of the art appliances and a breakfast bar.

The bedrooms and bathrooms are upstairs on the second level, with an impressive master suite with vaulted ceilings and breathtaking views. The other bedrooms are equally as enchanting.

So, if you have a cool $7.5 mil (or $29K per month) kicking around, you should take a look at the listing here.

"And so it Goes," the Southport, Connecticut home featured in the Diane Keaton and Michael Douglas movie is for sale

475 Harbor Road, Fairfield Connecticut "And so it Goes" home starring Diane Keaton and Michael Douglas for sale. 

475 Harbor Road, Fairfield Connecticut
"And so it Goes" home starring Diane Keaton and Michael Douglas for sale. 

Last week I shared with you that Paul Newman's former Westport, Connecticut home is for sale for a cool seven and a half million dollars. That seems to be a pretty popular price around here. Neighboring Westport is the small idylic coastal village of Southport which is part of the town of Fairfield. I adore this little village that I happen to call my home. 

This week I am sharing with you the Southport, Connecticut home featured in And so it Goes, featuring Diane Keaton and Michael Douglas is on the market for roughly the same price. (Click here for trailer.)

Settled in 1639, Southport center has been designated a local historic district since 1967, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 as the Southport Historic District. In the eighteenth century, Mill River Village which was a part of the Town of Fairfield, was a small hamlet of just a few houses and a wharf at the mouth of Fairfield's Mill River. Farm products from the surrounding area were shipped from Mill River's small harbor to ports in New York and beyond. By 1831 the village had changed its name to Southport and became a bustling commercial area with warehouses, churches, schools, stores and elegant homes.

Southport had become a leading coastal port on the Long Island Sound, with ships carrying produce and goods back and forth to New York City. A key component to the village's success was the fact that that during the 1800s it had the only two banks that served the the town. Soon the railroad would  would compete with the shipping industry. Resourceful shippers found themselves working with with local farmers and businessmen to keep the port going. The Southport onion, a high quality onion, was developed and grown on Fairfield's hills and shipped out via the harbor which kept it profitable until the end of the century. In the 1890s, 100,000 barrels of locally grown onions, carrots, potatoes, and other goods were shipped annually from Southport harbor.

Today, much of the old village area is part of a town historic district, where buildings from three centuries are protected for future generations. Strict historic zoning regulations apply in the district and have been upheld by the Connecticut Supreme Court.The Southport Historic District is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The New York Times wrote about Southport a few years back. "If a row of tall white columns across the front of a building is a measure of its exclusivity, as the facade of the White House might suggest, Southport is a pretty rarefied place. Buildings with grooved pillars and curlicue capitals line thoroughfares like Westway and Old South Roads in Southport, a waterfront enclave of Fairfield, Conn. The buildings are often framed by bluestone sidewalks and fenced with fishbone-thin pickets. A five-column Greek Revival, so-called for its resemblance to the Parthenon, puffs out its chest next door to the neighborhood’s library. And Southport’s flyspeck of a downtown has another one, in red brick. That distinguished look comes at a cost. First-timers may have a hard time buying in Southport, as there is little available for under $500,000, and many houses with views of the sailboat-lined harbor can top $5 million."

Our village, a beautiful sleepy New York bedroom community now boasts lovely shops and antique stores, restaurants and a boutique hotel. For those who love to walk, run or bike, we have some of the most scenic routes on the coast. The Pequot Yacht Club is a private club for serious sailors. Two movies have been filmed here, Revolutionary Road, starring Leonardo diCaprio and Kate Winslet and And so it Goes

Interested in this fabulous property in this treasure of a town? This luxurious home of modern construction is located at 457 Harbor Road, Fairfield, in Historic Southport Village. Spectacular, elevated views of the harbor can be seen from much of the home. Directly across the harbor lie The Country Club of Fairfield and Long Island Sound.

Traditional New England architecture mixes with an open floor plan to bring dramatic light and scenery to every room of the house, including a gourmet kitchen, family room, master suite with his/her baths, private and office & fitness room. The home is wrapped in elegant terraces and includes a deep water dock with boat house & garden with koi pond/waterfall. A heated driveway is a welcome modern amenity as are the 2 laundry rooms and custom floating staircase. The property is listed by William Raveis Exceptional Properties. 

Paul Newman's historic Westport, Connecticut home is for sale

Image via Westport News

Image via Westport News

Close your eyes and you can imagine the love and the laughter shared between the late actor, his wife and his daughters in this magnificent home. Keep them closed and you can imagine the antics that might have been had when Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid got together here. Newman was more than the celebrated actor we know him for. His philanthropy and entrepreneurial successes included the well known Newman's Own food line and The Hole in the Wall Gang, a camp for children with serious illnesses.  Newman appreciated good food and opened a wonderful and innovative restaurant in his home town aptly called The Dressing Room. It was one of the first Farm to Table establishments which paved the way for many more that would come in the years to follow. Sadly the restaurant closed after his passing, leaving a gaping hole in the restaurant community.

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward lived in a charming colonial home on a pristine 10.46-acre estate located at 277 and 275 North Avenue in the Coleytown section of town, an area particularly rich in history. Long before the Newmans moved in, the Coley family owned the property for close to 200 years. The property in Coley Village was originally part of Fairfield, before it became Coley Town and eventually the Coleytown part of Westport, as it is known today. The old Coley Village had a mill, shoemaker, blacksmith, yarn manufacturer, stables, small village green and one-room school house. Those have all since been torn down to make room for the modern, home that would belong to many formidable people - farmers, artists and, of course, the late actor and his wife.  Unconfirmed rumors suggest the main house was a stop along the Underground Railroad.

