Enjoy food by the fireside this winter
The fall season certainly took its time this year in bringing blustery weather to southeastern Connecticut, but winters in New England don't tend to be as fussy. Some things are unequivocal come Thanksgiving: the windows are long locked, we've grit our teeth and turned on the thermostat and fleece and flannel become the standard wardrobe until March. At least.
Grouse as we might, there are at least a few appealing aspects to winters in Connecticut: the holidays; ample opportunity to ski and sled; and snow-dusted landscapes. But maybe the best thing about sweater-weather is the opportunity to cozy up to a fireplace and relax with a warm meal and mug of cocoa — or a glass of wine, perhaps — in front of soul-warming dancing flames.
In that spirit, we've made a list of some of the region's standout fireside-friendly destinations. Some are restaurants, some are hotels, some are historic inns — all of them will beckon to the hearty guest.
Sharpe Hill Vineyards
108 Wade Rd., Pomfret
Atmosphere: Award-winning winery tucked in Connecticut's Quiet Corner, complete with restaurant and tasting room.
Dining: In-house Fireside Tavern offers hearty meals like Delmonico Steak and Wild Salmon. The house Creole Shrimp entrée earned a nod of appreciation from Connecticut magazine. Dining is available on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and mealtimes vary by season. Check the website for details. Reservations a must.
Familiar face: Sharpe Hill's "Ballet of Angels" white wine — with whimsical illustration of cherub and bird — is a staple in area liquor stores.
The Mansion at Bald Hill
29 Plaine Hill Road, S. Woodstock
Atmosphere: Upscale restaurant and bed and breakfast in a circa-1892 four-story mansion that was the former home Roxanna Wentworth Bowen, heiress to Pullman train company fortune. Event space available.
Dining: "Eclectic" seasonal dinners sourced locally. Appetizer list includes fresh and grilled oysters and sushi, alongside offerings like fried goat cheese. Dinner is served Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 8:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m.; and Sunday from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Prices: Entrees range from $20 to $35. Sunday brunch is $16 plus tax and gratuity.
Bed & Breakfast at Taylor's Corner
880 Connecticut 171, Woodstock
Atmosphere: Circa-1700s Colonial inn with three guest rooms and ample common area, all outfitted with fireplaces. Guests welcome to stroll through accompanying heirloom gardens.
Dining: Daily breakfast incorporates locally sourced foods, including produce from resident garden; baked goods for guests also made on site.
Prices: Rooms start at $130 a night
Inn at Woodstock Hill
94 Plaine Hill Road, Woodstock
Atmosphere: Restaurant and inn includes house originally constructed in 1816. Twenty-one guest rooms — including a guest cottage with three bedrooms — reflect modern tastes and habits. Certified Connecticut Green-Lodging Facility. Event space available.
Dining: "Fine country dining;" American and Continental fare made with locally sourced ingredients. Lunch is served from April through November, Thursday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner is served Monday through Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m. and on Sundays from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday brunch served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Prices: Rooms range from $160 to $260; dinner entrees at restaurant run from $19 (seasonal garden vegetable primavera among other dishes) to $46 (New Zealand rack of lamb). Lunch menu offers sandwiches and wraps that average around $12; lunch entrees start at $14.
Daniel Rust House
2011 Main St., Coventry
Atmosphere: Colonial inn established in 1800; modern amenities like air-conditioning and WiFi meet with antiques, original wood-plank flooring, stone hearths and other period features. Accompanying 2 acres of property feature perennial gardens and orchards. Pets welcome (with additional fee); owners should read pet policies first.
Dining: "Full country breakfast" served daily to guests.
Prices: $120 to $185 per night, double occupancy
Inn at Lower Farm
119 Mystic Rd., North Stonington
Atmosphere: Restored, circa-1740 center-chimney Georgian Colonial farmhouse on 5 acres of land designated as National Wildlife Backyard Habitat; features original wood paneling, original open hearth and beehive oven, hand-stenciled wall paintings, and six working fireplaces — including one in the house's guest-friendly library — among other period and modern comforts.
Dining: Guests served full country breakfast, which typically include fresh vegetable frittata, lemon-blueberry biscuits, chilled fruit juice, rosemary potatoes and more.
Prices: Rooms range from $100 to $180
The Ocean House
1 Bluff Ave, Westerly, R.I.
Atmosphere: Luxury is the name of the game at The Ocean House, a resort by the sea that boasts the state's "first and only" AAA Five Diamond rating. The original resort opened in 1868 as a getaway for the very wealthy and was featured in the 1916 film "American Aristocracy," starring Douglas Fairbanks. It closed in 2003 and after major renovations, the Ocean House reopened in 2010. It now offers a spa, 49 rooms and 13 Signature Suites, providing more spacious accommodations than the original hotel. According to the Ocean House's website, "More than 5,000 salvageable artifacts and furnishing elements were lovingly harvested from the original structure's historic interiors."
Dining: Choose from seven dining experiences across the resort; among them, the resort's upscale restaurant, Seasons, which offers locavore dinners, wide ocean views, open exhibition kitchen and the warmth of a stone fireplace.
On a smaller scale, Ocean House's Living Room offers fireside coziness where guests can enjoy afternoon tea or cocktails; the Bistro menu offers more casual fare in the resort's Winter Garden, Seasons Bar, Seasons Terrace and the members-only Club Room and Club Terrace.
Prices: A weekday booking inquiry yielded a best available rate of $661 for a standard queen room. Prices for more grand accommodations topped out at $11,000 for the 4,000-square-foot Penthouse Suite.
Entrees at Seasons start at $30; small plates at $15. The prix-fixe Chef's Tasting option at Seasons starts at $95.
