New Haven: Center of Culture and Cuisine in Connecticut
By Esha Samajpati
Dropping temperature and cloudy skies on a mid-May weekend does not come as a surprise to most of us in New England. Given that soaking up the sun seemed impossible, my husband Pinaki and I decided to soak up the culture and cuisine of New Haven, located in Southern Connecticut on the northern shore of Long Island Sound.
When we think of New Haven, the first thing that comes to our mind is Yale University. Rightfully called “the most beautiful urban campus in America,” the architectural style of its courtyards, arches and towers range from New England Colonial to High Victorian Gothic, from Moorish Revival to Contemporary.
Walking by the majestic buildings I felt close to its glorious past and its present-day quest for knowledge. Guiding generations of bright young minds, the buildings of this Ivy League university stand tall and proud.
It is named after Elihu Yale, a Welsh merchant and the benefactor of the University who had made his fortune trading diamonds in Madras (now Chennai), India. This piece of information was provided to us in the Hall of Minerals, Earth and Space of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, our first stop.
Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
Standing beneath the massive 7,350-pound bronze sculpture of a torosaurus in the front lawn of the museum, I visualized a time on earth when they ran free and wild.
Wanting to see more, we walked in and were greeted by a giant Brontosaurus skeleton in the Great Hall of Dinosaurs and various other fossils.
If cold and slimy is not your thing, I would advise against patting the replicated dinosaur skin put on display with a sign urging unsuspecting visitors such as myself to touch and feel.
Thankfully, I was diverted by a stunning mural occupying the full length of the east wall. It was created by Rudolph Zallinger and aptly called “The Age of Reptiles.” Each step revealed a different time in history.
The exhibitions included Daily Life in Ancient Egypt, Native American Culture, Mammalian Evolution, Birds of Connecticut and The Hall of Minerals, Earth and Space.
Considered masterpieces in the world of museums, the Yale Peabody Museum’s Dioramas are incredibly lifelike and try as we might, it was impossible to determine when the fore-ground became background.
We were not surprised to learn that this museum ranks in the top dozen natural history museums in the western world considering the size and breadth of its collections. Admission fee is $7 for an adult. Detailed information on hours and exhibits can be found at the museum website.
Yale University Art Gallery
Our next stop was the first modernist structure at Yale, designed by the famous American architect, Louis Kahn. It has a wide collection of art, coins and sculptures from all over the world. Luckily for us, the Picasso and the Allure of Language exhibition was going on. The collection studied the effect of language on Pablo Picasso’s work and his relationship with various writers. Admission is free. For details regarding current exhibitions and hours, please click on the artgallery.yale.edu.
Yale Center for British Art
Located close to the art gallery mentioned above, this is another architectural marvel by Louis Kahn and is said to house the largest and most comprehensive collection of British art outside the United Kingdom. And yet again, admission is free. For more detailed information, please visit ycba.yale.edu.
Yale Repertory Theatre
Though we didn’t have time to catch a show, here’s something on the Yale Repertory productions. Eleven of them have made their way into Broadway, more than 40 have received Tony Award nominations and eight of those have won the prestigious Tony Awards.
Yale Repertory itself is the recipient of the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. To know more about current plays and ticket information, please visit their website
The theater is situated across the street from the Yale Art Gallery and is adjacent to Scoozzi, an Italian restaurant of repute which brings us to the eclectic food scene of New Haven.
Considering the size of the city, the number of restaurants in New Haven is unbelievably high and the cuisines offered distinctly diverse, so much so that we had been advised by many that the food is a good enough reason to visit the city.
The following list gives a pretty good idea of the options available. Apart from the usual hours and directions, the links can be used for making reservations. Here I should warn all weekend revelers that some of the restaurants listed below are closed on Sundays.
Scoozzi Trattoria and Wine Bar for Italian, Ibiza for Spanish, Thali for Indian, Bentara for Malaysian, Union League Cafe for French, Bespoke for International, Zinc for Modern American, Miso for Japanese and Pacifico for Nuevo Latino.
After hours of walking and browsing, we were ready for some Latino fare. So we stepped into Pacifico. Cheerful décor, pleasant staff and a wide selection of dishes welcomed us. If you order the guacamole dip while waiting, don’t be surprised if fresh avocados are crushed right in front of you in a stone bowl.
My grilled Yellow Fin Tuna arrived on a bed of red quinoa, arugula, sweet plantain and shiitake mushroom salad resting in a pool of saffron-basil-mojito sauce. The fish had the right temperature and the presentation was impeccable, as could be expected from the house of celebrity chef Rafael Palomino.
My husband opted for the grilled Chino Latino Boneless Chicken topped with cilantro pesto and surrounded with fingerling potatoes, chorizo, tomato and zucchini hash.
Not-so-fast Fast Food
But New Haven is not all about fancy food either. It is famous for being home to the best in pizzas and hamburgers. You can have your pick from Pepe’s (The Original Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletan) or Sally’s Apizza, each of which have been touted as America’s best at one time or other.
But don’t attempt a visit if you are in a rush… waiting is a part of New Haven’s pizza tradition. If you are into the thin crust variety, drop in at Sally’s but carry enough cash. They don’t accept credit cards and are closed on Mondays.
Though debated widely, Louis’ Lunch, relocated on Crown Street, is considered to be the birthplace of the hamburger. Waiting is mandatory as each patty is broiled vertically in the original cast iron grill like in the olden days. Also, credit cards are not accepted and the place is closed on Sundays and Mondays. I found the hours for the rest of the week to be quite erratic so please check the link given above before going.
Leaving New Haven
As is common with most cities with college campuses, New Haven displays a subtle blend of sophistication, culture and world cuisine. Shops, galleries, theatre, concerts, symphonies and a bustling night-life keep the city alive while history gives it character.
It is difficult to leave such a spirited city without promising to go back for more. And go back I will.
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