When we heard that Saybrook Point Inn, nestled by The Sound in Old Saybrook, CT had special packages just for people who think about food 24/7, we immediately knew that it would be the perfect weekend getaway for us. I mean, it’s like it was practically made for us! Our only hesitation was in deciding which Food Lover’s Weekend to go for. Would it be the Italian Winter Holiday, a Taste of New England, or le Tour de France? Well, we figured since we didn’t know much about cooking French food and we want to go to France next summer, it made the most sense to try the Tour de France. Here’s how the beyond wonderful weekend went down . . .
We arrived Friday night just as the Welcome Reception was underway upstairs in a private bar not too far from our room. Wine was pouring from the bar and there was a nice spread of finger foods such as meats, cheeses, fruits, nuts, and potstickers to snack on as we met the people we’d be spending the weekend with us. To our surprise, 3 out of the couples were from Fairfield County: Greenwich, Darien, and Danbury. Also making the rounds was Leslie Tripp, Executive Chef of Fresh Salt, the AAA Four Diamond award-winning restaurant inside Saybrook Point Inn and our main guide through French cuisine that weekend. We talked and drank for a bit, and while we could have kept eating the finger foods, we didn’t want to get too full before our first dinner at Fresh Salt that evening. For this first night’s dinner, each Food Lover’s Weekend guest received a $100 voucher. Score!
Fresh Salt for Dinner
We continued the drinking, Kristien with wine (lots of great choices by the glass or bottle) and Dan with a cocktail called Karma Diablo featuring Karma Silver, Mathilde Creme de Cassis, fresh lime, and ginger beer. It had a nice, smooth, ginger taste that had a nice kick from the tequila, though it was admittedly not spicy. For apps, Dan got the Rhode Island Calamari which was freshly made right off the boat and cooked to perfection. The spicy-sweetness of the dish, paired with the delicate calamari just lightly fried made this Dan’s favorite calamari dish ever . . . and that’s a lot because Dan’s a calamari purist. Kristien had some Wild Goose oysters from Rhode Island which were nice and buttery and local Copps Island oysters which were a bit brinier. For dinner, Kristien fell in love with the Roasted Salad that featured roasted squash and apples with tart cranberries, hazelnuts to add crunch, and goat cheese to add a creamy bite. Dan had the Fresh Salt Cioppino that had the pleasant scent of saffron with fresh and delicate fish. The Cioppino came with slices of garlic bread which were buttery, garlicky, and oh so perfect for dipping. Kristien had the Veal Osso Bucco which was earthy and rich with delicate meat atop perfect al dente pasta. The orange zest added a nice balance and the cheese added a very nice touch of creaminess. And because we were stuffed, we ordered some milk (to which they suggested adding vanilla to–yum) and cookies (which were chewy, moist and delicious) to bring up to our room.
After that meal and the Welcome Reception, we felt a little sleepy, but wanted to enjoy our suite some first. So, what better way to relax and wind down then sit at the couch right in front of the wood-burning fireplace? We called up room service (a sweet man named Bobby Brown) and in a few minutes, we had a log on the fire, and just sat, talked, ate our cookies and milk, and went through all the recipes we would learn on Saturday. In terms of the rest of the room, there was charming furniture and decor throughout, a super cozy king sized bed, a large bathroom with his and hers sinks, a standing shower, and a huge jacuzzi tub. Oh yeah, living in style with this package, huh?
Saturday Cooking Lessons (and an bonus field trip) with a Gala Dinner
We all met up in a side banquet room at 8AM (food is the only reason we’ll wake up that early on a weekend)) to chat with the other couples, snack on some continental breakfast foods like bagels and muffins, and down some juice and coffee. Later we figured out that we could have gone to Fresh Salt for breakfast because we were all given vouchers for breakfast that morning, but that’s okay because we were about to prepare and eat a boatload of food for lunch and would’ve been WAY too full. When breakfast was done, we headed into a side room that was made into a makeshift kitchen with stations for each person. We also got some beautiful, crisp brand new chef jackets (which we got to keep) and aprons because things were about to get messy! We were a little overwhelmed at the amount of food we thought we were going to have to make, but it’s actually not that much at all. You don’t make everything on the menu (some stuff you just watch and learn), and the chefs are there to help you every step of the way.
Over the course of the morning, Chefs Tripp and Jese Rodriguez took us through demos then let us loose at our station to make sweet and savory crepes. They gave us lessons in how to quickly and efficiently cut up veggies like leeks and how to pull off the perfect crepe. All of those things came together for our decadent lunch that featured two savory crepes, two sweet crepes, as well as a nice, healthy salad . . . which really ended up being a LOT of food for lunch. Both were absolutely DELICIOUS (if we do say so ourselves) with the perfect amount of rich, creaminess (for the savory) and sweetness (for the sweet). Heavenly! And, just like that, we were back at it, prepping for dinner by trimming up pork loins and preparing our mis en place (that’s French fanciness for “put in place”) to make our cooking even easier. We learned how to cut a whole chicken (which we were pretty terrible at), and put together onion tarts. We even rolled out and cut our own gnocchi.
