“Passion, love, and innovation fuel our vision to bring a full spectrum experience to our guests. We value the foundation of French Technique with a modern approach to classic American Cuisine” – The Essex
The Essex is a modern American restaurant where the culinary delights are simple yet sophisticated. Located just a couple of hours north of New York City in the historic and charming town of Essex, Chef Colt Taylor is preparing the finest farm to table cuisine.
Colt Taylor has had a passion for cooking from the very young age of 13, working at local dining establishments in his hometown of Essex, Connecticut. Colt went onto college and was ready to head to med school at John Hopkins, but soon realized that his heart and passion were in the culinary world, so he set out for The Culinary Institute of America. After which he traveled throughout Europe perfecting his culinary techniques and style. He returned stateside where he has worked for some of the most esteemed restaurants in the United States (Babbo, One If By Land Two If By Sea, Gotham, Le Bernardin).
With many culinary accolades to his credit, Colt decided to return home to Essex, Connecticut. In 2017 he opened The Essex in the heart of town. Essex is a cool little New England town with a lot of charm and rich history – an all American colonial town at its finest.
Colt is not just a chef but a culinary artist. His plates are carefully crafted to present the diner with aesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory pleasures. Due to his time at Gotham and Le Bernardin, his menu is globally inspired yet has an Asian flair through his techniques and ingredients.
At The Essex, the tasting menu is designed to give guests a true sense of what makes Connecticut unique, with a focus on New England cuisine. The Essex is not your traditional New England cuisine the way our forefather did clam chowder and fish and chips. Rather Colt looks at the local micro-ecosystems of the land around him and tries to tell a story with each bite, giving you a snapshot in time of the given terroir of Connecticut.
At The Essex, they are fully sustainable, with everything prepared from scratch. All the dishes are made in house with careful attention to the environment, the season, and availability of locally sourced ingredients.
Colt Taylor is also the creative force behind The Essex. The Essex’s is housed in a beautiful Victorian-style mansion. What is unique about the mansion is that it is home to two restaurants(The Essex and Los Charros) and a newly opened lounge (The Coco Club). All three spaces offer a different vibe and unique experiences. The main dining room of The Essex is intimate and centered around a cozy fireplace. The space is open, inviting, and elegant with some of the artwork designed by Colt’s talented mother.
The Essex is modern American cuisine at its finest. The menu is well thought out with rich flavors, textures, and aromas. The cuisine at The Essex is classic yet it is also innovative and immensely satisfying.
The Tasting Menu
The Essex’s seven-course tasting menu is the best way to get the full experience that Colt is showcasing. Be sure to accompany the tasting menu with the recommended wine pairings. Colt’s dedication and passion exuded every time he presented his dish. The tasting menu is classic American with a modern flair.
Below is a sampling of a few dishes from the fall seven-course tasting menu.
We started with “The Seashore”, which is a dish inspired by native corn. The corn is prepared in three ways. Colt describes native corn as having a short season in Connecticut. The corn is white to deep yellow and grows near saltwater, so it has absorbed minerality and has a sweet and savory backdrop. The Seashore is prepared with a native corn custard on the bottom, with corn espuma and freeze-dried native corn topped off for finishing. Within the dish are Long Island Sound and Coastal Connecticut shellfish, mussels, scallops, clams, and crispy oysters. The Seashore is one of my favorites from the tasting menu, as it was so unexpectedly light and airy with an abundance of textures.
Tomatoes are the backdrop for this next dish – “The Garden”. The fresh farmers’ cheese for this salad is made in house from Arethusa milk. The milk comes from a beautiful dairy farm in Connecticut, Arethusa Farm. Heirloom cherry tomatoes, as well as compressed watermelon, make the base of the salad. Unique flavors are incorporated as the yellow watermelon is rubbed in walnut oil. Colt finishes the dish with tomato water vinegar and basil granita. The vibrancy of the colors and the freshness of this dish were astonishingly delicious.
“The Lobster Pot” is all about the ocean. The sauce is comprised of fennel, anise, and dry vermouth that is reduced down, and then finished with a clam mussel reduction. It is topped with butter-poached lobster and phytoplanktons, that gives the dish a nice crunch and a hint of nuttiness.
The last dish before dessert was “The Dairy Farm”. It is a tribute to the backbone of Connecticut which is its dairy farms. Prepared with 9-year Holstein dairy beef, the cow is braised in milk and smoked in the hay that the cow eats. Then finished over a grass mousse with wild forage purslane, with smoked hay streusel. This dish is so focused with great attention to the smallest details. The aromas and flavor combinations were incredible and memorable.
In the end, we all chomped away at each of the seven courses with lots of oohh’s & aahh’s and accolades. Not one of the plates let us down. Colt Taylor has put in tremendous thought into the cuisine and the experience. After each course, you will shake your head in admiration.
The Wine Program
Katey Walker has done an exceptional job with the wine program at The Essex. The wine list is fun and encompassing with unique and exceptional producers. Katey focuses on small artisanal winemakers from wine regions that are under the radar.
Be sure to experience the seven-course tasting menu to the fullest by adding the accompanying wine pairings. The wines are spot on and pair exquisitely with each course. Katey has bought in an element of fun with a bit of wine education with each pairing – some of the wines she presents are rare, unique and many are organic.
Come For The Experience
I highly recommend taking a day trip or a weekend away from NYC to dine at The Essex. If spending the weekend be sure to check out Colt’s authentic Mexican taqueria, Los Charro Cantina. Be sure to stop into their newly opened sexy speakeasy Coco Club for pre-dinner drinks or a post-dinner cocktail. Come experience The Essex and experience the destination.