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Enjoy great food with a side of history at Hadlyme Country Market

Hadlyme Country Market tells a tale of two centuries. The country market opened in 1905 by Mr. Lee Luther Brockway still serves it original purpose, offering limited groceries and pantry items. But a labor of love restoration in 2013 allowed its purveyors to offer a few more modern necessities to its clientele — chief among them, a coffee bar.

Perhaps Mr. Brockway did offer hot cups of coffee, but he probably wasn't equipped with an espresso machine and Ashlawn Farms' wonderful beans. If you don't go for one of the breakfast sandwich options available from the counter, consider a Caffé Americano — a shot of espresso diluted with hot water ($3) — paired with a cinnamon scone ($2.49) from the many goodies baked daily. Our scone was a denser version of the classic teatime treat, which worked well with the hot, steaming coffee. A generous application of cinnamon chips left behind a brightness on the palate and our taste buds ready for more. A large chocolate chunk cookie ($2.19) from the bakery case hit that spot nicely, with no shortage of soft chocolate chunks, a crisp texture (again, great for coffee), and subtle salty notes to balance out the overall sweet factor.

About those modern necessities I mentioned earlier: for me, that includes pizza, which drew me to the market in the first place. One of the menu's newest items, the staff behind the counter will somehow serve it up in minutes thanks, apparently, to a hotter than Hades pizza oven. Choose from a selection of nine red and white pies (one size only; 14 inches) and see what magic a few minutes can do because we officially have yet another good spot for pizza in the region!

We chose one red and one white pie, and both are hereby on the "to get again" list. The red, titled Four Corners on the menu ($15.95), comes topped with sausage and roasted red peppers — otherwise known as one of the best food combos ever. Our pizza was loaded with small balls of sausage from which, initially, we didn't expect much. There's something about the wee sausage bits that bring to mind Mama Celeste-level pizzas, but we were chastened by the spice, fennel, and moist tenderness of the abundant topping. As for the red peppers? Flavorful, fragrant (the car smelled great on the way home), and just the right amount of crispness (read: no soggy, sad peppers).

Our white pizza, a tomato and pesto combo listed as the Into the Woods on the menu ($14.95), might've edged out the Four Corners as my favorite, but, honestly, we recommend them both. I just happen to love pesto pizza, and it's very well done at Hadlyme Country Market. Some pesto pizzas can be flavor bombs, with an overall spicy, green flavor taking over. HCM's takes a more measured approach, with a lighter hand on the pesto to offer brightness and savory notes to the sliced tomatoes and very good mozzarella on top. (We'd love to know where HCM gets it cheese.)

A note on the crust: While it isn't thick, it also isn't the thin-crust type we know well from New Haven-style pizza shops. We experienced chewy, crisp, and flavorful crusts with both pies — just a bit of char and excellent toothiness. We remain amazed at how quickly and perfectly they came together.

At least half the space at HCM is dedicated to its deli counter, which offers a selection of sandwiches, deli salads (tuna-, chicken- and egg-based salads), and seasonal soups. You can even grab a 9-inch Hummel hot dog topped with house-made relish if the mood strikes, but we opted for two items off the Specialty Sandwiches list. (You can also create your own sandwich from the house's selection of deli meats, cheese, toppings, and breads.)

In honor of the man behind the market, we had to order the L.L. Brockway ($8.75) — a marble-rye panini featuring bacon, avocado, chipotle pesto, roasted red peppers, and smoked Gouda. (Side note: The menu says the L.L. Brockway is on pumpernickel, but ours seemed more marbled than usual pumpernickel bread.) What appeared to be a smallish sandwich at first delivers big-time rich and savory flavor, thanks in part to the roast-y notes from the perfectly grilled rye and zesty chipotle seasoning on the peppers. There is a lot going on in this sandwich, but it merges to great effect in the panini press.

Since HCM is at a major crossroads (Route 148 and Route 82), we also selected a grilled menu item of the same name. This Crossroads is where freshly sliced buffalo chicken breast meets cheddar cheese, banana peppers, and red onion in a grilled tortilla wrap. It's a quesadilla on steroids, really, and ours presented a delicious balance of grilled tortilla crispiness and flavor with just the right amount of moisture within. We got through half of the Crossroads and saved the rest for later, and even after some time in the fridge it remained very tasty. The menu description lists D-Train mayo among the toppings on the Crossroads, but we detected very little if any of what we hear is a spicy local concoction out of Westbrook.

Our last sample was from a prepared frozen pan of Chicken Parmesan ($15.95 for four chicken breasts). Forty minutes in the oven (we thawed it) yielded a scrumptious dinner for, technically, four people. Did it lose any crispiness in the deep freeze transition? Only a little, but the texture of the chicken itself post-oven was moist and tender, the tomato sauce bright and tangy, and the cheese nice and melty. We had a little crusty bread on the side and finished the meal stuffed and satisfied.

It's a special thing to enjoy good meals from a place that's been in the business of creating and serving them for more than 100 years and helping others to do the same. The ingenuity and smart management of its 21st-century owners ushered in a new era at HCM. Let's hope it carries on for many more years to come.

If you go

Hadlyme Country Market

1 Ferry Road, Hadlyme

(860) 526-3188; https://hadlymecountrymarket.com

Cuisine: Sandwiches, pizza, salads and other foods to go.

Atmosphere: Rustic grocery market and café, offering kitchen basics, snacks, candy, beer and more, plus locally crafted gift items. Some seating available outdoors.

Service: Warm and welcoming; efficient

Prices: Affordable, considering a pizza easily feeds two for a cost between $12 and $17. Specialty sandwiches average around $9.

Hours: The store is open Tuesday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. The deli counter closes at 3:30 p.m. every day.

Credit cards: Accepted

Reservations: N/A

Handicap access: Two shallow stairs to entrance; a handful of parking spots in front; fairly close quarters inside.

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