Weekend in Connecticut
Maria and, though I didn't know it, I needed a short vacation. Undisturbed. Just the twonof us. She booked us a weekend at the n[Inn & Vineyard at Chester](http://www.innatchester.com/). We packed light and tookna few books and magazines (and I dragged my laptop) and set off early from work.nnGetting there should have been no problem. We chose to avoid I-95, opting for the nless travelled 684/84/691 route instead. Before moving to the city I drove in for work andntried the permutations of the North/South corridor on too many Friday nights nand I expected traffic. nI did not expect it to include a thirty-five minute no-holds barred cage fight starting from the start of the 84 East ramp on 684 to the first exit for Danbury. nIt took us a miserable five dogged hours to make the 115 miles from Manhattan nto Chester and we arrived completely spent. This was not the start of a getaway as I imagined it.nnWe know that area of Connecticut a little but it was late and we were tired, so we ate nat the Inn from the tavern menu. nThe food was spot on. Maria had steak frites with grilled summer vegetables. nThe steak was served just rare and could be cut with the side of thenfork. We all but embarrassed ourselves a little by ooooing and ahhing over each bite of it. nI had the rosemary-infused chicken with garlic spinach and a mushroom cream. Exquisite food. The roast chicken was juicy and flavorful, the spinach soft but not over cookednand, hey, face it, just about anything is good with cream, but the sauce was smoothnand savory without being unctuous.nnThe inn itself is a very nice place. It's well-situated to the roads and the grounds include twenty acres with a tavern, a restaurant and a expansive outdoor deck. nThe rooms are small, clean and simply done. There is basic cable on the TVs, comfortable indoor sitting areas but the kitchen closes at 10 P.M. and there is no pool or exercise room.nThe spa was being renovated so Maria booked a massage in the room for Sunday and I took advantage of the wireless internet which seems to cover all the buildings, much of the outdoor space and some of the rooms. For a weekend stay, the prices are a little upscale for the amenities.nnBeing a nerd and on a new wireless network, I fired up [KisMac](http://binaervarianz.de/projekte/programmieren/kismac/). I noted they have four APs, from the MAC addresses probably Cisco Aironets, all with the SSID ‘ChesterInn’ on non-overlapping channels. Therenwere no filters or proxies in evidence and I had no problem ssh-ing to the odd port number.nFrom the trace, I was one of two people using the network but I don't imagine that the $9.95/day ISDN interface (also Cisco) found in the rooms gets much use by casual guests.nIt wasn't any different on Sunday morning and it was just me and the same someone elsenwith the Intel wireless NIC.nnMaria and I drove all over the corner of Connecticut stopping occasionally but really justnenjoying the perfect weather, the top down on the Cabrio and each other's company.nWe stopped for scones in Chester at the Queen of Tarts and got lost and ended up at thenferry on the Connecticut river. We avoided the Fife and Drum Muster in Deep River andnhad ice cream somewhere. We must have passed signs for Gillete Castle seven or eight times and crisscrossed all around Middletown, the Lymes and Haddam. Other than stopping nfor a couple of tag sales, a stop at Tova's Vintage Shop and the book sale at the nActon Library in Essex, can't account for the hours. We had a good time doing nothing.nnOne thing we did sticks out: we had lunch at Johnny Ad's on Old Boston Post Road between Old Saybrook and Westbrook. The place (see my pictures [here](http://www.lonsteins.com/pix/200407_ct/johnny_ads_front.jpg) and [here](http://www.lonsteins.com/pix/200407_ct/johnny_ads_sign.jpg) ) isn't fancy, it looks from the road like another clam nshack but it's so much better.nTheir chowder was briny and had just enough clam and potatoes to fill the spoon. The fried onion rings were crisp, golden and, unlike the ones found at so many roadside joints, tasted like onion. If you don't know about it, the lobster roll is some of New England heaven on bread. It's hot, buttery fresh lobster meat on a toasted bun. nWe were served a good portion of savory lobster and it was not overcooked, chopped too fine or lost in an excess of butter. The cole slaw, something I usually have one bite of, was great- fresh, flavorful and better than homemade.nThis is also the first exception to the unwritten road food rule that a place that turns out good seafood doesn't make anything else worth eating. The exception: hotdogs. The foot long dogs are split and grilled. We had ours loaded up with cheese and their homemade chili. Excellent.nnSaturday night, [Abbott's](http://www.abbotts-lobster.com/index.html) in Noank wasntoo crowded and we really wanted to compare what we remembered to what we had nin the afternoon at Johnny's so we opted for the sister eateryn[Costello's](http://www.costellosclamshack.com) next door. nSadly, Costello's Clam Shack came up short. I wonder if it was an off night ornif it has sunk below even the run-of-the-mill roadside hut. The service, and it's only counter service, was disorganized and they didn't get our chowder for us until I reminded them that I had asked for it before the rest of the meal.nThey forgot the clam fritters so we slowly ate the soup and waited for the fritters.nThe chowder and fritters were good, not as good as I remembered, but good.nThe next disappointment was the hot lobster roll. They used nearly all leg meat, I guessnleftover from claw and tail dinners, and a little of the good stuff but shred it and cook itnto death before completely saturating it in butter. The clam strips were soggy and thenbatter thick and greasy as if they were half-done or cooked in too cold oil.nAt least the French fries were crisp but this is nothing like I remember from ntwo summers ago.