Thursday, July 31, 2014

Just Across the Pond

After parking at the University of Bridgeport where we teach, my wife Amy and I hoisted our light bookbags on eager shoulders and began to walk.  Striding up Lafayette Street, we passed the old Warner Brothers factory, manufacturer of corsets and baseballs. I told Amy the story of when the First Lady, Francis Cleveland, came to dedicate the Seaside Institute for single working women.  A short fifteen-minute walk later, we reached the ferry slip, sitting at a picnic table to await the “Grand Republic” ferry.  At last it slid into Bridgeport Harbor, down the channel dredged so many years before, a far-sighted move which increased the harbor’s importance tenfold and allowed huge ferries and ships to carry passengers like us.

On board Amy bought tickets and we sat by the window, remarking on the clarity of sky and sea.  It was the perfect day to take this fascinating transport, and for an overnight getaway across the Sound at the ancient seafaring village of Port Jefferson.  We had taken the ferry before to explore the vineyards of Long Island, but this time we were foot travelers only.  The ship pulled away, past the Buglight and Pleasure Beach. We sat port so that I could tell Amy about the events that had led to the amusement park’s decay. Emerald Seaside Park spread out to the west, and I stepped onto the deck to watch the city recede in our wake.

Soon the green shore of the Island approached.  Sailboats lazed in the calm sea and the arms of the small bay enfolded us into the marina.  After disembarking, Amy and I walked up Main Street, window-shopping.  We passed Barnum Avenue, named for the time Bridgeport’s entrepreneur bought land here across the pond.  We turned onto Liberty Avenue and found the Golden Pineapple Bed and Breakfast.  A charming Victorian house, packed with clocks and birdhouses, Chinese prints and 19th Century American paintings.   An enormous fish tank separated the living and breakfast rooms.  Trunks, curio cabinets, floral pillows, and plush chairs made us feel instantly relaxed.  

Jennifer, the hostess, greeted us and showed us our room with its king bed and antique furniture.  A spring breeze coasted through the windows, and far-off I heard the hoot of the ferry leaving the dock.  After a short rest in this marvelous room, we walked back downtown, taking East Main Street past the Free Library and a dozen charming shops.  Reaching Broadway, we turned left to the Fifth Season.  At this fine restaurant an artisanal cheese plate of Vermont cheddar, blue, and Camembert delightfully set off our red and white local Long Island wines.  The arctic char and halibut followed, framed on luscious beds of rice and couscous.  For dessert we tried the toasted almond crème brulee and a molten chocolate cake with hazelnut gelato.

The brisk May air echoed with laughter and conversation.  Some people walked the streets with ice cream cones, while others sat and chatted on comfortable benches.  As Amy and I wound up the long hill of Main Street again, I held her close and she remarked on the perfection of the evening.  I agreed.

After a long, comfortable sleep, we woke in time for breakfast on the porch of the Pineapple.  The host Tom served us a fresh fruit cup, coffee, tea, and French toast on multigrain bread.  We discussed his diesel engine, which he filled with vegetable oil to save money.  We left this oasis with regret and headed down the hill to shop.  At Tumi, the Peruvian store, we bought a handmade belt, and at Tabu we bought a Buddhist temple bell for our porch.  We stopped at the Pindar/Duck Walk tasting room and sampled some Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and lovely Meritage blends.

After noting the British telephone booths that the city had installed, we decided on lunch at the Tiger Lily Café.  Hot from the sun, we eagerly drank healthy fruit smoothies, munched on green salad, and ate a warm brie and pear Ciabatta sandwich.  It was nearly time for the ferry, and we took a quick look around at this charming seaside town, so close to Bridgeport.  We would be back for sure.

On the ferry back, Amy and I laid on the benches of the upper deck to drink in the sun.  As we slipped towards the breakwaters of Bridgeport Harbor, I could almost see the far-off statue of P.T. Barnum watching us.  Bridgeport was ahead, and home.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Baltic Restaurant, Berlin, Connecticut

Stopped by the Baltic Restaurant in Berlin the other day, and enjoyed their Polish fare immensely. One thing I tried, which I had never had before, was their Pyzy (above) - meat in dough, of course, but in a new way that was absolutely delicious. I will be back for that, and for the rest of their quality food (below). It's good to see some Polish food breaking up the landscape...