The property boasts five buildings -- the main house, the former grist mill which then became a cotton mill, and a carriage house, as well as two barns. One of the barns is 200 years old; the other was converted into studio space with a bedroom and bathroom as well as an approved 2-acre building lot for a five-bedroom house and pool with its own driveway. The 1,600-square-foot carriage house was built circa 1900 and has three bedrooms and two baths. The second house which is the former mill, dates back to 1790 and sits along Coleytown Road. It has 2,100 square feet of living space and two fireplaces, one with a bread oven. The main house and the mill maintain their central fireplaces. Both houses are within walking distance of the Newman-Poses Nature Preserve. (All pictured below.)

The earliest portion of the main residence, known as The Ebenezer Coley House is a well preserved Colonial saltbox, that was built in 1763. The newer addition was designed by Kirby Grimes a revered architect based out of Bridgehampton, New York. He added square footage while keeping with the style and era of the main part of the home. A transitional space links the old house to new addition and boasts seven sets of French doors to the rear patio and the wisteria-entwined pergola, bringing the house's total square footage to over 6,400. 

The formidable home has several other names. The Kerr Eby House  was named after the noted artist and anti-war activist, who lived there and named it "Driftway." He made quite a few sketches and etchings of the home in a period of time between the two World Wars, and you can find them for sale still today. Westport used to be known for its artists' colony and quite a few notable artists and sculptors owned portions of the property. 

Stroll along the property's well manicured lawns, formal and informal gardens where you will find a heated Gunite swimming pool, vintage stone walls and mature trees. You can practically envision all the people who've passed through, in carriages, on horse, by foot where those in past and present find themselves by the Aspetuck River which winds its way through the property. A footbridge crosses the river by a waterfall, and a sunroom in the second house provides a picture-perfect river view.

The asking price is $7,499,000

Image of Newman home for sale via Westport News

Image of Newman home for sale via Westport News

Image of Newman home for sale via Westport News

Image of Newman home for sale via Westport News

Image of Newman home for sale via Westport News

Image of Newman home for sale via Westport News

Image of Newman home for sale via Westport News

Image of Newman home for sale via Westport News

Image of Newman home for sale via Westport News

Image of Newman home for sale via Westport News

Image of Newman home for sale via Westport News

Image of Newman home for sale via Westport News

Image of Newman home for sale via Westport News

Image of Newman home for sale via Westport News

Image of Newman home for sale via Westport News

Image of Newman home for sale via Westport News

Image of Newman home for sale via Westport News

Image of Newman home for sale via Westport News


Dining out in Fairfield County :: Brick + WOOD

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT  Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT 
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

I do love writing food reviews and going out to my press dinners. I love it even more when the restaurant is really good. Often, even with really great selections, there are items that fall off the mark and disappoint a bit. Every once in a while you happen upon a place where everything you try is divine. Brick + Wood is just that place. Now, of course, I feel the need to preface my pieces by saying that food, like art, is really all subjective. What I may love, you may not. 

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT  Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT 
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Paolo and Clara Cavalli  opened Brick + WOOD in The Brick Walk in Fairfield, Connecticut just 3 weeks ago to a steady stream of very happy diners. Located in the former Ponte Vecchio location the space and the concept have been redesigned to embrace a fresh beginning and a new dining experience for a new generation. Haverson Architecture & Design of Greenwich, CT, has redesigned the space, transforming it into a multi-layered / multi-sensory restaurant and bar. 

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Owner Paolo Cavalli, center Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Owner Paolo Cavalli, center
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Much of the design is framed by stressed wood and worn Chicago brick with pockets of space throughout filled with stacks of wood that heat the oven. The mosaic tiled pizza oven and the butcher block and Calcutta Ciero marble top mozzarella bar are the focal point of the dining room.

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Some of the 30 Wines on Tap Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Some of the 30 Wines on Tap
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + Wood is home to the area’s first all-tap wine bar, accentuated by a steel backdrop and wooden taps. The beverage program is a first of its kind in the area and boasts the largest selection of wines on tap along the Eastern Seaboard. Their wine selection is tremendous, but you can't ignore their creative cocktails. Word has it that the Wood Martini is divine. Their sangria is wonderful and unique, made with limoncello and fresh fruit. Their Cider Shooter is a fun fall beverage - It's not (yet) on the menu but you should ask for it.

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Flight of Wine Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Flight of Wine
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

In addition to craft cocktails and premium beer selections, the impressive line-up can be served by the glass, in flights as a 2 oz taste, ½ carafe or full carafe, via a contemporary wine tap design which maintains the integrity of wine. Our wines were paired with our food, from light and refreshing to match the flavors of the street food, to bold to hold up to the flavors of the pizzas, one of which had a lot of heat. 

Wine Taps are environmentally friendly. Brick + Wood has researched, sipped and sourced the best wines from around the world from winemakers who want their varietals to continuously shine from start to finish. These wines are stored in stainless steel kegs and maintained at optimal temperature – reds at 62 degrees and whites at 42 degrees. In a properly sealed keg where the wine is not exposed to oxygen, even when tapped repeatedly, the last ounce of wine tastes as fresh as the first.

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Mozzarella Bar, making buratta  Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Mozzarella Bar, making buratta 
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + Wood’s offers an evocative and inspiring menu which lends itself to a dining experience that's as visual as it is tasteful. A Mozzarella Bar is visible and accessible to all in the restaurant. Watch as the chefs prepare hand-pulled mozzarella all day long. In addition, imported dried and cured meats such as capocollo, mortadella, prosciutto and salami are thinly sliced to order.  

