Foodie Road Trip Redux

By Jolyon Helterman | Boston Magazine |

1: Still River Café (Eastford, CT)

Situated in a centuries-old barn on a 27-acre farm in northeastern Connecticut, Still River Café has an airy, minimalist feel, with white modern furniture against weathered planks. All the better to spotlight the upscale seasonal food, much of which is grown on the premises in a carefully tended garden, which serves as the culinary muse for chef Kara Brooks’ breathtaking American cuisine.

Menu descriptions go on forever, as the pedigree of every morsel is proudly—obsessively—catalogued. But from the first bite of the "grilled Wolfe’s Neck Farm hanger steak with roasted North Ashford Farm fingerlings, [and] Ioka Farm’s braised short ribs on North Ashford Farm roasted root vegetables with Brigadoon Farm’s Kobe beef sliders," it’ll be clear the diligence paid off.

The French-style gnocchi is a study in contrasts of power and restraint, shape and airiness. Light as clouds, the pillowy boules surrender their delicate structure to a single touch of the tongue. Porcini mushroom asserts its musky notes, as crème fraîche gently muffles the aggressive earthiness, contributing richness and supple body. Not too shabby for what essentially becomes a gussied-up dippin’ sauce for the accompanying nuggets of polenta-encrusted veal sweetbreads. Parts is parts, indeed.

About an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Boston, the clientele seemed to be part local, part food-savvy Manhattanite, but not one car parked the Friday night we dined sported a Massachusetts plate. (We’ll chalk that up to "undiscovered"—until now, of course.) Speaking of Friday night, you’ve got your choice of that evening and Saturday to get your fix of Brooks’s exquisite grub; the café serves two dinners a week, plus a Sunday brunch.

The setting is also an ideal place to take all the rabid leaf-oglers in your life. Face them toward the picture window, a perch from which they can sit in wonder at the the vegetable garden below—and the decidedly deciduous Bigelow Hollow State Park beyond—before all becomes buried in snow. —Jolyon Helterman

BEST BETS:
Brigadoon Farm Kobe Beef Carpaccio, Housemade Gnocchi with Sweetbreads, Trio of New England Pastured Raised Beef

DRIVE TIME FROM BOSTON:
1 hour and 23 minutes

INFORMATION: Still River Café, 134 Union Rd., Eastford, CT, 860-974-9988, stillrivercafe.com.