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When you think about Connecticut, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t gastronomy. The Puritans perhaps, or Yale University. Fans of the writer Patrick O’Brian may, however, recall the wonderful scene from his 1979 novel “The Fortunes of War,” involving the garrulous Frenchman Pontet-Canet. The time is the War of 1812, and Pontet-Canet is in reality a French spy. But in his guise as a Rousseauian naif, all-around windbag, and effete epicurean, Pontet-Canet is moved to remember a gastronomic experience par excellence: “I myself was in the Connecticut, in the back grounds of the state, hunting savage turkeys with a veritable American farmer, and he held me the following discourse: ‘In me, my dear sir, you see a happy man, if such is to be found under the Heaven. Everything you see about you comes from my own land. … The taxes here are almost nothing, and so long as they are paid we can sleep on both ears.’ There is Arcadian simplicity, hein?” Pontet-Canet not only bagged his turkeys, but some gray squirrels as well. The turkeys he roasted. The gray squirrels, though, the fastidious gastronome cooked in madeira. Pontet-Canet’s tale would be recognizable to readers of the French gastronome Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, author of “La Physiologie du Gout,” who, during the Revolutionary War, sojourned in Connecticut, where he cooked — what else? — squirrels in madeira. You won’t find that on the menus of Connecticut’s best restaurants. But then again, if “Arcadian simplicity” is what you’re looking for in the food line, you’d also best search elsewhere. The top culinary scene in Connecticut today is more French than American, more complex than simple. Brillat-Savarin would no doubt feel right at home. WHAT THE RATINGS MEAN The Zagat ratings are based on a 0- to-30- point scale and are for Food, Decor, and Service, in that order. The fourth column, Cost, reflects the estimated price of a dinner with one drink and tip. Lunch usually costs 25 percent less. 0-9 Poor to Fair 10-15 Fair to Good 16-19 Good to Very Good 20-25 Very Good to Excellent 26-30 Extraordinary to Perfection THOMAS HENKELMANN 27 26 25 $52 Homestead Inn, 420 Field Point Rd. (between Bush Ave. and Horseneck Lane), Greenwich, Conn., 203-869-7500 This romantic “Victorian jewel” in Greenwich gained top marks as the state’s most popular restaurant in the latest Zagat’s survey. Chef-owner Thomas Henkelmann’s classically French cooking consistently receives rave reviews. JEAN-LOUIS 27 23 26 $59 61 Lewis St. (between Greenwich Ave. and Mason St.), Greenwich, Conn., 203-622-8450 If you can’t get to Paris, chef-owner Jean-Louis Gerin’s elegant, cosmopolitan French cuisine awaits just off Greenwich Avenue. Diners with deep pockets call it “Lutece North,” and even those who find the service somewhat intimidating admit that the cooking is first-rate. THE MAYFLOWER INN 25 28 25 $52 Mayflower Inn, 118 Woodbury Rd./Route 47 (at Route 199), Washington, Conn., 860-868-9466 Regulars report that “Rolls-Royces abound” on the grounds of this Litchfield County classic. Its handsome layout reminds some of “an English lord’s country estate.” The superb New England-style menu is matched by a first-class wine list. True sybarites should consider an overnight stay in the inn. STONEHENGE 25 26 25 $51 Stonehenge Inn, 35 Stonehenge Rd. (at Route 7), Ridgefield, Conn., 203-438-6511 Admirers claim they’re rendered “speechless” by the incredible lakeside vistas, fabulous Continental cuisine, and elegant service at this Ridgefield countryside inn, which has been charming the cognoscenti since 1946. RESTAURANT DU VILLAGE 28 25 26 $48 59 Main St. (at Maple St.), Chester, Conn., 860-526-5301 This charming, chef-owned storefront classic was the number-one-rated Connecticut restaurant in this year’s Zagat’s survey for its food. Devotees rave over the care that goes into each course. (Even the bread is said to be “unforgettable.”) A lovely setting and stellar service make this a must-visit. UNION LEAGUE CAF� 24 25 23 $37 1032 Chapel St. (between Crown and High Sts.), New Haven, Conn., 203-562-4299 French bistro food, including some magnificent soups and amazing desserts — not to mention a fine wine list — is the draw at this downtown historic location that’s widely considered to be New Haven’s most elegant restaurant. Be sure to try to get a seat near the roaring fireplace. STEVE’S CENTERBROOK 26 22 24 $38 78 Main St./Route 80 (at Route 154), Centerbrook, Conn., 860-767-1277 Devotees heap praise on Steve Wilkinson for his creative New American cooking. Some even call him “the best chef-host on the East Coast.” The pretty setting for his restaurant is a friendly old home at the side of the road in Centerbrook. (Frugal eaters take note: The prices here make this one of the best deals in the Valley.) FRANK PEPE PIZZERIA 26 13 15 $16 157 Wooster St. (between Brown and Olive Sts.), New Haven, Conn., 203-865-5762 So Pepe’s doesn’t get high marks for decor or service — so what? Vogue magazine food critic (and Harvard Law graduate) Jeffrey Steingarten considers Pepe’s to be the best pizzeria in America. Generations of Yalies would agree. The wait can be long, but once you get a whiff of one of those white clam pies …

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