Connecticut: Delamar Southport Hotel
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Address275 Old Post Road 06890 Southport, CT 203/307-4222 delamarsouthport.com
Complimentary sherry, poured from a decanter into tiny cut-glass stemware, at the front desk, where you check-in
Hundreds of works of contemporary art in rooms and throughout the hotel, either commissioned by the hotel or on loan from local galleries
Exclusive spa facilities for a very personal, private experience. When not booked for a treatment, this luxurious suite is open to guests for steam showering or lounging in front of the fire
Warm-weather dining beneath the pergola or drinks al fresco in the rattan lounge chairs or at the outdoor bar amid the potted trees and herbs at Artisan Southport
- 44 individually-designed rooms and suites
- Full-service spa
- Excellent restaurant
- Free wi-fi
- Junior suites include full kitchens and wet bars
But the real treat at the Delamar is the restaurant, Artisan. For a gal who had spent the day reclining in a fluffy cloud of a bed, just getting dressed was a chore. It paid off in spades with masterful cooking. Helmed by Parisian-born chef Frederic Kieffer, a veteran of New York's Windows on the World and Water's Edge, as well as Paris's Man Ray, this essentially suburban restaurant is startlingly good. Keiffer is man for all-seasons farm-to-table. Thimble Island oysters, fished from the waters of an archipelago 32 miles up coast, were bracing, briny, creamy. There were dandelion greens in the roasted beet and leek salad, a fresh, bitter counterpoint to the sweetness of the salad's other elements.
Dandelion greens aren't out of the ordinary everywhere. But this is Connecticut. And Artisan, it turns out, is a proper French bistro disguised as a New England dining room. The seafood chowder is not a viscous Yankee stew, but a delicate, subtly creamy broth chockful of fresh seafood and mushrooms, and flavored with fennel. The pot roast, full of gorgeous baby root vegetables, is as close to a proper boeuf bourguignon as a pot roast can get.
We loved it; we were so close to New York, and yet so far. We sat in the dining room (wood-plank floors, big modern canvases, low ceiling, white curtains), let the waitress to excellent care of us, and watched Connecticut society have its night out. The tables were filled; people seemed happy.
The following day's brunch was no less entertaining. Of particular delight were the pork croquettes. The servers don't normally tell diners here that these crunchy nuggets, served with a spicy tartar sauce, are filled with pulled pork. They were spicy and puddinglike, and gone in a jiffy.
I particularly loved my eggs Muerette, a Paris bistro dish if ever there was one: the poached eggs were set with grilled tomatoes and bacon on English muffins from a popular local bakery, then doused in a rich red-wine sauce. I devoured them and hungered for more. Thinking it gouche to ask for another order, particularly when we could barely make it downstairs before the last 15 minutes of the brunch service, I settled, before a lazy walk along the historic harbor, for another enormous latté and dessert: a simple scoop of housemade black currant sorbet, as dark and rich as cassis.— Betsy Andrews
In the Area
- Eat like a New Yorker in Westport: Mario Batali's Tarry Lodge, serves the chef's full-throttle Italian cuisine—guanciale, black truffle, and egg pizza; bucatini all'amatriciana; skirt steak with cavolo nero and pepperonata—along with wines from throughout the boot. During the day, grab a burger at Danny Meyer's iconic Shake Shack. Mario Batali's Tarry Lodge: 30 Charles Street Westport, CT; tel: 203/571-1038; mariobatali.com. Shake Shack: 1849 Post Road East, Wesport, CT; tel: 203/682-6570; shakeshack.com
- Buy local, organic farm products: The Connecticut branch of the Northeast Organic Farming Association sponsors 15 farmers' markets for Fairfield County, every day of the week except Monday. Westport's market boasts chef's demonstrations and vendors including Greyledge Farm, specializing in pasture-raised beef, pork, and poultry; Riverbank Farm for organic vegetable, potatoes, herbs, and flowers; and Beltane Farm for farmstead goat's milk cheese, yogurt, and milk. 50 Imperial Avenue, Westport, CT; tel: 307/690-1759; westportfarmersmarket.com
- Oyster out: On one fine Saturday every August (this year it's the 18th) mollusk fans descend upon a town 20 minutes north of Southport, to slurp down a dozen varies of briny bivalves at the Annual Milford Oyster Festival. In addition to raw shellfish, there's shrimp cocktail, crab cakes, oysters Rockefeller and imperial, plus foot-long hot dogs, funnel cake, and baklava ice cream sundaes, all served by local non-profits. Thrill to the frenzy of the shucking and oyster eating contests, then hitch a ride on a tall ship or paddle around in a canoe. milfordoysterfestival.com
- Eat fresh seafood year-round: Gorge on oysters, as well as cherry stones on the half shell, fried whole-belly clams, buttery Connecticut-style lobster rolls and other delicacies of the sea at The Restaurant at Rowayton Seafood Market, a local favorite housed in a dockside building that once housed the area lobster cooperative in Norwalk, just 15 minutes down the coast. Dining on the deck overlooking the Five Mile River and then grab some steamers from the market to take home. 89 Rowayton Avenue, Rowayton, CT; tel: 203/866-4488; rowaytonseafood.com