Connecticut has always been an agricultural capital. The fertile valley soil is perfect for cultivating the produce—squash, maize and artichokes—that has been farmed in the region for centuries. It’s not just seasonal vegetables that thrive in the Nutmeg State; the region’s cold, mineral-rich waters are bursting with seafood, and the rolling grass hills breed very happy dairy cows.
Hospitality types have been flocking to the state to create slow and sustainable farm-to-table food programs, but you can easily enjoy the fruits of their labor on a weekend getaway (try the gooseberries—they’re native to the region).
Just assemble a harvest picnic, find yourself a shimmering body of water, and crack open a bottle of your favorite wine.
Wherever you are in the state, you’re likely to be within puttering distance of a farmers’ market. Two of Connecticut’s best are Hartford’s Billings Forge Community Works market, which features food trucks as well as locally sourced honey, microgreens and eggs, and the expansive Coventry Farmers Market, where you can pick up everything from fresh-made ravioli to organic mushrooms. Farmers’ market season runs from late spring through fall, and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture has a full list of markets, as well as a guide to what’s in season.
It’s not just the land that’s productive in Connecticut—the coastal waters contain bounties too. North Atlantic oysters have a delicate, clean, briny taste that makes them perfect for eating raw, with just a squeeze of lemon. Copps Island Oysters has been a Norwalk institution for decades. Norm Bloom, known to locals as Mr. Oyster, is the city’s fourth-generation oyster farmer, and his business is still family-run. At his charming shop front, you can pick up fresh oysters and shucking tools plus essential summer accessories like hats, a stock curated by his daughters.
If you’d prefer something cooked, opt for recently caught clams or smoky lobster roasted over hot coals. It may have a very vague name, but the Place in Guilford is the place to experience a summer seafood cookout. At the large outdoor restaurant, pull up a tree stump and order a local seafood feast from its open fires. Best of all, it’s BYOB, so you can pair your steamers with a Côtes du Rhône rosé you picked up or a bottle of craft beer brewed just down the road at Thimble Island Brewing Company.
What will cooking look like 130 years from now? Find out at Miya’s Sushi in New Haven, where sustainability is a laser focus—so much so that it won the White House Champions of Change award for sustainable seafood in 2016. Miya’s inventive chef, Bun Lai, has dedicated his life to ensuring that doing the right thing results in something that tastes like a good thing. Try the Future Sushi Voyage tasting menu to experience how Lai imagines cooking might look in 2150. It involves lots of fresh veggies, some invasive (to the environment, not to your palate) sashimi and, if you’re game, maybe even an insect or two.
Connecticut has more than 50 craft breweries, and that number is growing steadily, so you are never too far from a local craft brewery anywhere in the state. If you’re feeling ambitious, the Connecticut Office of Tourism maintains a database of the state’s craft breweries on its beer-trail page. Just remember to bring a designated driver along for the ride. For a food pairing, try brewpub BAR in New Haven, which serves a mean white clam pizza. Or for something brand-new, visit Milford Point Brewing, which opened this spring.
If it’s variety you seek, try Two Roads Brewing Co. in Stratford, which makes innovative brews like double IPAs and cranberry sours. New Yorkers may be familiar with its Two Evil collaborations with Brooklyn brewer Evil Twin, and kombucha fans may want to get their hands on the spot’s award-winning wild ales, which are only available directly from the brewery.
Nothing says agrarian-chic like devouring a slice of pie (the fruit picked from the orchard that day) at a long table that stretches through a vineyard underneath string lights . Which is exactly what you can get if you plan ahead for a one of Max’s Chef to Farm dinners, a movable feast that celebrates regional produce right where it’s grown. Held through the summer and into the fall, the events are themed around seasonal availability, and there’s even a special dinner for those with gluten intolerance.
Fancy freshly tapped maple? The achingly stylish farmer-chef Phoebe Cole-Smith holds semi-regular Barn Suppers at her property, Dirt Road Farm, allowing you to sample the best of her land and the surrounding region, such as pasture-raised meats and wild-harvested seafood. Dinners at the Farm, an initiative of Chester’s River Tavern restaurant offer a farm tour before their seasonal, on-farm feasts, so you can learn a little before you eat.
For something more permanent, head to Arethusa Farm. It’s a dairy that serves handmade ice cream, cheese and butter from long-lashed milk cows—all showcased in the elegant on-site restaurant, Arethusa Al Tavolo. If you’re wondering how on earth the small-town operation came to be so fashionable, the answer is in the owners: The farm is run by two Manolo Blahnik executives who fell in love and brought their bucolic fantasies into being. It’s just about as Connecticut as it gets.