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Wednesday
Dec252013

CTbites Staff & Chef Picks for TOP EATS OF 2013

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

PIZZA

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.

NOT PIZZA

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 beetsthe 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

New

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

Old

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-Large

Here 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.
Top Hamburger – The Whelk – Over 70 hamburgers comprised my 2013 Hamburger search and The Whelk’s hamburger was my favorite. Full of rich flavor, encased in a great bun and topped with some great cheese, onions and house made pickles.
Top Bolognese - Cava Wine Bar – My colleague, Lou Gorfain, and I scoured lower Fairfield County for our Bolognese round-up and my personal favorite was Cava's Gnocchi with Bolognese. What set this apart from the others was the soft, ricotta gnocchi that were pillows of deliciousness.
Top Pizza - Locali – This newcomer uses age-old pizza-making techniques, San Marzano DOP tomatoes and house made mozzarella. The flavors, texture and the perfect amount of char from the wood burning oven produce some of the best Neapolitan pizza this side of the Campo dei Fiori.

Lou Gorfain, Contributor

Top 5 Standard Fare Dishes

Hamburger -- .Harlan Social, Stamford
Clam Bellies  --  Westfair Fish and Chips, Westport
Bolognese -- Polpo, Greenwich
Ramen --   Mecha Noodle Bar, Fairfield
Pizza -- Fortina, Armonk
 
(As the futile two decade search for an authentic Corned Beef sandwich in Connecticut continues).
 
Top 5 Fancy Fare Dishes

Whipped Chicken Livers, le Farm, Westport
Seared Tuna -- Match, South Norwalk
Butternut Squash Soup, Bistro 7, Wilton
Lamb Shank Cassoulet -- l'Escale,Greenwich
Steamed Lobster with Crab stuffing -- Rowayton Seafood, Rowayton
 
Top taste treat of 2013 -- Elvis' Dream (vanilla ice cream mixed with peanut butter, banana pieces and dark chocolate chunks)  Ferris Acres, Newtown.

Ellen Bowen, Events Curator

Fortina, Armonk - Luigi Bianco pizza with truffle pate... need I say more? 

Los Poblanos. Norwalk-  Authentic Mexican on Post Rd in strip center next to "old school" barbershop and nail salon...Chicken enchiladas, All Desayanos( Breakfast dishes) with eggs, ham over fresh corn tortillas, beans and different sauces. 
Rive Bistro, Westport-  Onion Soup, escargot and Cassoulet... nothing tricky, well priced French Bistro fare.   Nice view of Saugatuck River and comfort food for cold winter night. 
Walrus and Carpenter, Fairfield- Fried Chicken...Sriracha and Honey dipping sauces make the dish totally amazing.  Cocktails and beer list  are extensive
Saugatuck Craft Butchery, Westport- Steak and Eggs and Egg Sandwiches for Brunch and Burgers!
Mecha Noodle Bar Fairfield- Liked all of Ramen and PHO choices and Pork Belly Bao.

 

"Oldies but Goodies... for da Foodies"
Whelk, Westport-Deviled eggs, brussell sprouts, scallop crudo, cobia , grilled octopus
Match, Norwalk - Burgers, Vietnamese PHO, Short ribs, etc.
Barcelona- Tapas, Portobello with goat cheese, boquerones, albondigas
Da Pietros, Westport- Duck breast, fresh pastas, Kale and Beet Salad
Brasitas, Norwalk & Stamford- Ceviche, Chimichurri steak, TresLeches 

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.

Szechuan Dumplings in hot spicy oil from Lao Sze Chuan in Milford
Green Curry Vegetables from Rainbow Thai in Westport
Fried Chicken from Walrus and Carpenter in Bridgeport
Chocolate Mole Ribs from Bodega (Fairfield) and Valencia (Norwalk)
Everything at The Whelk in Westport

Kathleen Atkins, Contributor

Walrus + Carpenter - Bridgeport, CT
Paci - Southport, CT
Morello Italian Bistro - Stamford, CT 
Lobster Landing - Clinton, CT
The Chelsea - Fairfield, CT

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

Pink sumo, Westport 
Rainbow Thai, Westport
Kibberia, Westport
Mecha Noodle Bar, Fairfield
Wafu, Southport

Lori Cochran, Director, Westport Farmers' Market

Oldies
LeFarm, Westport
Los Portales, Norwalk
Mecha Noodle Bar, Fairfield
The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, Wilton
The Whelk, Westport

Newbies
Matt Storch @ Fork It Over
Jeff Taibe  @ Fork It Over
Good News Cafe, Litchfield
Craft Butchery, Westport
Granola Bar, Westport

 

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