Today’s Litchfield, CT City Guide Update comes from Jacque Lynn Schiller, a writer and the co-creator of the goods and get-togethers design studio, larks & japes. One year ago, she happily made the transition from weekender to full-time resident of the Northwest Hills with her mister, Tom. In this update, Jacque takes us through the scenic parts of this East Coast haven. Thank you, Jacque, for this wonderful (and fall colored) guide! — Stephanie
Read the full city guide after the jump . . .
“I’ll be your girl for all seasons, all the year through. Your girl for all seasons, ’cause I love, yes I love to be everything to you, just you.” — The Pink Ladies
That’s right, I just dropped a Grease 2 reference in this Litchfield guide. Weren’t expecting that one, I bet. And that’s the point I’d like to make. If you’re aware of bucolic Litchfield County, located just 100 miles north of NYC, it’s likely for its (well-deserved) reputation for stellar leaf peeping and apple picking. Fall is stunning, and name a New England cliché, and you will find it here in abundance: covered bridges, colonials, cardigans. But did you know that there’s also a winter CT wine trail? County fairs, rummage sales and greenmarkets? Fly-fishing and a Junior Olympics ski jump competition?
If seeking the Connecticut of a certain classic Christmas film or Mr. Blandings’ dream house, head up the Saw Mill, hop the Harlem Valley MTA line or mosey down Route 7, and there it is. Just know there’s also a modern, sophisticated side with yoga studios, art galleries and restaurants dedicated to sustainable food.
Each little town is big on character, so this guide is by no means exhaustive. This is also purposeful, as I want to encourage you to poke around and take the scenic route. Just don’t tell the locals that I let you in on the secret.
To make the mapping more manageable, I broke things down into four quadrants moving clockwise. Pick a corner, any corner. Pick a season, any season . . .
Eat & Drink
Muffins in the morning, a glass of wine at night. New American cuisine with a bustling bar scene.
New American, seasonal dishes in a sophisticated but inviting space.
Casual atmosphere but well-executed plates. Start with house-made chips with truffle oil.
Bohemian Pizza — 342 Bantam Road Litchfield, CT (860) 567-3980
Humongous pies, kitschy décor and a bar popular with the locals. Unpretentious with a bonus double-sided fireplace.
Chaiwalla — Main Street Salisbury, CT (860) 435-9758
Honest tea brewed properly; sip a cup of Masala Chai while perusing the dessert table. But look away from Devil’s Food Cake. In case I stop in, I’m calling dibs.
Caro Caffe — 9 Calkinstown Road, off Route 41 Sharon, CT (860)364-0879
Some of the best focaccia we’ve ever eaten, and if you’re lucky, lemon-spiked rice pudding will be available.
A modern take on Italian classics. The porch is divine in the summer, as is the Sicilian lemonade.
Stop in for a caesar salad as Dolph Traymon tickles the ivories.
Authentic French cuisine in an atrium setting. This place knows their floating islands, and the house wine is sold, at a fantastic price, by carafe. Oui!
Truly creative cuisine in the cozy old Tollgate Inn, vegetarians will also be pleased to find many phenomenal plates sans meat.
This one’s off the beaten path but worth the trip for the view and pancakes. This funky little throwback overlooks Twin Lakes and is a favorite of boaters and land lovers alike.
An elegant, warm setting with a cheerful atmosphere (especially at the bar), the standard bistro fare is elevated here to extraordinary through the use of local produce and inspired ingredients. Case in point, Vanilla Lemongrass Pot de Crème.
Peaches n’ Cream — 632 Torrington Rd Litchfield, CT 860) 496-7536
Homemade ice cream, friendly service and creative flavors. The sorbets are also excellent.
Squeeze in to the quaint dining room for delectable French-American comfort food and an amazing — and very popular — brunch.
When Pigs Fly South — 29 West Main Street, Sharon, CT (860) 492-0000
Tiny digs but big BBQ flavor. As a Texan I can attest that they’re doing it right.
Two floors of bibliophile heaven, especially those interested in horticulture and cuisine. (Closed during the winter months.)
B. Johnstone & Co. — 4 North Main Street Kent, CT (860) 927-1272
Upscale apparel and thoughtfully curated vintage collectibles. If you’re in the market for a deco cocktail shaker or designer label, you’re likely to find it here.
Gear and apparel for active outdoor adventures (leisure ones, too).
Darren Winston Books and Prints — 81 Main Street, Sharon, CT (860) 364-1890
The namesake bookseller has an eye for treasures, making the hunt for eclectic ephemera effortless but no less fun.
