Category Archives: Eat Drink

Seafooding in CT, the last deep-fried, tasty bits

The final day of our road trip saw us testing the limits of our stomachs and determining which roadside seafood stand to hit, Cove Fish Market or Sea View Snack Bar for our last seafood bonanza. Sea View was conveniently located next to Kitchen Little right on the main drag whereas Cove’s is further away and partially hidden by an island of trees and a big giant boat.  Originally, we were just going to eat at one establishment but since they both had similar menus and similar mixed reviews on Yelp, it was obvious that our responsibility lay in swinging the pendulum decisively to one side. The only way to be definitive was to eat at both places.  Plus, Mr. Yam was quite sure that Cove’s was the place where he and his family had the best clam chowder in the world a few years ago. When you proclaim that something is the best, we’re going to make you prove it.

But first, a dive into U.S. deep sea history with a visit to Groton, CT, (the self proclaimed?) submarine capital of the world.  After cleaning up a few more plates of food at Kitchen Little, we headed out for a fascinating tour of the first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus. I’ve never been in a submarine before and now I understand why this service of the navy get the best food that our tax dollars can provide (though that’s debatable).  The spaces are small and cramped, definitely not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic.  If you spend weeks underneath the water in a long, skinny tube with no where to get some fresh air, you should at least eat well. They must pick the most agile and compact of navy men/women for these posts because the passage ways are so narrow that only hobbits could get through with ease and don’t even get me started on the bunks, stacked one atop the other with maybe 18 inches of vertical clearance.  Sardines in a can get more wriggling space.  Claustrophobia aside, it was very impressive to see our country’s engineering might and underwater design. Jules Verne would have been proud.

USS Nautilus

USS Nautilus

After we got a dose of military history, it was time for the real battle at hand: Cove Fish Market or Sea View Snack Bar.

First up was Sea View where over the past couple of nights, we had seen throngs of people munching underneath florescent outdoor lamps and halogen headlights of SUVs. We wanted to be those people, slathered in butter and drowning in tartar sauce by the eerie glow of man made lighting.  To get the full experience, we ordered a representative sample of cold lobster roll, fried fish, and clam chowder.  The lobster roll was pretty good, certainly much better than what was served at the Seaport and the fried fish was light and crispy, an effect achieved by using no breading but perhaps just a dusting of starch.  We were pleased but not wowed. The clam chowder was the test of true perfection and it was disappointing, lacking in salt and that je ne sais quois essence of fresh clam.  No plate cleaning occurred here and we left a few scraps left for the birds.

Sea View Snack Shack

Sea View Snack Bar

Although we were partially full, we knew we had to press on to Cove’s Fish Market, whose reputation preceded it by Mr. Yam’s exaltation of its clam chowder. Once again, we hit the main points of hot and cold lobster roll, fried fish(cod) and of course, both clear and cream broth clam chowder.  Hello jackpot!  The lobster was tender and juicy, the fish was fresh and delectable. And…the clam chowder was hands down the best we had devoured the whole weekend and then some.  It was well seasoned, clammy, creamy…Les was so enamored that she wanted to buy a gallon of the chowder to take home but sadly, they were out of the take home variety so we were only able to bring it back in the form of full, round bellies. The car groaned under our accumulated weight when we finally headed back to NY, sated and happy as clams.

Cove's Fish Market

Cove's Fish Market

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Seafooding in CT, Day 2

Our Sunday mission in Mystic was an ambitious one and by that I don’t mean the number of eating establishments that we wanted to visit but by the hour of day on the clock that dictated our schedule.

Les had read about a great breakfast joint frequented by locals called Kitchen Little on Chowhound, and the chatter was all about the tasty food and long lines because the restaurant is so named not just as a pun but for it’s size.  We had cased the joint the day before and it was the size of a chicken coop. The order came down the chain of command: must be up by 7am and arrive at the restaurant at 8am.  You might scoff at this but for the lot of us, getting five people with varying waking  aptitudes out the door by 8am and on a weekend no less, would be a herculean effort. Thankfully enough, the need for beauty sleep was trumped by the fear of a long line and empty bellies and through fits and starts, we straggled to Kitchen Little at the appointed hour and got ourselves a picturesque seat by the river for an al fresco breakfast.

