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Words out.
Set just a couple of blocks from the Guilford Green in a charming old colonial, Forte’s Gourmet Market is the place for those who are hungry, busy — and fans of quality food. Featuring a great soup bar, hot selections, and plenty of scrumptious sandwiches, Forte’s aims to make your mid-day mealtime anything but mundane. And for dinner? Pick up something great, like a nice cut of Salt Marsh Farm’s beef, naturally raised right here in Guilford on Leete’s Island, for grilling at home. Or treat yourself to Forte’s authentic smoked-barbecue, including hot brisket, baby back ribs, duck, and turkey — as well as cold smoked salmon, NY strip, and filet mignon. And since a meal isn’t a meal without some sides and savories, check out their vegetables and cheeses, along with their homemade seasoned panko, stuffed olives, salsas, pickles, and more. It’s no secret that the word forte means specialty. Now you know why. — J.H.
Forte’s Gourmet Food Market & Catering
1153 Boston Post Rd., Guilford
203-453-4910
www.fortesmarket.com


Coincidence?
OK, first came Moby Dick, the mid 19th century tale of a whale that became a classic novel. And now, 128 years later, there’s Lenny & Joe’s, a whale of a tale, which — having grown from a roadside stand with four picnic tables to three locations rumored to have served as many as 15,000 hungry folks on a single summer weekend — has become a novel classic. Is that a fluke? Some sort of cosmic coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is they’re both best sellers — and I suspect L&J’s is pulling ahead. After all, while the book featured Captain Ahab, a sailor named Ishmael, and one great white whale, these three restaurants have Lenny, Joe — and “lobstah lotsa ways,” along with crab, scallops, shrimp, fried combo platters, all the salmon and sole and scrod and cod fish fans favor, awesome beef and chicken entrees, and enough great sides, salads, and sandwiches to keep the whole crew happy. And seriously. 15,000 people? In one weekend. That is epic! — J.H.
Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale
86 Boston Post Rd., Westbrook
860-669-0767
1301 Boston Post Rd., Madison
203-245-7289
501 Long Wharf Dr., New Haven
203-691-6619
www.ljfishtale.com



Grow ahead.
One of my best memories from summers in Old Lyme is the dark pink roses that seemed to grow wild along the rocks above our beach. I don’t know if they were planted — or simply arrived on a gust from an on-shore breeze. But they were a sturdy lot, their delicacy belying a strength I always admired. Then there were my Grandmother’s hydrangea, unstoppably lush alongside the steps in a blue as glorious as a late June morning. So plant that garden by the sea. Just be sure to take into account the fact that salt bornes in on gentle sea breezes, strong stormy winds, and even the early morning mist is no match when you plan properly. And planning properly starts by knowing how to use salt-tolerant trees and shrubs, in combination with protective fences and retainer walls, to shield perennials that have learned to thrive in salty, sandy soil. And there are many. Roses and hydrangea are two, but Lamb’s Ear and Russian Sage can do very well, as can Zinnias, Salvia, Coreopsis, and Sedums. And most coastal gardeners discover that quite a few annuals enjoy a summer at the beach, too. But just to be safe, let Riggio’s Garden Center guide your green thumb. In shoreline vernacular, they are old salts at cultivating lush landscapes, complete with beautiful flowers, advising you on how to select plants sturdy enough to bud and bloom despite a bit of brine — and how to protect even stalwart florae as much as possible. While you’re there, check out all the gardening supplies, planters, and statuary Riggio’s stocks to enhance your efforts. And stop in for a bouquet of beautiful fresh flowers at the Essex Garden Shop. It’ll start you dreaming. — J.H.
Riggio’s Garden Center
Essex Flower Shop
136 Westbrook Rd., Essex
860-767-0126
www.riggiosgardencenter.com



