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Cooking: The Silo Cooking School
New Milford, (860) 355-0300 (
Cooking classes seem to be a dime a dozen these days, but really good, inspiring classes are something else again. You’ll find the best cooking instruction far and away at The Silo Cooking School, just one reason to visit the Henderson Cultural Center at Hunt Hill Farm. It may call itself a “recreational cooking school,” but Silo’s classes are taught by some of the most revered names in the food world. Instructors have included Jacques Pépin, Sara Moulton, Giuliano Bugialli and Martha Stewart. Pack all this talent into a relaxed atmosphere in a picturesque barn and . . . we give it four stars.

Dance: Vinnie’s Jump & Jive
Middletown, (860) 347-6971, ext. 3777 (
To put it simply—in, say, box-step terms—there is nothing like Vinnie’s Jump & Jive. The “community dance hall” is a perfect example of a good idea that just got better. Originally focused on swing dancing only, Vinnie’s was established in 2000 to promote healthy lifestyles in the Middletown community, and has since evolved into a fun destination for anyone wanting to learn (or brush up on) a wide array of dances—from ballroom to breakdancing. Gatsby got you jazzed? Ready to line up at your favorite country barre? Get thee to Vinnie’s and kick up your heels!

Language: Lingua e Cucina
Norwalk, (203) 750-0478 (;
Lingua e Cucina (language and cooking) is a fun and effective way to learn to speak Italian developed by Lee DeMilo in 2006. DeMilo, a native Italian, creates lessons based on the culture and lifestyle of Italy combined with homemade Italian food. She runs classes through Westport and Wilton’s adult education programs (which include outings to an Italian restaurant), and also through personalized sessions she conducts right at her kitchen table in Norwalk. She recently published Italian for Tourists: Mauro and Carla Bianchi’s Trip to Italy, a series of e-books downloadable on iTunes and Amazon that puts it all at your fingertips for your next trip to Italy.

Painting: Creative Arts Workshop
New Haven, (203) 562-4927 (
Problem: You have the soul of a great artiste, but the only thing you’ve actually painted are your bedroom walls. Solution: Take a class at the Creative Arts Workshop and get those artistic juices flowing. Since 1961, instructors at CAW have been teaching students at all experience levels to draw and paint like pros. Beginners learn the fundamentals of putting brush to paper, while advanced students can take advantage of open studio and critique sessions. Classes in other media, such as jewelry making and photography, are also available. Sign up: Your inner Van Gogh will thank you.

Wine Appreciation: Wine Institute of New England
Guilford, (860) 591-9463 (
If you love wine, but sometimes wish you knew more about it, you’ll want to look into classes, tastings and events sponsored by the Wine Institute of New England (WINE). The organization promotes wine appreciation and education at every level—from novice to seasoned oenophile. If all you want is to say something intelligent the next time the conversation turns to grapes, WINE is for you. If you want to enhance your appreciation and knowledge, then WINE is right for you, as well. And if you want to become a Certified Specialist of Wine—yep, you can do that, too.

Garden Centers

Annuals/perennials: White Flower Farm
Litchfield, (860) 567-8789 (
Any Connecticut gardener worth his or her salt has heard of White Flower Farm. A mail-order cottage industry started in 1950, the nursery has established itself nationally as a premier source for perennials, bulbs, annuals, shrubs, vines and more. White Flower Farm’s catalogs inspire plant lovers all year long. Its stellar reputation is well-deserved, thanks to its extensive greenhouses and five acres of test and display gardens, collateral offerings (garden tools and gifts), and incomparable gardening advice. There’s also a White Flower Farm retail store you can visit in Morris that’s open daily.

Exotic plants: Logee’s Greenhouse
Danielson, (860) 774-8038 (
Just imagine: 1,500 varieties of flowers, shrubs, trees and grasses in one perfect place—and many of them not “garden variety” at all. Logee’s has been in the same family since 1892, and although it has propagated an array of hybridized plants over the years, it’s now known far and wide for plants rare, tropical and exotic. If it’s new, fragrant, fruity or indestructible, you’ll find it here. Hybridized begonias and scented geraniums are specialties of the greenhouse, but the big draw is the Ponderosa Lemon Tree, planted onsite in 1900 and still bearing five-pound lemons today.

Herbs: Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens
Westport, (203) 227-4175 (
It’s easy to get carried away at Gilbertie’s, renowned for its line of USDA Certified Organic herbs. More than 400 varieties—of lavender, thyme, oregano, mint and rosemary, for starters—are available here, perfect for, say, spicing up a Japanese dinner, creating the perfect mint julep or even composing a poetic Shakespeare garden. Those who fear “black thumb” will benefit from the garden’s extensive free series of lectures and seminars. Be sure to try the new line of “Petite Edibles” herbs and greens now available.

Roses: Twombly Nursery
Monroe, (203) 261-2133 (
Climbers, English roses, hybrid teas, floribundas, flower carpets, Meidilands, shrubs and many in the Romantica and Town & Country series all can be found in healthy abundance here. Knockout Roses also abound—the rage these days, according to owner Andrew Brodtman, because they’re exceptionally care-free. If you want a rose you don’t see, Twombly will special-order it if available. Brodtman and partner Barry Bonin are well-versed in the requirements and appropriateness of each variety for your yard. The nursery also provides expert landscape design and installation.        

Trees/shrubs: Tower Farms
Cheshire, (203) 272-5952
Trees and shrubs form the foundation of many a gorgeous garden (and can be some of your costliest purchases), so you want to do your homework before you buy. Tower Farms is the go-to place for the healthy and appropriate specimens for your property. You can’t miss the iconic tower on Route 10 in Cheshire, and the overall riot of color and lush greenery visible from the road. Tower’s greenhouses are so jam-packed with trees and shrubs (plus houseplants, flowers, shrubs and garden ornaments), you may find the selection overwhelming. No worries: The staff is knowledgeable, insightful, helpful and friendly.


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