In no particular order other than jogging the old noggin, here are the dishes, drinks and food experiences I enjoyed the most in Fairfield County, CT, and beyond, in 2017. Critera for inclusion: eaten in the last year.
Samosas. Royal Guard in Norwalk makes crisp deep-fried samosas filled with spiced potatoes. But that’s not all. The fish and chips are the best in Fairfield County. And the Pakistani chicken curry with warm, glistening naan makes up for the lack of atmosphere in this little hole in the wall. I reviewed Royal Guard for the Hartford Courant.
Cochinita at Los Poblanos in Norwalk. I’ve written about Los Poblanos for the Hartford Courant and CT Bites. It’s a big favorite of my friends, one of whom lived in Mexico. We refer to the restaurant as “Juan’s.” Juan is the chef-owner. He, his wife and children are lovely people.
I love Mexican food. Could eat it every day. Here are a couple of my favorite dishes at Mexican places in Bridgeport. I wrote about my favorite ethnic restaurants in Bridgeport here.
Carnitas with grilled jalapeno at La Mexicana, Bridgeport
Carnitas tacos at La Salsa Taqueria, Bridgeport
Green enchiladas at El Paraiso in Bridgeport.
Pozole: El Paraiso, Bridgeport
Moving on to New American food, the best New England Clam Chowder I had this year was at Shell and Bones in New Haven, sitting outside on the waterfront. It’s a good place to eat before seeing a show at the Long Wharf Theatre.
Mussels at Oak & Almond in Norwalk.
Lunch at the Modern in New York City was the most exquisite meal of the year.
Dessert, The Modern, NYC
Best Chef’s Tasting Meal, Olea, New Haven
Favorite Fairfield County Restaurants for a Nice Lunch:
Lobster salad at Basso Café Restaurant in Norwalk. I don’t have a picture because I was enjoying the moment too much to pull out a camera. It’s a beautiful salad of hearts of palm, avocado, and lobster, which I enjoyed over a lively conversation and glass of bubbly. I love the originality and personal expression of chef-owner Renato’s Mediterranean restaurant.
Fish of the Day, butternut soup, dessert, atmosphere, service, I love everything about Artisan in Southport. Executive Chef Frederic Kieffer uses local vegetables from my favorite farmer Patti Popp of Sport Hill Farm.
Italian Restaurant in Fairfield County, Cotto, Stamford, CT. I’ve written about this Roman restaurant in downtown many times over the years. This review I wrote for the Hartford Courant has a most embarrassing typo—a b is left out of barbera. Most recently, I wrote about a wine dinner at Cotto for Greenwich Magazine. In this article the final a is left off barbera. Curse of the barbera. These are details that stab at writer’s being.
I’ve enjoyed every meal I’ve had at Cotto, including one this summer, sitting outside. The manager steered us to these mozzarella stuffed eggplant packets, imported pasta, and luscious roasted lobster.
So often, I crave a bowl of soup. A big bowl of steaming broth filled with long noodles. Love Ramen. Love Mecha in Fairfield and South Norwalk. Must confess I’ve never tried Mecha’s pho. I can’t tear myself away from the ramen.
Pho: Pho Thom, Bridgeport
Bahn mi slider: Matt Storch’s Nom-Eez in Black Rock.
Garden Rolls: RuThai, Bridgeport
Foodie Adventure, Eataly, NYC, Italian honey, cheese, and wine pairing tasting with honey sommelier RedBee Marina.
Unusual, tedious, but satisfying foodie experience: threshing the wheat grown by Nancy and John Hurley. It took a village of family and friends, and reminded us of how much we take for granted.
Bread: Fairfield Bread Company’s all organic Bridgeport Sour. (Yes, I know the owner.) Available at the specialty food store The Pantry in downtown Fairfield and great neighborhood breakfast joint Harbor View Market in Bridgeport.
Cured meats, Taste of Europe, Norwalk.
Local farm: Sport Hill Farm, Easton
Cutest Vegetable: These little eggplants from the best farmers market Black Rock Farmers Market.
Home Grown Vegetables. Asparagus, potatoes, tomatoes and dandelion greens.
Best Recipe I Developed. Lemon Asparagus Soup. For dLife, a website for people with diabetes, this delicious, easy low-carb soup.
Brunch: Lobster and Eggs at BRYAC. Happy Hour: BRYAC,
Black Rock, and Martel, Fairfield.
Homemade dessert: Peach tarts.
For the Drinks column I do for Moffly Media, and adventures in New York City with my pal Modern Distillery Age editor-in-chief Gregg Glaser, I got to sip some special spirits and brews.
I wrote about a Fairfield County brewery road trip for Stamford Magazine. I don’t have a favorite; it’s all fun. Yet, as one of the judges in the IPA category at the Great International Beer, Cider and Sake Competition, I had the pleasure of sitting with Jeff Browning of Brewport in Bridgeport. He is an encyclopedia of brewing history, practice, styles, and flavor.
Some of the beers, including Sours, I’ve enjoyed this year are highlighted in this piece.
For a piece on tequila, Tim Scott of Geronimo in Fairfield and New Haven, poured me a taste of Clase Azul Reposado, which had notes of Sherry from the aging barrel. Along with an excellent selection of Tequila , I’ve enjoyed Geronimo’s Southwestern food.
Grappa. Gra’it. Yes, it’s strong. Yet, the flavor of the grape is present. We served it after Thanksgiving dinner, in tiny glasses. Refill with care.