Mystic, a picturesque coastal town in the United States, is the best summer food destination | Travel
Not so long ago, the most famous place to eat in Mystic, Connecticut was a 1970s pizzeria, co-starred in the 1988 Julia Roberts film, Mystic Pizza.
Today, the quaint coastal town is one of the East Coast’s most exciting culinary destinations, with some of the best seafood in the country, as well as heritage products, exquisite breads, superb miso-flavored coffee and , yes, pizza. Chefs and restaurateurs see Mystic as a more attractive vacation spot to do business than, say, the nearby Hamptons on Long Island, NY
The town, a 2.5-hour drive northeast of New York, is dotted with well-preserved 19th-century buildings. It’s in Stonington Township, named by Airbnb as one of America’s most popular vacation destinations of the year.
“It’s heaven from a chef’s perspective,” says expert David Standridge: He cooked for the late and legendary chef Joël Robuchon for six years. A few years ago, he decided to ditch New York for Mystic, one of the many culinary professionals who relocated and amplified the local food and drink scene. It’s an extension of a trend that has seen chefs seek out smaller “second cities” like Indianapolis, San Antonio and Asheville, North Carolina, where a more supportive economy gives greater freedom to innovate. The word also spreads to consumers.
“I’ve seen an increase, especially over the past year, in the number of out-of-town guests coming to Mystic, especially to eat,” Standridge says. “The culinary scene here is really exploding.” Specifically, he sees Mystic bringing in former Hamptons and Newport, RI regulars. “They feel there’s an authenticity here at Mystic that’s very appealing.” Now, he says, for anyone traveling along the coast, Mystic is “a must-stop.”
The city, founded in 1654, once served as a shipbuilding port and a safe harbor for boats in bad weather. Today, its main industry is tourism (a $15 billion industry in Connecticut before the Covid pandemic), and yachts that once sailed line up at the docks.
Standridge runs the two-year-old Shipwright’s Daughter, who is attached to Whaler’s Inn, a boutique hotel. Its daily changing menu showcases seafood from the New England coast, especially bycatch (underappreciated seafood that is usually washed up in the ocean), such as blackbird, which Standridge catches whole. and served in a green curry sauce with pickled peaches.
In fact, it’s hard to go anywhere in Mystic and not sample pristine seafood, especially shellfish and especially oysters, which benefit from growing in sheltered, water-fed estuaries. clean and cold ocean. Fishing boats arrive daily, stocked with large flukes, black bass, striped bass and bluefish, as well as tuna (yellowfin, bigeye and albacore), mahi and swordfish.
“We believe this little corner of the world is one of America’s most exciting and diverse food communities,” says Renée Touponce, executive chef of the new port of call. The elegant nautical-themed cocktail bar and lounge evokes vintage wooden racing yachts with its original 1800s teak deck floor. tropical drinks from head bartender Sebastian Guerraro, a veteran of Manhattan’s Dante, who was named the best bar in the world in 2019. Specialties include the Offshore Account, a clarified rum punch fortified with more rum, banana liqueur, milk of reduced coconut, tonka bean and orgeat with homemade almonds.
Restaurant group 85th Day Food Community runs the enviable nightclub, as well as the rustic barn-style Oyster Club next door. It’s one of Mystic’s pioneer restaurants, with Chef Touponce’s list of dishes sure to please, such as crispy fried monkfish katsu with whipped kelp butter and rigatoni with braised short ribs and salsa verde, topped off with seasonal ramps that were stuffed along the route.
Oyster Club was co-founded by longtime Mystic resident Dan Meiser, whose wife Jane also operates Stone Acres Farm, a 250-year-old produce and flower farm. The 225-acre property, which hosts a daily farmer’s market, supplies the restaurant with much of its produce, including four kinds of heirloom tomatoes, assorted melons and leafy greens premiums, such as shiny chard leaves and budding heads of vibrant lettuce. The oysters of the same name, pointed, with an intense salinity, are harvested daily in the icy water of the region.
“There are other places in the world that might have as good or as varied seafood, but no place is better,” says Meiser. “We have built our reputation on presenting the best fish in the world”, confirms Touponce.
If any chef epitomizes the powerful food movement of Mystic, it’s James Wayman, fermentation fanatic and chef-owner of Nana’s Bakery & Pizza. The eight-seat spot has gained national acclaim for its phenomenal thin-crust pizzas, tangy sourdough breads with a rich, dark flavor from fresh grains ground on-site, and featherweight donuts. The concept was so successful that in March, Wayman opened a second Nana’s in Westerly, RI, with a greater focus on dinner service.
What makes Wayman’s pizza so popular is the crust, which he spent a year perfecting with chef baker David Vacca. The supreme yeast-tasting dough is paper-thin with a tantalizing light chew. (It’s no small feat to create such a crispy crust and not burn it.) To do this, Wayman sources most of its beans locally, from Connecticut and Maine, and grinds them in-house. He adds toppings such as a koji-dosed tomato sauce plus mozzarella and a mushroom Marsala sauce mixed with amazake (a drink made from fermented Japanese rice) instead of cream.
Wayman is also renowned for his brilliant way with koji, the mold responsible for making sake and adding flavorful umami to dishes. He adds it to everything from brown butter chocolate chip cookies to rye porridge bread and even some of Nana’s exceptional coffee drinks, like the one with miso, creating an intense nutty flavor.
Still, the city’s most popular baked goods and coffee comes from Sift Bake Shop, a French bakery and cafe with a perpetual line that snakes its way past its door. For six years, pastry chef Adam Young and his wife Ebbie have been selling strawberry rhubarb croissants and mushroom baguettes. During the pandemic, they launched their second effort, Young Buns, a classic donut shop whose bestseller is a vanilla cake coated in sweet and salty brown sugar butter crunch.
Young was formerly executive pastry chef at the nearby Relais & Châteaux property Ocean House, a large 69-room yellow mansion that’s the area’s top luxury hotel option (rooms from $785 a night), just outside the hotel. across the Rhode Island border. Travelers looking for more space are turning to Airbnb for rentals ranging from hilltop mansions to waterfront getaways.
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