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A Tank Away

A cozy getaway spot for couples

Pastoral town offers both homespun and high-end delights

With two guest rooms and a shared bath and parlor, Hickory Hill Bed & Breakfast is the newest of Pomfret’s many B&B lodgings. With two guest rooms and a shared bath and parlor, Hickory Hill Bed & Breakfast is the newest of Pomfret’s many B&B lodgings. (Ellen Albanese for The Boston Globe)
By Ellen Albanese
Globe Correspondent / January 5, 2011

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POMFRET, Conn. - There is more to this bucolic town bisected by scenic Route 169 than meets the eye. A winery surprises with a high-end restaurant. A homespun cafe regularly hosts folk music celebrities. And gift shops double as art galleries. Add an abundance of cozy bed-and-breakfasts, and Pomfret makes a great destination for couples.

STAY The town’s newest B&B is Hickory Hill (253 Mashamoquet Road, 860-963-0306, www.hickoryhillbandb.com, $125-$130). The circa 1793 white-pillared home offers two guest rooms with a shared bath and a parlor. The property around the Inn at Fox Hill Farm (760 Pomfret St., 860-928-5240, www.innatfoxhillfarm.com, $215) has been in innkeeper Polly LoPiccolo’s family since 1707. The single accommodation is a country cottage, but renovations will begin in spring on a farmhouse that will become a five-room inn, said innkeeper Nick LoPiccolo. Feather Hill Bed and Breakfast (151 Mashamoquet Road, 860-963-0522, www.featherhillbedandbreakfast.com, $135-$190, cottage $245) has five guest rooms in the main house, all with private baths, and a cottage that sleeps four. Set on eight acres, the inn offers a swimming pool and walking trails.

DINE The Vanilla Bean Café (corner of routes 44, 97, and 169, 860-928-1562, www.thevanillabeancafe.com, breakfast $2-$10, lunch $5-$10.50, dinner $13-$18), located in a restored early 19th-century barn, is a town landmark, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. There’s always a vegetarian selection, and the cafe also focuses on local seafood. Chili is popular, and many of the mouth-watering desserts in the pastry case are made in house.

For a romantic night out in a historic venue, try the Harvest Restaurant (37 Putnam Road, 860-928-0008, www.harvestrestaurant.com, lunch $7-$20, dinner $15-$34). Housed in the historic Samuel Grosvenor house, the restaurant specializes in steaks, with a variety of gourmet sauces and accompaniments.

Lunch or dinner is a treat at the Fireside Tavern at Sharpe Hill Vineyard (108 Wade Road, 860-974-3549, www.sharpehill.com, entrees $24-$40). On the second floor of a Colonial reproduction barn with a central fireplace, tables are set with white linens and sparkling stemware, and every piece of silver gleams. Entrees are wood grilled and served with copious amounts of fresh herbs; on our plates of spicy Jamaican chicken and grilled lobster, we identified fresh rosemary, dill, tarragon, and mint (in summer and fall these herbs, and most vegetables, come from the gardens on site).

DURING THE DAY Sharpe Hill Vineyard (tastings $5 and $10) is one of the oldest and loveliest wineries in the state. You can sip wine in the rustic tasting room, decorated with owner Catherine Vollweiler’s collection of historic brownware, or sit in the eye-popping “monkey room,’’ with its black-and-white checkerboard floor and parasol-wielding monkey lamps. The beautiful, historical property includes a brick-red 1750 house, striking “stake and rider’’ wood fences, and a gourmet restaurant.

The Connecticut Audubon Society Center in Pomfret (189 Pomfret St., 860-928-4948, www.ctaudubon.org) just opened a new information kiosk and parking center in the old railroad station affording access to the Air Line Rail Trail, so named because it follows the rail bed of a high-speed train that ran from Boston to New York in the mid-1800s. In June the new Grasslands Bird Conservation Center in the heart of the sanctuary will replace the tiny visitors center on Route 169, said Sarah Heminway, director of programs in the state’s northeast corner. Visitors can walk or bicycle the trails or participate in guided walks to spot specific species of wildlife. We joined Andy Rzeznikiewicz for an owl walk and were treated to the sight of a regal screech owl illuminated by the naturalist’s spot light. At the visitors center, David Stumpo’s watercolors are on display through this weekend. An exhibit of wildlife and landscape photography by Don Taylor opens Jan. 15.

Pomfret’s high-end shops make for entertaining window shopping. Hazelwood (12 Putnam Road, 860-928-5888, www.hazelwoodgallery.com) showcases American crafts, a genre owner and weaver Camille Benjamin believes is getting some long-overdue recognition. Celebrations Gallery & Shoppes (330 Pomfret St., 860-928-5492, www.celebrationsshoppes.com) displays the work of more than 50 local artists and artisans in an 1885 Queen Anne Victorian. Its new octagon-shaped tea room offers monthly themed teas; on Jan. 13 and 15 white teas will be featured. Hand-painted Italian ceramics fill the barn at Majilly (56 Babbitt Hill Road, 860-974-3714, www.majilly.com). Michelle King, who bought Martha’s Herbary (589 Pomfret St., 860-928-0009, www.marthasherbary.com) just over a year ago said she plans to expand the selection of organic and fair-trade clothing and offer more cooking classes.

AFTER DARK The Vanilla Bean Café hosts folk singers from across the country. This weekend’s performances include open-mike with Shawn Taylor on Friday at 7:30 p.m., Chris Smither on Saturday at 8 p.m., and Keith Munslow in a children’s show on Sunday at 4 p.m.

Ellen Albanese can be reached at ellen.albanese@gmail.com.