Laura and I visited Chester quite frequently while living in Connecticut. It was actually one of our favorite towns, right behind Essex. We visited during the day to eat lunch at some of the area’s finest restaurants and we visited at night to enjoy the town’s events. Really, it didn’t matter when we stopped by because we always had a good time. While I wish I had recorded all of our related adventures on this website, I didn’t. What I did record is listed below though. Please browse through my stories and look through my photos. If you’ve got any questions, please be sure to ask in the comment section at the bottom of this page. And if you’ve got your own stories to share, please leave them there as well. Enjoy!
August 6, 2001
I have one regret about writing this post. It’s that I didn’t take any pictures this afternoon during lunch. It’s so much easier to write a blog post around a photograph, but since that’s not going to happen, I’ll try to make up for it another way.
We’ve been on a bit of a lunch kick recently. On Wednesday, I brought my lady to a restaurant in East Haddam, CT called the Gelston House. It was a good lunch. Nothing spectacular happened, but it was a good lunch and we had a fair time.
The Gelston House is situated right on the Connecticut river and is next door to the Goodspeed Opera House. We haven’t been to any shows at the Goodspeed yet, but I have a feeling we’ll end up there someday. The Gelston House is the restaurant everyone goes to before the shows, so you can imagine the activity that can occur there.
It was a pretty nice day today. There’s a hurricane that is moving up the East coast that’s supposed to hit us and people are kind of on edge. We don’t have cable TV, so we really aren’t in the loop when it comes to incessant chatter, but we are aware of what’s going to happen in a few days. Since the hurricane is still down South, we thought it would be fun to take a drive down to Chester, CT to go out to lunch at a restaurant I have wanted to visit for quite some time. It’s called the River Tavern.
Before I go on, let me tell you a bit about the restaurants in Chester, CT. Hold on, let me first tell you about the people of Chester, CT and I’ll save the restaurants for a later post.
Okay, I don’t know how to say this and I really have a feeling that I have said this a thousand times before. As I get older, I find myself telling people stories like grandfathers tell. It’s kind of like, “Grandpa, you already told me that story…” so I feel a little odd writing about something I may have already written about. My only consolation is that I have a very small audience here on this blog, so chances are that if you’re reading this, you haven’t read much else of what I’ve written.
The people of Chester are very caring people. They care about their community like no other people I’ve seen. You can see it in their storefronts, their streets, their personalities and their events. The businesses in Chester are thought about and I really notice that there is true enjoyment for the business owner in bringing what they love to the public. This is one of the reasons I have been wanting to visit the restaurants on Main Street so much. I read the reviews and visit the websites. I look at the menus and wonder what their food is going to taste like. It’s something that I have been thinking about for a while now and it’s so much deeper than just hitting the road to get something to eat.
About ten minutes ago, I finished up a conversation with my older sister. As we were talking, I mentioned to her that I wish that I had recorded our conversation because I pretty much laid out exactly how I feel about what I am doing with my life and my philosophy of how I’m doing it. I do wish I had recorded that because I can’t remember all of what I said. It was pretty good.
To work around that, here’s what I am going to do. I am going to tell you about part of our lunch. I think it will (hopefully) clarify what I’m talking about, but the thing is, I’m not going to tell you about any courses other than dessert. This is going to be difficult.
After the server was finished taking our orders for appetizer and main entree, he asked us if we were interested in the dessert called “Baked to Order Date Pudding with Dark Rum Caramel Sauce and Whipped Cream.” I hesitated. She said, “Sure” and then looked at me. I thought this was entertaining because I am usually the one who likes dessert. I guess things change when we’re out.
The dessert was also $12. It’s not that I’m cheap, it’s probably more of some residual feelings I have from my college days of eating rice and beans. I will gladly pay for quality food. The problem was that we had never been to this restaurant and I had a brief vision of paying $12 for an average dessert. Now, don’t get me wrong…we had a delicious lunch and that’s why I am saying that my hesitation was brief, but still, $12 for what exactly?
After the server left to get the dessert for us, we started talking. I was facing the rear window of the restaurant and she was facing the interior. This has been an issue for us since we got together. We fight (and “fight” really is the wrong word here) over where we are going to sit because someone is generally going to get the better view. The fight isn’t a typical selfish fight, it’s more of me trying to gauge which seat is better and then giving it to her. She stands there and waits while I struggle through my business and then finally sits in the seat that I have deemed “better.” During breakfast, lunch or dinner, she listens to me talk about how she is looking at one area while I’m looking at another. It’s precious really.
