A good place to spend the night, interesting choices for meals, absorbing or entertaining things to do—these are the three basics we all seek when we travel. Here are some itineraries where the “threes” are wild.
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Kent Is Calling
Bucolic sophistication. That’s the best way to characterize Kent, which most Nutmeggers probably think of as a wee four-corners stretch they pass through the center of on the way to Kent Falls State Park. Freight-train tracks even run through it. But there’s no underrating this town—it’s a favorite destination for weekenders fleeing New York City (Mr. Blandings could have built his dream house here). Big developments are afoot this year, too, the hugest being the relocation of the Litchfield Jazz Festival to the grounds of the Kent School.
Our No. 1 agenda here is shopping. Main Street is mecca for anyone who seeks boutiques and galleries that are, trust us, one of a kind. Step into Country Clothes and you won’t find just any women’s clothing and accessories, but hand-painted silk shawls by California designer Kavita Singh, Kazuri-beaded jewelry from Kenya and handwoven vestments (of hand-dyed mohair and merino wool) by Gaylordsville’s Barbara Dull, who you’ll see weaving as you browse. Store owner Carol Jalbert is also co-founder of Kent Kats Inc., a rescue organization, so you may spot a feline or two prowling around that you can take home with that new blouse.
Then there’s Morrison Gallery, a sweeping 7,000-square-foot fine art space in the Kent Village Barn Shops complex that represents the work of artists Cleve Gray, Eric Sloane and Robert Andrew Parker; Foreign Cargo and The Gallery Upstairs, featuring antiques and crafts from Asia, Africa and the South Pacific; and Pauline’s Place, established by Pauline Simring, devoted to to-die-for (and carefully authenticated) antique/estate jewelry and decorative silver. In 2007 Belgique, the Belgian patisserie and chocolatier, created chocolates for Queen Elizabeth and President George W. Bush to enjoy after a state dinner at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. We could go on and on . . . and on.
After a day of wallet lightening, we need a soothing place to hang our new hats. Set on 2.5 acres in the historic Flanders district of Kent, the six-room Inn at Kent Falls—an 18th-century Federal-style farmhouse renovated and operated since 2003 by Sotheby’s realtor Ira Goldspiel—offers three spacious suites, christened “Appalachian,” “Lakes” and “Falls,” that are particularly fabulous. The Lakes Suite is highlighted in Travel & Leisure’s World’s Greatest Hotels, Resorts and Spas (2008) for its candlelit fireplaces, but we found the Falls Suite—outfitted with wood-frame king bed, clawfoot tub and rainfall shower, and fully stocked private library—hard to top (like all rooms, it also boasts wide-board wooden floors and shuttered windows, wireless Internet access, flat-screen TV and Frette linens).
Common areas include a living room with French antiques and an outdoor pool with pool house where one can enjoy a private massage (in-suite massages are also available). Customized guest itineraries—including spa, nature and holiday-themed getaways—are a specialty. Don’t miss breakfast, a seemingly effortless blend of melt-in-your-mouth homemade baked goods and (in our case) scrambled eggs with mushroom, feta cheese and tomato, served at a communal dining table.
Litchfield County is awash in wonderful destination restaurants, but we won’t hedge: Kent could use a few more culinary stars. (The late Restaurant Moosilauke is definitely lamented.) Still, a couple of newcomers are well worth checking out. Doc’s Trattoria (formerly of New Preston), a specialist in seasonal Southern Italian cuisine, has been thriving in the Kent Village enclave since moving there in April 2008. Fans of American variations should visit Main Street’s blu grill, offering spicy chicken vindaloo, puff pastry-wrapped pan-seared pheasant and grilled honey soy rosemary skirt steak.
No matter where you dine, do not miss the opportunity for a nightcap at the Fife ’n Drum. A family restaurant established just past the freight railroad crossing in 1972, it’s still in the hands of founder and onetime ABC musical conductor/A&R man Dolph Traymon (who arranged for Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee) and his wife and daughter, who have made it a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner. Traymon, 89 years young, still plays the piano (and has some great stories to tell) just about every night.
For more info on the Inn at Kent Falls, call (860) 927-3197 or visit theinnatkentfalls.com.