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Burrata with truffle oil and freshly shaved prosciutto Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Burrata with truffle oil and freshly shaved prosciutto
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Our burrata was fresh, almost warm with a creamy center. The truffle filled center added a luxurious taste to an already decadent treat, the freshly shaved prosciutto complemented it perfectly.

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Caramelized onions, ricotta on homemade crostino Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Caramelized onions, ricotta on homemade crostino
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Street Food... It doesn't get much more simple than ricotta and caramelized onions on homemade crostino and yet the sweetness of the onions and the creaminess of the ricotta are perfectly balanced with the crispiness of the toasts.

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Fried pizza dough Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Fried pizza dough
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Montanara Pizze Fritte - Yes, just as it looks and sounds - fried pizza dough. This tender soft just slightly crisp dough melts in your mouth, topped with their own marinara sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes are a simple delight. I'm not sure I would order these before a pizza, but certainly I would if I was sitting at the bar and needed something to nibble on while drinking my wine. 

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Loaded Potato Crochette Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Loaded Potato Crochette
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

You've not had a croquette until you've tried their Loaded Baked Potato Crochette. Made from mashed potatoes, bacon, chive and cheese, these are truly decadent.

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Arancini (pear and gorgonzola) Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Arancini (pear and gorgonzola)
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Arancini are a traditional street fare. Little balls of rice deep fried and stuffed with either bacon, cheese and jalapeno sauce, four cheeses and vodka sauce or pear and gorgonzola with a sage brown sauce. I wasn't sure I would like the latter, I quite liked the combination of the pear and the gorgonzola. The inside was rich and creamy and the flavors balanced beautifully. If you're up for trying something a little different, I recommend trying these. 

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Arugula Salad Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Arugula Salad
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Next was the Arugula Salad, the little leaves were served with thin slices of pear, and candied walnuts in a maple vinaigrette. Again, I was not expecting to like this - I tend not to like salads on the sweeter side, but this worked for me. The maple in the dressing was just sweet enough to balance the bite of the arugula.

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Diavola (Texas Heat) Pizza Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Diavola (Texas Heat) Pizza
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Margherita Pizza Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Margherita Pizza
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Arugula e Prosciutto Pizza Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - Arugula e Prosciutto Pizza
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Now let's talk pizza. THIS is pizza. This is the pizza that brings me back to Rome and Florence and some of the tiny pizzerias in Tuscany and Umbria... The thin crust that has the right amount of chew and isn't brittle like most thin crusted pizzas are here. Brick + Wood's “perfect pizza” is a labor of love and is certified by the Associazone Pizzaiuoli Napoletani (APN), an association formed in Naples by pizza makers to preserve the authentic Neapolitan pizza values. (Supported by the Italian government, this rigorous certification process is required by any restaurant in Italy wishing to serve authentic Neapolitan pizza. Only a handful of pizzaiolos in the United States have earned this distinction.) 

Brick + Wood pizza starts with fresh dough, handmade on the premises and leavened for 24-48 hours. Using Italian imported San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil and house made fior di latte mozzarella; the pizza is then cooked in a 900 degree wood-fired oven for about 90 seconds, which marks the pizza with flame blackened blisters along the crust and bottom. From this perfect “anatomy of a pizza”, creative, as well as classic toppings can be added. 

We tried three of their pizza. First we had the Margherita - traditional made with San Marzano tomato sauce, basil, fresh mozzerella and olive oil. It was good, it was very good but I prefered the "white" pizza - althought not white by traditional standards this one had no red sauce, simply their fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, shaved, Parmagiano and a touch of balsamic glaze. I enjoyed this one very much.

My favorite, however, was the Diavola (Texas Heat) which is made from spicy Sopressata, garlic, jalapenos and oregano with just a touch of spicy honey drizzled over the top. There is no sweetness to this pizza at all, but the honey takes a bit of the edge off the heat. Don't get me wrong. There is still plenty of heat here for you heat lovers! 

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - White chocolate and cranberry bread pudding Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - White chocolate and cranberry bread pudding
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - S'mores Pizza Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Brick + WOOD, Fairfield CT - S'mores Pizza
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

And finally, even though I had no room left, I had to try the two desserts that were presented to us. We were given a slice of S'mores pizza... While it may not be the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, it certainly tasted good - with all the flavors you'd expect. My favorite, however, was their cranberry and white chocolate bread pudding. I don't ordinarily get dessert, but this was truly outstanding. It was decadent and yet comforting. While I might not order this after my pizza... I would absolutely come for dessert, paired with a nice robust red, or warm cup of espresso, this is a treat that simply must be tried.

If you are in or near the Fairfield, Connecticut area, this should be a must on your places to eat out - whether on a date or as a family with the children. We'll be there at some point this weekend!

Sunday Brunch in Fairfield County :: Washington Prime

The new Sunday Brunch Buffet at Washington Prime, Norwalk, CT Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

The new Sunday Brunch Buffet at Washington Prime, Norwalk, CT
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

This article first appeared on CTBites.