As we were waiting for dessert, I started talking. It was like I was at the table by myself. I was looking out the back window, through some bamboo that was growing on a ledge, down at the Pattaconk Brook. I said something like this:
“You know, this is really nice. It’s not so much that we’re sitting here in a restaurant on a Friday afternoon, it’s that we worked for it. The sun is shining and there are people around us who think like us. We didn’t get in a car and go through the drive-through to simply fill our stomachs. We had a feeling, visited a town years ago and enjoyed it so much that we knew we’d someday return to enjoy it a bit more. We learned about the restaurants and decided that who we are at this point in time really matched what these places are all about. We drove a good ways to get here and are paying good money to enjoy someone else’s art. We thought about it and this is really the fruit of those thoughts. Right here and right now.”
I know I think too much about a great many thing, but when it comes to food and life, I can never think enough. For the past few years, we have been making a concerted effort to avoid the cheap life and to enjoy the good. To me, the good life is slow and steady. It’s well planned and thought out. It’s purchasing one piece of quality as opposed to a whole bunch of junk.
When the dessert arrived, we were impressed. It was larger than we had expected. The first thing I noticed was the very generous portion of fresh whipped cream. It took up about half the plate and it looked like the chef had whipped it and poured it from a bowl. I can’t recall ever eating whipped cream like that before.
I picked up my spoon and looked across the table. She was raising her eyebrows in appreciation for what was sitting in front of us. I took the first bite and my life changed forever.
As I write this, I am feeling tense. My sister explained exactly what happened to us as we ate this dessert, but I can’t repeat it. I will tell you that what we ate today was, in fact, the best tasting dessert I had ever eaten in my life. I asked the server to convey my compliments to the chef, but I am happy to repeat those compliments here. I can thank the chef from the bottom of my heart. My stomach thanks the chef and my soul thanks the chef.
My life is ruined. Nothing is ever as good the second time and the bar has been raised so high, no one will ever meet it. All I can do is hope to forget. To me, the $12 price tag for this dessert means nothing. I would gladly lay a $100 dollar bill on the table to relive the experience we had today.
I know this seems a bit dramatic, but let me tell you why I feel this way. It might be attributed to the energy of Chester.
I have been to Chester at night. I know what it looks like when the stores are lit up and people are milling about. I know how people love the area and I know how difficult it is to please the public when it comes to food. Restaurants fail daily and the competition is fierce. When I taste something like I tasted today, I think of the individuals who run these restaurants meeting after hours. I think of a chef sitting in his apartment putting together a menu, wondering how we’ll react to it. Cooking for someone is deeply sensuous and rejection can be heartbreaking. It’s truly a field for the sensitive but tough.
So, when I write about something I experience, I am writing not from what everyone sees, I am writing from what I think went into what everyone sees. As my life wears on, I am slowly learning that this is what is making my life truly valuable. The old sayings are finally starting to make sense…
“Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it’s essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow.” Douglas Pagels, These Are the Gifts I’d Like to Give to You
Night Photography On the Connecticut River
October 2, 2011
A few nights ago, I enjoyed a surprise birthday dinner at Restaurant L&E in Chester. It was a great time that gave me an opportunity to use a few phrases I learned during my three years of French classes from middle school. I was actually going to write a longer post about the dinner, but I think I’ll save that for another time. I just finished doing a bunch of photo editing and am excited to get the photos up here.
After dinner and on the way back to the house, I remembered that we had to cross the East Haddam Swingbridge. I brought my camera with me to take some photos of Chester, but never got a chance to. Nothing really inspired me in Chester that night. The swingbridge was lit up beautifully though and I wanted to take advantage of it.
Getting closer to the river, I thought a perfect spot for some night photography would be the parking lot for the Connecticut River Boat. The only thing that I thought might screw things up were the gigantic lights they had to illuminate the parking lot. As it turns out, they added a little flair to some of the pictures.
Anyway, we parked and I took a whole bunch of photographs. I was really surprised at how easily my new Canon T3i handled everything. When I learn about ISO and shutter speed, I am sure I can get things more saturated and clear, instead of slightly grainy. I would also love to get some blur on the water and movement on the lights of the cars while everything else stays crisp.
After I took a bunch of photos there, we crossed the river to park at the Gelston House. I wanted to get some closer pictures of both the Gelston House and the Goodspeed Opera House. It was a perfect night with a perfect breeze to do just this. I am so glad I brought the camera with me.
Chester Sunday Market
October 17, 2011
Yes folks, another post about Chester, CT. I’ll tell you that this is the last post for a few weeks – at least. We are going to be heading to the Halloween Pumpkin Festival and Parade, but that’s not until October 29, so we have some time.
