It’s been the most striking and colorful fall foliage season I can remember. After our very dry summer, all this vibrant energy in the full spectrum of autumn shades is a big surprise. Taking a drive to lunch while taking in the seasonal show was just the ticket. The journey is the destination at this time of year.
Driving to close-by Ridgefield fit into our time schedule and included plenty of scenery. We headed up Rt. 106 toward Wilton center, cutting the corner on Drum Hill Road. Then we had the steady uphill climb on scenic Rt. 33, which brought us to the center of town.
All along the way, the scenery was spectacular. Gold, red and orange trees stood out against the bright blue sky. An equally colorful carpet of leaves covered the ground. Old houses, close to the road, shingled and shuttered, irregular with gabled additions, lined the road. Rt. 33 seems to have escaped the infestation of McMansions. Instead the old houses – often sporting paint jobs in fall colors – sit behind picket fences and stone walls, displaying their eclectic charm for all to see. Some side streets carry the family names of early settlers.
At the end of the climb, just as you join Rt. 35, there begins a receiving line of grand and dignified homes spanning more than a hundred years of architectural styles. With their broad lawns, stately trees, inviting porches, and some with fancy paint jobs, they’re worth a trip even without the foliage.
Ridgefield has lots of eating options, covering the spectrum from high-style special occasion to everyday chic. Bernard’s, the 2014 Connecticut Magazine Best Restaurant, serves award winning french food in their dining room and a bistro menu in Sarah’s Wine Bar upstairs, which sometimes offers live jazz. Luc’s, with an authentic bistro menu, is another notable spot for a French food fix.
Italian is well-represented in town by Bartolo for Tuscan, and Gallo for fresh pasta. Bailey’s Backyard has a strong farm to table menu. Chez Leonard, a Ridgefield institution, serves great hot dogs with original, high-quality toppings from a street cart.
Our destination was Sucré Salé, a crêperie-bistro. Owners Frank and Virginie, both from France, bring a lifetime of cooking experience to this authentic spot. The menu offers 13 savory crêpes, either buckwheat or white, all served with a green salad and duchesse potatoes. Try the Dijonnaise with chicken sausage and mustard sauce; Smoked Salmon with eggplant and sour cream; or Perigordine with duck confit, tomatoes and caramelized onions. A starter cheese platter for two included Brie, Pt. Reyes Blue, fresh goat cheese with honey and Ementhaller – delicious, but a meal unto itself.
At lunch we opted for a Tart Provençale with olives, roasted tomatoes, eggplant and Parmesan along with a classic Croque-Monsieur – filled with cheese and sauced with even more – served with a green salad and frites. More than full, we still couldn’t resist a buckwheat dessert crêpe filled with apricot jam and sprinkled with sugar – great with fresh-brewed coffee and an espresso.
Mussels are another specialty at Sucré Salé, coming in four different presentations. Wednesday nights, get all the mussels you can eat and a glass of wine for $25. The menu also includes entrees like steak frites or salmon in parchment, sandwiches, and burgers, plus a dozen dessertcrêpes.
Drinks by the glass include some not often seen offerings like Muscadet, French sparkling cider, and a few well-chosen beers. Be sure to ask for a glass of Pavan after dinner, a traditional orange-infused fortified wine. Very refreshing and very French!
The atmosphere is charming, French, and comfortable, complete with Edith Piaf serenading. There is a small bar where you can have a glass of wine or dinner and maybe a chat with the owner. The bright dining room, filled with bistro tables, has mural-sized chalkboards for daily specials. To the right there is a cozy area with booths. An awning shades the outside dining terrace.
Sucré Salé anchors a food destination enclave. Next door is Swoon, a gluten-free bakery. Just to the right of that is the 109 Cheese and Wine Shop. The wine store staff is ready to discuss any of the just 75 carefully chosen wines. With a separate entrance, the cheese division has the seductive aroma and liberal tasting policy of the best cheesemongers. You won’t be surprised to learn that we came home with some cheeses and a bottle of German Pinot Blanc for supper. One more door up is the Ross Bread Shop, offering a weekly rotation of fresh-baked breads as well as pastry, desserts, and coffee. I had to flee from the temptation of a chocolate bread pudding. Next door is the Ridgefield Organic Market selling healthy organic produce, groceries, meats and prepared foods.
Just on the edge of town, two attractions represent the yin and yang of museums. The Keeler Tavern is a National Register historic site and a living museum of colonial life. With an extensive collection of furniture, household items, and china, the museum explores the life of Ridgefield’s founders, their contemporaries, and following generations.
The Aldrich museum is Connecticut’s only museum devoted to contemporary art, often by
living artists. Founded in 1964, it lives very much in the present. We popped into the Aldrich, but they were in the throes of re-hanging all the galleries. A colorful wall of works by Nancy Shaver was cheek-by-jowl with packing cases of art on the way in or out. We plan to go back later in November when the new shows will be open.
Go to Ridgefield in any season for a stroll through town, a memorable lunch, and a museum stop. We are already planning our next visit!