Liv a little.
I’m told that oysters are an acquired taste. I’m also told that once you acquire the taste, Liv’s raw bar features some of the best oysters on earth. But here’s what you really need to know about this little gem: the menu has something for everyone — and I mean everyone. (Including me.) There’s fresh seafood, from shrimp, scallops, and clams to halibut, calamari, mussels, trout, and tuna. Juicy steaks, roasted lamb and chicken, as well as soups and salads. And they offer a seriously satisfying grilled hamburger, topped with bacon, farmhouse cheddar or bleu cheese, and served with old bay fries. So don’t worry. If oysters just aren’t, well…your cup of tea, Liv’s Oyster Bar is still the place to go for an amazing meal. And set conveniently on Old Saybrook’s Main Street, it’s a great start to an evening on the town. An equally fine finish. And delight all on its own. — J.H.
Liv’s Oyster Bar
166 Main St., Old Saybrook
860-395-5577
www.livsoysterbar.com




Red. White. And you.
Now well into their fourth decade, Clinton’s Chamard Vineyards has established itself as one of the shoreline’s premiere attractions, drawing both those who appreciate a fine wine — and those who appreciate a fine time. And a fine time it does provide, including tours and tastings, concerts (all posted on their Calendar of Events), and a French Bistro, where a seasonally inspired lunch/dinner menu, featuring both lighter fare and hearty meals, are paired with your choice of rich reds, winsome whites, and Chamard’s own Estate Wines, produced from the vineyard’s own Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir fruits. And how do we know all this? Well, we heard it through the grapevine, of course. Pick a day — and go. — J.H.
Chamard Vineyards
115 Cow Hill Rd., Clinton
860-664-0299
www.chamard.com

Just the Ticket
Connecticut’s shoreline isn’t just beautiful. And relaxing. And filled with places to play and shop and eat. It’s also entertaining. And enriching. And filled with places to enjoy good theater and music and dance. There’s The Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center — better known as The Kate, featuring a packed schedule of Broadway shows, opera and dance, oldies doo-wop, rock and folk groups, blues concerts, comedy shows, and children’s theater. The Ivoryton Playhouse, just a short and delightfully scenic ride away (don’t miss the hilarious I Hate Musicals: The Musical, and their productions especially for the kids) — and their exciting new Playhouse on the Shore at Water’s Edge Resort & Spa in Westbrook, offering the complete dinner theater experience. Then there’s Goodspeed Opera House nearby in East Haddam, where four musicals — Thoroughly Modern Millie, Deathless, Come From Away, and Audition Boot — promise an awesome 2017 summer season. So! Looking for something to do? These popular venues are just the ticket. — J.H.
The Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center
300 Main St., Old Saybrook
877-503-1286 (Box Office)
katharinehepburntheater.org
The Ivoryton Playhouse
103 Main St., Ivoryton
860-767-7318 (Box Office)
www.ivorytonplayhouse.org
The Goodspeed Opera House
6 Main St., East Haddam
860.873.8668 (Box Office)
www.goodspeed.org

A Brush with Brilliance
Perched on a tiny cherry easel in my sunny front hall is a small abstract by a very talented artist named Anne. When I first saw it, off in a corner of her studio waiting to be framed, I marveled aloud at how the longer I looked at it, the more I could see, despite its being almost entirely devoid of detail. And when I told her that it reminded me of the salt marshes off Shore Road in Old Lyme, where I spent my summers a kid, she smiled a satisfied smile. Seems she’d spent time there, too, for it was those very marshes. And then she gave it to me. “A thank you for a favor,” she added — but the truth is that having such a splendid reminder of my childhood is more than a thank you. It’s a treasure. And if you love the shoreline — as so many have, and do, and will, you might want a reminder, too. So visit the local art galleries, where such memories are rendered timeless in diverse mediums and styles. And if you can, bring one of those memories home with you. The shoreline is rich with them. There’s Spectrum Art Gallery in Centerbrook and Susan Powell Fine Art in Madison is another. Seascapes Art Gallery in Old Saybrook. And both the Essex and Old Lyme Art Associations. But there are many. Take a look under Shopping. — J.H.
Spectrum Art Gallery
61 Main St., Centerbrook
860-767-0742
www.spectrumgallery.org
Susan Powell Fine Art
679 Boston Post Rd., Madison
203-318-0616
www.susanpowellfineart.com
Seascapes Art Gallery
1210 Boston Post Rd, Old Saybrook
860-388-3433
Essex Art Association
10 North Main Street, Essex
860-767-8996
Lyme Art Association
90 Lyme Street, Old Lyme
860-434-7802

