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A Tank Away

Washington, Conn.: Quaint lodging, upscale dining


By Ellen Albanese

 |  Globe Correspondent  

  November 27, 2012

When this bucolic town in Connecticut’s northwest corner incorporated in 1779, it was named for George Washington, who is said to have traveled through it many times during the Revolution. Made up of five villages — Washington, Washington Depot, Marble Dale, New Preston, and Woodville — it exudes a sense of history, with white-steepled churches, restored Colonial homes and barns, and old-fashioned village greens. It also exudes a sense of Yankee affluence with exclusive private schools, high-end purveyors of art and antiques, and downtown shoppers outfitted in Harris tweed or equestrian attire.


After her children were grown, Regine Laverge-Schade couldn’t bear the thought of giving up the gorgeous Dutch Colonial mansion she built 30 years ago. So she turned it into an elegant bed-and-breakfast called Hidden Valley (226 Bee Road, Washington Depot, 860-868-9401,, $235-$280), where guests enjoy panoramic views of the Hidden Valley conservation area and hearty breakfasts featuring the bounty of local farms. Be prepared to leave technology behind, however; we had no cellphone reception, and the wireless connection was spotty at best. The Hopkins Inn (22 Hopkins Road, Warren, 860-868-7295,, $120-$150), on the New Preston line, is a stately, comfortable country inn overlooking Lake Waramaug and next door to a winery. Franz and Beth Schober have owned and operated the inn for 35 years. One of New England’s most exclusive accommodations, the Mayflower Inn & Spa (118 Woodbury Road, Washington, 860-868-9466,, rooms $675-$975, suites $1,300-$1,750) sits on 58 private acres. The Relais & Chateaux country-house hotel, built in 1894, has 30 guest rooms and suites appointed with 18th- and 19th-century antiques, along with a spa, restaurant, tennis court, and outdoor heated pool.


I wasn’t looking for kitchen ware when we sat down for lunch at The Pantry (5 Titus Road, Washington Depot, 860-868-0258, $11-$24), where tables are scattered throughout a retail kitchen store. But by the time I’d finished my plate of homemade bread, Stilton cheese, and fruit, I was pretty sure I couldn’t grill another steak without the nifty Steak Button thermometers set tantalizingly on a shelf at eye level. Owner Michael Ackerman started out here as a waiter in 1981, then bought the place with his wife, Nancy, in 1986, and smartly didn’t change a thing. Sink into comfortable upholstered furniture while you enjoy breakfast, lunch, or just coffee and pastries at Marty’s Cafe (4 Green Hill Road, Washington Depot, 860-868-1700,, $5-$11). The work of local artists decorates the walls. We have to think the weekend prime-rib special at White Horse Country Pub and Restaurant (258 New Milford Turnpike, Marble Dale, 860-868-1496,, $6.50-$19.50) is pretty good, since it was gone when we tried to order it at 7:30 on a Saturday night. White Horse is a big, busy, noisy place with a menu that transcends the usual pub fare, including salmon baked in parchment, Indian specialties such as vegetable korma, and an intriguing selection of custardy, rum-infused, and toffee-sauced British desserts. Austrian fare is the specialty at Hopkins Inn (see Stay; lunch $14.75-$19.75, dinner $21.25-$27.75); nearly every dish comes with the signature rösti potatoes, a cross between potato pancakes and hash browns. Oliva (18 East Shore Road, New Preston, 860-868-1787,, dinner $14.95-$28.75) serves Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, with outside terrace seating in season.


Hidden deep in the woods of this woodsy town is the Institute for American Indian Studies (38 Curtis Road, Washington, 860-868-0518,, adults $5, children $3), a museum and research center dedicated to the study of indigenous peoples throughout the Western Hemisphere, particularly those of the eastern woodlands. We were intrigued to learn that the faces on the life-size mannequins in the primary exhibit, “Quinnetukut: Our Homeland,’’ were made from photographs of local indigenous people. Outside there’s a simulated archeological site, gardens, a replicated 16th-century Algonkian Village, and four signed nature trails. Browsing is encouraged (and comfortable wing-chairs are provided) at Hickory Stick Bookshop (2 Green Hill Road, Washington Depot, 860-868-0525,, Litchfield County’s largest independent bookstore, open for more than 60 years. It offers an extensive children’s collection and a good assortment of gifts. Hopkins Vineyard (25 Hopkins Road, Warren, 860-868-7954, offers tastings ($7.50 per person) and sales of award-winning estate wines. Celebrating its 60th year, the Washington Art Association (4 Bryan Plaza, Washington Depot, 860-868-2878, displays the work of established and emerging artists from all over the world. Through Dec. 23, its Holiday Gift Boutique will feature products from local artists, artisans, and craftspeople. The 974-acre Steep Rock Preserve (2 Tunnel Road, Washington Depot, offers hiking trails that follow the Shepaug River. There are dozens of unmarked trails, in addition to two main blazed trails, Pinney Loop (1.7 miles) and Steep Rock Loop (4.2 miles).


Catch live music on Saturday nights at G.W. Tavern (20 Bee Brook Road, Washington Depot, 860-868-6633,, which also serves a full menu, in a made-to-look-old building overlooking the Shepaug River. Styles range from jazz to rock to acoustic. Another spot for live music on Saturday evenings is the Litchfield Saltwater Grille (26 Commons Drive, 860-567-4900, in nearby Litchfield.

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