Taste of New Haven: Westville

I often find that Sunday afternoons bring about a lull in which I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. It’s too early to start getting ready for the next day (lunch packing, outfit organizing, etc) but I’ve already been doing HW for a few hours and need to do something to unwind. That’s just one of the many reasons why I was so happy to find a Groupon for Taste of New Haven, a company that hosts walking tours of different neighborhoods of New Haven and integrates food, culture, and history into a few delicious, interesting hours, starting at a local farmer’s market at Edgewood Park.

Rose's Berry Farm of Glastonbury and their apples

The particular neighborhood of Sunday’s tour, starting at noon, was Westville. I had never heard of this part of New Haven. All I think of when I hear “New Haven” is the downtown area – bars, pizza places, Urban Outfitters. This area was quaint, full of charming restaurants and walk-able streets, as well as cute, old houses. The farmer’s market itself was quite impressive! I was pleased to see that our first stop there was Glastonbury’s own Rose’s Berry Farm’s booth to sample apples. I don’t like apples, but I grabbed a Pink Lady for my mom!

Honey and maple syrup.

The next booth featured samples of real honey and maple syrup from Bodhichitta Farms. I had never had fresh, raw honey before – and I can’t say I was a fan! To each his own though – I LOVED the fresh maple syrup. I could really taste the difference between that and Aunt Jemima.

We were also able to sample dehydrated maitake mushrooms, which can be used in cooking. Their taste alone was very “earthy”, and of course they aren’t meant to be eaten alone, but were still interesting to try. I can definitely see them being good in recipes.

Pesto, feta pesto, and sundried tomato and roasted garlic spread, accompanied by both raw and pasteurized cheeses.

The award for Caitlin’s Favorite Farmer’s Market Booth (equivalent to the Oscar, as you know) goes to Sankow’s Beaver Brook Farm. They are advocates of the benefits of dairy products made from raw (unpasteurized) milk. I found it interesting that there are many local town laws in CT against the sale of raw dairy. In certain towns when they attend a farmer’s market, they are not allowed to sell their raw dairy goods. There definitely seem to be arguments out there over whether or not it is safe to drink or eat raw milk dairy.

The booth was my favorite because of the food itself, both raw and pasteurized. I thought both types of cheese tasted equally delicious, but the real winners in my book were the three dips in the above photo. If you read the caption, you will see they were made up of all foods that I LOVE (not like), so this was a given.

Next we heard from CitySeed, an organization looking to use local food to connect communities – something I can definitely get behind. After all, everyone eats, and food definitely has the ability to bring communities together. They are responsible for Westville’s farmer’s market, as well as others in the New Haven area. In the above photo, blogger Alexandra Grizas is holding what is actually the stalk that Brussels sprouts come from! Thanks to Christina, I had actually learned that a week prior to attending this event, but it was still cool to see what the veggie I ate for dinner last night (on any given night…) looks like before it hits the grocery stores.

I usually roast my Brussels, but Alexandra whipped up an amazing recipe which involved steaming them and mixing them in an herb dressing of Dijon mustard, EVOO, capers, lemon juice, mint, basil, oregano, and garlic! Oh yes, that happened, and it was insanely delicious.

Can you believe that at this point, we had not even begun the restaurant portion of the tour?!

Nate is noticeably absent from his chair!

Nate’s Naturals offered up some of the tastiest granola I’ve ever had. He has four varieties, all of which are made with no added sugar:

  • Granolus Rex: basic granola
  • Toasted Orchard: more fruity, very aromatic – Rachel sampled this one.
  • Declaration: heartiest, made with flax seeds and barley malt syrup – I went with this.
  • Crunchy Yankee: lightest and sweetest, though still naturally sweetened, blend
  • Happy Jack: pumpkin special
Nate also sold balls of his granola covered in chocolate (Cocoa Orchard) or white chocolate (Yankee Lace). I really like the name of that last one!
Ahhh bread. After sampling some landbrot (a wheat rye bread) from German bread bakers Whole G, pictured at right, I had to buy a loaf! I love both wheat and rye bread, and it’s very hard to find a combo of the two, especially baked fresh. I didn’t even know there existed a name for it! I was pleasantly surprised when the girl at the booth told me that it was a buy one, get one free day. So I made out like a bandit with another loaf – kalamata olive bread!

My final haul from the farmer's market.

We were done with the farmer’s market portion of the tour, and our tour guide, Colin, led us over to a cool little place called Lyric Hall. Colin is, in addition to being a culinary tour guide, a historian, architect, actor, author, and about a zillion other things. So, he was very prepared to help his friend John in restoring the old silent film theater, where events are still held today.

Colin showing off the stage – was unable to get a pic without a ghost arm.

What amazed me most about the place was that it really did look extremely old, and full of antiques, but everything in it was actually new and made (very effectively) to look old!