Kitchen Little

Kitchen Little

If the crisp coolness of a fall morning did not wake us up, the food certainly did.  They had a scramble called Portuguese Fisherman which featured chorizo, linguiça, and jalapeño that was a hot, spicy mess. The corned beef hash and home fries were awesome, as was the crabmeat and asparagus eggs benedict. We were rolling over in eggstacy (that’s their motto), it was so good we made plans to return again the next morning, once again sacrificing sleep for food.

cinnamon bun pancakes

cinnamon bun pancakes - delicious!

After breakfast, we headed over to the Mystic Aquarium to hang out with some fish and sea lions. Did you know that one of the differences between sea lions and seals is that you can see the sea lions ears?  File that one away for Jeopardy. We also spotted Nemo and friends hanging out in a tank, trying to escape. They are so small and cute!

Nemo!

Nemo!

The other big thing to do in Mystic (besides eat) was the Seaport, which features exhibits about the shipbuilding and marine industries that was once the bedrock of Connecticut’s booming economy.  It’s a fun place for kids with various olde tyme shops, a real whaling vessel docked at port and a giant half-finished ship. Part of the whaling vessel display included slabs and slabs of dried salted fish that the sailors reconstituted and ate while at sea. I know they were real because I picked one up and gave it a sniff. You can’t engineer the smell of dried fish for the sake of an exhibit. I wonder if there are visitors who actually sneak a filet into their bags and take it home. Disclaimer: I did not take home any souvenirs!!  They were just lying out there in the sun and all the elements for who knows how long and manhandled by curious folks like me. No amount of cooking can erase that history.

Shipbuiling in Mystic Seaport

Shipbuiling in Mystic Seaport

Again, Mystic Seaport is mostly a destination for people with kids and people who like ships. I was really interested in seeing one of the old houses that still had the original furniture and other household implements.  I had imagined old homes to be small and cramped but the rooms were rather spacious and bright. I could be happy in one of those homes provided they install indoor plumbing.  But I digress. The real reason we went to the Seaport was for their Fish and Ships seafood festival which turned out to be really disappointing. There wasn’t much if anything in the way of fish/seafood or even a festival atmosphere so I’m not going to talk about it.

We ended up heading over to downtown and I took a brief stroll down along the river and was caught sight of the drawbridge being opened to allow boats to pass, which was really fascinating. My friends know I’m completely enamored with bridges of any ilk.  It also just happened to be trending towards dusk and the sky was clear and the light had that lovely glow of fall that I love so much.  Postcard perfect.

Along the river

Along the river

Open sesame

Open sesame

downtown Mystic

downtown Mystic

Dinner was, surprise, more seafood at a place called Noah’s in Stonington, a town just a breath away from Mystic.  The food was great and supposedly the best dish of the night belonged to JN who ordered shortribs, the result being that he had a hard time keeping his wife’s fork away from it. Since he was seated at the far end of the table from, my own fork could not reach so I’ll just have to take Les’ word for it.  Save room for dessert because they make it all from scratch and it shows.

mystic12

So our last night in Mystic ended with another great meal and sweet dreams of good eats the morning to come.

Seafooding in Connecticut – Day 1

Over Labor Day Weekend, the Yams, the Lobsters, and I took a road trip to Mystic, Connecticut for some fun, sun, seafood, and more seafood. Having never set foot in New England, I was more than eager add another state to my Facebook list of “Where I’ve Been”.  Being that my friends are my friends, the entire itinerary was built around food, specifically, lobster rolls and clam pizza.  In particular, I wanted to increase my reference points for good lobster rolls from the lowly number of 1. That and deep fried everything sounded like an artery clogging fantasy come true.