Washington Prime opened just a few months ago to rave reviews, and a steady stream of satisfied customers as a result of the visions of owners Robb Moss and Marco Siguenza and the creative innovations of Chef Jared Falco. This past Sunday, at the request of many of their patrons, Washington Prime decided to do something new – the Sunday Prime Bruch Buffet where, for $29.90, you can select from a complimentary Mimosa, Bloody Mary or Moscow mule as you indulge from the incredible buffet. Select from a raw bar, artisanal cheeses, salads, a prime rib and omelet station as well as the traditional fare - a selection of bacon, sausages, French toast, Eggs Benedict, miniature bagels with smoked salmon and the works, assorted pastries and Danishes, yogurt, granola and fresh fruit. 

SoNo's Washington Prime's Sunday Brunch Buffet Raw Bar Jessica Gordon Ryan

SoNo's Washington Prime's Sunday Brunch Buffet Raw Bar
Jessica Gordon Ryan

As I walked in I was immediately taken with the selection of food and how it was displayed.  Falco and his crew have brought the standard buffet to a new level. It was apparent to me that much thought had gone into the presentation. 

SoNo's Washington Prime's Sunday Brunch Buffet Raw Bar Jessica Gordon Ryan

SoNo's Washington Prime's Sunday Brunch Buffet Raw Bar
Jessica Gordon Ryan

I surveyed the goodies and decided that I would start with the raw bar and a couple of the cheeses. I love all seafood and happen to adore oysters. I can tell a good from a mediocre, a mediocre from a bad. The oysters were divine, fresh, succulent and sweet. On the side we had a selection of cocktail sauce, mignonette, horseradish and lemon from which to choose. They really needed nothing but I happen to love cocktail sauce and horseradish on mine. The clams were tender and fresh and the shrimp were incredibly succulent. I really enjoyed my cheese selection as well, though forgot to note which ones I had taken. As much as I wanted second and third helpings from the raw bar, I knew I had to save room so I could try a few more things.

SoNo's Washington Prime's Sunday Brunch Buffet Carving Station Jessica Gordon Ryan

SoNo's Washington Prime's Sunday Brunch Buffet Carving Station
Jessica Gordon Ryan

While I did not venture over to the omelet or prime rib stations, the consensus at our table was very favorable. 

SoNo's Washington Prime's Sunday Brunch Buffet - Perfectly Cooked Eggs Benedict Jessica Gordon Ryan

SoNo's Washington Prime's Sunday Brunch Buffet - Perfectly Cooked Eggs Benedict
Jessica Gordon Ryan

SoNo's Washington Prime's Sunday Brunch Buffet - Eggs Benedict, Hash browns, bacon, sausage Jessica Gordon Ryan

SoNo's Washington Prime's Sunday Brunch Buffet - Eggs Benedict, Hash browns, bacon, sausage
Jessica Gordon Ryan

I passed by the salads and made a bee-line over to the traditional brunch fare. I piled my plate with bacon, sausage, hash-browns and eggs Benedict, all of which are my favorites. As I was trying to pace myself and watch my girlish figure I had just a few bites of each. The bacon was cooked perfectly. I like mine quite crispy. The sausage too was very good. The potatoes, a mix of white and blue baby potatoes that were a delightful combination of buttery and crispy and very well-seasoned. The eggs Benedict was cooked to perfection with soft runny centers and a light and airy Hollandaise that looked as though it had been freshly made when they brought it out. I didn’t love the pork belly that was served in lieu of the traditional Canadian bacon. It was easy enough to remove. If you haven’t piled enough onto your plate at this point, you can also have a mini bagel with cream cheese or butter, smoked salmon, diced onion and tomatoes. 

SoNo's Washington Prime's Sunday Brunch Buffet, Mini Bagels and Smoked Salmon Jessica Gordon Ryan

SoNo's Washington Prime's Sunday Brunch Buffet, Mini Bagels and Smoked Salmon
Jessica Gordon Ryan

SoNo's Washington Prime's Sunday Brunch Buffet, gluten free French Toast Jessica Gordon Ryan

SoNo's Washington Prime's Sunday Brunch Buffet, gluten free French Toast
Jessica Gordon Ryan


While I tend to stay away from the sweeter options, everyone at our table was raving over the French toast. Not wanting to miss out on a thing, I grabbed a slice and drizzled some Maple syrup over the top of it. How different could this really be? It was. The raisins and cinnamon, along with the syrup make this a French toast to be reckoned with!  

SoNo's Washington Prime's Sunday Brunch Buffet - Try one of their spicy Bloody Marys! Jessica Gordon Ryan

SoNo's Washington Prime's Sunday Brunch Buffet - Try one of their spicy Bloody Marys!
Jessica Gordon Ryan

For those of you who have yet to visit Washington Prime, it’s more than a restaurant it’s an experience. The wide open, U shaped bar welcomes and greets patrons as they enter the establishment. The interior has a modern industrial feel combined with an element that is both warm and inviting. The high ceilings give the restaurant a spacious feel while the warm woods and moss covered walls and booths lend themselves to create a warm and nature-like ambiance which seems to echo the popular trend of bringing the outside in. The tables stand beside the tall floor to ceiling windows, offering great natural lighting and a panoramic view of the harbor. Outside, plenty of comfortable oversized wicker seating awaits those wishing for a more relaxed setting. On this particular Sunday, as we brunched, looking out on to the water, we were quite taken with the music, a selection of old jazz favorites, that added yet another perfect layer to our relaxing Sunday brunch. Sports addicts, fear not, there are plenty of televisions around to cheer on your favorite team.

In conclusion, what can I say? Washington Prime does it again – They take a classic, put their own stamp on it, making it fresh and new. 