Kids and Puppies
Nothing gets underfoot more. Indeed, there isn’t a parent anywhere who hasn’t been heard to say why don’t you go outside and play for while so you won’t be underfoot at least once since becoming a parent. And as a dog owner, I can vouch for the fact that I have taken more than a few incredibly impressive leaps over more than a few incredibly sweet pups when, in the midst of turning quickly, I discovered that there was a wee one underfoot. All of which brings me to my point. If we must have something underfoot, tell the kids to go out and play with the dog — then head to Westbrook Flooring. (Wait. Call a babysitter first. Then go.) From carpeting, hardwoods, and laminates to the newest sheet and luxury vinyls, they have it all. Their selection of ceramic, porcelain, and glass tile is delightfully extensive. And if stone flooring is what you’re after, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, you’re likely to find that you love that new floor covering underfoot almost as much as those kids and puppies. — J.H.
Westbrook Floor Covering
1275 Boston Post Rd., Westbrook
860-399-6161
www.westbrookfloor.com

Sometimes, the grass really is greener.
Especially if it’s on the other side of the fence — where Demar’s Landscaping and their partner, Connecticut Irrigation, have been busy. But don’t be jealous, because you can have a Demar’s yard, too. Starting from scratch? Demar’s will provide not only a stunning landscape design but quality topsoil, expert seeding, installation of all trees and shrubs, and both the fertilization program and irrigation system capable of ensuring optimal growth, health, and beauty. Got a well-established yard that just needs better care? Not to worry. Demar’s is pleased to jump in with whatever thatching, top seeding, new plantings, pruning, mowing, and fertilizing is called for, as well as the irrigation system essential for everything to flourish. Need pavers or a retaining wall? No problem. And here are two more advantages to having a Demar’s yard: As summer wanes, they are ready to handle all your fall leaf and winter snow removal handily. So! Want to be green with envy — or “the other side of that fence,” where the grass (and everything else) really is greener? Yup. Thought so. Give Demar’s a call. — J.H.
Demar’s Landscaping, LLC
Connecticut Irrigation
454 E. Main St., Branford
203-483-5252
www.demarslandscapingllc1.com





 

 

 

 


It's a shore thing.
Casual enough for those faded khakis but nice enough for that special first date, Westbrook Lobster is known for serving up the freshest local seafood, some of Connecticut’s best craft beers — and a very good time. Now in its fifth decade, and winner of seven (yes! seven) “Best” awards from Connecticut magazine, this shoreline favorite delivers both their lunch and dinner selections with a side of smiles and some freshly ground informality. Choose among chowders and bisques, salads and sandwiches, or put in your order for some steamers, salmon, swordfish, sole, shrimp, or scallops. The stir fry, pastas, and fish tacos get high marks. Don’t forget the chicken and sirloin. You simply won’t be disappointed. And last but never, ever least, there’s the lobster. Mmm mmm mmmmmm lobster, cooked all the ways a lobster lover loves — and then some. So go. It’s a shore thing. — J.H.
Westbrook Lobster
346 E Main St. Clinton 

860-664-9464
www.westbrooklobster.com

Prepare to be floored.
They call themselves The Tile Source at Design Works — and why not? Featuring a wildy diverse assortment of floor, wall, and surface tiling options, they are the tile source for so many along Connecticut’s shore, because they’ve got it covered. Indeed here, you’ll find not only the gorgeous ceramic, porcelain, and stone products you’d expect but handcrafted tiles from Mexico. Margaret Licha’s collection of one-of-a-kind tiles, featuring dogs and cats, horses and donkeys, sea life, a bear, squirrels, wolves, and rabbits, as well as a wonderful selection of trim and crown moldings. A diverse international collection by Dal. Antique stone tiles with engraved deco designs, quaint tumbled art, and a series featuring themes like birds, flowers, and nautical icons. And Akdo slabs and mosaics. Better stop by. And you might want to step on it. — J.H.
The Tile Source
at Design Works
375 Middlesex Tpke.
Old Saybrook, 860-388-5366
www.tilesourcect.com


Boating is a hull of a lot of work.