In between meals, we did so some sightseeing around the Connecticut coast and I fell madly in love with the small New England towns, their lush greenery and quaint, centuries-old colonial style homes contrasting sharply with the golden brush and new tract housing of California. The first stop was Guilford, a town founded in the mid-sixteen hundreds. With so many years of history to glean in a few hours, we opted to cruise our way through town and take a Segway tour from a store that rents and sells costumes.  It makes for an odd couple but I suppose if you wanted to dress up as Don Quixote as you segway through town, you could.

Segway Tour - fun and easy

Segway Tour - fun and easy

Guilford, it seems, has more old houses than a redhead has freckles.  Every home had a claim to the past, with a plaque near the front door proclaiming its age. 1867, 1793, 1714, etc., not to be confused with actual numbered street addresses. I wonder if there is a town hierarchy in places like these, the older your house, the more benefits you have. Maybe you get to be Grand Puba at the Elk Lodge or take the role of George Washington in any Revolutionary war re-enactment whilst the rest of the townsfolk play the defeated Loyalists.  Or at school, if little Jenny Zuckerman lives in a 1760 house and Abner Appleton lives in a 1832 house, she gets to line up first for lunch on fish stick Tuesdays.  And the what about the kid that lives in anything built in the early 1900s.  1909?  Give that loser a wedgie.

E.T. is the voice of public safety here??

E.T. is the voice of public safety here??

So after our segway trip, we were starving and headed straight to Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tale restaurant in Madison, home of the best lobster roll that Les’ coworker has ever eaten. I could smell the sweet scent of lobster and fried shellfish the moment I got out of the car and that just set us salivate where we proceeded to order an obnoxious amount of food, a scene to be repeated often over the next three days.

The rundown for the first official road trip O’ seafood meal was: Fried clams, fried scallops, hot buttered lobster rolls, fried softshell crab roll, clam chowder (clear broth, very nice and light)…and for the vegetable food group — fries, onion rings, and cole slaw. Perhaps the wedge of lemon I squeezed over the seafood counts as well…I think.

Buttered lobster rolls are tasty but it needs the zing and tang that some celery and mayo would give it. Otherwise, I’d just skip the roll and devour the lobster.

Mmmm - softshell crab

Mmmm - softshell crab

Our next stop was Essex, another small New England coastal town with again, old houses and an idyllic setting. It bills itself as the “Best Small town in America” and I don’t know why but whenever I hear of the best town or best village moniker, I think of the movie Hot Fuzz.  There’s got to be something dastardly going on around here.  I bet you the grannies in the quilting club are secretly running an extortion ring, demanding protection money from the shopkeepers.  Having had our fill of colonial style architecture in Guilford, we just ended up sitting at a local park overlooking a small inlet marina.

seems so idyllic...what lurks underneath? muahahahahaha

seems so idyllic...what lurks underneath? muahahahahaha

We made it to Mystic at the end of the day (yes the home of Mystic Pizza, made famous by a then relatively unknown starlet named Julia Roberts!)

Mystic Pizza - Mr. Yam says it's good if you set your NYC thin crust prejudice aside

Mystic Pizza - Mr. Yam says it's good if you set your NYC thin crust prejudice aside

Forget the sights, it was all about dinner and we hurried to Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough before they closed for the night.  I don’t know why they call it lobster in the rough. Maybe it’s because actually getting a plate of lobster in front of you is a rough experience because you have to drive down small dark streets and past moon lit cemeteries, and just when you think you’re lost, you find a giant gravel parking lot with lights strung up from a small shack by the dock. Or maybe it’s because you wait in a really long line and then sit at the tables outside. But the food was good and if you are suffering from deep fried everything shock, Abbott will bring you relief as everything here steamed.  You’re on your own if you drown yourself in butter.

Hello my little lobsters

Hello my little lobsters

The dinner tally was steamed mussels, clam chowder, lobster bisque, corn, lobster, and lobster roll.  The soups were disappointing but the rest of the meal was tasty.  Day 1 of the roadtrip was over and  I had already consumed more seafood than I had all summer long. The next two days would be taxing. Stay tuned…