Specializing in artisan-made ceramics, glass and jewelry, there’s also a nice selection of clothing.
Simply beautiful, expertly crafted Shaker furniture.
A showcase of period antiques and fine arts, the museum-quality pieces here are impressive and a wee bit intimidating. Fortunately, the owner is not. Look, touch and, by all means (if you have the means), buy!
You need not be a cook to appreciate the vast number of gadgets and equipment found here. A go-to source for quality products when entertaining or being entertained, this is hostess-gift heaven.
Big, bold jewelry designs — look for the eye-popping orange signage.
Dazzling estate and antique jewelry to encourage any romantic notions, apropos a proposal.
Tweeds, waxed cotton and wool — oh my! Look the part of a Yankee Doodle Dandy or Lady Who Lunches, Connecticut style, in smartly understated bespoke clothing and preppy ready to wear.
We were once tempted to purchase an old fun house mirror, if that gives any indication of the surprising relics turned objet d’art you might discover here.
Farm, Artisanal & Specialty Foods
Fit for the queen and a number of presidents, Belgique’s whimsically shaped pralines are superb, and the hot chocolate is a necessary winter indulgence.
Your pantry could use more spaetzle and morning toast, a sprinkle of vlok feest. Eet smakelijk!
A pick-your-own berry bonanza, with plum-plucking, apple-cidering and corn-mazing, too.
A small grocery and delicatessen stocked with choice foods, baked goods and meals made from scratch. Fill your Kent Falls picnic baskets here.
A dizzying assortment of candies paired with the best grounds around.
“The Good Earth Farm” is known for its sweet corn and heirloom-abundant garden center. Your window box ready for a refill? Their annuals are phenomenal.
For the love of cheese! Cows’ milk Cheshire, an herbed goat spread — all of the enticing wedges are made on site with natural ingredients. You’d be wise to purchase a jar of pure maple cream, as well.
Gardens & Florists
I can’t drive past this nursery without being compelled to stop. One can never have too many hostas! From landscaping trees to flowering shrubs, green inspiration surrounds.
Trade Secrets (usually held in May)
THE garden lovers event of the year, dealers tender rare plants and unusual accessories while special talks and tours raise funds for Women’s Support Services.
Cultural Interest & Attractions
Contemporary collectors flock to this light-filled space, ideal for contemplating large installations and paintings. Open year round, receptions are as much social occasions as a celebration of the arts.
Since the 1930s, beautiful chamber music has been made in this intimate woodland setting. During the summer, Saturday nights feature jazz concerts and star gazing (of the celestial variety).
Known primarily for showing important and contemporary Russian art.
Broadway plays and original musicals performed by regional community actors, often to a sold out room. There’s a lot of talent in these Hills.
Showing the works of well-known artists in the practice of abstract paintings, photography and sculpture.
The “longest continuously marked footpath in the world,” the picturesque trek between Georgia and Maine cuts through the northwest corner of Connecticut.
Really get to know the rural and rolling landscape with a custom-tailored or self-guided two-wheeled trip.
A historic bridge and a serious waterfall, just down from where the ice breaks in the spring.
Paddle your way or white water raft down a dramatic section of the Housatonic River.
Whether back in the saddle or your first time in the ring, a horseback ride makes for a relaxing, memorable afternoon.
An enchanting replica sanctuary of the French pilgrimage site, this serene hillside grotto includes a café and one-of-a-kind gift shop.
If you grew up in the area, this is likely where you strapped on your first pair of skis. Lessons are available for those late to the sport (raises hand), or try your duck feet at snowboarding. Fourteen light trails are available for night carving and butt plants.
That’s not thunder you’re hearing but the roar of engines from this world-class venue nestled in a majestic setting. From NASCAR stock car races to a “Sunday in the Park” vintage Concours, both seasoned motor sportsmen and novices will appreciate the scenery on and off the track.
Regarding the school, “The racetrack is the perfect intersection of adolescence and adult continuing education. Learn to go fast, very fast, from the best instructors on one of America’s most storied road courses,” so says a friend with a need for speed.
Environmental Education Center and wildlife sanctuary situated on 4,000 pretty acres of fields, wetlands and woodlands with campgrounds and facilities for recreational pursuits.
Lodging & Spas
An historic lodge and adorable but luxurious cottages, the property boasts an Orvis-endorsed outfitter, Houstaonic Meadows Fly Shop.
Llamas, lilacs and period antiques at a beautiful 18th century-style farmhouse.