Charming Connecticut :: What to do in Fairfield County this weekend :: Rooms with a View

2014 Rooms with a View, Southport Congregational Church Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

2014 Rooms with a View, Southport Congregational Church
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

This piece first appeared on the AtHome Magazine website. This weekend Southport Congregational Church’s annual fundraiser, Rooms with a View, founded by the late Albert Hadley is to take place from Friday through Sunday. 

Come peruse the church’s library and great hall area to view 12 wondrous miniature showrooms. This delightful event, now chaired by Thom Filicia, was created so that the small local church could help those in need. What started out as a little design show has grown exponentially over the years and has caught the attention of many national shelter magazines.

This year, celebrating the event’s 20th anniversary, the 12 participating designers will all pay tribute to the legendary late Albert Hadley, America’s preeminent designer to high society. We will see how these designer choose to reinterpret his work in their 5-by-8-foot spaces, with three walls and an 8-foot ceiling.  

This year’s designers are:
Christian Arkay-Leliever, Fairfield
Parker & Company, Parker Rogers II and Katie Holmberg, Southport
Forehand & Lake Interiors, Christina Lake, Fairfield
Jane Ellsworth Interiors LLC, Jane Ellsworth, Darien
Jenny Wolf Interiors, Jenny Wolf, New York
New York School of Interior Design, Margaret Mints and Veronica Whitlock, New York
Patrick Mele Design, Patrick Mele, New York
Sara Gilbane Interiors, Sara Gilbane, New York
Sister Parish Design, Susan Crater and Eliza Crater, Bedford, NY
Tara Seawright Inc., Tara Seawright, New York
Antonino Buzzetta Design, Antonino Buzzetta, New York
Barry Rice Design LLCFull Circle Modern, Barry Rice, Brooklyn

Rooms with a View opens to the public today and tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission tickets are $20.

In addition there are three premium events that require reservations:

A Friday gala from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $100 and $500.

A Saturday lunch and fashion show, with seatings at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Tickets are $50 and include admission to the design show.

A Saturday champagne tour of the room vignettes and dinner with New York designer Thom Filicia is will take place on Saturday evening from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $500.

In addition to the room vignettes, there will be marketplace featuring more than 30 vendors selling crafts, antiques and accessories. Refreshments will be available at a cafe. Proceeds from the event will support the church’s missions and outreach programs in Connecticut and overseas.

Here is a sneak peak!

2014 Rooms with a View, Southport Congregational Church Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

2014 Rooms with a View, Southport Congregational Church
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

2014 Rooms with a View, Southport Congregational Church Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

2014 Rooms with a View, Southport Congregational Church
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

2014 Rooms with a View, Southport Congregational Church Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

2014 Rooms with a View, Southport Congregational Church
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

2014 Rooms with a View, Southport Congregational Church Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

2014 Rooms with a View, Southport Congregational Church
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

2014 Rooms with a View, Southport Congregational Church Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

2014 Rooms with a View, Southport Congregational Church
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

2014 Rooms with a View, Southport Congregational Church Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

2014 Rooms with a View, Southport Congregational Church
Image Jessica Gordon Ryan

Dining out in Fairfield County :: Hana Tokyo opens in the Brick Walk

This article first appeared on CTBites.

Hana Tokyo opened in Fairfield’s Brick Walk Plaza just a few weeks ago, and locals seem to be embracing the new restaurant with open arms. Owner Alan Wu recently relocated from Alexandria, Virginia to be closer to his family. Born and raised in China, he came to the US in his mid-20s and landed in New York City where he immersed himself in the world of gourmet sushi, learning everything possible about the trade. In 2002 he opened the original Hana Tokyo and after 13 successful years as the busiest Japanese restaurant in town, Wu and his restaurant now come to us. Wu prides himself on using only the freshest available ingredients, making everything in-house, and offering unparalleled service.

The new restaurant (which many will recognize as the former Tomba) has a contemporary, earthy feel. As one enters the restaurant, a large mural of a Japanese woman in a kimono, painted by renowned local artist, Suzanne Bellehumeur, greets you as you enter the facility and a small sushi bar constructed from reclaimed wood is to the right. Contemporary and traditional Japanese décor are combined to give the space a look that is modern yet traditional. The main dining area has 8 hibachi tables, a sushi bar, a lounge, plus 20 outside seats.

Wu brings his proven successes to Fairfield along with a highly trained team of sushi masters, hibachi chefs, servers and bar tenders. Head chef Michael Lin, formerly of Tengda Asian Bistro in Greenwich, brings his mastery of hand crafted sushi rolls and appetizers, utilizing only the freshest of ingredients, to create signature dishes that include an inspired Pizza Sandwich filled with spicy tuna, avocado, tamango, masago, crab and lobster salad topped with eel and wasabi sauces. Other creative inspirations include Blackened Tuna Taco with a spicy wasabi aioli wonton, Octopus Salad with Ponzu soy and Toro Tartar with quail egg. Chef Lin originally hails from the same hometown in China as Alan Wu. Over the years he has learned how to create dishes that surpass the expectations of the local area’s palate. His passion is to blend traditional Japanese ingredients with unique flavors in new and innovative ways.