Okay, let’s go. A few weeks ago, Laura and I decided to head down to Chester, CT to see what their Sunday Market was all about. Now, by this point, you know I like Chester. You can read my other posts if you don’t. Knowing there was a Sunday Market was just too much for us to handle.
I think we picked a good day. It was sunny and warm. Of course Chester had the music going and people milling about. It’s so nice to see a town like this so alive. I am telling you…even though it seems like it’s no big deal, people just don’t do this anymore. Perhaps they did it thirty years ago, but they don’t anymore. It’s rare at the very least. That’s why we are so thrilled with the whole thing. And to think, it’s simply living.
There were goodies from all over. As you can see in the photos below, there were quite a few tents set up selling all sorts of stuff. Mainly produce and fruit from local farms. Many of Chester’s shops were open for business as well. It was a good chance to pop in and then pop back out of each one with not much of a commitment.
In the pictures below, you’ll also notice a few dogs. Yes, the Chester Sunday Market is open for dogs too. We stopped to pet a really nice Rhodesian Ridgeback. This dog was very friendly and had a funny habit of nibbling on the fingers that were petting him. He wasn’t biting, just nibbling. I thought it was the funniest thing and kept telling him that I was going to nibble back. Okay, let’s move off the dog subject.
Here are some photos of the market. They are pretty random, but I think they will give you a decent idea of what it’s about.
Halloween Dinner at the River Tavern
November 2, 2011
This was an unexpected dinner. We meant to visit Chester to simply people watch and wander the streets, but since there was space available at the River Tavern, we took it.
I haven’t had a good Halloween like this since I was a kid. Running out to the street only to see groups of people walking around seemed to be a long lost memory…well, that is until we visited Chester, CT for its annual “Halloween Pumpkin Festival and Parade.” You know, you read these descriptions on the town websites and never know what to expect. Usually in this area though, things are pretty good.
I’ll go through the events of the night – We arrived and parked on the side of the street. Whenever we visit Chester now, we come in the back way so we don’t have to drive through town. This is especially helpful if there is an event going on. No one really wants to drive ever so slowly through crowds of people. The road eventually gets closed off as well, so if you do attempt to drive through, you may end up having to turn around.
After we parked the car, we started walking toward the restaurants. I wasn’t aware that the galleries were going to be open and offering their usual wine. That was just a pleasant surprise. We visited those galleries after dinner. Anyway, as we continued our walk and after we arrived at the entrance of the Laurel Hill Cemetery, I started chatting with a woman. She told us about the crowds that would soon appear and that if we planned on eating dinner, we better go grab it then. I wasn’t planning on it, but once the thought of that dessert entered my mind, there was nothing that could stop me.
We made it to the River Tavern and were seated. To our surprise, there weren’t that many people there. That was very nice, I must say. Also, the wait staff was dressed up in Halloween costumes, so that added a little flavor.
Since we had only visited this restaurant once before and that was for lunch, we were handed a different menu. She ordered, I ordered and I put in the order for the dessert. You need to do that early so they can get it prepared. It’s no joke.
Dinner was great and so was the dessert. I was fearful that it wouldn’t be as good this time around, but I am happy to report that the only thing wrong with the dessert was that it wasn’t big enough. Next time, we each get one instead of sharing. That’s $24, but worth it.
After dinner, we walked around and I took a lot of pictures. I took some videos too, but I am only going to post one. The other one is pretty boring.
We also visited a few galleries and stores. During these types of events, they all open up and share their wine with us. It really is a good time.
In an effort to keep this short, I am going to stop there. I have a whole bunch of pictures to upload, so I don’t want to spend too much time writing. Peace.
Hay Ride – Chester, CT – Halloween Pumpkin Festival and Parade
A Nice Night Out In Chester
December 17, 2011
A friend of ours had to take care of some business over here in our neck of the woods yesterday, so we said, “Hey man, stop on by and we’ll take you out to dinner.” He said, “Can I sleep over too?” We said, “Sure.”
So he came over last night around six. We hugged and complimented each other on our good looks. It’s been a while, so we never know what to expect. People can change rapidly at our age but luckily we pretty much look exactly the way we did the last time we saw each other. Strong and handsome.
We chatted and caught up as she was getting ready, but since time was passing kind of quickly, we had to get in the car and head out for dinner. I made 7:45 reservations at the River Tavern. I was extremely excited to introduce someone to our little town of Chester. Well, ours, from a distance. So we did that. She finished up and we hopped in the car for a cruise to the restaurant and arrived a perfect ten minutes early.