This heath and yoga center focuses on wellness through holistic therapies in a reclaimed structure befitting its Bhutanese name’s meaning.
Spa and sanctuary at Interlaken Inn offering skin care, massage and pilates classes.
Chic B&B that fulfills the “weekend in the country” Connecticut fantasy but with unexpected touches, such as pilates instruction and an outdoor pool.
Remodeled rooms in a bucolic setting near many attractions.
Eats & Drinks
Seafood and awesome burgers are served with a sense of humor at this quirky landlocked beach cottage. BYOB.
An appealing Victorian dining room with a New American menu.
The folks behind the fender blender whip up crazy-tasty victuals on a daily basis. Check out their grilled peanut butter sandwiches with choice of toppings. Trust.
Las Delicias Latina — 433 Main Street Torrington, CT (860) 462-8833
Park on the street, grab a beer from the freezer and dip into a bowl of fresh salsa. Completely unassuming, an example of better Mexican food since leaving my home state of Texas.
Rocket Fine Street Food (truck)
Track down these guys for rich mac-n-cheese, though I’d bet that whatever’s on the locally sourced, fresh-made board will be scrumptious.
Station Place — 10 Station Place Norfolk, CT (860) 542-2555
Just up the hill from Infinity Hall is a tiny café dishing up gourmet soups, salads and sandwiches, all house-made with fresh ingredients. The coffee also deserves a mention.
Classic Italian in time-warped rooms you must see to believe. Forty years of experience makes for consistently good, homemade pasta plates.
Antiques, Boutiques & Books
Gigantic complex with over 100 dealers representing every kind of antique and vintage ware imaginable. Sometimes you just doesn’t know what you want until you see it. Get to searching.
Impeccable French Country imports and a “savvy classic” line from the owner/artist himself.
A little bit of every era, from Victorian times to the 1970s, is on display here. The original and restored lighting section is particularly interesting. Upstairs, you’ll sometimes find a speakeasy. Shhh . . .
Remarkable and extensive collection of Hitchcock furniture.
Fresh-baked homemade goods line the shelves inside while cowpots keep the plants happy outside and in the greenhouse.
Bring a link of their andouille sausage to your next backyard barbecue, and a return invite is guaranteed. The smoked provolone is another sure hit.
Herbal apothecary and tearoom offering organic nourishment and a soothing nook to read.
Popular cookies, including ginger molasses, but we’re also fans of the sour cream streusel.
Dinner and a movie (as in during), the perfect date all in one.
Offers a monthly series of workshops devoted to rediscovering rural wisdom.
Authentic, resplendently restored Art Deco hall with diverse programming ranging from touring Broadway and children’s productions to big name acts. If you have a minute before a show, next-door Backstage has more than 20 craft brews on tap.
I haven’t been brave enough to try this yet, but friends who have raved about the encounter. Says the outfit, “Every season offers a special uniqueness and beauty, which makes flying in a balloon a perfect year-round endeavor.”
Having grown up on a river, I was thrilled to learn of a nearby opportunity to shoot the rapids. Granted, the water temperature is a bit cooler, but a wild, refreshing ride nonetheless.
Dash through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh.
If you’d rather paddle the clean and clear Farmington River, here’s where to book a trip downstream in kayak or canoe.
They still exist! There’s nothing like catching a flick — make that two, all showings are double features — from the upholstered recline of your own seat car, old-school style. Let’s all go to the lobby.
Well groomed with decent-length trails and a 625-foot steep vertical drop. There’s a separate area for kids and moonlit sessions with unbeatable views.
Lodging & Spas
Turn back the clock at this Nationally Registered Historic stagecoach inn. Chock-full of antiques and character, the meals are terrific, and the owners are helpful and pleasant.
A fully restored Mediterranean Revival Estate, this is boutique lodging at its best. Every detail has received attention, from the immaculately manicured grounds to the wood-burning fireplaces in each room. The spa and wellness services are said to be spectacular.
Tiffany windows, a library and a heated sunroom are just a few of the wonderful aspects of this Victorian Tudor B&B. Recognized as a “Romantic Hideaway,” The Manor House is a member of the distinguished inns of North America.
Eats & Drinks
The celebrated restaurant of cookbook author and chef Carole Peck and her husband, Bernard Jarrier, the interior is as colorful as she is and the menu just as imaginative, with an emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients. Even the salads are brilliantly conceived.
Dottie’s Diner — 740 Main St S Woodbury, CT (203) 263-2545
The chicken potpie is home-cooked fabulousness, but it’s the doughnuts that warrant a jig.