Another Second Penny Inn
870 Pequot Trail, Stonington
Atmosphere: Bed and breakfast in the circa-1710 Edward Denison House, a historic Colonial farm. Three rooms, including the second-floor-spanning Russell Suite, which was, according to the inn's website, originally a dance hall when Colonel Russell operated his tavern in the house. Pets welcome (see hotel policies first).
Dining: Guest breakfast options abound from on-the-go and budget choices to the inn's famous five-course meal, which typically includes house-made sweets, entree, seasonal fruit, coffee/tea/hot cocoa, and hot or cold cereal.
Prices: Rooms start at $129 in the fall season. See website for details.
20 Coogan Boulevard, Mystic
Atmosphere: Modern amenities with extra sparkle. Facility includes 182 guest rooms, meeting and event space and more.
Dining: In-house dining stops include The Mooring, offering casual breakfast fare in a "Tuscan atmosphere," and Soundings Lounge, where guests can enjoy cocktails, watch TV on a flatscreen and warm up by the fireplace.
Prices: Call or visit website for updated rates. Specials and promotions affect rates daily.
Steamboat Inn, Mystic
73 Steamboat Wharf, Mystic
Atmosphere: The waterfront, downtown Mystic inn offers rooms with views of the Mystic River. Antiques and modern amenities merge in the 11 light-filled guest rooms. Fireplaces warm weary guests in the inn's deluxe rooms. Decor nods to the area's nautical heritage.
Dining: Guest breakfast — including house specialty Steamboat Delectable muffins — is served in the George C. Moon common room.
Prices: Rooms start at $150 mid-week.
Inn at Mystic
Three Williams Avenue, Mystic
Atmosphere: More than 60 guests rooms situated in a sprawling structure on 15 acres of land. Guests will encounter turn-of-the-century furnishings amid modern amenities. Wedding and event spaces available. Property includes in-house restaurant, Flood Tide.
Dining: Upscale dining with water views and a seafood-lover's menu (some non-seafood dishes available). Breakfast is served 7 to 10:30 a.m.; dinner served 5:30 to 9 p.m. (Closed Tuesdays.) Lounge opens at 4 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers average around $12 at Flood Tide; dinner entrees start at $22 for the House-Made Butternut Sweet Potato Gnocchi on the current dinner menu; a Delmonico steak runs for $36.
Rooms rates through Dec. 31 range from $115 to $150 weekdays and $125 to $250 on Friday, Saturday and holidays
Captain Daniel Packer Inn
32 Water St., Mystic
Atmosphere: This 250-year-old inn on the Mystic River boasts the name of its builder, who kept the property in the Packer family until the 1970s. When the inn was renovated in 1979, its new proprietors took care to preserve the inn's original fireplaces, mantles, beams and other structural elements.
No longer a functional inn, DPI offers food and drink in its pub and restaurant, and banquet space is available for private gatherings. Live bands perform every night in the pub.
Dining: Craving wild boar sausage? Pull up a chair. Upscale entrees run from stylish seafood (Lobster Lollipops, anyone?) to comfort food basics (Pesto and Angel Hair Pasta) with all the meats and poultry in between, plus salads.
Prices: Entrees start at $19; appetizers average around $10.
Great Neck Golf Club
28 Lamphere Road, Waterford
Atmosphere: Gaze out at the greens from Great Neck Golf Club's resident restaurant, Langley's. Patio seating offers al fresco drink-and-dining opportunities, complete with gas fireplace. Golf club is private; restaurant is open to the public.
Dining: Langley's dinner menu offers a long list of Italian-inspired fare, mostly featuring meats and seafood, from veal to scrod; appetizers are mostly seafood options. The lounge menu runs a bit lighter and includes more casual options like an Angus burger ($9), lobster mac and cheese ($11) and the Wedge Club Salad ($9).
Prices: Dinners start at $14 (Pasta Primavera and Vito Bolognese); appetizers average around $10
Bee & Thistle Inn
100 Lyme St., Old Lyme
Atmosphere: Historic inn with nine guest rooms on the Lieutenant River in Old Lyme; a recent renovation opened up North lounge area, where guests can sip cocktails fireside; local art bedecks the walls. Two more fireplaces warm up the main dining room and South lounge. Wedding and spa services available.
Cuisine: In-house Chestnut Grille & Lounge offers "contemporary, distinctive New England cuisine" with emphasis on seasonal, local foods. Cocktails are creative. Dinner served Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m.; lunch served on Friday and Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. Happy Hour runs from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Prices: Rooms start at $160 on weekdays. Main plates for dinner run from $11 for the B&T Club sandwich to $28 for grilled hangar steak.
Water's Edge Resort & Spa
1525 Boston Post Rd, Westbrook
Atmosphere: This seaside resort remains a favorite for wedding parties and patrons looking to get away from it all, if even for a few hours. Accommodations run from standard and deluxe guestrooms and suites to oceanfront condos (meeting space and timeshares available). Elsewhere, an in-house spa, tennis courts and regular musical entertainment draw in shorter-term guests. The Restaurant at Water's Edge is a local favorite fine-dining destination with sweeping views of the property; the Seaview Bistro and Martini Bar offers lighter fare and carefully concocted cocktails. The Sunset Bar and Grille becomes the resort's resident clam shack in the summer, with drink, pub far and music on the resort's oceanfront patio.
Prices: A weekday booking inquiry yielded a best available rate of $169 for a "Superior Room" with two queen-size beds.
Dinner entrees at the main restaurant start at $18 for spinach gnocchi and top out at $28 for Ahi Tuna with Sweet and Sour Beets. Appetizers are mostly seafood.
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