I stopped by one day last week and sampled some of the items from the appetizer and sushi menus as well as experience the hibachi. Our first stop was the bar where we sampled dumplings, spicy rock shrimp, shrimp dumplings and shrimp and vegetable tempura. We moved on to the sushi, and  I highly recommend The Sushi and Sashimi Combination which was so vibrant, colorful and fresh – everyone should try just one piece without any sauce to fully appreciate the freshness. The Sushi Dynamite and Sushi Napoleon were very good but my favorites of the specialty rolls were the Fancy Rainbow Roll, a beautiful combination of tuna, salmon, yellowtail avocado and scallion – it was as beautiful to look at as it was to eat - and the Megan Roll, a unique roll with tuna, salmon, yellowtail and avocado all neatly wrapped together in paper thin cucumber slices with a vinegar sauce. These rolls were incredibly light and refreshing. Because these rolls contain no rice, they are perfect for those preferring to go a carb-free or Paleo route.

Next we moved to the hibachi menu where we indulged in filet mignon, shrimp, lobster and chicken. I’ll be honest and say that I’m not much of a hibachi fan. I tend to find it a bit heavy, oily and oftentimes bland – I go merely for my children who do love it, for it’s certainly an entertaining way to eat.  While my expectations were low (despite the great sushi I previously sampled) I was very pleasantly surprised.  Our experience started, as it almost always does, with a fancy fire show and an entertaining display of knife juggling wizardry. From there our chef fried the obligatory egg and fried rice. Only this was not like all the other fried rice; this fried rice had texture…an almost nutty-like texture, and a great deal of flavor. It was not overly greasy. And as simple as fried really rice is – this was really good.

Next to arrive was the fillet mignon. We opted to have ours rare. It was perfectly pink on the inside, incredibly flavorful, tender and juicy, and seemed almost to melt in our mouths. The shrimp, lobster and the chicken were excellent. I did notice one thing as I watched our chef. He seasoned everything thoroughly - as opposed to simply drizzling some soy sauce haphazardly over the food as I’ve seen at other hibachi restaurants…our chef added a couple of different sauces, a little bit of salt and a considerable amount of garlic. The garlic, not at all overpowering, brought the taste to the next level and made this hibachi meal stand out from the rest. If you’re not completely stuffed to the gills, I recommend trying their ice cream – choose from ginger, mango, coconut, green tea, or red bean. Better yet, get a scoop of each. We certainly had fun sampling them all and trying to figure out which was which.

Hana Tokyo
1275 Post Rd, Fairfield, CT 06824
Phone:(203) 256-0800

This article first appeared on CTBites.


All About Salt Therapy, Salt Caves and The Healing Powers of Salt

Property of Saltana Salt Caves

Property of Saltana Salt Caves

Salt therapy has been used for centuries across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Salt therapy is enjoying a newfound popularity, both in the US and abroad. Also called halotherapy, it is said to relieve all sorts of medical conditions ranging from respiratory illnesses such as asthma, COPD, and bronchitis to skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. It's also been proven as a treatment for Cystic Fibrosis, suggested for ADHD, weakened immune systems, thyroid disorders and arthritis. Salt chambers, or caves, have been popping up all over the place. These caves offer healing experiences in the most relaxing of environments. With thanks to modern technology today's salt caves can recreate the same microclimate found in natural salt mines.

Natural Himalayan salt has over 80 natural restorative minerals that are extremely beneficial to the human body when ingested as well as when inhaled. Himalayan salt is antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and acts as an anti-inflammatory.This salty environment creates a healthy negative ion charge in the particles, which are inhaled into the body and absorbed into the skin. These particles work throughout the body to expel mucus, and push out toxins.  

I recently learned about Saltana Cave in Ridgefield and wanted to experience the healing powers of salt. I had no idea what to expect. I thought cave and I thought cold and dark, but I was very wrong. While the cave is indeed dark, lit up only by special himalayan salt lights strategically placed on the walls, creating warm pink hues, on the floors and one was made to resemble a make-shift fireplace. The walls of the cave are made entirely of blocks of pink himalayan salt. The ceiling was created to resemble a starry sky at night. Below you'll notice several inches of pink Himalayan salt, about the size of small pebbles. The salt was lovely to walk on.

The room was comfortably warm - much more so that I expected. I immediately felt the difference in the air quality – and the smell, much like a clean, fresh ocean breeze. A salt generator is used to create the halotherapy (natural healing through salt).

I was guided to a zero gravity chair, handed a blanket, and told to make myself comfortable and relax. I reclined my chair as far as it would go and even though I was not cold I placed the blanket on top of me. I was told that in a few minutes I would be listening to a tape that would tell me about the healing powers of salt. The short lecture came to an end and transitioned into some incredibly relaxing New Age Music . I was so relaxed that I drifted in and out of sleep - not a deep sleep but a deeply relaxed trance-like mode. I do not relax or unwind easily. My brain is always abuzz and always running at warp speed. I have a very hard time tuning out during yoga yet here I was able to do so easily. 

As far as the beneficial and therapeutic part of the session, I'm not really sure I could pinpoint anything. Though while I am not asthmatic, I could tell me breathing was much deeper and cleaner. My thoughts were lucid, clearer and that could have been a result of the salt therapy or the fact that I was incredibly relaxed. I don't think I’ve ever felt quite so relaxed after yoga or a massage. Coincidental or not, I felt good when I left – I felt very good.

The salt cave sessions at Saltana Cave are 45 minutes long and start every hour on the hour. It is suggested that you wear casual clothing and white socks to preserve the purity of salt. (Shoes are left outside in a cubby.) While it would be fun to experience with a friend, I was glad that I went alone. My iPhone was tucked away, there was no one nearby to distract me, and because of that I feel I really benefited from the experience. For those looking for alternate and a natural means of de-stressing, over work, life or the impending holidays, this could very well be your answer.

For many in the area Saltana is a little bit of a drive. You may want to schedule lunch or something fun to do either before or afterwards in nearby Wilton or Ridgefield. 

