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Weekend in Connecticut

2004-07-17 , ,

Maria and, though I didn’t know it, I needed a short vacation. Undisturbed. Just the two
of us. She booked us a weekend at the
[Inn & Vineyard at Chester]( We packed light and took
a few books and magazines (and I dragged my laptop) and set off early from work.

Getting there should have been no problem. We chose to avoid I-95, opting for the
less travelled 684/84/691 route instead. Before moving to the city I drove in for work and
tried the permutations of the North/South corridor on too many Friday nights
and I expected traffic.
I did not expect it to include a thirty-five minute no-holds barred cage fight starting from the start of the 84 East ramp on 684 to the first exit for Danbury.
It took us a miserable five dogged hours to make the 115 miles from Manhattan
to Chester and we arrived completely spent. This was not the start of a getaway as I imagined it.

We know that area of Connecticut a little but it was late and we were tired, so we ate
at the Inn from the tavern menu.
The food was spot on. Maria had steak frites with grilled summer vegetables.
The steak was served just rare and could be cut with the side of the
fork. We all but embarrassed ourselves a little by ooooing and ahhing over each bite of it.
I had the rosemary-infused chicken with garlic spinach and a mushroom cream. Exquisite food. The roast chicken was juicy and flavorful, the spinach soft but not over cooked
and, hey, face it, just about anything is good with cream, but the sauce was smooth
and savory without being unctuous.

The inn itself is a very nice place. It’s well-situated to the roads and the grounds include twenty acres with a tavern, a restaurant and a expansive outdoor deck.
The rooms are small, clean and simply done. There is basic cable on the TVs, comfortable indoor sitting areas but the kitchen closes at 10 P.M. and there is no pool or exercise room.
The spa was being renovated so Maria booked a massage in the room for Sunday and I took advantage of the wireless internet which seems to cover all the buildings, much of the outdoor space and some of the rooms. For a weekend stay, the prices are a little upscale for the amenities.

Being a nerd and on a new wireless network, I fired up [KisMac]( I noted they have four APs, from the MAC addresses probably Cisco Aironets, all with the SSID ‘ChesterInn’ on non-overlapping channels. There
were no filters or proxies in evidence and I had no problem ssh-ing to the odd port number.
From the trace, I was one of two people using the network but I don’t imagine that the $9.95/day ISDN interface (also Cisco) found in the rooms gets much use by casual guests.
It wasn’t any different on Sunday morning and it was just me and the same someone else
with the Intel wireless NIC.

Maria and I drove all over the corner of Connecticut stopping occasionally but really just
enjoying the perfect weather, the top down on the Cabrio and each other’s company.
We stopped for scones in Chester at the Queen of Tarts and got lost and ended up at the
ferry on the Connecticut river. We avoided the Fife and Drum Muster in Deep River and
had ice cream somewhere. We must have passed signs for Gillete Castle seven or eight times and crisscrossed all around Middletown, the Lymes and Haddam. Other than stopping
for a couple of tag sales, a stop at Tova’s Vintage Shop and the book sale at the
Acton Library in Essex, can’t account for the hours. We had a good time doing nothing.

One thing we did sticks out: we had lunch at Johnny Ad’s on Old Boston Post Road between Old Saybrook and Westbrook. The place (see my pictures [here]( and [here]( ) isn’t fancy, it looks from the road like another clam
shack but it’s so much better.
Their chowder was briny and had just enough clam and potatoes to fill the spoon. The fried onion rings were crisp, golden and, unlike the ones found at so many roadside joints, tasted like onion. If you don’t know about it, the lobster roll is some of New England heaven on bread. It’s hot, buttery fresh lobster meat on a toasted bun.
We were served a good portion of savory lobster and it was not overcooked, chopped too fine or lost in an excess of butter. The cole slaw, something I usually have one bite of, was great- fresh, flavorful and better than homemade.
This is also the first exception to the unwritten road food rule that a place that turns out good seafood doesn’t make anything else worth eating. The exception: hotdogs. The foot long dogs are split and grilled. We had ours loaded up with cheese and their homemade chili. Excellent.

Saturday night, [Abbott’s]( in Noank was
too crowded and we really wanted to compare what we remembered to what we had
in the afternoon at Johnny’s so we opted for the sister eatery
[Costello’s]( next door.
Sadly, Costello’s Clam Shack came up short. I wonder if it was an off night or
if it has sunk below even the run-of-the-mill roadside hut. The service, and it’s only counter service, was disorganized and they didn’t get our chowder for us until I reminded them that I had asked for it before the rest of the meal.
They forgot the clam fritters so we slowly ate the soup and waited for the fritters.
The chowder and fritters were good, not as good as I remembered, but good.
The next disappointment was the hot lobster roll. They used nearly all leg meat, I guess
leftover from claw and tail dinners, and a little of the good stuff but shred it and cook it
to death before completely saturating it in butter. The clam strips were soggy and the
batter thick and greasy as if they were half-done or cooked in too cold oil.
At least the French fries were crisp but this is nothing like I remember from
two summers ago.



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