Splendid New American in a striking 1700s Saltbox. The three-course comfort menu — hello, risotto! — is a great value.
Antiques, Boutiques & Books
Hand-made crafts, demos and art from more than 30 local artists.
Farm Fresh Home — 107 Main Street North Woodbury (203) 263-6400
The owner has a knack for repurposing old effects, such as farm paraphernalia, into conversation pieces. Artisan-made and custom pieces in the same eco-friendly vein also abound.
Pristine Herman Miller in the middle of the country. Indeed.
Seventeenth- to twentieth-century sundry curios, décor and collectibles.
Fine English and American antiques, specializing in 18th- and 19th-century furniture.
A second-generation antiques dealer and expert in American furniture and folk art with “historic appeal.” The engaging Mr. Mattox likewise directs a lively auction.
Woodbury is known as the Antiques Capital of Connecticut, and as the categories sold run the gamut, this directory may prove useful.
Farm, Artisanal & Specialty Foods
I double-dog dare you not to eat at a carb company renowned for fresh rolled, nothing artificial everything — biscotti, bialys and bread.
Three generations and growing strong. Veggies, fruits and a market carrying other locally made products, such as Goatboy soaps. Oh yes, and cider donuts. PYO berries, peaches and apples.
Find your thrill on 30 acres of blueberry hills. Ten varieties of Violet Beauregarde’s downfall can be your reward, no expansion necessary.
Fresh pasta nirvana.
If you happen to be in the area during tapping time (typically March), stop in for a demo. As the maple trees can be fickle, it’s best to call ahead (203-263-4550), but produced syrup is available at all times.
Gardens & Florists
It’s all about the peony — the variety here will take your breath away.
Retail store of the drool-worthy catalog. Exquisite grounds transport you into a world of tranquility and botanical inspiration, perhaps with a wheelbarrow of envy.
Landmark property with an intriguing history, the formal gardens contain notable roses and lilacs.
“Birthplace of the Episcopal Church in the New World and graced by the only extant American garden planned by England’s most venerated designer.” Circa 1750.
All aboard, railroad enthusiasts and fall-foliage fanatics. Take a heritage-filled ride through the dramatic countryside in a vintage car. Reservations for special holiday trips, such as the Northern Lights Limited to Santa’s Workshop, fill up fast (860-283-RAIL).
A grand hall, the Marr & Colton Theater organ is a point of pride for area residents and the many people who participate in regional-based theater throughout the year.
Promoting the understanding and appreciation of nature, this important land trust possesses (and shares) hikes along arresting trails.
Ski in the winter, zorb in the summer. That’s right. The phenomenon has reached the hills of Connecticut.
Exceptional New England meals, antique decor and fashionably appointed chambers equate to lavishness without the stodge factor.
Fantasyland. Seriously. Ever wanted to sleep in a helicopter? Probably not, because where on earth could you? Here. Should you opt out of staying the night, gawkers are welcome for dinner or a drink overlooking the sprawling property.
Eats & Drinks
Clamp’s Route 202, New Milford, CT (near Marbledale)
No sign, but a damn good burger. This little roadside stand has been around since the ‘30s and is loved for its attitude (open only in summer, closes promptly at 2pm) and daily-butchered beef.
Minimalism extends from design to the concept of the menu. There are no heavy sauces to hide behind here, allowing the vibrant flavor of daily-procured ingredients to sing. Chef Joel Viehland seems to be setting the new standard for sustainable, inventive Connecticut cooking.
I’m not sure if Washington actually slept here, but he definitely would have approved of the American fare, like the Meatloaf and Cobb Salad. Check their website for live entertainment, best enjoyed from the patio overlooking the Shepaug River.
With a magnificent panoramic view of Lake Waramaug, waitresses in Austrian garb, and a plate brimming with backhendl and lingonberries, you’ll be transported to the Alps. Take home a bottle of the famous house dressing.
Sip a latte and spy some art (and maybe a celebrity or two).
The recently revamped menu retains outstanding staples, such as Sweet Potato Gnocchi ala Romana, while new dishes with a North African influence are sure to become favorites. The Old World setting, liberal use of herbs and ubiquitous oil make for a memorable meal. And that’s not just the wine talking.
An Anglophile Indian motorcyclist’s dream. Settle in for some prime rib on the deck overlooking Aspetuck River, or dine on a genuine tavern table from the 16th century.
Antiques, Boutiques & Books
Who doesn’t love an independent bookseller, selling indie titles, no less?
Handcrafted tiles in astonishing color palettes. Rethink your bathroom, make over a table, maybe take up the game of chess — they create cool boards.
