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!

Mecha Noodle, Fairfield

Best new restaurant in Connecticut? Mecha Noodle in Fairfield is not high-end, but their amazing dishes, reminiscent of Momofuku in NYC, are consistent and delicious.

We have been there twice - this time we had a selection of appetizers. Last time we tried their ramen - which was awesome.

Their pork buns are nearly as good as Momofuku - only the quality of the bun is a little better at the latter (I think its the bacon fat they put in there).

Ssam, mushroom dumplings, duck bao, charred octopus...all good.

I will be back soon - probably for the pho or the banh mi sandwich. But pretty much everything on the menu sounds delicious, and so far nothing has not lived up to the hype.

Nathan Hale Homestead

Stopped by the Nathan Hale Homestead in Coventry. Although Hale never lived there (his parents were building it while he was serving in the Continental Army), it has a number of his relics, and is definitely worth a stop.

This monument is actually the grave of the historian George Seymour's horse, after he bought and restored the house in the early 20th century. Seymour is partially responsible for bringing Hale forward into national consciousness with his work gathering documents and preserving sites.

This plaque marks the original home site, where Hale grew up.  Of course, things like doors and whatnot were reused in the second house, and on the back of one, what may be a drawing of Hale's head by his sister is one of the cool things you'll see on the house tour of this American hero.

Two Roads Brewing

Finally got around to stopping in Stratford at Two Roads Brewing. I had tried the beer before, and although it was good I wrongly assumed that it was a small operation. Boy, was I wrong.

Right off the I-95 exit, Two Roads fills an old factory, and has over a dozen large tanks. 14? 16? It is a huge operation for Connecticut, and the layout inside was very impressive. They spent a lot of money on the start-up, and you can tell.

Of course, I like the Robert Frost quote inside (from where the brewery gets its name), and the idea of Igor Sikorsky Russian Stout beer (being a Connecticut booster).

Amy and I tried all 11 beers currently on tap, and though I am not a fan of bourbon beer (though I like either alone), I enjoyed everything else. I was particularly taken with the Maibock.

Amy like the IPAs. We will go back, of course, because this place is a destination, not just a brewery. It is larger than any of the wineries currently operating in the state already, and its product is consistent and good. Thanks for being one of Connecticut's newest and best attractions, guys!

The Walrus and the Carpenter

The Walrus and the Carpenter in Black Rock is the best new thing to appear in Bridgeport for a long time. It took the place of the Ash Creek Saloon, of which the less is said the better.

I went there with some colleagues from the University of Bridgeport and we dug into a menu full of heart-stopping treasures, from poutine (above) to maple pork belly (below).

Fried oysters...

Pulled pork...

Scallops and pork belly (a different cut as you can see, thick and wonderful)...

 And ribs, which I had. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention their cornbread, which was delightful. Not a bad dish in the lot; everyone went home satisfied and pleased. High-quality smoked meats (done right on the premises) served with class and genius. Keep up the great work!

Philly's Cheesesteaks, Norwich, Connecticut

Stopped by Philly's Cheesesteaks in Norwich the other day. Recommended by the Travel Channel and many other outlets, Philly's is acknowledged as the best cheesesteak east of the Hudson River. 

I can say that it probably is. The place itself is charming and the owners are delightful.

The steak is the best part of these sandwiches - super tender and delicious. The cheez whiz is solid, but I liked the one on the right, which had both cheez whiz and regular cheese. The other elements were all excellent. The only part where they fall short of the great cheesesteaks of Philadelphia is the roll. They need to import a firmer, more toastable roll. If they had that...well, I think they might be BETTER than the cheesesteaks I've had back in my original home state.

One more note. We had the barbecue chicken fries (see below) and they were fantastic. The reason was that the chicken pieces you can see there were absolutely tender and melt in your mouth good. They care about the quality of the meat at Philly's, and it shows. Keep up the good work, guys!

Mine Hill, Roxbury

Visited Mine Hill in Roxbury, owned by the Roxbury Land Trust. it was much more impressive than its status as 'mere' land trust property might indicate. I immediately thought "state park" at least. 

 The remnants of the foundry, the roasting ovens, and the rest were amazing, as well as donkey paths up the mountain to abandoned mine shafts. Don't go in them, though - they are dangerous.

Roseland Apizza

After hearing so many good things about Roseland Apizza in Derby Amy and I had to try it out. So, we went, and got a mozzarella and garlic pizza. It was very good. Was it as some say as good as the New Haven pizzas (Pepe's, Sally's, Modern, Bar). No. Not even close. It was very good local pizza - probably the best in Derby and the surrounding area. But I can name better pizzas in the county without going to New Haven's elite - Zuppardi's in West Haven, Little Rendevouz in Meriden...even Eli's Brick Oven on Whitney has a less greasy, richer slice. I would go back for another pizza there, definitely. Don't get me wrong! But to rate this above many others in the county is impossible.

Connecticut Coyote Encounter

Well, we were snowshoeing in West Rock State Park yesterday, and came upon this bone in the middle of the trail. What is not apparent from the picture is that it had literally just been dropped there. It was a warm day and the snow was melting, but it hadn't melted around this spine/hip/leg at all yet. There were fresh paw prints heading off the trail, across a stream, and up the other side. Coyote paw prints.

They had heard us coming and ran off, leaving this old carcass they were carrying on the trail. I'm not sure what it is - very narrow pelvis. The coyotes left a bit of scat further down the trail - they were obviously using it as an easy way to get from place to place. This is clearly not dog scat - unless someone is feeding their dog animals with hair.

At any rate, we moved off a bit and ate our lunch, and then snowshoed back to the car. We didn't get a glimpse of our furry friends, but they were there, probably waiting to come back and get the bones, possibly in the patch of reeds close by, possibly in a stand of pines on the other side. But they had just been there, a few minutes before we got there. I have actually seen coyotes before, of course, but this was a fun little mystery, here in the forests of Connecticut.

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

Stopped in at the Aldrich in Ridgefield the other day...since it is "non-collecting," every time we visit it is new.

This sign was encouraging. But both Amy and I hated that exhibit.

So, why go to a contemporary art museum? Especially if some of the stuff will be annoying or lame?

For the discussions we have about them afterwards, of course. WHY do certain exhibits fail? What is art? What is good art? Is there a difference between aesthetics and taste? Et cetera. A good or bad collection of contemporary art never fails to get Amy and I talking. Try it out!

Monte Cristo Bookshop

Seriously, who are the wonderful people OPENING independent bookstores these days? A rare and noble breed.

In this case, the Monte Cristo Bookshop in New London sells both new and used books, and has a great selection of local titles, as well! They are named for Eugene O'Neill's homestead, which is about a mile away and worth a stop this summer.

Florence Griswold Museum

Stopped at the Florence Griswold Museum the other day to see the Arthur Heming exhibit. But we also returned to the main house.

Once again, I was stunned by the dining room, with its panels painted by various artists, mostly the American Impressionists.

Is there another room like this in America? Please tell me if there is. It is astounding.

The rest of the collection is nice, but if you have not seen the dining room at the Florence Griswold Museum, you are missing one of the most amazing rooms in America, perhaps the world.