For more information on hours of operation and pricing contact Saltana Cave. For those of you in other parts of the state, country or world, be sure to look up Helotherapy, my guess is that there's a salt cave not too far from you!

Property of Saltana Cave

Property of Saltana Cave

Property of Saltana Cave 

Property of Saltana Cave 


Chamard Vineyards :: A mini culinary vacation right in our backyard

Property Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property Jessica Gordon Ryan

Nestled in the shoreline town of Clinton, Connecticut, about a mile beyond the hustle and bustle of the outlet shops is a charming vineyard that boasts 20 acres of grapes as well as their bountiful fruit, vegetable and herb gardens. This little winery is truly a hidden gem - a diamond in the rough. 

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

While the words vineyard and winery do not typically come to mind when you mention coastal Connecticut, you may want to rethink those thoughts. Established in 1983, Chamard Vineyards Farm, Winery, & Bistro boasts several Estate Reserve wines that are exclusively made in their winery, and can be enjoyed right on their premises - in their Tasting Room, dining rooms and, weather permitting,outside on the patio overlooking the magnificent property. The bistro offers a creative farm-to-table menu featuring a French inspired American menu.  

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Come meander through the vineyards and the gardens – bring your dogs if you wish, but they must remain on their leashes! (Your four-legged friends are not allowed inside in the dining areas, however.) Take in the magnificent scenery all around you - California doesn't have the beauty of the seasons the way we do! Our leaves will be at peak within in the next couple of weeks, why not enjoy the amazing foliage while sipping some great wine and dining on great fare. 

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

I met up with my good friend Doug Ball for a personal tour and some lunch - Doug was responsible and the mastermind in turning this once residential home into a restaurant with a commercial kitchen and tasting area. His impressive sculptures also dot the vinery landscape.

We entered the building from the outside, where the Tasting Room was to the left and two adjoining dining areas were on our right. The Tasting Room is small but spacious and sunny with magnificent views of the vineyards all around. As you make your way to the bar you'll notice an amazing creation, a cross between a mural and a sculpture created entirely from wine barrels - Here Doug illustrates the journey of the grape, from the vine, to the bottle to the glass. It's quite impressive. The bar itself is made from reclaimed cherry flooring and wine barrels, as are the 8 tables.

The Lounge boasts 7 tables, is warm and inviting filled with eclectic décor and artwork, much created from reclaimed wood, wine barrels and wine staves. In the center of the Lounge, commanding your attention, is a wonderful table aptly called The Center of the Universe. This beautiful table was created from a fallen persimmon tree as was the pass-through from the lounge into the kitchen. As in the Tasting Room, the rest of the tables in the lounge area were created from wine barrels. In keeping in theme with the winery, the decor follows suit throughout - the table tops in the Atrium, just off of the Lounge, were created from wine vats, and the benches at each table, just beneath the windows with the scenic views, were made from reclaimed lumber and old wine staves. (Wine staves are the individual pieces of wood that all together form a wine barrel.) For larger parties and private events the Harvest Room, located just off the Atrium, is available for use. Each dining area offers exquisite views of the property. 

Property Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property Jessica Gordon Ryan

 We enjoyed our lunch in the lounge where the trees were just starting to change into their autumnal hues – the bright reds and oranges served as a perfect contrast to the green vines. Chamard's new menu perfectly reflected the change of seasons. The kitchen prides themselves on using fresh vegetables, fruit and greens from their own gardens. Items that are not grown on property are sourced from local farms and vendors. The new menu boasts items like Salade Lyonnaise, made with frisée lettuce, applewood smoked bacon, poached egg, brioche croutons with Dijon apple cider vinaigrette. The Salade de Feuilles de Moutarde is made with kabocha squash, dried cherries, pumpkin seeds, braised pork belly and maple syrupChamard Courge Musquee et Gnocci is made with a house made gnocchi, local shiitake mushrooms, sage pesto, toasted pistachio nuts and Brussel sprouts.   The Poitrine de Poulet Roti en Poêlé is a pan seared Moularde duck breast, served with Chamard white port, sour cherry gastrique, almond wild rice and sautéed baby spinach. The Agneau Roti âla Lavande Locale is a roast rack of spring lamp served with cannellini beans, tomato confit, roast garlic and eggplant with a rosemary-lavender jus.

