As food writers, photographers, and chefs, we have the pleasure of eating a lot of really great food. Fairfield County has experienced something of a restaurant explosion over the past year, as new chefs move in and move on, and menus expand. We've endeavored to expand our coverage beyond those borders, seeking to cover more of the state and sharing those experiences that are worth seeking out. Instead of coming up with a top ten list ourselves, we asked the CTbites extended family to share some of their most memorable meals and dining experiences this past year.
Amy Kundrat, Executive Editor
Fortina | Armonk: The Luigi Bianco and I have an understanding. We can see other pizzas, but when it's just us in the room, no one else matters. I fall for his trifecta of cheeses with burrata, robiolona, parmesan, finished with black truffles, every time I visit.
Otto | Chester: This pizza newcomer by River Tavern's Jonathan Rapp has recently opened and is sporting some of the best crust in the state with a dough four-day fermentation. The potato, mushroom, four cheese and rosemary (with bacon, natch) was a winner.
Bufalina | Guilford: Matt and Melissa make some of the loveliest rustic pizzas I've ever tasted. Their specials are always sublime, but the simplicity of the Bufalina, buffalo mozzarella, san marzano tomato and basil, is the benchmark.
Stanziato's | Danbury: With an expanded space, slightly larger menu, daily pizza specials, and a new bar highlighting a darn good craft beer selection, Stanziato's is hitting its stride. That said, I can't stop myself from getting the same pizza every time I visit. The soppressata & chilies pizza is perfection for me.
Community Table | Washington: If you haven't been here yet, what.are.you.waiting.for? I have yet to meet a dish by Joel Viehland and Simon-Marcel Davidson that didn't make me swoon, a dessert by Tommy Juliano that did not blow my mind or a bread basket by Briana Juliano that didn't make me profess my love for carbs. I still dream about this blood red plate of elk loin, gooseberry, and beets, the sous vide oyster with tapioca and cream, and every dessert tasting I've shared, especially this recent ode to cubism.
Match | South Norwalk: When chef Matt Storch puts pho on the menu, run, don't walk to Match.
Tikkaway Grill | New Haven: This one if more of a love of concept than just one dish. Gopi Nair manages to take the comforting flavors of Indian food, marrying them with a fast casual concept.
Meat & Co. | New Haven: Roast beef, liverwurst, Landaff cheese and red onion jam on a Whole G pretzel roll. The God Forbid sandwich is a seriously good sandwich for serious sandwich folk.
BECAUSE EVERYONE NEEDS A COCKTAIL
116 Crown | New Haven: The king of all Connecticut cocktail bars. Go for the cocktails (love the Church Key: akvavit, passion fruit puree, ginger simple syrup, apple cider foam), but stay for the equally amazing food.
Luxe Wine Bar | Wesport: They've reopened and have invested in some real bartending talent. Jeff and/or Adam make a mean Manhattan. Can't wait to see what they come up with in 2014.
Parallel Post | Trumbull: I usually just get whatever Gregg Genias tells me to, and he is always right.
Bar Ordinary | New Haven: Before or after dinner, this is my go-to bar both for their Sazerac, and the years of New Haven patina.
Stephanie Webster, Editor
Fortina | Armonk: I dream about Christian Petroni's Luigi Bianco...no...really.
Walrus & Carpenter | Bridgeport: Best fried chicken around.
Mecha Noodle Bar | Fairfield: Spicy rice cakes. Enough said.
Saugatuck Craft Butchery | Westport: Chicken and Waffles for Brunch
Mama's Boy Southern Refuge | SoNo: Shrimp & Grits, Coconut Cake, Carrot Cake, Red Velvet Cake
Lao Sze Chuan | Milford: Real deal Chinese. Szechuan Dumplings & anything else
Rainbow Thai | Westport: Green Curry = Crack, Tom Yum Spicy Noodle Soup
le Farm & The Whelk | Westport: Everything
Bodega | Fairfield & Darien: Guacamole w/ Hot chili Oil, Brisket Taco, Massaged Kale Salad
Match, Matt Storch | SoNo: Pho, Carpet Baggers, White Truffle Risotto, Lobster Roll
Jeff "Jfood" Schlesinger - Editor-at-LargeHere are my favorite dishes from 2013:
- Elm – The “Tagliatelli Neri” is over the top umami heaven. The dish begins with hand-made cuttlefish ink pasta topped with Peekeytoe crab, sea urchin, sea urchin butter, Calabrian chili, garlic bread crumbs and brightened with Meyer lemon juice and oil. The flavors dance on the palate and textures from the silky pasta to the crunchy garlic bread crumbs, are like none I experienced anywhere else.
- Match – “Pho” is an incredible Vietnamese soup that Fairfield County needs to embrace. The broth is made from oxtails, ginger, onion, cinnamon, and star anise. When served, thinly sliced rib eye is added and cooked and then finished with cilantro, noodles and Sriracha. This dish is absolutely magical in its complexity of flavors and textures.
- South End – “Nonna’s Meatballs” are comprised of pork and veal (that’s right, no beef) that are lightly mixed with tons of sheep’s milk ricotta and Parmesan cheese, then lightly fried and cooked in a crushed tomato sauce. The soft and tender texture of South End's meatballs separates them from all of the others…they are fantastic.
- Nola –The “Poached Lobster & Cornbread Waffle” is one of my favorite combinations in the area with butter-poached lobster, Queso Fresco cheese, topped with a brown sauce served with sweet, crispy waffles. The outstanding flavors are complemented by the best brown sauce north of Mr. B’s Bistro in the French Quarter.
- Mama’s Boy - The “Shrimp and Grits” just keep getting better. Perfectly prepared U15 white shrimp, red peppers, scallions, and Tasso sit atop Tennessee sourced grits and finished with a simple garlic butter, white wine, and cream sauce. The grits are my favorite and when paired with the shrimp create an outstanding dish.
- Bar Sugo – The “Spaghetti Neri” includes squid ink pasta, smoked tomato sauce, shrimp, bread crumbs and Bottarga. The pasta and shrimp are complemented by the smokiness and spiciness of the tomato sauce, but the entire presentation is elevated by the Bottarga, which adds a delightful brininess to the dish.
Lou Gorfain, Contributor
Ellen Bowen, Events Curator
Fortina, Armonk - Luigi Bianco pizza with truffle pate... need I say more?
Sarah Green, Contributor
For my top 5 list for 2013 I have decided to list my favorite dishes of the year. This year's list includes items that I think about late at night.
Kathleen Atkins, Contributor
Emma Doody, Wine Correspondent
Outriggers in Stratford, CT
Baro in Fairfield, CT
Wafu Asian Bistro in Southport, CT
Barcelona in Stamford, CT
Chips Pancakes in Fairfield, CT
Chef Bill Taibe, Owner of le Farm & The Whelk
Mecha Noodle Bar | Fairfield CT: Best new spot
Kibberia | Westport: So happy they are here. I used to go to Danbury for their falafel.
Kitchen by Mike | Sydney
Hide Chan Ramen | NYC
Little Creatures |Melbourne
Chef Arik Bensimon, Executive Chef @ Le Farm
Lori Cochran, Director, Westport Farmers' Market
Mecha Noodle Bar, Fairfield
The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, Wilton
The Whelk, Westport
Good News Cafe, Litchfield
Craft Butchery, Westport
Granola Bar, Westport