Restaurants & Bars

western ct


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Restaurants & Bars 9

western ct

susabelle | Jul 22, 2003 06:16 PM

Before we got to Western CT, I posted on Chowhound, eager for recommendations. I've now been here a couple weeks and am feeling mixed re the food (too often foodie) scene.

On the positive end are discoveries of food to buy and cook at home.

The New Milford Farmer's Market, Sat from 9-12 on the Green, is great--I've found wonderful organic peas, garlic sprats, tiny new potatoes, tomatoes, blueberries, cherries, a good multigrain bread, a very good raspberry-blueberry pie for $10. The corn was just OK, maybe still early, especially after crazy spring-early summer weather?

In past visits, I thoughtBantam Bakery in Bantam had very good bread and pastry, but I haven't gotten there yet this year. The Egg and I in New Milford has terrific pork--sausages, ham, pork loin.... And the guy who runs it is a good person. I found a great fish truck with Maine fish that parks on Rte. 7 in New Milford--I think it's called Elliot Seafood, but I may not be remembering that exactly--we've enjoyed grand swordfish, bluefish, smoked trout, smoked mussels--and marinated herring that's not as good as my mom's recipe. I find the Stop and Shop on Rte. 7 to be a fine supermarket over-all. The Sherman IGA has a good meat department and deli counter and an excellent Latvian black bread from a local ethnic place.

A good diner experience--the Windmill Diner on Rte 7 in New Milford--a great waiter with a Greek (I think) accent who called me "young lady" (I'm over 50)--great pickles,good sandwiches, a Greek salad with lots of feta and anchovies (we took home enough feta that I hadn't eaten and made it into another good salad the next day), grapenut custard pudding with fruit cup in it (a little weird tasting, but pretty homey).

And in visits past, a fabulous ice cream cone (chocolate lace or something like that--wondeful flavor and texture) at Dr. Mike's in Bethel.

Now to disappointments. In the food purveyer department, Hallas in New Fairfield was enormously expensive for stuff that wasn't even good--it took five questions to get the young salesperson to tell us that the corn wasn't theirs (big sign on the road that pulled us in: Native Corn)--she hadn't a clue as to when it was picked, never mind where. My husband was about to get some high-priced wild strawberries, but I got suspicious when we were told they were in the cooler (why not just have them out on the counter with the other fruit?), and in fact, when I examined them, they were about to be over the hill.

Restaurants. Hopkins Inn, which we've enjoyed in the past, was plus/minus. My husband's Wiener Schnitzel was terrific, as was my Toblerone sundae. Portions seems smaller than I remembered in years past. And my trout was just OK, rosti potatoes both burned and under-done, salad a tiny bowl of sad greens. I can't remember our starters, which isn't a good sign. The view makes up for a lot.

Jim Barbieri's was good, but not a place we'd rush back to--off-tasting oysters (good clams), steamed lobsters that were OK, but nothing to write home about.

Turns out the Villager Cafe in Kent changed hands a year ago. I can't remember the new name (I want to say Coralee's, but that's not quite right). When she directed us there, the lady in the bookstore said the new owners hadn't changed anything(we drove back and forth through the town, unable to find the Villager!). I'd never eaten at the Villager, so I can't really compare, but the new place was nothing much. No specials (what kind of greasy spoon doesn't even have a soup of the day?). My husband's fish sandwich looked too uniform to be fresh, and my vegie sandwich was pretty dull. The vanilla egg cream was good, though (my husband's coffee malt fair).

Down the Hatch in New Fairfield was not a happiness. There's a patio to sit on overlooking the water (a lake), with patio awnings with mostly Bud signs. We were there for lunch, and they were out of most of the fish on the menu. My husband's fish sandwich was dull and tasteless. My salad was blah.

By far the most disappinting experience was Carol Peck's Good News Cafe. We were really looking forward to a place billed as The Chez Panisse Cafe of CT (we're from the Bay Area). It was as far from that as possible--rather than a celebration of fresh, clear, intense flavors (Chez Panisse), The Good News Cafe was pretentious, fussy, incoherent,ill-conceived, over-priced. I was literally ill in the night from the dripping-in-butter lobster-macaroni-cheese that's a house special. My husband's poached salmon in sorrel with carrot quinoa cake and something else had so many parts of the dish, you couldn't keep track of the tastes, except none was good individually, and certainly there was no coming together. My Martha's salad (beets, avocado, another veg or two, horseradish sauce)was a bland, muddy-tasting pile-up. My husband's lobster soup was not very lobster-y. The decor was too bright and noisy-looking. I read somewhere that the Sterns like this place. Maybe it was an off night, for the restaurant or for us(really me, my husband wasn't over-joyed, but was less upset than I was.) Maybe the Chez Panisse business got me off on the wrong foot.

I read that Mark Bittman characterized Eastern CT fare, which he reviews for the Times, as too often affected and over-priced. Right now, I'd say the same for the Western part of the state, based on my admittedly limited sample.

Would love other suggestions of places to turn my experience around!

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