Connecticut Muffin reaffirms New England’s place in the world of baked goods
It is gray and raining outside (what else is new) and I am drawn to a little storefront in New Canaan that sells muffins.
I love muffins. If I were the surgeon general of the United States, I would re-do the famous food pyramid and put muffins as the base layer, the cornerstone on which all other food rests.
Muffins are a Yankee wonder and I do not mean the baseball team. Our Connecticut forebears concocted an array of wonders out of the simplest ingredients: butter, flour, sugar and berries. People who live west of New York do not get it. They think desserts have to be decadent to be good. I have eaten muffins coast to coast (as well as grunts, pandowdies, Grape Nut pudding and other minimalist cousins of the dowdy muffin ) and believe only in New England are muffins made correctly.
I admit I was not overwhelmed walking into Connecticut Muffin, but that might have been a good thing. I have lost count of the times I ordered gigantic splendid- looking muffins only to take a bite and discover a bland “out of the box” cake mix taste.
So here I am looking at a rather small assortment of muffins that do not take my breath away. I order some anyway. Normal people order one, a food critic orders half a dozen. My choices were modest in size, rather like a cupcake, but the rain was coming down in sheets and two ladies sitting at one of the tables were content enjoying a vanilla latte and a couple of muffins.
I took their lead and ordered a good cappuccino, six muffins and after a hearty sip of coffee made a mad dash to my car. I reached into the bakery bag and blindly pinched off a corner of unknown muffin number one. It was the blueberry one (my favorite) and with one bite I snapped to attention. It was perfect, great berry-to-dough ratio, sweet enough to be a pastry but not sugary like a donut or cookie.
Again I reached blindly into the paper bag. Out came a hunk of the corn muffin. How delicious it was! At home, where no one but my dogs monitor my actions, I would have used half a stick of sweet butter on it, but I was not home and the muffin had to stand on its own. Again, I was pleasantly surprised. It was fine sans butter.
The other four I tried were lemon poppyseed, cranberry orange, morning glory and honey banana bran. By the time I arrived, the selection was small. I am sure many choice muffins had been snatched up by other hungry folks. I am looking forward to returning and trying walnut with banana, nutmeg pumpkin and jumbo blueberry corn.
If no one had told me that the blueberry apple muffin was low fat, I would never have known. Health foodies, order here with no fear. Non-health foodies, eat anything that looks good.
One other surprise were the yummy little loaf cakes I also took home. The size of a big brownie, the pumpkin spice loaf with cream cheese frosting was exceptional. One nice thing about being stuck inside a bakery in a rainstorm was that I had the time to notice more then muffins. There was a good-looking selection of scones from savory (cheddar cheese) to almond, blueberry and gingerbread. And then my eyes found the cookies. The cookies were the size of dinner plates. There was a choice of chocolate chip and ginger molasses. I ordered both. The ginger molasses was a soft cookie, the kind that bends but does not break. It had a wonderful autumnal taste and was worth the calories.
I was also able to snatch up the few remaining bagels that are delivered here from New York daily. They were the real McCoy, plump and still with a rubber bite to them. People have told me that the large array of cream cheeses, from scallion to strawberry, are worth looking into..
Connecticut Muffin is not a destination restaurant or one that you will be bragging about for the next five years, but it is a perfect independently owned storefront, a great place to wait out a rainstorm.
108 Main St., New Canaan
I saved the rest of the corn muffin for when I got home. With only my French bulldog, Cecil, to watch, I used half a stick of unsweetened Plugra French butter. I figured as a fellow Francophile, he would understand.
Jane Stern, a Ridgefield resident, co-authored the popular “Roadfood” guidebook series.