Southport wears its wealth casually. Less famous than neighbor Westport, the Fairfield enclave nonetheless entices with intriguing shops and galleries; the allowing-you-to-exhale Delamar Southport hotel and spa; and spacious, gracious homes along winding roads that cascade to a creamy coastline.
It was to Southport that we repaired recently for what turned out to be the best kind of busman’s holiday — a VIP press weekend designed to show off Delamar Southport and celebrate Earth Day.
Frankly, we’d be happy to celebrate Groundhog Day, Sadie Hawkins Day, whatever. But the thought of spending Earth Day, April 22, in our favorite month on a junket organized by Lisa Johnson of Johnson Media Relations & Development, who treats you like a guest and a friend rather than a reporter — well, how could we resist?
So up we sped I-95 — or at least we sped up I-95 as much as you can on a warm-weather weekend — to a tiny community (some 4,300 people in about three square miles) that is steeped in Federal and Greek Revival architecture and nautical history, which you can research at the Pequot Library.
Our first stop after we wound through town was the beach, where the sight of a sparkling sea and milky sands, along with the nostrils-twitching tang of salt air, had both a calming and exhilarating effect that whetted the appetite.
Speaking of appetites, we sated ours at the salad bar at the Spic & Span Market, whose parking lot was the setting for a scene in the 2008 domestic tragedy “Revolutionary Road,” starring “Titanic” lovers Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. (That scene was cut from the film, but another at the beach made it into the movie.)
After that, we toured the “Sea + Glass” exhibit at Southport Galleries, where the blue-green palette and nuanced textures of Ruth Hamill’s encaustic paintings and Maryann Schmidt’s hyper-realistic work echoed the not-too-distant Long Island Sound.
Then it was time to check into Delamar Southport, which is the cozy, country yin to Delamar Greenwich Harbor’s cosmopolitan, coastal yang. In our cheery yellow room, Lisa had left welcoming treats — a split of Chianti and chocolate truffles. But perhaps none was more inviting than the queen-size bed with its embroidered pillows. Maybe we’d lie down just for a minute before the afternoon’s main event, OK, maybe 20 minutes….
But we couldn’t sleep, anticipating our visit to Red Bee Honey in nearby Weston. In her sloping backyard, graphic artist-turned-beekeeper Carla Marina Marchese, called Marina, asked us if we wanted to peer into the hives, which were, shall we say, a bit active that afternoon. When one of the two men in our party found a bee nestled in his longish hair, Marina rescued him by corralling it with a hairclip. Another skittish gentleman was curious about the power struggles that might ensue when the queen bee dies, conjuring images of the apiary as “Dallas” or “Dynasty” or even an old Joan Crawford movie (“Queen Bee,” anyone?). This also led us to consider the sexual division of labor in the hives, with the females doing all the work and the males expiring after sex. Somehow this did not surprise the women in our group, who were generally less worried about “bee-ing” among the hives than our two male companions.
We were all on safer ground metaphorically inside Marina’s barn, or honey house, were she had prepared a tasting of honeys made from various flower nectars — including creamed honey with its finer crystals — spread out on a candlelit table with apple slices. We even tried our hand at cranking the extractor to draw honey from its spigot into little hexagonal glass jars as souvenirs. Then it was time for a sample right from the spigot. Had Zeus and Hera descended from Mount Olympus? Here truly was ambrosia of the gods.
With our bottles of liquid gold, we headed back to Delamar, where some of us had booked spa services while the rest chilled on the patio with wine, lattes and cranberry seltzers. Back in our room, we wrapped ourselves in a luxuriant Delamar bathrobe, took to bed and, not trusting ourselves to stay awake, turned on a great travel movie — “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” Smugly, we couldn’t help but think that reporter John Cusack wasn’t having half as good a time as we were, even amid Savannah’s lush gardens, a knowing Kevin Spacey and a hunky Jude Law.
Alas, we had to quit them to get dolled up for the main event — dinner in the presidential suite featuring Jackson Family Wines; the bounty of Easton’s Sport Hill Farm, owned by Patti Popp, whom we had met at Marina’s; and the magic of Frederic Kieffer, executive chef and managing partner of Artisan Restaurant, Tavern & Garden at Delamar Southport.
Among the highlights of the bee-inspired tasting menu were light, luscious whipped buffalo ricotta crudités, dressed with linden honey; Patti’s savory local lettuces, quinoa and blueberries, with a lime-raspberry blossom honey dressing; a delectable striped bass crudo garnished with avocado, radish, ginger essence and orange blossom honey; a satisfying pork croquette, with oven-roasted veggies and an alfalfa honey, Moscatel glaze; and chocolate-dipped honeycomb. Sommelier Luis Suarez, Connecticut district manager for Jackson Family Wines, was on hand to pair the repast with Galerie Sauvignon Blanc and Windracer Pinot Noir, along with honey-infused cocktails.
Four hours later, we floated back to our room. On the tube, Fred Astaire and Judy Garland were promenading in “Easter Parade.” Why not, we thought as we drifted off to sleep.
The next day was getaway day, but not before a big buffet breakfast of eggs, bacon, pastries, various melons, pineapple juice and more than one cup of one of the best decafs we’ve had.
Needing to work some of this off, we took a short walk into town, where it was hard to resist an oval, sailboat rug at the Fairfield Women’s Exchange, chic accessories at Walin & Wolff and the beadwork and charitable goodwill of Mama Jane’s Global Boutique, featured in June WAG.
But resist we did, for we were already laden with Delamar treats, honey, Patti’s fresh, crushed tomatoes and, most important, stories that you’ll find in these pages.
The weekend was a moveable feast — one that we will not soon forget.
For more, visit delamarsouthport.com.