Eating my way through Mystic
This was a busy week for me; Sunday was SummerSlam (which I won!), Monday was my birthday, and Tuesday Sable and I drove to Mystic, Connecticut, and while there Sable and I got engaged. Truly a happy day for me, and something that I've been looking forward to for a long time.
But that's not what you're here for, you want to read about the food we ate on our trip. So without further delay...
We went there without much planned (food wise, I had planned on proposing the whole time, sorry last time I talk about it, maybe), so our first lunch was something we stumbled upon without any recommendations. We had thought about eating at Mystic Pizza, I mean there is a movie named after it, but since neither of us have seen the movie, or are the biggest pizza fans, we walked past, crossed a drawbridge and found S&P Oysters. The restaurant is right on the river, and with our outdoor seats we were able to watch the drawbridge do it's thing, which really was a sight to behold. As for the food, we had raw oysters for an appetizer, and although they were rather small, they were extremely sweet and were some of the best oysters we've had.
Next up on the menu was a 'spicy mediterranean' calamari which was not at all what I was expecting. They were delicately fried, not heavy by any means, and they were tossed with spicy yellow and red peppers and calamata olives. Although I myself am mediterranean, I'm not a fan of olives, so I left those for Sable who was more than happy to eat them. Like I said, they weren't what I was expecting, but they were enjoyable nonetheless, and a unique take on fried calamari.
For our main course we had blue crab ravioli each topped with a whole seared scallop, greens, asparagus, and a creamy pepper sauce. We hadn't actually read the item description, and were pleasantly surprised with the scallop and other accoutrements. The scallops ended up being the star of the dish, as they were perfectly seasoned and cooked, with a sear done just right. That's not to say the ravioli wasn't good, but I feel like it was an average crab dish. They relied too much on the exceptional flavors of the sauce, which I was tempted to lick clean off the plate, and didn't season the crab itself enough, if at all. Between the sauce and the scallop, the dish was more than passable. I would like to return to try more of the menu, which is a good enough grade to pass in my book.
Following lunch we walked around downtown Mystic, which is a really cute town with some nice, quaint stores. One such store was a fresh made ice cream parlor, Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream. They had a few standard flavors, but they had a store made original that Sable and I had to try; chocolate mint oreo. Being the fatty that I am, I had to try it in an ice cream cookie sandwich. The ice cream was delicious, and not too heavy, however the cookie was either not fresh, or it was made to be overly crunchy, either way it wasn't a good compliment to the ice cream. next time for sure I'd get it either in a cone or a cup.
Because of the drive and late check in to our bed & breakfast, our eating times were a little off. We were given a recommendation for dinner by the owners of the B&B, so we drove about 20 minutes to Captain Scott's. The place is a shack on the river in the middle of several industrial buildings and docks, really it doesn't look like much. Felt like we should be getting hot dogs and fries not seafood, but we rolled the dice. We started with a New England clam chowder, that was a disappointment. It was watery and in the entire bowl there was only one piece of actual clam. It was seasoned well, but there was no bite to the soup. If it was only one thing, just being watery or not enough clams, maybe I'd be a bit more forgiving, but the combination led to a real disappointing soup.
Thankfully we listened to Jodi from the B&B and ordered the lobster rolls. Sable got the small, while my fat ass got the large. The rolls were nothing but buttered bread, lobster claws and tails, and a butter sauce. There were no fillings, just jam packed with the best parts of the animal. Every bite was a large piece of meat and sauce, and it was so fresh! Certainly redeemed the eatery from the clam "chowder". Not somewhere I'd go again, unless I wanted a lobster roll.
Despite staying in a bed and breakfast, I won't be talking about the breakfasts too much. I'm not a morning person, and not a fan of most early morning foods beyond the meats. We had a sweet sausage.
From there we went to two vineyards. The first of which, Saltwater, was beautiful, and I could imagine weddings being held there, but all of the wines we tried were too dry for us. Next we went to Stonington, which had several good refreshing and sweet wines. We actually ended up buying two bottles, a riesling and a white mix. It was also a pretty, but having just come from Saltwater, it doesn't even compare.
The host at Stonington Vineyard recommended our lunch spot, Dog Watch Cafe. It was a short ten minute drive, and we were once again on the river. Every meal (other than breakfast) we had on the trip was on the water, and it helped create an identity for the area. Dog Watch looked like a shed better suited to sell bait, but we've learned to trust recommendations from locals. We were seated at a window with an incredible view of the pier. For an appetizer we had bacon wrapped scallops (I love scallops ok guys? Leave me alone) and they made my number one faux pas. Five scallops for two people. Why should we have to split one scallop to make it even? I think all appetizers should be on a sliding price scale, and serve an adjusted amount accordingly. But I digress, the scallops and bacon were cooked nicely, and as long as neither are overcooked, this dish will always taste good. However, they had a little bit of a greens salad with balsamic vinegar dressing in the middle of the plate, and I don't think the two flavor profiles worked with each other (my fiance disagrees). Either way I was not disappointed, so that counts as a win.
