Culture amid the scenery

Kent, CT. is A rural New England town with good coffee, music, and art

Posted: Thursday, September 02, 2010

When you visit Kent, Ct., you will not find a mere drugstore. My partner Stephanie and I arrived with our 9-month old son one recent Sunday only to realize we had left behind both his hat and sunscreen. Steph was soon directed to Kent Apothecary & Gifts, which, despite being set back from the street in a lovely 19th century Victorian, did indeed have all the modern conveniences, including SPF 30 sunblock. While Mom was off on that mission, Mack and Dad waited on a bench in front of House of Books, listening to a cool jazz trio that set up just as we arrived. They were there to give those in town a taste of the Litchfield Jazz Festival taking place that weekend a half mile down the road at the Kent Green.

    Mack is often mesmerized in the presence of live music, but his attention was occasionally diverted by the throaty rumble from the drag pipes and slip-fit mufflers of motorcycles parading up and down Main. It’s hard to say whether the motorcyclists were here because Kent boasts not one but two local bookstores, plus a public library that has almost weekly book sales out front, or because of the various art galleries around town. Maybe some had a sweet tooth and were here to visit Belgique, a high-end chocolate shop. Then again, they may have stopped for an espresso at Kent Coffee & Chocolate Company. Here one can indulge in homemade chocolate and a fresh brewed cup of joe after taking a scenic drive by some of the pastures, parks, and streams within the town’s roughly 50 square miles.

 

Bull’s Bridge

 

    It doesn’t get more New England-y than this covered bridge on the way in to town from the south. Several parking spaces on both ends allow visitors a chance to get a good look at the bridge and the waterfalls cascading through a small gorge. Our late summer visit came during a prolonged dry spell and the water level was low, but serious whitewater during the spring brings out the expert kayakers from hundreds of miles. Hiking and fishing are nearby, but use extreme caution and stay away from the river's edge when it's raging.

 

Kent Falls

 

    This series of cascading falls drops 250 feet in about a quarter mile before joining up with the Housatonic River. Several shallow “potholes” have been worn into the limerock of the lower falls, creating perfect bathing pools. When we arrived at the park, clouds of blue barbeque smoke drifted over an intense game of volleyball taking place on the lawn. Clusters of children splashed and played and marveled at the tiny fish as parents sat on the nearby rocks. A well maintained but steep trail brings you to the top, with several scenic outlook points along the way.

 

Macedonia Brook State Park

 

    Take a hike or fly fish in the stream that runs the length of the park. Lots of grills for picnicking, plenty of walking trails and designated camp areas. A seven mile trail loops the entire park, and goes up Cobble hill. It’s short but steep. At the top you’ll be rewarded with broad views of the Catskills. Find more info about these scenic spots at berkshirehiking.com.

 

Gourmet snacking

 

    Main Street is dotted with cafes and restaurants. We sampled several during our afternoon. We grabbed a turkey BLT, a quinoa salad with dried fruit, a couple of drinks, a freshly made macaroon and a chocolate chip cookie for $20 at J.P. Gifford Market and Catering, at 12 North Main St. Other offerings included grilled salmon, free-range routtiserrie chicken, and organic salads. It’s set up with no-nonsense tables and chairs, indoors and out. Be advised they close up at 3pm on Sundays.

 

    We felt obligated to try Belgique, the local chocolatier (1 Bridge St., corner of Routes 7 & 341). Among the confections offered here are beautiful-looking individual mousses. Chocolates are $45 a pound. Because dinner time was not far off, we elected to stick with lighter fare. A large dish with both sorbets of the day, pineapple and cantaloupe, was deliciously flavored if a tad on the sweet side. The chocolate ice cream was good, too, though I was supposed to get an iced Belgian chocolate. We did splurge on two pieces of dark chocolate—a solid in the shape of a piano and a heart filled with raspberry. Excellent, though perhaps cantaloupe sorbet is not the proper accompaniment. The large sorbet, small ice cream, and two chocolates set us back $15. Closed Monday through Wednesday.

    
    Kent Coffee and Chocolate, at 8 Main St., also sells homemade chocolate along with choice coffees and teas, but we had no more room for testing. (See “Steppin’ Out” for a review of Doc’s Trattoria at 9 Maple St.)

Don't forget to visit the Kent art galleries too!

Categories: Cool Places * Hot Trips

Tags: Kent CT.,travel,restaurants,music

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