I used to sail. In fact, my husband and I loved sailing so much that when November arrived, and our little “Squeeze Play” was lifted onto its cradle for the winter, we mourned. But as any weekend mariner will quickly tell you, a bad day on the water is always better than a good day on land, so when spring approached and it was finally time to polish and paint, our tarps came down, our sleeves went up — and our smiles returned. Truth be told, fussing over one’s boat (plain or posh) is almost as pleasurable as setting out for a weekend aboard — but you need to know what you’re doing, so let the pros on hand at your local marina lead the way. They can help with inboard engines, outboard motors, and onboard electronics. Hydraulic steering. Power winches. Keels and trim tabs. Sails in need of mending and sails in need of replacing. Lines and cleats and rigging and anchors. Decks and molding. Heads, galleys, and tanks galore. About a 1,000 other bits and bobs. They can even tell you where that last cotter pin might belong — an orphaned cotter pin being the stuff of considerable worry if you stepped that mast yourself. And of course, they can advise on which bottoms need sanding and painting — and which can go another season. Brewer’s, which owns no less than nine marinas along Connecticut’s shore, is ready to assist, either by recommending and referring or taking on a project themselves. Just ask. But even the smaller marinas can be excellent resources for experts on everything. Just ask. Because the best boating is safe boating. — J.H.
Brewer Bruce & Johnson’s Marina
145 S. Montowese St., Branford
203-488-8329
Brewer Deep River Marina
50 River Ln., Deep River
860-526-5560
Brewer Dauntless Shipyard
& Marina
37 Pratt St., Essex, 860-767-0001
Brewer Essex Island Marina
11 Ferry St., Essex
860-767-2483
Brewer Ferry Point Marina
29 Essex Rd., Old Saybrook
860-388-3260
Brewer Pilots Point Marina
63 Pilots Point Dr., Westbrook
South and East
Yards - 860-399-7906
North Yard - 860-399-5128

Instant Gratification
Named for Old Lyme’s beautiful Black Hall River, Black Hall Outfitters — the area’s go-to resource for paddle-sport rentals and sales — is ideally located on both the Great Island National Wildlife salt marsh, one of the East Coast’s finest kayak and kayak fishing locations, and the Connecticut River Canoe and Kayak Trail. Know what that means? It means that when the urge to take in the natural splendor of the shoreline — and do so off the beaten path and on the water itself — hits you, you’re already there. Just take your choice from among their great selection of canoe, kayak, and SUP (stand-up paddle board) for rent or for sale, then off you go, for some instant gratification that can last hours — or a lifetime. And Black Hall Outfitters has its own full-service marina for boats up to 22 feet, fishing tackle and bait, and welcomes group outings for team-building programs, company gatherings, family reunions, or parties of any kind. Stop in. Head out. And enjoy. — J.H.
Black Hall Outfitters
132 Shore Rd., Old Lyme
860-434-9680
www.blackhalloutfitters.com

 

No Mystery Here
Built by actor William Gillette, who was best known for his role as Sherlock Holmes, Gillette Castle is a fascinating place to visit — and it’s no mystery why. Self-guided tours ensure an unhurried wander through all 24 of the rooms in this medieval-in-style, quirky-in-character mansion, with staff always on hand to share the details of each room’s eccentricities. And boy, are there eccentricities. There’s the shadowy entryway reminiscent of a dungeon. Forty-seven doors, all different one from the other — and each equipped with its own unique hand-carved door latch. Hidden mirrors. Mirrors designed for mischievous pranks. Built-in couches. Even a secret room. And when you’re done investigating indoors, head outside. The grounds, now known as Gillette Castle State Park, comprise a stunning 384 acres ideal for a picnic lunch or something tasty from the concessions. So make time to visit. It would be a crime to miss this place. — J.H.
Gillette Castle
67 River Rd., East Haddam
860-526-2336

