New London, CT: Hoping for Sweet Success

Caitlin Henningsen frosts a cupcake at her Little Sister's Bake Shop on State Street in New London on Nov. 22. Henningsen opened the shop across from city hall in early October. Sean D. Elliot/The Day

By Susan Cornell | TheDay.com

Caitlin Henningsen frosts a cupcake at her Little Sister's Bake Shop on State Street in New London on Nov. 22. Henningsen opened the shop across from city hall in early October. Sean D. Elliot/The Day

Little Sister’s is Big on Tasty Treats

Among the best simple pleasures in the universe are grilled cheese sandwiches and baked goods, both of which are even better when made by someone else.

Little Sister’s Grilled Cheese, a mobile food truck, started serving variations of one of our favorite comfort foods in the spring of 2010, and when Little Sister’s Bake Shop opened in downtown New London on 184 State St. in October, enjoying even more simple pleasures became, well, simple.

The older sister of the new bake shop, the grilled cheese truck, has been serving at scheduled weekend events – wine festivals, summer music series, private parties, and Sailfest – since the big green vehicle (which is about the size of a UPS truck) started its engine. Owner of both Little Sister’s businesses, Caitlin Henningsen, hopes to have the truck “out for the daily grind by next summer if not sooner.”

In the meantime, there’s the new bakery to keep us happily fed.

“The main goal is to become a good staple in the community,” explains Henningsen.

“We bake fresh daily muffins, coffeecakes, scones. We have bagels and all sorts of cream cheese and butter spreads,” she says.

For the lunch hour, Little Sister’s makes a variety of stuffed breadsticks, quiches, salads and yogurt parfaits. The plan is to add soup to the menu in the next couple of weeks. And on the extra yummy menu are cupcakes, cookies, lemon squares, “and just about anything you can think of.”

“We like to be creative with flavors and different combinations,” Henningsen says.

The name rings true – the Little Sister has three older brothers “so I’ve always been a little sister.”

There is a table outside and plenty of room for significant outdoor seating. There are some window benches inside the shop but no table service.

Little Sister’s Grilled Cheese truck has traveled all over Connecticut – to the Litchfield Jazz Festival, concerts in Hartford and the Glastonbury Music Series.

There are eight sandwiches on the menu as well as beverages and homemade desserts.

“We are hoping to come up with a location in New London where we can be in the same spot on a daily basis to develop returning clientele. It makes us easy to find and you can count on being able to get your sandwich,” says Henningsen.

For the bakery location, she and fiancé/co-owner Keith Johnson “wanted a nice downtown spot.”

The couple resides in Waterford. They looked at a variety of sites, “but the bake shop with the daytime hours, the location we have on State Street we thought was very central and easily accessible. We also really liked the building here at the Crocker House.”

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Grilled cheese truck customers are taken by surprise by the Honey Bear, a goat cheese and honey sandwich. “It has become very popular even for the non-goat cheese eater.” Behind that it’s a toss-up between “Italian,” a fresh mozzarella and sweet sausage sandwich, and the “Little Miss Piggy,” a classic ham and cheddar with a twist of honey- mustard.

The fresh scones made in a variety of flavors every morning and served warm with honey-butter are by far the most popular breakfast items at the bakery. Cupcakes and whoopee pies are also favorites.

While Henningsen likes everything on the menu, she admits she’s a “big fan of chocolate,” so the chocolate cupcakes are one of her favorites. She also loves coconut macaroons and bread pudding.

With the huge array of goodies Little Sister’s serves, one would think that Henningsen and Johnson have years of formal culinary training – quite the contrary. Instead, she is self-taught. The Jersey girl with an events industry background moved to the Nutmeg State in 2003 and worked in restaurants – bartending, serving and then managing.

“I call myself a foodie and have a passion for food. I enjoy both the customer service aspect and the kitchen side of it so the best way to do both was to do it on my own,” she said.

Likewise, Johnson has considerable experience in the industry but no formal culinary education. He has tended bar and managed locally, and still works at Mohegan Sun.

“We don’t sleep too much but we thoroughly enjoy it,” admits Henningsen, who also bartends a couple nights a week.

The menu will soon be online at www.littlesistersbakeshop.com. Ultimately, customers will be able to order more packageable baked goods, cookies, custom baskets and gift packages online as well.

Little Sister’s Bake Shop is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. They are located on the first floor of the Crocker House at 184 State St. Little Sister’s Grilled Cheese, although not out on a daily basis yet, is available for private parties and special events. Call (860) 437-3300 or visit www.littlesistersbakeshop.com for more information.

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