When this story initially went up I had forgotten to include a course in this meal.
We shared a bowl of New England clam chowder, hoping to redeem the soup we had for dinner the previous night, and Dog Watch delivered big time. The chowder itself was thick and creamy, seasoned just right, there were chunks of clam, not over filled with potato, and just overall, exactly what we like in a clam chowder.
Next up I ordered a lobster roll. I know that sounds redundant from dinner last night, but this was a lobster salad roll, with had celery, mayo, and seasoning. Coincidentally, Sable ordered the lobster salad-salad, which had the same lobster base as my roll, and was over a bed a greens similar to our app. The lobster wasn't as chunky as the night before, but they were so fresh and flavorful. One thing I did learn is that I prefer my lobster rolls buttered instead of in a mayo base. Still, all around, the food was good, tasty, and of course fresh. The roll also came with thick cut fries, that were crisp and seasoned nicely.
Mystic, CT has a secret; shrimp and grits are not exclusive to the south. Shh don't tell anyone, but holy hell that was unexpected. For dinner we ate at Red 36, and that meal alone was worth the 2.5 hour drive. Starting off, we had a dozen raw oysters from three different locations, and they were all good and sweet, nothing too chewy or funky smelling (not that I can smell).
Next up we had a side of roasted brussel sprouts that were topped with crispy bacon and a dip of mustard aioli sauce. If those words don't have you salivating already, then I don't know what to tell you. This was sold as a 'side' but was plentiful and really should have been listed as a separate appetizer. The sprouts were cooked perfectly tender, the bacon was bacon, and the aioli was sweet but also with a hint of smokiness, and they all three elements played well with each other.
We split two meals for dinner, starting with a hangar steak that came with arugula and a red wine reduction sauce that was to die for. The steak was succulent, tender, and slathered in the sauce that added a buttery, peppery profile that was simply amazing. It also came with a side of french fries that were perfect for sopping up the sauce.
Finally, shrimp and grits in Connecticut. Who'd have thought it? If you read my 'Savannah' food tour, you'll know I'm a sucker for shrimp and grits, so when I saw it on the menu, my heart fluttered a little, then I remembered where I was and changed my mind. As I continued searching the menu, my heart was still stuck on the dish, so I went against my better judgement and ordered it anyway. It came with tail on shrimp (my number 2 pet peeve) but they were cooked just right and sat atop a bed of cheesy, flavored, peppered grits and an andouille sauce. There was no actual sausage in the sauce, which was initially a let down,but the andouille flavor popped and cut through the cheesiness of the grits. Had I not been in public, I would have licked the bowl clean.
With one meal in Mystic left, Sable and I decided it was time to have the one meal we wanted the entire time, whole boiled lobster. After stopping at a small boutique shop, we were recommended Ford's Lobster, just a short 1o minute drive from Olde Mystic. The place was so popular, that beyond having a wait, we couldn't even park in the parking lot. I took that as a good sign. We were sat at the protection fence that protects people from falling into the water. The fence was converted into a counter, it wasn't level or flat or even clean, but there was a charm to eating there, that I haven't seen anywhere else. But first, "cajun" peel and eat shrimp. I say cajun in quotes because, they had zero flavors typically found in cajun food, although they did have a bit of a spicy bite. Although there was a slight let down for not tasting 'right', the flavor was great nonetheless. Our next dish came with pieces of toast that was ideal for dipping into our sauce. Thankfully our waitress didn't try to take the bowl from us before we were done, she may have lost a finger had she tried.
The toast came in a dish of "curry" lemongrass mussels. Again, the quotes denote a failure in flavor success. Not to sound crude, but it tasted like a white American's attempt at Thai curry. There was no real curry flavor, but the lemongrass came through, and was decent, but certainly was lacking.
Main course time, a 3 pound lobster, the largest I've ever seen in person. It took us about two hours to eat the entire lobster, but there was nothing left to it. It came with some clarified butter, and string beans that were tastier than they had any right to be. Also there was a weird mashed potato and bacon concoction that didn't taste as good as it sounds. But the lobster! worth every minute of it.
That's it, as soon as we wrapped that meal, we began our journey back home. It was a sad realization, but a great meal to end our vacation on. i hope you enjoyed this little food expedition through Mystic, and come back for my next little jaunt, wherever it may be.
And remember to keep eating, and enjoy life.