Butternut squash ravioli with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin seeds, spinach and sage brown butter. Incredible!
Published: Online by Unlocking Connecticut 2017
Fife ‘n Drum Restaurant, 53 Main Street, Kent, Connecticut
When you are hankering for: New American, eclectic, seasonal, comforting food. A restaurant steeped in history (family run and owned since 1973) serving up some classic favorites plus specialties that you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else around here. When you want to sit by the fire and have the best Caesar salad or Filet au Poivre made for you tableside. Also, for those who like to choose from an extensive wine list (28 pages and they have made the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence every year since 1992).
The Fife ‘n Drum is a beloved Kent institution. The ambiance feels like a hug from a loved one – it’s so darn cozy. The perfect place to go after an afternoon of shopping in Kent on a cold, frosty day! We loved every moment of our 20-course meal…
Keeping it in the family…
We had the pleasure of talking to Elissa Potts about her memories of the Fife ‘n Drum when it was first opened by her parents Dolph and Audrey Traymon back when Kent was a sleepy little town. In 1973, when Dolph and Audrey decided to move from Long Island out to Kent to open a fine dining restaurant – some thought they were not thinking straight!
Dolph Traymon, an accomplished musician and accompanist, and Audrey wanted to open a restaurant of their own; a place where they could offer fine dining and Dolph could continue to play the piano for his customers. Kent was a town that Audrey knew of from visiting when she worked for a greeting card company. She loved it, so there is where they chose to open The Fife ‘n Drum, January 20, 1973 (Read the whole story here).
Elissa spent a summer out of college helping her parents run the restaurant and got the bug, becoming the manager in 1997. She spoke fondly of some of the early day struggles, triumphs, and stories of how her dad would never ever, not finish a song – even if somebody was waiting for a bottle of fine wine that only he knew where it was stashed.
We were truly heartbroken to hear that Dolph Traymon passed away shortly after our visit with Elissa, and we pass on our deepest condolences. The Litchfield County community will feel his loss, he was known and loved by many in town and far beyond.
December is like a box of antique Christmas tree ornaments. Open it and there, wrapped in the tissue of time, are the dear, familiar memories. If the sky-blue spun glass bird has lost some of its shimmer, haven’t we all? It’s just so good to see it again. And the tiny red sled. And the bunch of grapes with silvery stuff that’s supposed to be frost. No picture perfect new ornament can compare.
Old restaurants are like that. We think of them in December when we call up the past. Are they still there? Alas, most have melted away. But some remain. What are they like now? What if we resisted the Lorelei’s call of newness and revisited restaurants that have been around for more than 20 years. On impulse, we open the nostalgia box.
If our recent visit to the Fife’n Drum were a play, the cast of characters would read as follows: A restaurant critic and her omnivorous companion; a young couple who, after years of living abroad, have returned to restore an old house and barn in the bucolic environs of New Milford; their son, a boy of 8, who has been added to the party at the last minute because a babysitter was unavailable; a hostess who exudes the competence and confidence of a good mother; a waiter from Croatia; and a piano player, who (unbeknownst to us) has owned the Fife ‘n Drum for 27 years. The curtain rises. We are in a vestibule between two dining rooms, each of which can be glimpsed through a doorway (left), and a second doorway (right). Background sounds: Dining babble and piano music.
The first thing that catches my eye is a Connecticut Magazine restaurant review dated 1973. Stars weren’t awarded in those days but I quickly ascertain that the reviewer liked the “fabulous food and piano music, too.”
Hostess enters through doorway (left) and gestures for us to follow her through doorway (right). But I have glimpsed a pianist in a black bow tie tickling the ivories in the dining room to the left. I tell my group to stay put and go after the hostess. When I catch up to her, I say, “We were hoping for a table in the room with the piano.” “What do you call that?” she asks, pointing to a grand piano in front of us. She delivers the line with the benevolent smile of a fairy godmother in the top echelon of the wish-fulfillment business. And even as we speak, the pianist arrives, sits down and begins to play.
And so things go from this moment on. We are ushered to a table set for four. Oh dear, we’d made a reservation for four and now we are five. And it’s Saturday night. Not an empty table in sight. Again our godmother smiles. Another chair, another place setting materializes. The table is crowded but the staff makes do, unfailingly obliging although our fixation on labor intensive dishes, tableside preparations and sharing must seem obsessive if not persecutive.
But our big, bold waiter (who tells us he is from Croatia, where the sea water is clear as glass) Flambees Duck, Flambees Lamb, Flambees Filet Mignon au Poivre with enthusiasm that borders on glee.
No timid two-inch flicker of flame for him. To the delight of our 8-year-old guest, big bold blazes of yellow flame leap up with a satisfying whoosh, and die down instantly at their master’s command.
But long before this, we begin to feel coddled. The menu is long and there are lots of Specials, so in order to allay starvation while we deliberate, we ask for some calamari right away. Presto, Fried Calamari breaded with pesto and parmesan arrives. Don’t tell me kids eat only burgers and pizza. This kid consumes the lion’s share of a small mountain of feathery light rings and squiggles of fried squid breaded with pesto. “I like pesto,” he says. I do, too, and am amazed how it perks up calamari.
The wine list proffers another pleasant surprise. On a trip to New Zealand, our friends encountered a sauvignon blanc called, Cloudy Bay. They are delighted to find it at the Fife ‘n Drum by the bottle ($46) and by the glass ($12). The Fife ‘n Drum offers lovely wines for less but we have to have Cloudy Bay, which lives up to its reputation if not its name. It is as gloriously crisp and bright as a cloudless day. I am reminded that you don’t have to go to the most expensive restaurant in the world to find a good cellar. The Fife ‘n Drum’s wine collection includes some 500 selections and the restaurant has received an Award of Excellence from The Wine Spectator every year since 1992.
As for the Fife ‘n Drum, a restaurant doesn’t become a legend without maintaining a perfect balance between the old and the new. Without fanfare or drumroll, and apparently with the greatest of ease, this jolly place has been doing so for 27 years. (now 45!)