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A Tank Away

A village of quiet comfort in Pomfret, Conn.

The Vanilla Bean Café offers light entrees in a restored 19th-century barn. Ellen Albanese for The Boston Globe/Ellen Albanese photo

There’s something timeless about this northeastern Connecticut village, with its posh private schools, verdant spaces, and miles of stone walls. It hasn’t changed much over the years, and in this case, that’s a good thing. Newcomers and return visitors alike will enjoy comfortable bed-and-breakfasts, one of the state’s loveliest and most honored wineries, distinctive gift shops, and room to wander at the 700-acre Audubon Society’s Bafflin Sanctuary. This year’s townwide tag sale sponsored by the Pomfret Proprietors Association (www.visitpomfret.com) on May 3 has a special beneficiary: Proceeds will go to the building fund of the 1850 First Congregational Church, which burned in early December.


Breakfast is just one reason to stay at Feather Hill Bed and Breakfast (151 Mashamoquet Road, 860-963-0522, featherhillbedandbreakfast.com, $138-$193, cottage $295), which has five guest rooms in the main house and a cottage that sleeps four. In the sunny dining room we enjoyed Angela Spring’s baked apples, pistachio coffee cake, and tomato-basil omelet. The property abuts the Air Line Trail (so named because it follows the railbed of a high-speed train that ran from Boston to New York in the mid-1800s), with opportunities for walking, cycling, and cross-country skiing. The Inn at Tonmar (56 Babbitt Hill Road, 860-974-1583, www.majilly.com, $120-$250) is set on a hill with views of the countryside. In addition to two rooms and a suite in the main house, there’s a spacious suite in the barn, where visitors will be surrounded by the Majilly line of Italian ceramics. The Inn at Fox Hill Farm (760 Pomfret St., 860-928-5240. www.innatfoxhillfarm.com, $215) consists of a single cottage with a wood-burning stove, antique claw foot tub, king-size iron bed, and a private deck. Couples traveling together or families will find comfortable accommodations at Little House in the Big Woods (860-961-4607, www.vrbo.com, $200), an early American farmhouse on 144 secluded acres adjacent to the Air Line Trail, Wolf Den State Forest, Mashamoquet State Park, and the New England Forestry Foundation’s Chase Kimball Forest.


Everything old is new again at Grill 37 (37 Putnam Road, 860-315-5640, grill37.com, dinner $14-$26, Sunday brunch $5.50-$14), which opened in November on the site of the former Harvest Restaurant and bills itself as a casual, family-friendly Italian steakhouse. Our steaks were tender and perfectly cooked, and portions were generous. Owner Ian Farquhar is also the pastry chef, and his creations — carrot cake, tiramisu, chocolate pecan tart, and Heath bar cheesecake, among others — are prominently displayed in a glass case near the entrance. When locals refer to “the Bean,” they mean the Vanilla Bean Café (corner of routes 44, 97, and 169, 860-928-1562, thevanillabeancafe.com, $6-$18), which is celebrating 25 years of ownership by the Jessurun family. Located in a restored early-19th-century barn, it specializes in homemade soups, sandwiches, salads, and light entrees, with a focus on organic ingredients. Chili is popular, and many of the mouthwatering desserts in the pastry case are made in house. You’ll need to reserve well in advance for lunch or dinner at the Fireside Tavern at Sharpe Hill Vineyard (108 Wade Road, 860-974-3549, sharpehill.com, Friday-Sunday only, entrees $26-$36). On the second floor of a Colonial reproduction barn, the restaurant specializes in entrees cooked over a wood grill. Connecticut Magazine recently included Fireside’s Creole shrimp in its “Fifty Dishes to Try Before You Die.”



The award-winning Sharpe Hill Vineyard.Ellen Albanese for The Boston Globe

Lois Orswell Grassland Bird Conservation Center of the Connecticut Audubon Society (218 Day Road, 860-928-4948, www.ctaudubon.org) opened in 2011, replacing the tiny visitors center on Route 169. The new center, fashioned after a barn that had been on the site, offers bird and natural history displays, art exhibits, and access to walking trails, ranging from three-quarters of a mile to 1.5 miles through the 700-acre Bafflin Sanctuary. Wines produced at Sharpe Hill Vineyard have received more than 350 medals in international events. Tastings of the signature Ballet of Angels and other varieties are available Friday through Sunday for $7 and $12. You can sip in the rustic tasting room, on an outdoor patio overlooking the vineyard, or in the whimsical “Monkey Lounge,” with its black-and-white checkerboard floor and parasol-wielding monkey lamps. Shopping in Pomfret is a treat. Hazelwood (12 Putnam Road, 860-928-5888, hazelwoodgallery.com) showcases American crafts. Popular items, according to owner Camille Benjamin, include Sekoya lamps, with metal bases and handmade paper shades, and KronosWorks clocks. She calls these “antiques of tomorrow,” contemporary pieces that work well in antique homes. Across the street, Martha’s Herbary (589 Pomfret St., 860-928-0009, marthasherbary
.com) features herbs, spices, jewelry, textiles, garden supplies, and home décor, as well as cooking classes. Owner Michelle King loves discovering new artisans, such as Greg Chaput, who creates decorative and functional objects from old wood. Celebrations Gallery & Shoppes
(330 Pomfret St., 860-928-5492, celebrationsshoppes.com) displays the work of more than 50 local artists and artisans in an 1885 Queen Anne Victorian. Celebrations’s tea room hosts cream teas twice a month, along with monthly themed tea events.



Vanilla Bean Café is on the National Folk Music Circuit and hosts folksingers from across the country. Heather Maloney is slated to perform this Saturday at 8 p.m. Performing Arts of Northeastern Connecticut (860-928-2946, www.performingartsnect.org) is in its 40th season of providing “professional arts events at affordable prices” at Hyde Cultural Center in nearby Woodstock. Its next event is a performance by the Connecticut Lyric Opera of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” on May 10.


Ellen Albanese can be reached at ellen.albanese@gmail.com.