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Something to Savour in Centerbrook

Sometimes the name of an eatery is all it takes to get me in the door. Wouldn’t you, upon seeing a prettily rendered sign announcing a place called Savour, take note and plan a visit? Be glad I’m a sucker for a British “u” because you’ll thank me for the heads up on this charming cafe in Centerbrook.

Savour is part prepared-foods market, part bakery, and part sit-down cafe — and you’ll want to have a seat and relax once you have a look at the tasteful, cheery decor. Think Pottery Barn with much more mirth and beautiful foods everywhere. During my holiday-time visits, an array of Buches de Noel, gingerbread mansions and other festive displays kept me cheerily occupied while waiting for my orders.

The main cafe menu consists of a selection of sandwiches and salads, with a few soups du jour, some fresh, some packaged by the pint in a refrigerated case. A recent sampling of the Smoky Black Bean and Sweet Potato ($5.95 for a pint), which, though not terribly smoky, made for a tasty and filling lunch. It was neither too thick nor too thin and not at all spicy, and the accompaniment from the chunks of sweet potatoes added welcome nutrition and flavor nuance.

Depending on the day, you also might find up to half a dozen prepared dishes like pasta and chicken salads available by the pound; if you go earlier in the morning, you might not see much selection. (Ditto for the other foods-to-go options in the refrigerated case.)

Still, the sandwich options alone could keep a person occupied for several visits. I suggest starting with the grilled cheese, which at $9.95 is pricey but worth the splurge. Here’s why: bacon jam. Far from the toasted cheesy squares of the past, Savour’s grilled cheese incorporates some of the classic sandwich’s best add-ons: tomatoes (slow-roasted and vibrantly flavored) and bacon, in the form of a crumbly “jam,” which adds a hint of saltiness and fun texture. The cheese of choice at Savour is a generous amount of mellow, tasty Cheddar, and it’s all served on thick, toasted country white bread. I recommend not taking this sammie to go; enjoy it warm, and you will be a loyal customer for life.

On a recent blustery day, I wanted something cozy and warming to eat, if that makes any sense, and I was drawn to Savour’s Ham & Brie sandwich ($9.95), served warm. The titular ingredients come served on a toasted croissant with a smear of apricot mustard. I mostly enjoyed this sandwich, but oddly my favorite part of it was the outstanding, buttery croissant. The ham, sliced thin and abundant, was my second favorite part. It had the perfect level of saltiness to counter the heady brie. The parts seemed well sourced, but somehow the sum of them wasn’t the pure bliss of the grilled cheese. The problem, I believe, was the apricot mustard, which, when warmed by the toasted croissant, worked its way into every crevice of the sandwich and made for a very messy lunch. Or perhaps too much mustard had been applied; in any case, the apricot flavor was as pervasive as the physical mustard, which amounted to overload for this girl’s simple palate.

Now, if the grilled cheese doesn’t make you swear fealty to Savour, its beef stew will (if you aren’t vegetarian). I’ve seen it available twice in the foods-to-go case, so it appears to rotate with other entrees. A container of it ($12.95) will feed two very hungry people, or leave at least a portion of leftovers for those who don’t eat like jackals (my husband and I fall into the former camp). We suspect it’s the addition of red wine to the basic stew mix of beef, potatoes, carrots, onions and peas that makes it special, or perhaps it’s the tomato paste that gives it such depth. We sampled it twice, and both times it was excellent. Grab a baguette near the register (baked by Bread & Chocolate out of Hamden), and you’ve got the dinner of champions all good to go.

Want a lunch of champions? If you see the cheese tortellini salad with lemon basil vinaigrette ($8.95/pound) in the fresh-foods case, grab it. Often, tortellini can lack flavor and merely serve as a vehicle to absorb dressing. Not so at Savour. The cheese within the tri-color tortellini offers a subtle flavor layer to the wonderful cherry tomatoes, basil and thick-cut shards of savory, salty Parmesan cheese. Lightly oiled with dressing, no one part of the salad mix overpowers the other; it’s all nicely balanced and fresh on the palate. One note: I detected very little lemon flavor, and I’m a fan of the bright citrus fruit.

If you are like me, you generally want a dessert with your meal(s), and Savour offers a plethora of beautifully presented baked items every day. From cupcakes, tortes and puddings to muffins, cookies and scones, those with a sweet tooth will find plenty to contemplate at Savour. I can vouch for the scones ($2.95 each), which are butter-forward with excellent texture — just a bit of crumble and moist. I’ve had a gingerbread scone and a blueberry, and they were both wonderful companions to a cup of coffee.

On my most recent visit, I nearly went for another scone, but a heaping plate of doughnut-muffins caught my eye ($2.95); I had to ask what the heck the sugary little mounds were. They are as fabulous as they sound; imagine the best cider doughnut you’ve ever had, firm it up a bit, and add butter. That’s at least my impression of this sweet treat that is also a wonderful counterpart to coffee. Suggestion: don’t eat it in your car if you don’t want cinnamon sugar all over the interior. Better yet, have a seat inside this river-valley gem and savor your snack with a warm beverage and good company.


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