An essential source of reference and inspiration for Swedish antiques and French furniture in original condition. The bright shop carries pleasingly patinaed garden appointments, as well.
Funky pre-loved and vintage clothing, many designer items among the mix.
Sundays since 1976 (April–November), this verdant field is given over to dealers hawking everything from vintage tchotchkes and house plants to cottage furniture, military memorabilia and old signs. So basically, a little of everything. Get their morning-mist early, fill your thermos and begin your rummage. There’s no such thing as junk at the Trunk!
If you’re a fan of black and white photography, especially of New York City, or collectible paper items in general, here’s a fount of posters and prints made from original negatives.
With a discerning eye for the decorative, this specialty retailer of “distinctive furniture, home accents, clothing for men and women, jewelry, gifts, and folk art” overlooks a waterfall, to boot.
Gorgeous layout and artful botanical displays of “natural curiosities [that] offers a highly sensual shopping experience for home & garden.”
An emporium of the extraordinary brought to you by the Lambertson Truex designer and antiques maven and neighbor Suzanne Cassano. The swell duo offer a plethora of beautifully merchandised objects found abroad and locally, such as dbO Home pottery.
“An eclectic selection of unique objects, artworks, antique & vintage furniture acquired from across the country and around the globe intermixed with new handmade high quality furniture and accessories.” What they said.
A bottle of red, a wedge of cheese, a loaf of BB’s kalamata olive sourdough and a chocolate truffle tart — my kind of square meal.
No matter the time of year, the cornucopia of natures’ bounty is mind blowing. It’s also one of the oldest family-run farms in the United States, stewarded by a Hurlbut since the 1700s.
The Pantry — 5 Titus Rd. Washington Depot, CT (860) 868-0258
Accoutrements for haute cuisine kitchens and backyard barbecues. After encountering a “have to have” utensil or selecting an exotic condiment, tuck into a generous slice of quiche or glorious bowl of soup.
This lovingly rebuilt blacksmith shop now functions as a resource for local agriculture, crafts and home implements. Highlights include Arethusa Farm dairy products, Boxed Goodes and Stone Wall vegetables.
As if a mom-and-daughter-run bakery wasn’t cute enough, these enterprising gals also make sweet-as-can-be cupcakes and custom cakes in bold flavors and designs.
Founded in 1841 as a “place to grow,” vegetables are tended along with the emotional needs of teens. Operated by the New Milford Youth Agency, there is fruit production and a maple sugar house.
Gardens & Florists
The quintessential charm of harvesting your own Tannenbaum.
Jewel art deco surroundings with surround sound. First-run films.
Connecticut’s oldest continuously operating movie house, independent and art house releases are screened in this snug venue.
The longhouse classrooms and research library provide summer day camps and various workshops, exhibits and entertaining educational programs stressing the history and crafts of Native American Peoples.
Cultural center, farm trust, gallery and cooking school co-founded by the late Skitch Henderson. An astounding range of classes along with the permanently protected public space make a visit here truly enlightening and unforgettable.
An award-winning, volunteer professional non-Equity theatre company, “City Arts on Pearl” now houses the single largest concentration of non-profit arts organizations in the state. Hartford’s off-Broadway.
High-caliber exhibits and studio courses from an endeavor spanning many decades and schools of art.
Launch into Candlewood Lake and be freed from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Opposite Lake Waramaug, the orchard-covered hills of this centuries-old farm offer hay rides, apple picking and a peerless view.
Almost 2,000 acres of sublime farmland, forests, wetlands and meadows — something for everyone, including open field hikes and fern glades.
Lodging & Spas
Where the taste level reaches the rafters and valets are often seen parking Bentleys, this Relais & Chateaux spa resort spoils with unimaginable amenities. Holidays are an especially festive affair.
Six natty suites located in the not-so-sleepy hamlet of Warren. There’s a gym, sitting room and welcoming tavern.
Good to Know
Buy CT Grown
Greenmarkets and farm stands, and keep an eye out for charming family-run stalls operating on the honor system.
Connecticut Wine Trail
Personal vineyard favorites include Sunset Meadows, Hopkins and Haight-Brown.
Check mommypoppins for what to do in Connecticut with tots in tow.
Row your boat or make a splash.
Many of the libraries are a sight in and of themselves and often hold interesting talks and art exhibits.
NW Corner Arts Council
Valuable directory and calendar of upcoming events
What’s happening in Litchfield and surrounding counties of Berkshire, Columbia and Dutchess.