Every restaurant, café, bakery, diner and even most coffee shops in Connecticut carry the traditional New England autumn dessert fare of apple and pumpkin pie. Some places do the traditional desserts better than others and some have reinvented those comfort foods and given them new life. For a special treat, here are five places that offer seasonal desserts that make those looking for a bit more than the old fall standards stand up and shout.
247 Main St.
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
“Ginger apples from Guilfords” is the secret of the pastry chef’s amazing apple strudel, says Laura of Dagmar’s Desserts and Café in Old Saybrook. A tiny little café that serves soups and sandwiches, Dagmar’s is famous both among locals and visitors for its authentic, traditional and scrumptious Austrian and Bavarian dessert menu. However, even among the lengthy and tongue-stumbling list of marvels like Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte, Bienenstich, Donauwellenkuchen and all the other little kuchens, the simple apple strudel stands out. As Laura explains, the combination of “flakey crust, tart ginger apples and sweet sugar and cinnamon” make the strudel irresistible – and then the chef adds raisins to give it that extra sweetness.
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292 Wilton Road
Westport, CT 06880
What screams New England in the fall more than a barn? The Red Barn is a Westport favorite and “Best of Connecticut” winner. First opened in the 1960s and restored in 1983, The Red Barn is fraught with autumn atmosphere – from its fireplaces to its cozy décor. Entrees vary in price from the low teens to the mid-to-high 30s, but all desserts are just $7.95. These desserts are home made daily and for the fall, Frank at the desk suggests the bread pudding with rum raisin sauce, the rice pudding with raisins or the hot apple crisp – the last of which is served in a crock and a la mode, of course.
53 Main St.
Kent, CT 06757
Owner and “piano man” Dolph Traymon has been tickling the ivory since he was four years old, and even now at 93 he still takes his seat to play old favorites for the very loyal crowd who patronize his Fife and Drum Restaurant. The menu is old school and very filling, but smart patrons set aside a portion for the doggy bag to leave room for the desserts, especially in autumn. Among the many favorites are the Fife and Drum’s wonderful Indian pudding served warm and a la mode. Traymon’s daughter Elissa, who now runs the restaurant, also recommends the pumpkin cheesecake with ginger snap crust and apple syrup. Whatever your choice, you’ll leave a happy customer.
118 Woodbury Road (Route 47)
Washington, CT 06793
“A classic dining experience” is how The Mayflower Inn describes the partaking of an evening meal in its gorgeous restaurant. Before you wander out with an after-dinner drink in hand to the terrace overlooking the Shakespeare Garden, do not forget to complete what the Inn boasts as “a memorably sumptuous meal” with a dessert. During the fall season especially, Mayflower provides “the freshest, most seasonal, nutritious bounty” to follow that $49 bone-in New York sirloin or $40 lamb short loin chops. Pastry assistant Gabby recommends one of the pumpkin-themed classics, notably the pumpkin crème brûlée or the pumpkin treat with chocolate Grenache. These, says Gabby, are “simple and comforting” tastes of New England.
1032 Chapel St.
New Haven, CT 06510
Autumn is not just about apples and pies. In France, it is about hazelnuts and at New Haven’s storied Union League Café, owner and chef Jean Pierre Vuillermet is never at a loss for hazelnut desserts. Yes, the final course for one of his famed duck, veal, lamb, risotto or seafood entrees is a pricey $9.75 a serving, but oh, what pleasures await on that plate. Feuillantine au chocolat et noisettes is not just a mouthful to say, it is a mouthful to enjoy. “Salted Piemont hazelnut caramel and a crunchy hazelnut biscuit” are at the center of this dish, which is draped with layers of bittersweet chocolate mousse and made even more sinful by the ladling of guanaja chocolate and caramel sauce. However, this is not the only hazelnut sensation at the famed hangout for Yale’s Whiffenpoof singers. There is also croustillant jivara lactee. The hazelnut biscuit from the first dessert again forms the base, but milk chocolate mousse, bittersweet chocolate “glacage,” praline ice cream and roasted hazelnuts are then added to complete the dish. For those who have had their fill of traditional New England autumn desserts, The Union League Café is the place to go nuts – for hazelnuts, that is.
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