I have to tell you, we had the greatest time. This friend of ours likes to eat well. He likes to really go over the menu and then order a bunch of stuff for all of us to share. He likes to drink the good liquor, order everyone else the good liquor and then pay for it all. It’s been happening since we started as friends, so I generally don’t argue. After he grabs the check as soon as it’s set on the table, I’ll fight over leaving at least the tip. He laughs it off and takes care of that too. When this behavior began years and years ago, I felt a bit weird because he was always taking care of the financial side of things, but now I know that it makes him feel good. Whatever, I just go for the good time with friends…ummm, and the good food and liquor.
It was great to show him the town of Chester near the holidays. The buildings and trees were all lit up and things looked really good. The town was fairly quiet, so that gave us a nice opportunity to stroll around in the dark and look in some shop windows.
About a month ago, I called this friend of mine and asked him what his favorite cheese was. Perhaps I read something or heard something about cheese, I’m not sure, but I do know the question was out of the blue. Without missing a beat, he replied, “Roquefort.” He told me that it was a blue cheese that was easily spread on a good toasted bread and that it tasted divine. I tucked the name Roquefort in the dark recesses of my mind for later use.
Since we had a guest coming over, I had to run out to the store yesterday to get some groceries. I put Roquefort on top of my list. But before I left, I wanted to learn about what I was purchasing, so I found a really great video on the process of how they make the cheese. Check it out.
Roquefort — Making the King of Cheese
How awesome is that?
Luckily, the store I went to had the cheese. I was impressed with the small market, but kind of knew they would have it because they are somewhat boutique. I brought it, along with the rest of my groceries back to the house and put everything away. My plan was to hang out after we got back from dinner – chill out in the living room with the new gas logs, eat the bread and cheese and get drunk off of the bottles of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio wine I purchased as well. We have been drinking that together for years.
Well, things didn’t go exactly as planned. While I did get to show off the new gas logs and drink wine, it wasn’t the wine I bought. He suggested quite excitedly that we try one of the two bottles of “7 Deadly Zins” that he brought. He was trying to surprise us just as we were trying to surprise him. His logic was that since we’ve been drinking the Pinot Grigio for so long, we not try this bold new wine that he was raving about. I don’t argue over what type of wine someone is offering. I just drink it. So we did that and it was delicious. Very bold and dark, just the way I like my Red Zinfandel. Rather surprising if I don’t say so.
Also, everyone was stuffed from the big dinner and dessert we had, so toasting up some Roquefort covered bread didn’t come across as popular as I thought it would. I was surprised. They seemed to like to idea of it and even spoke very highly of the cheese, but were too full to eat any of it. Hmm.
Since I really wanted to try it, I covered two pieces of toast this morning and dove in. One for me and one for her. Wow. What a unique and awesome taste. I was shocked at how good it tasted. It’s just too bad it’s so expensive, because I would really like to buy a really big chunk of it.
We had a very enjoyable time last night and this morning and I was glad to learn some new things about food and wine. It helps to have friends who are into this stuff because I far too often buy the same things over and over in grocery stores and restaurants. Getting out of my routine every so often feels good.
Spring Visit to Chester
May 28, 2012
We made a visit to Chester yesterday. There were a few events going on that we wanted to attend.
First, the Maple & Main Gallery was having a clothesline sale. A clothesline sale is when the gallery hangs paintings, without frames, on a clothesline out on the front porch. The paintings are discounted because the expense of the frame isn’t involved. The very kind woman inside explained to me that people really enjoy these types of sales because they are able to purchase quality art without spending all sorts of money. Sounded good to me. I almost bought something and then reminded myself that we still haven’t framed a painting we purchased about five years ago in Punta Cana. When we frame that and hang it, we’ll buy something else.
We also wanted to attend the alleged town-wide tag sale that was supposed to run all weekend. I haven’t been to a tag sale in about thirty years, so I thought that would be fun. There was a problem though – the tag sale was advertised as running both Saturday and Sunday, but, in actuality, only ran Saturday. Which was disappointing because we visited Chester on Sunday. Do you know how it feels to stand in the middle of Main Street, looking around for a tag sale that doesn’t exist? Like a kid looking for a lost dog that isn’t coming back.
Oh well. We had fun anyway. I got to play with my Sigma wide-angle lens a lot. I took a bunch of pictures that I will post below. Just be warned – I am starting to post pictures that I wouldn’t normally post. Ones that don’t meet the standard for this blog. I figure that people just want to see pictures of stuff, so who am I to filter out something that someone might enjoy?