As fellow Parks & Recreation fans know, sometimes you have to Treat Yo Self.
Rob had the day off from work Friday, and so I decided to take the day as well. We planned a multi-destination road trip throughout the state, all with the theme of relaxation and more than a little self-indulgence. Click through to see where we ended up.
First stop: One of our all-time summer favorites: Bill’s Seafood in Westbrook.
So maybe it wasn’t the warmest day to sit on the deck overlooking the Patchogue River, but that didn’t stop us from choosing a waterside table. For lunch, we shared Rhode Island clam chowder, cold lobster rolls (with mayonnaise, hi mayo haters) and a dozen of these absolutely perfect Blue Point oysters.
Second stop: Clinton Crossing outlets for some shopping. I came home with some clothes, perfume and running shoes, but exercised major restraint by walking out of the Coach outlets without buying anything. (It only occurred to me later that I would have disappointed Tom and Donna from P&R by passing up “fiiiiiine leather gooooods.”)
Third stop: Chamard Vineyards in Clinton, just a minute or so up the road. The winery wasn’t busy, so we were able to sample all their current offerings. The 2007 estate Chardonnay was our favorite, so we bought a bottle to take home and two glasses to enjoy on the terrace.
Fourth and fifth stop: At this point, we had two hours to kill before dinner in Hartford. So we took an impromptu detour to Middletown on the way back.
We went to Eli Cannon’s first for a beer, spending a feverish few minutes trying to pick out a microbrew from their list of 30+ drafts. Rob went with a favorite Stone (Double Bastard) and I tried a Mud Slinger Nut Brown Ale from Red Hook.
Then we ventured across the street to the highly anticipated NoRA Cupcake Company (I say that because Emily was there last week with Nick and raved about it.) At 5:30 p.m., many of the day’s flavors were gone, but we still had plenty of choices.
Citrus lover Rob went right for the lemon drop, a little burst of sunshine with a silky crown of buttercream, flawlessly moist cake and a shot of tart filling. I held off on my chocolate peanut butter cake, not wanting to spoil dinner. It’s actually still in the fridge, along with our third pick: the carrot cake.
(They’re a little pricey, at slightly more than $4 apiece, but they’re good-sized and clearly made with quality ingredients.)
At NoRA (a trendy Manhattan-esque neighborhood anagram that stands for North of Rapallo Avenue) even those with dietary restrictions can partake. Among the offerings: vegan and gluten-free recipes, and a daily Weight Watchers version. Brilliant.
Sixth and final stop: Costa del Sol, Hartford.
Since our fall trip to Barcelona and Mallorca, certain elements of Spanish and Catalan cuisine just haunt us. The local trendy tapas places are great, but I suppose you get spoiled. In particular, I’ve been craving jamon iberico de bellota since we left Spanish soil.
For something different, I suggested we check out Costa del Sol, a time-honored Spanish/Mediterranean restaurant that just celebrated its 25th anniversary. And we happened upon an ideal weekend – visiting chef Iker Gonzalez from the San Sebastian region was preparing special menus through Sunday.
First course: Tabla Iberica, a platter of serrano ham, chorizo, salchichón, Manchego and San Simon cheeses. With the addition of olive oil and crusty bread, it was an ideal starter.
And Rob’s dish, a Gonzalez special. I’m fuzzy on details since I was enjoying the meal, but it was a meltingly tender rack of lamb encrusted with four kinds of nuts and served in a reduction sauce with a slight blackberry (?) flavor. He chewed the bones clean and savored the caramelized pineapple on the side.
Our server told us Costa del Sol regularly serves jamon iberico de bellota, so you bet we’ll be back.
Treat Yo Self 2012 was just what we needed, and a great reminder that sometimes you don’t even need to leave your home state for a little getaway.