It's been 8 years since my friends and I graduated from Yale, but in the way of many Yalies, in those eight years, one of us has been in New Haven in one way or another. This year will mark probably the last Yale-related graduation for us, when Romy graduates from the Yale School of Art with a master's in graphic design. A group of us in New York headed north on Saturday to see her graduating class show and incidentally, to eat some good New Haven food.
Danica offered to drive, citing a need to get back to New York early Sunday morning. As we drove on I-95, however, it became clear that she had other motives for choosing her parents' car over Metro North.
In our four years as undergraduates, we were sadly unaware of Stowe's, just a short drive away on the shore in West Haven. It's easy to forget that New Haven is a coastal city, but Stowe's makes it deliciously obvious. Danica is good at taking every opportunity possible to make up for lost time.
Stowe's has your classics, like fried clams and lobster bisque, but their crowning glory is the lobster saute roll, a version of the lobster roll that Connecticut can be proud to claim as its own.
Unlike the usual lobster roll with mayonnaise, celery, and often unknown filler, the Connecticut version is just lobster meat and butter. "Just" lobster meat is probably the grossest understatement. Served on a soft, New England-style split-top hot dog bun, and offered for only $9.50, Stowe's lobster saute roll is...sublime.
This wasn't our dinner. On our agenda: New Haven pizza.
The best New Haven pizza is a hotly debated topic, with most people arguing vehemently about Sally's versus Pepe's in Wooster Square. I prefer to avoid the long lines at both places, because no pizza is worth waiting 2+ hours for, especially when all the locals know you can get fantastic pizza at Modern on State Street. But a good downtown alternative is the pizza at BAR, which despite being kind of a cheesy place and not even the best of New Haven's pizza establishments, makes a chewy, flavorful crust that blows many a NY pizza legend out of the water. It's also the only place I've ever been that serves pizza with mashed potatoes and bacon. It's best to eat it on a "white" pie (no tomato sauce). Don't knock it till you try it.
One summer day long long ago, Danica and I ate an entire large pizza for lunch, while a table of four middle-aged men looked on us with a mixture of awe and respect. This time, we couldn't quite do it. Four of us ended up leaving almost third of a pie.
The whole day was an exercise in remembering who we had been then and realizing how different we are now. We walked across the New Haven Green to our favorite coffee shop and then got past the locked gate at Timothy Dwight College to look at the home we had shared for four years. The dining hall was full of students eating dinner between finals, who barely noticed the 30-year-old alums wandering among them. I whispered as loudly as I dared, "Don't go to law school!", knowing they would never listen. We wondered where students sat to talk in the courtyard, now that the fence was gone. We mourned the loss of the beautiful tree that bloomed each year just as classes came to an end.
And then we went to Romy's show and presented her with her graduation gift, a Lithuanian coffee cake from Claire's with an obscene amount of buttercream frosting. Romy was the one who came up with our group motto, "FIAGO" or "Fuck it and go on." It was only appropriate to give her a cake declaring, "FIAGO 4-Ever."