Essex Shad Bake

Enjoyed a trip to the Essex Shad Festival at the Connecticut River Museum, sponsored by the local Rotary Club.

Watched a demonstration of boning these very bony fish - something I would not want to attempt, despite being comfortable boning or filleting a variety of others.

The fish itself was delicious - a wonderful white freshwater fish, with a little salt pork that was used to nail it to the boards (see below) and a Shad Derby Pale Ale to wash it down.

Miya's Sushi

Back at Miya's Sushi, this time at chef Bun Lai's invitation. He put out a spread for us and a few other friends, who quickly became our friends, too.

Started with invasive Japanese knotweed three ways - sake, quick-pickled on rice, and tempura.

Then traditional 'ball' sushi with mugwort, and quick pickled dandelion leaf wrapped on another. And of course the rice is super-healthy brown rice mixed with other grains, tastier than regular sushi rice by far.

In the foreground is venison, yes venison sushi, with wild ramp sauce, and the wild ramps themselves in the background.

Jonah crab claws and invasive snails that we cracked with real Native American tools and dipped in a honey vinegar ginger sauce.

Tilapia dipped in beets, salted, and served nearly frozen, "Inuit style."

Bun is serving us fermented kelp, which is not ready yet...but still tasted surprisingly good. Salty and seaweedy, like a powerful super-dashi.

This is Bun's "Persian roll" with spices and ingredients from the Middle East.

And this is a sweet potato roll (you can eat all vegetarian at Miya's if you like) with a homemade wasabi.

This is the famous invasive Asian shore crab on a potato roll with a creamy dill dressing that is absolutely one of the best things I've ever tasted.

And this is pressure-cooked and then baked salmon bones (use the whole animal!) and broccoli. None of these really needed to be dipped in soy sauce, by the way. All were perfect as is.

And this is a twist on fried chicken...amaranth peas and soy, with curry dip. We also had his chocolate and ice cream sushi at the end, but I missed getting a photo because we all ate them too quickly. All this was spaced over about four hours, with plenty of firecracker sake, beer, and conversation. A fantastic meal, a fantastic gift. We are proud to call Bun Lai a friend - he is one of the geniuses making food better for the rest of us, and one of Connecticut's true revolutionaries.

Lamentation Mountain

Amy and I hiked Lamentation Mountain in Meriden today - a great little ridge hike.

The views stretched from Massachusetts to Sleeping Giant. We could actually see the hill we live on, too.

Ran into this little guy - American Carrion Beetle - along the way.

And this fallen beech tree on the way back. All in all a great little hike. I recommend it for beginners and if you are more advanced, you can do a double loop with Chauncey Peak.

Preserve Connecticut's History

Awesome architect, sometime radio star, and all-around nice guy Duo Dickinson has an important reminder in today's Hartford Courant.

"When budgets are stretched thin, as Connecticut's surely is, lawmakers will point their pencils at expenses they view as marginal. This year that includes historic preservation. Most funds from the Community Investment Act, which are supposed to be dedicated to historic preservation as well as open space and farmland preservation and affordable housing, are being swept into the general fund under proposals to help balance the current and coming budgets.

This shortsighted cut would have permanent costs. In Connecticut and New England, our history is anything but marginal..."

Read the rest here.

New Website

My personal website has been down for a couple months while it was redesigned (by my friend and marketing/editing expert Ryan Rasmussen). But now it is up and running and looks great. Soon this blog may be integrated into the site, but don't hide in panic (like Maple is above). You'll still be able to come here to get your news and chews about Connecticut.

Literary Lion in Connecticut

From Nutmeg Chatter:

It is fair to say there’s a true love affair between Professor Eric D. Lehman and the nutmeg state. When he arrived from Pennsylvania two decades ago, Lehman began to hike and discovered Connecticut’s little hills, rivers and forests. He soon fell in love with the museums and the wine trail and most importantly, fell in love with and married his wife, poet and professor Amy Nawrocki. His literary work celebrates our state like no other author, taking on the topics from Tom Thumb to The History of Bridgeport to A History of Connecticut Wine and so much more.  In his recent work, Lehman takes on the legacy of our nation’s most notorious traitor, Benedict Arnold, in Homegrown Terror: Benedict Arnold and the Burning of New London.

Professor Lehman chose Benedict Arnold as his subject because his first experience learning about the figure failed to answer the questions he felt…

At the Riverview

Really enjoyed my talk at the Simsbury Land Trust - a huge organization with many committed members (about 140 that night). I talked about how I fell in love with Connecticut, and how we could work together to make it a better place for walkers, and in doing so make more people fall in love with it. Listening to what they had to say, I think the future of our state is bright!

Afoot in Roxbury

Had a great time talking about Afoot in Connecticut at Roxbury's Minor Memorial Library today. We also discussed a growing topic of interest - the connection of the state's hiking trails, greenways, land trusts, state parks, etc. We are closer than anywhere in America to having what Europe has today, and what we had once upon a time - a network of trails that allows us to walk from town to town, staying overnight at bed and breakfasts, and exploring our home one day at a time.

Reading on Horseback

I don't recommend actually reading on horseback, or especially driving a motor vehicle. However, this statue at the Bethel Public Library is a great reminder that we need to fill our idle moments with input. And the best thing to do is to read a book. I keep books (letters, diaries, etc) in the bathroom. I keep books in the car. I keep a book in my briefcase, in my office, by my bedside, in every room in my house. Snatching the idle moments and turning them into reading opportunities is the way to make a life.

Snow Days

Lots of snow days recently. I am reminded of the year 1741, when between January and April the rivers could all be crossed on foot, animals died by the hundreds, and one lunatic drove a sleigh along the edge of Long Island Sound (over the water on the ice) from Cape Cod to New York City. That was the winter that Benedict Arnold was born in Norwich...the most fiery patriot, the coldest traitor...I wonder if weather affects us in that way...


One of my favorite restaurants in Connecticut is Bodega, in Fairfield and Darien. They have some of the best soft tacos (below), but more importantly some fascinating and original dishes. Last time I was there one of their specials was caviar (salmon roe) guacamole. C'mon! That's awesome. These guys are at the forefront of gastropub culture in our state, with a refreshing Latin twist. My parents, who are sort of Mexican food snobs, after leaving some very good restaurants in their area when they moved from Pennsylvania to Connecticut, loved this place. Check it out!

Getting Ready for Winter

I'm hoping that this winter is not as extreme as the last one. But I'm getting ready - ordering wood for the woodstove, buying ice melt, caulking up cracks, and bringing in the lawn furniture. I've lit the candles and taken the heavy blankets out of storage. I'm ready for another winter in Connecticut.

Traveler Restaurant

Stopped by the Traveler Restaurant, otherwise known as Traveler Food and Books, the other day. What a neat place.

Along with rows of books on the walls, they have signed pictures from many authors who stopped by over the years, like this one of Alex Haley below.

You get three books from the upstairs free with your meal, and downstairs they have a used bookstore with a nice selection (those cost money).

And the food isn't bad! It wasn't gourmet, but it was actually a step above what you'd expect from a 'family restaurant' of this type. Keep up the great work, guys, because you'll make it into the next edition of the Insiders' Guide.