26 Aug THE MAPPETITE MILE: AN AFTERNOON IN NORTHWEST CONNECTICUT
Yes, I’m from the Tri-State but I’ve rarely ventured outside of New York — it’s a big state and my social and family web has always been reassuringly entrenched in its borders. New Jersey was never on my radar but Connecticut had my interest, if rarely my physical presence. There were a couple of engaging visits to New Canaan and the The Glass House: one a couple of decades ago when I was awestruck in the presence of Philip Johnson and, years after he had died, The Summer Party charity event — think of a millennial’s take on Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte set in mid 20th Century countryside Connecticut. There was also an unpleasant trip to Greenwich (a cousin who is as wealthy as he is offensively arrogant) and a pleasant one to Chester (a mindfulness retreat – thank you Hoffman Process). But that was it until a recent day trip through a sliver of Northwest Connecticut: the towns of Bantam, Sharon and New Preston.
It was essentially a drive thru — a pandemic has a way of limiting one’s options, especially when it comes to traveling. Had I been able to plan a longer stay, we would have ventured to Arethusa Farm (est. 1868) in Litchfield and dined at its award winning restaurant, Arethusa al tavolo. But, what with time being short and dining rooms being in some form of lockdown, we happily settled for a taste of its seed-to-table ethos at its cafe in Batham, Arethusa a mano.
In New Preston, there’s an interesting mix of home furnishing and antique shops lining the small main street. They all had something nice to offer but I was smitten with Plain Goods‘. It’s curated finds of antiques, pottery, textiles and curiosities culled from diligent searches on flea market outings, were all artfully styled and sadly for me, a bit too expensive.
Driving around, there were smatterings of unremarkable yards and houses but for the most part this was beautiful country. Along back roads centuries old homes and farms made for exceptional Americana vistas. One of those was in Sharon at the unassuming Q Farms Farm Store though, not for its colorful produce; there wasn’t a peach, tomato or ear of corn in sight. The small solitary structure, set to a backdrop of outbuildings was a William Eggleston shot – still and bare with one car parked out front. Was it open? Inside I was alone but for the counter, a cash box and a glass-doored refrigerator and a freezer bookending mostly empty shelves. The chalkboard instructions made it clear: an honor-system for purchasing chicken, pork and beef from livestock humanely and ethically raised on the surrounding acreage. I took a dozen eggs, left cash in the box and that was that — if I hadn’t had the eggs in hand I might have even wondered if that transaction had really happened. But, it did — I hope to be back sometime for more.