As we wrapped up our cooking and prep work for dinner, Chef Tripp surprised everybody by taking us to Fromage, a massive cheese shop down the road in Old Saybrook. In addition to the huge amount of cheese there from across the world, the store had an incredible amount of cooking supplies, spices, and products that could make any food lover drain countless bank accounts. The shop owner Christine Chesanek took us all through samples of some beautiful French cheese and talked to us about pairing cheese with food and drink. When we got back, we got some drinks to take back to the room, jacuzzi-tubbed and showered (how do chefs do it? Such strong odors in the kitchen that just seem to stick to you), and then headed downstairs for our Gala Dinner.
While the vibe of the dinner was most definitely not a gala (no music or anything like that, just a dinner with your fellow food lovers), it was still a great time. We had some delicious wines poured for us, enjoyed nice conversation and got to dig-in to a beautiful spread of all the food we made that day (and then some). There was the tart, pork loin with Brussels sprouts, a goat cheese and cranberry salad, chicken with mushroom and leeks, sweet potato gnocchi, rolls, and dessert that featured wine-poached pears, vanilla ice cream, and a nice meringue. Everything (except the gnocchi which was unfortunately mushy) was absolutely fantastic—everyone especially loved the chicken. We headed back to the room afterwards with a movie and DVD player lent to us by the front desk and enjoyed another fire in the fireplace.
Sunday Kitchen Work and Brunch
Probably the most exciting part for us happened on Sunday morning when we had the chance to get into the actual kitchen at Fresh Salt to help prepare for their award winning brunch. When we say the kitchen is huge, we can’t even do it justice. Like so big that it fit all of us and like 20 chefs and cooks, dishwashers, waitstaff and more with no bumping into each other. After watching chefs prepare dishes, we did our part to make brunch great by helping to frost cakes and pies, cut bread, and other simple tasks like that (phew, no pressure). We also took many of the dishes out by cart and helped to set up some of the displays in the two-room spread.
And, just like that, we were done with the cooking and prep portion of the weekend. It was a bittersweet kind of feeling, but the thing that made it oh so much better was knowing that in an hour we’d all be taking down the brunch buffet with some nice drinks. We were all seated together in a nice cozy table in the back of Fresh Salt and took many trips to the buffet. Some of our weekend mates were well-behaved, getting a plate full of fruit, yogurt, and healthier goodies, while most of us just piled up tons of rich, delicious food.
And, it wasn’t easy to decide what to get, either! There was a prime rib station, an omelet station, a lox station, a salad station, a ceviche station, breads, your typical breakfast foods, a made-to-order pasta station manned by Chef Tripp, and anything that you could possibly imagine. We were very impressed with not only the variety, but also the quality of the food. Everything was incredibly tasty, fresh, warm and satisfying. And, yes, we had drinks. Kristien got two Bloody Marys, customized with peppers and bacon, that were some of the best that she’d ever had. And Dan continued his Moscow Mule addiction by ordering some and even spread his addiction to our fellow cooks from the weekend. Sadly, couples began to leave to head back home or for appointments at the spa (yes, they have a spa TOO). It was a sad kind of feeling because we had spent so much time together and had really gotten to know each other, but we got each other’s contact info. We checked out and as we drove off, we knew that we’d definitely be back.
This was probably one of the most fun experiences that we’ve had as food bloggers. It was a fun-filled weekend where we got to eat, cook, interact, and learn new techniques to help us prepare even better dishes at home. The food was great, the company was great, the staff was beyond friendly and accommodating, and we felt a huge sense of accomplishment knowing that we had helped to prepare so much delicious food.
At first glance the price for the Food Lover’s weekend starting at $698 per couple might seem expensive, but we broke it down to see what kind of value it truly was. You get a free Welcome Reception with snacks and wine, $100 to spend at Friday’s dinner, Saturday breakfast, a beautiful chef’s coat, a full day of interactive cooking lessons, printed recipes to take home, lunch, a dinner celebration, a stunning room for two nights, impeccable service from all staff, and even Sunday brunch. We calculated the cost of everything from the weekend, and it actually came in at around $1,700! So yeah, it’s actually a GREAT value! We would not hesitate one bit in recommending this for a couple to do for a romantic getaway, to spend some QT together, or to just do something new. You could also make it a full vacation by traveling out to nearby Mystic. Heck, we might even go back in the summertime to check out some of the great packages they have like Grilling and Chilling, that’s how on point everything was. We’re missing it just writing this post. Now that’s a wonderful weekend!
Note: we were invited to attend the Tour de France weekend by Saybrook Point Inn, but all thoughts, comments, and observations in this post are our own.