I have lived in Connecticut for over 25 years – Wow, kind of scary! I moved here right after graduate school and have raised all four of my boys in the Nutmeg State. Never in a million years would I have thought that Connecticut would be my home for so many years. My husband is from New York City and I am from a suburb in Maryland, so we are from very different surroundings. However, our values are very similar (fortunately!) and we decided to raise our four boys in Connecticut, where there are solid, high quality school systems, wonderful kids programs and sports activities, and easy access to kid-friendly activities, both in Connecticut as well as New York City.
My boys have benefited from all the incredible museums, aquariums, and nature centers in Connecticut, such as the Maritime Aquarium, Mystic Aquarium, Mashantucket Pequot Museum, Stamford Museum and Nature Center, The Nature Center of New Canaan, Stepping Stones Museum for Children, and more. In addition, there are the local farms where my boys have been on hayrides, run through corn mazes, and petted farm animals, and picked fresh apples and pumpkins.
The Memorial Day parades and 4th of July fireworks displays each year bring towns together in an old fashioned kind of way. It has been a wonderful environment for my kids to grow up in. The local sports programs are phenomenal as well as two of my boys have advanced to the World Series Cal Ripkin Baseball series several years.
As a foodie, I have watched and seen Connecticut grow over the past 25 years as well. When I first moved to Connecticut, I have to say that there really wasn’t anything all that exciting food-wise. However, today is a different world. Not only are there over 100 farmer’s markets throughout the state, but there are CSA’s (“Community Supported Agriculture”) that deliver to local communities and farm-to-table restaurants highlighting local produce popping up throughout Connecticut.
I am fortunate to live in an area that is surrounded by a number of farmer’s markets as well as a number of high quality farm-to table restaurants. I have had the distinct pleasure of dining at a number of these restaurants which feature local produce, including Farmer’s Table in New Canaan, The Dressing Room in Westport, Le Farm in Westport, and Harvest Supper in New Canaan. There are a few I haven’t had the chance to try yet, but have come highly recommended by some of my friends, including Schoolhouse at Cannondale in Wilton, and a new restaurant, Elm, in New Canaan. All of these restaurants source as much of their produce locally as possible and always use the freshest ingredients available.
I had the chance to pop into several of these restaurants recently to do a photo shoot, highlighting some of the chefs’ specialities. Farmer’s Table, in New Canaan, CT, is one of my favorite spots to dine. Chef Ubaldo actually has his own farm so many days you will find produce that he has picked that morning on the menu. He also bakes fresh artisan bread each day and sources his meat locally, including from his brother’s farm.
Chef Ubaldo from Farmer’s Table holding Spring Onions from his farm
On the day I came by, Chef Ubaldo prepared a Wild Arugula and Mango Salad (with wild arugula fresh picked that morning from his farm), Pan Seared Duck (West Haven, CT) with Pan Roasted Asparagus in Spring Onion Port Sauce (from his farm), Smoked Duck (from his brother’s farm) with Market Green Salad, and his famous Beet and Goat Cheese Salad. There are only two chefs in the kitchen, and the restaurant has limited seating, so it’s best to call ahead to make a reservation. You can find Farmer’s Table on Facebook.
Dressing Room in Westport, CT, opened by the late actor and philanthropist, Paul Newman, and chef, cookbook author and food policy activist, Michel Nischan, is located next to the legendary Westport Country Playhouse.
Executive Chef Jon Vaast prepared their popular Flaky Frenchman French toast with fresh strawberries and organic whipped cream, Smoked Trout Mousse, Warm Beets with Foraged Mushrooms, Seared Alaskan Sockeye Salmon with Roasted Eggplant, Peppers, Pickled Onions and Pea Puree, and Double Chocolate Bread Pudding with Fresh Whipped Cream and Caramel Sauce. When Chef Vaast asked what I’d like to try, I chose the Warm Beets with Foraged Mushrooms. The beets are oven braised which creates a silky smooth texture unlike any other roast beet salad I’ve had.
The Schoolhouse at Cannondale in Wilton, CT, is owned by Tim and Julie LaBant, both originally from Wilton, CT. Located in a quaint section of Wilton, you could easily be deceived by the exterior of this hidden gem. The food is sophisticated and beautifully presented. Chef Tim LaBant has a boyish look, but his talent speaks for itself.
On the day I stopped by The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, Chef LaBant had biked on a hot morning one hour from his home to the restaurant. But, that didn’t stop him from presenting sophisticated dishes such as Hudson Valley foie gras with corn fritters, black berries, black berry lavender gastrique, and nasturtium leaves; Posh n’ Beans (Favas and Peas), ricotta cheese, Wave Hill toast, peas tendrils and radishes; or Beef loin, spring onion, fava beans, morel mushrooms, marble potatoes and potato puree. Chef LaBant believes in serving the freshest food in every season.
Elm Restaurant in New Canaan, CT, is a relative newcomer on the scene, but Chef Brian Lewis has already wowed patrons with his meticulous presentations. Elm features a sleek interior, including a Chef’s Table for anyone looking for a private dining experience, as well as a chef’s tasting counter.
Dishes from Elm (Photos Courtesy of CT Bites)
CT Bites reviewed Elm on Opening Night where appetizers such as slow braised octopus, a trio of hamachi, local lettuces and roots, and soft egg ravioli with three different fillings were served. Although I have not had the chance to try Elm yet, I hope to soon.
Harvest Supper in New Canaan, CT, opened four years ago by restaurateurs Jack and Grace Lamb (of Manhattan’s Jewel Bako and Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar), features an ever-rotating menu of dishes offered in both “small plate” and entree-sized portions. Harvest Supper was featured by Gourmet when they first opened. (now closed)
Le Farm (now closed) and its sister restaurant, The Whelk, are both located in Westport, CT, and support local farmers and seafood specialists in Connecticut as much as possible. The Whelk features seafood as you might guess. I’ve eaten at Le Farm once and the food was excellent. This plate of Fresh Heirloom Tomatoes and Farro with Pickled Onions, and Shaved Squash with pine nuts and fresh mint represent some of the simply prepared, vibrant dishes that Le Farm has to offer.
For all things food about Connecticut, pick up a copy of Patricia Brooks’ Food Lovers’ Guide to Connecticut. You’ll find information on local food festivals, local producers of regional delicacies, farm stands, and more.
For more farm-to-table restaurants in Connecticut, check out these restaurants from the Connecticut Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Best Restaurants 2012: Union League Cafe in New Haven, CT, Good News Cafe in Woodbury, CT, Fresh Salt in Old Saybrook, CT, Still River Cafe in Eastford, CT, and Artisan (at Delamar Hotel) in Southport, CT.
Have you ever been to Connecticut? If so, tell us where you visited and what your favorite spot was. If not, where would you like to visit if you have the chance to come to Connecticut?
Wild Arugula Salad with Mango, Smoked Rogue Blue Cheese and Balsamic Vinegar
- 4 handfuls of fresh wild or baby arugula
- 1 mango cubed
- 4 tablespoons crumbed Smoked Rogue Blue Cheese or other blue cheese
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3/4 cup oil half olive oil, half canola oil
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon mustard
Place salad ingredients in a large salad bowl.
Whisk together Balsamic Vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl.
Toss salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette just before serving.