Definitely have this as my phone background.

It was nice to get not just food samples, but also samples of history in our own backyards.

Colin next led us to another room of Lyric Hall, where more samples awaited us!
Yay – more bread! He selected for us food from some of his favorite local places with the best quality products – sourdough from Bread and Chocolate of Hamden, and fresh mozzarella from Liuzzi of New Haven.
It had been so long since I’d had fresh mozzarella like this and it blew me away. So simple, but SO flavorful.
We left Lyric Hall and headed over to one of Colin’s go-to spots, Delaney’s. At this point I was glad we’d gotten such a gorgeous day for the tour!
Inside, I got a really chill vibe from Delaney’s, but I also wished I had come at a time when it was busier, because I have a feeling this place draws quite the crowds in the evening. They are, after all, famous for their beers – but still, brunch comes with a free drink! That’s pretty cool too.

Belgian ale, wheat ale, and double pumpkin ale.

We, and by that I mean Rachel only, were given three beers to try. I’m not a beer fan, so all three of these ended up going to her, which left her enjoying the second half of the tour more than the first half.

Harvest Salad

Our first course was a very tasty starter salad with grilled chicken, veggies, gorgonzola, walnuts, dried cranberries, and balsamic vinaigrette. That dressing was amazing – not too sweet (could’ve easily been with those cranberries in there), and the gorgonzola contrasted so well with it, as it usually does in these types of salads. The Harvest Salad was definitely not anything I haven’t seen before, but was high quality and tasty.

Pesto cream pasta with artichokes and tomatoes.

I never order pasta out (it’s not unique enough for me and I don’t think it’s ever any better than my mom’s), especially dishes with creamy sauces, so it was nice to get a small tasting portion of this heavier pasta. The size was perfectly satisfying because the sauce was so rich and flavorful. The artichokes were a delicious addition!

Two varying levels of sobriety.

Rachel might kill me for putting up this picture, but I think it’s cute and it was unfortunately one of our only ones together from the whole day! Oh, but our best pic together is yet to come…in the mean time, we strolled through Westville and got some more interesting history lessons from Colin about the buildings we passed on our way to our last stop, Manjares.

The moment I walked in, I was in love with the quaint, cafe feelings I was getting from this place. They serve a famous brunch on weekends, and open some nights of the week for tapas and drinks! Manjares is also known for its fresh-baked pastries.

Awkwardly posing with pastries is what I do best.

The food we tried here was easily my favorite of what I sampled all day – and I’m not just saying that because it was last on the tour!

Nice nails, Rachel!

Rachel and I drooled over the full menu and sipped on fresh Barrington’s coffee while waiting. Even Rachel, a chronic Dunkin drinker, enjoyed her cup black! And it has certainly been quite the fall of coffee sampling for me!

Looking so psyched.

Grilled cheese and Paglia pancake sandwiches.

Yes you heard me right – a pancake sandwich! The top sandwich on the plate is the Paglia, or a bacon egg and cheese between two homecooked pancakes. Oh. My. Goodness. The saltiness of the bacon and cheese was a match made in heaven for the slightly, but not overly, sweet pancake.

The grilled cheese was excellent too. One of my very favorite simple food pleasures is toasty multigrain bread. It gave the sandwich a super satisfying crunch, which contrasted well with the soft cheeses, avocado, and tomato on the inside. I have to say that the Paglia sandwich stole the show though, and I polished off what Rachel couldn’t finish of hers too.

Dessert was fabulous – my first experience with flan! And I’m so glad that first experience was with something authentic and homemade. I don’t think I could have chosen a better place to try it, and I really liked it a lot. Rachel said it reminded her of creme brulee, which I can definitely see. It reminded me more of a less-rich cheesecake. The sauce covering it was so good and made me think about the Peace Tree Desserts caramel sauce that I sampled at the Beltane Farms Cheese Fest!

I was bummed that our tour was over, but have already purchased my next Groupon for a tour of the Canal Quarter neighborhood of New Haven – can’t wait! It’s not until January, but Rachel will be joining me again and I already know we will be visiting the bar with the largest rum collection in the world. Who knew that was even in CT?! If you are interested, the Groupon is still on sale until the end of the day today (Wednesday), so pick one up if you are in the area!

We capped off our tour with a photo of a fabulous find outside Frio, the gelateria owned by Manjares.

What is this, a center for ants?

There were literally no normal sized benches out there!

Thank you, Taste of New Haven!

I had a great time and couldn’t think of a better way to spend that Sunday afternoon. Thanks to Colin and Taste of New Haven for showing me some of the many, many tastes that New Haven has to offer! It’s not just bars and pizza folks – though that stuff is good too!

Have you ever been on a culinary tour in any city?

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