Connecticut’s Claim to Culinary Fame: A Taste of New England at The Saybrook Point Inn and Spa

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If Virginia is for lovers then Connecticut is for food aficionados looking for a taste of provincial New England. Connecticut often gets overlooked when compared to international culinary powerhouses like New York City and Boston.

But what distinguishes Connecticut from these urban dining centers is the fact that it does not try to compete with them. It does not pretend to blaze the trail for the next culinary trend. Connecticut is the destination for foodies looking for a taste of New England using local ingredients sourced from Connecticut area farms and waters.

For a comprehensive introduction to New England cuisine while enjoying idyllic views of the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound head to Old Saybrook Connecticut and check in at the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa by the Saybrook Point Marina. It is as far as you can get from the urban sprawl while still staying close to home.

It’s under two hours by car if you are coming from New York City. Otherwise leave the car at home and take the Metro North to New Haven and transfer at the same station for the Connecticut Shoreline East going to Old Saybrook.

Check in to guestrooms featuring Victorian furnishings, country cottage accents and even some with working wood burning fireplaces. The Inn is proud of its Connecticut roots and has launched a taste of New England weekend series for foodies with a penchant for learning hands on from established chefs. The on site restaurant Fresh Salt does wonders with traditional New England cuisine. Virtually every ingredient that goes into the dishes is derived from producers within seventy five miles of the restaurant.

Chef Leslie Tripp and his team of chefs are at the helm to guide participants in the preparation of eight courses that highlight classic and creative twists on New England cuisine.
The weekend begins on Friday with a wine and hors d ouevres meet and greet reception. Then it’s time to head over to Fresh Salt for dinner and a preview of what you will be helping to cook on Saturday. A breakfast featuring everything from oatmeal with dried fruits and nuts to pancakes with apple compote and maple syrup is served at 8:00am. the next day.

Then class is in session. You and other chefs for the day don a chef’s uniform and go to stations equipped with burners, pans, knives and cutting boards. Chef Tripp provides background on each dish, from New England pot roast and oysters served three ways, to Maine and Connecticut lobster rolls, as well as clam chowder served two ways.

You chop, dice, julienne and mince whatever is placed in front of you depending on what the chefs need. You sample what you create at every turn even what’s being stirred in the pot.

As a result, you probably won’t be that hungry, nevertheless a refreshing lunch of cured meats, cheeses, salads, potato chips, cold pastas and soft cookies is served between the morning and afternoon cooking sessions.

Afterwards the pastry chefs take over. They demonstrate how to create baked caramel filled apples, apple cinnamon scones and warm apple compote using three different kinds of apples. The delicious goodness of fresh baked goods fills the air and whets the appetite. Good thing the pastry chefs hand out samples as soon as they pop out of the oven.

Then comes some down time and a shower before heading to an evening wine, local beer, cheese and charcuterie reception. A leisurely dinner follows. The buffet style meal features all the dishes prepared at the morning and afternoon cooking sessions along with wines. Dinner is served in a private dining room where the group can enjoy “the fruits” of their collective labor.

Hang out at the Fresh Salt bar afterwards and enjoy the bartenders’ creatively crafted cocktails from a St. Germain inspired concoction to an indulgent chocolate crowd pleaser while mingling with Old Saybrook locals.

The next morning it’s rise and shine for an exclusive behind the dining scene tour of the kitchen at Fresh Salt. Watch and help prepare the restaurant’s Sunday brunch buffet. Walk through the various stations from vegetable lo mein and General Tso’s chicken to sushi and roast ham.

Observe the pastry chefs at work while they brown the top of a creme brulee and top a lemon tart with meringue. Try your hand at doing the same. The chefs aren’t shy and you shouldn’t be either. Then head over to Fresh Salt and sample all the offerings at the brunch buffet. From cook to order pancakes and pastas to carved meats and refreshing salads there’s seemingly no end to the Sunday midday feast.

Dine with classmates turned friends then enjoy one final look at the marina and the Connecticut waters from the floor to ceiling windows in your room before going home by car or rail whatever the case may be.

About the author

Michelle Kwan has been a restaurant and hotel writer for Gayot, an internationally- recognized restaurant, wine, travel and lifestyle publication, since 2007. She also contributes regularly to the Gayot blog, which features cultural, fashion, wine and dining industry events. She is based in New York City.

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