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Baby Robins

Awww....these little guys in our backyard...awww....

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Coney Island Baby

Amy and I visited Coney Island the other day, and pretty much did all the classic Coney Island activities, starting with lunch at Nathan' dogs and cheese fries.

We walked out to the end of the pier, we visited the aquarium (still in bad shape after Hurricane Sandy), we rode the Cyclone, and we rode the giant ferris wheel.

We also went to the side show (below), as a sort of homage to Tom Thumb. It was actually an entertaining little show - fire eating, sword swallowing, nails "driven" into the nose, eating a balloon, juggling knives...and best of all, Amy getting taken up on stage for an act where they ran electricity through her and lit a torch from her finger, and then her tongue. Boy, what I would give for a photo of that (but none were allowed).

Coney Island is not what it once was, I'm told, but what is? The creepy guy (below) still rules over a kingdom of fun and sun, right in the heart of old New York.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

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.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Yellow Squash and Sweet Potato Galette

My wife's latest creation - a yellow squash and sweet potato galette, with caramelized onions and a chili-garlic drizzle to give it a bit of spice and salt to this delicious meal.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Philip Johnson's Glass House

Stopped by the Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan the other day...

The library (above) was fascinating, though not what I would have chosen.

The glass house itself was great. Amy said she would live there in a second. Our wonderful house (Nomad's End) took offense.

Looked like a great place to chat with friends, or work on my next book.

Then, fog enveloped the house from an art installation - creating an eerie, and wet, situation.

We also got to see the art museum and sculpture museum Johnson installed on the property, but did not get to climb the sculpture in the distance. Next time...

It is an expensive tour ($50 person) but well worth it from our point of view. Inspiring and thought-provoking. We had discussions all afternoon and evening about the ideas brought up...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Abbott's Lobster in the Rough and the Hamburger Bun Lobster Roll

When we visit Abbott's Lobster in the Rough, it is primarily to get their steamed lobsters. No matter how much practice we get at home, we never seem to get the lobsters as good as they do. I heartily recommend Abbott's for that, for the awesome bisque (above) and for its wonderful setting on the docks in Noank.

However, I have a bone to pick with them about their hot lobster rolls. Why, why, why do it in the hamburger roll? It looks cool (see above) but is utterly impractical. The meat falls out, the butter doesn't work, etc. It is not a pleasant eating experience. A cold lobster roll might actually work this way, since the mayo binds the pieces together, keeping them in the roll like a chicken salad sandwich. But I wouldn't put a bunch of tiny pieces of chicken sans mayo between two pieces of loose bread, and the same goes for lobster. Get some nice small grinder rolls, toast them, and then you can compete for the best hot lobster roll in Connecticut (see below).

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Rivermarket, Tarrytown

Dinner at RiverMarket, in Tarrytown, New York - with a view of the Tappan Zee bridge.

Delicious lobster bisque (above) and gnocchi (below).

These Italian dumplings were delicious, and Amy even liked the candied lemon rind on top (but I didn't).

This pork belly was done just right, though I was already a little too full from the gnocchi "appetizer."

Totally solid restaurant - and a fine place to stop (you'll need a GPS to find it) if you're in Tarrytown. Those of you in the City can take the train - the park and restaurant are right next to the station.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Kalbi House, White Plains

Went across the border to Kalbi House in White Plains the other day. Their selection of small dishes they bring everyone (above) was top notch. Amy says the best kim-chi she's ever had.

The bibimbob in the hot pot (above) was an average dish of its sort, but their homemade gochujang that went with it (and the dish below) was excellent.

I had the Hwe Dup Bob (above), which was like a collection of sushi pieces, salad, seaweed, and such, that you ate also with red pepper paste. A fascinating combination that I would have never thought of. Overall, this was a solid Korean restaurant that I would go to again if I was ever in White Plains.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

At Bank Square Books

We appeared at the newly expanded Bank Square Books this week, to promote Literary Connecticut. It was great to see a bookstore succeeding and buying new space - not what we expect in these days of the internet...