Because I was on the property for a possible food review we tasted more than we would ordinarily order at lunchtime. We started with the Grilled Flatbread made with thinly sliced sweet potato, Red Russian kale, Fontina, herbed crème fraiche, black mission figs and a sherry glaze. The flatbread was served with a side salad, was thin and crisp and the flavors perfectly representative of the autumnal garden. For those who like sweet and savory, the combination of cheese and fruit, the Salade â la Mache will fill your flavor requirements. Organic mache lettuces, Belgium endive, caramelized Anjou pear, farmstead blue cheese, toasted pecans and a cranberry vinaigrette make this salad a beautiful as well as a flavorful treat. The smooth yet piquant blue offered a perfect balance to the sweetness of the pear and the dressing. This salad is a bit on the sweeter side, so if you prefer your salads more on the savory side, this may not be the choice for you. We munched on Camembert en Croute, a creamy Camembert wrapped in puff pastry, served with salted caramel sauce, pears and apples served and warm baguette slices while we waited for our entrees. This could also very well be served after a meal and enjoyed as a dessert. The Four Mile River Farm Burger made from local grass fed beef, aged gruyere cheese, bacon marmalade, garlic aioli and baby arugula on a brioche with a side salad vinaigrette was outstanding. The burger had a perfectly seared crust on the exterior, was pink, juicy and tender on the inside. The flavors of the bacon marmalade and the garlic aioli perfectly complemented the burger. The marmalade offered a nice bacon and onion flavor without overwhelming and weighing down the burger as bacon often does. The Côtelette de Porc de Berkshire Grillées aux Morilles – grilled Berkshire pork chop, morel mushrooms, spring garlic, brandy and crème fraiche with marbled rainbow potatoes was divine. The pork chop was perfectly cooked, and perfectly seasoned absorbing the flavors of the crème, sherry, mushrooms and the spices. The sauce was well seasoned with a perfect hint of the sherry, though not at all sweet. The fresh sage served a perfect flavor complement. My only regret was that I had not asked for some bread to soak up the wonderful sauce! With our meat we ordered a side of Shaved Brussel Sprouts that was served in a personal sized pot with pine nuts, dried cranberries and carrot brunoise. To help wash down our food we chose the award winning Merlot and the Chardonnay. Don’t let the fact that the grapes are local cloud your judgment. These are two truly very good wines. 

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

There's one more thing worth noting - Perhaps you are interested creating your very own wine, and labels? The winery offers something called the Custom Crush. A Custom Crush will yield 2 barrels, or 300 bottles of wine. This is very popular as a bridal party activity as well as a team building activity for businesses. Come on, there's a little bit of Lucy and Ethel in all of us... admit it!

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan

Chamard offers private tours and tastings. It is recommended that they be made in advance of at least 2 weeks to accommodate other tours and scheduled event, one can also sign up for the their Wine Maker tour. 

For more information on tastings, tours and Custom Crushes, you can reach out to Chamard via their website

For more information on Doug Ball and his works, sculptures and commission, visit his website, OOODB.

Day 1 Trade Secret :: Rare Plant and Antiques Show


I left the house at 6:30 this morning to drive to the Northwestern-most corner of Connecticut - a part of the state known as Litchfield County filled with amazing arts, antique stores. This part of the state has rolling hills and farms that extend as far as the eye can see - her beauty is unrivaled. This year I headed to Trade Secrets, a wonderful flower and gardening expo that was founded by Bunny Williams that benefits women in need. The show has grown exponentially since its inception 14 years ago both in vendors and in guests. We delighted in all the wonderful, whimsical garden accessories, furniture and plants.

Now, 12 hours later, I am exhausted and resting up to return again tomorrow to see the incredible private gardens that will be on display. I am even more excited about tomorrow!

 Come stroll along with us - I hope you like what we spotted along the way.


Whimsical, mystical and wonderful creatures were everywhere





Can anyone take a guess as to what they think this might be?






















I've always wanted a few goats... these seem pretty easy to take care of!



Life at a snail's pace up here...


and some of the flowers and flowering trees...
















All photographs are property of me and The Entertaining House and re-use or re-publishing may only be done with proper attribution and my acknowledgement.


Can you keep a secret?



That's fabulous! But this is one secret that I don't want you to keep! This is Trade Secrets. Trade Secrets is a local tradition that was founded by Bunny Williams 14 years ago as a Fundraiser for Women's Support Service. This enormously popular two-day event includes the rare plant and garden antiques sale on Saturday, May 17th followed by a day of garden tours on Sunday, May 18th.

The event grew from a fledgling garden sale in Bunny Williams' backyard into an event that includes some of the rarest and finest plant and antique dealers. Many celebrity and non-celebrity garden enthusiasts make the trip to beautiful and bucolic Sharon, Connecticut, up in the state's northwest corner. Martha Stewart is a regular and attends every year.

Saturday's sale features approximately 60 vendors with their rare plants and unusual accessories - those kind of unique treasures that you might search a lifetime for. Garden enthusiasts will find rare plant specimens from specialized growers and some of the nation's best-known small nurseries, as well as furniture, antiques, cloches, wrought iron fencing, garden statuary and so much more from the choicest purveyors of garden antiques.

On Sunday, May 18th, Bunny Williams' garden and three unique and intimate gardens in Cornwall, CT will be on the Trade Secrets' garden tour. Williams' garden is back for the 14th year! The Cornwall gardens are steeped in history and include a renovated 18th century gristmill, a beautiful rugged hillside home, and the most elegant 1836 Greek Revival-style home that was once owned by prominent long-time Cornwall resident Colonel Dwight Wellington Pierce.

These gardens had some wonderfully famous gardeners who influenced their design including architect and preservationist, Tiziana Hardy; Linc & Laura "Timmy" Foster, best known for their classic work Rock Gardening; Ruth Gannett; Hattie Root; northwest Connecticut garden designer Mary Daalhuyzen; American industrial designer and sculptor, Tim Prentice; and Peter Del Tredici, an American botanist and author, senior research scientist at Arnold Arboretum, and lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Tickets go on sale April 1, 2014. Regular buying tickets for May 17 are $40 from 10am to 3pm and $125 for early-birds who want to arrive at 8 am. On May 18 the gardens are open from 10am - 4pm and tickets are $70 ($60 in advance). For more information or to purchase tickets call (860) 364-1080 or click here for more information.
via Trade Secrets

via Timeless Cool

via Timeless Cool

via Google Images, original source unknown

via Trade Secrets

via Trade Secrets 

The rain is supposed to stop on Friday and the sun will be shining down on us all weekend. So grab your wellies and a sun hat and come and be inspired!