Breakfast out is very in.
Breakfast is my favorite meal because I love breakfast food. Pancakes and waffles and French toast, all drizzled with melted butter and warm maple syrup. Scrambled eggs and lots of crispy bacon. Omelets filled with crazy stuff. Real home fries. English muffins or bagels, topped with sweet, sticky jam. And fruit — freshly ripened and all cut into lazy bite-sized pieces. Trouble is, I seldom enjoy a real breakfast, because that would involve cooking, and in the morning, I am too busy yawning. It’s no surprise then that going out to breakfast is something I strongly endorse — along with Mirsini’s. Oh sure. Around noontime, Mirsini’s serves a lunch, featuring terrific sandwiches and clubs and burgers, great salads, savory soups and sides, and some tasty Greek dishes. But their breakfasts are perfectly breakfast —and they serve them all day long. And with breakfast out very in these days, you should head over. — J.H.
Mirsina’s Restaurant
162 Main St., Old Saybrook
860-388-9706
www.mirsinasrestaurant.com

Hot Stuff and Cool Gifts
Ever had to buy a gift without a single clue as to what was needed — or wanted? Join the club. Well, good news. M!X Design Store has such hot stuff that whatever you buy for is going to be cool. For example, lots of places sell socks. But M!X Design sells Happy Socks. Indeed, six pairs of silliness, all beautifully packaged and all intended to produce both smiles — as well as some serious compliments. And while plenty of stores sell cutting boards, M!X Design sells a cleverly indexed set of cutting boards, including one for meat, another for seafood, a third for fresh fruits and veggies, and the last for cheese, all neatly stored in a sleek brushed-stainless case and all designed to enhance food prep-convenience — as well as food-prep safety. And the store is full of stuff like that. Stuff that’s useful — but completely out of the ordinary, thanks to ingenious designs, clever materials, and inspired colors. It’s no wonder they were voted Best Gift Store in Connecticut magazine. I mean, where else can you go shopping, confident that having absolutely no idea what you’re doing is going to go so well. — J.H.
M!X Design Store
29 Whitfield St., Guilford
203-453-0202
www.mixdesignstore.com

A Bloomin' Success
Happily — and not-so-happily, there always comes a day when fresh flowers or some enduring greenery are the best way to convey that you’re excited by…concerned about…proud of…pleased for…saddened by…or appreciative of something — so if you’re a shoreliner or a shoreline visitor, Mar Floral & Botanical is a name you want to remember. Seems the Marlee in Mar, now a certified floral designer, “grew up” in the back of her parents’ floral shop in Madison, where she began making beautiful bouquets at the age of five. A budding floral artist then, she blossomed into her own when she took over Mar, her folk’s second shop in Old Saybrook. Taking great pride in offering a glorious selection of fresh cuts and potted beauties — and even greater pleasure in meeting her customers’ needs for everything from a single superb arrangement to entire weddings, she’s made Mar one bloomin’ success. Stop in. Or call. — J.H.
Mar Floral & Botanicals
140 Main St., Old Saybrook
860-388-4670
www.marfloral.com

Amidst life's chaos there is tea.
Yes, tea. Maybe tea is special to me because when I was little and it was cold outside, my Mom used to make us a cup — hot, sweet, and creamy, and we would talk between sips. Nothing fancy. Just everything quite perfect in the moment, because that’s the power of tea. Want to know who else knows the power of tea? The Savvy Tea Gourmet. They know its capacity for exquisite flavor and the way holding a warm mug in your hands reassures — or balancing a delicate teacup atop its saucer makes you feel a bit splendid. And they know how sipping tea slowly and appreciatively calms and relaxes. But then so do those who flock to this little shop, where tea is not only served in all its many ways but sold for giving (and keeping) in Loose Leaf, Whole Leaf, and Artisan varieties. On Saturdays, Savvy Afternoon Tea features fine linens, bone china, and tiered trays filled with tea sandwiches and confections. And they host Junior Afternoon Teas, as well, along with Tea Tastings. You can find their calendar of events online, plus tea ware, including pots and chests and accessories. But you’ll want to visit in person to really experience tea, because at The Savvy Tea Gourmet, tea really is an experience. — J.H.
Savvy Tea Gourmet
121 Samson Rock Dr., Madison
www.savvyteagourmet.com



 

 

 

 

 

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