Best of Connecticut 2009: Food & Drink

 

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STUFFED BREAD

Gaetano's Deli Stratford, (203) 377-8860, and Monroe,  (203) 268-6982 (gaetanosdeli.com)
The line is out the door at lunchtime at this small deli, but it's so worth the wait. Eveything is top-quality, with bread imported fresh each morning from Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. A tray piled high with hot storemade pane imbottiti (stuffed breads) brimming with Italian-style meats, cheeses and vegetables calls you from the counter but watch out-by the time your turn comes up, there may be only a few loaves left. Choose from pepperoni and cheese, eggplant parmigiana, sausage, peppers and cheese, meatball parmigiana, broccoli rabe, sausage and cheese, eggplant rollatini, ham, salami and cheese and chicken parmigiana, in half or whole loaves.

SUNSET VIEW (RESTAURANT)

The Boulders Inn New Preston, (860) 868-0541 (bouldersinn.com)
We encountered our first sunset view overlooking Lake Waramaug totally by accident; we had been staying at The Boulders Inn, an 1890s beauty updated in recent years, were going in for dinner, and there it was, in all its glory. The glass-walled living room and dining room offer front-row seats to the view (as do the Northwest junior suite and Gem cottage), but we drink it in best from the hillside dining terrace, a magical vantage point to a natural wonder.

SUSHI

Miya's Sushi New Haven, (203) 777-9760 (miyassushi.com)
No other can compare. Artistic director (for lack of a better title) Bun Lai concocts concepts for his rolls like a mad scientist with his own lab full of sustainable foods; imagine sushi wrapped in grape leaves, Caspian Sea seaweed and/or whole-wheat dough stuffed with the likes of fried chicken, Brie, Chinese black beans, cranberries, peanut butter and/or Oreo cookies (the last found in his Oaxacan Dragon Charmer roll, inspired by the complex flavor of mole poblano). Do not leave without sampling the Kanibaba (a roll of jumbo soft-shell crab wrapped in seasoned potato skin, topped with toasted Havarti cheese, lemon dill sauce and mini edible Asian crabs) or any number of Lai's home-brewed sakes.

TAPAS

Meigas Norwalk, (203) 866-8800 (meigasrestaurant.com)
In the mood for an impromptu trip to Sevilla? This is the place. Spaniards were eating "small plates" way before Americans got into the act, and Meigas offers authentic tapas like Crispy Mushroom Ravioli with Serrano Ham Sauce, Grilled Diver Scallop Salad with Beets and Citrus Vinaigrette, Roast Quail Stuffed with Sunflowers and Wood-Roasted Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Lamb. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday try the $65 tasting menu for two (12 tapas each)-an excellent value in our book.

TEA ROOM

Savvy Tea Gourmet Madison, (203) 318-8666 (savvyteagourmet.com)
"Health, Enjoyment, and Quality of Life through Tea" is the mantra at this modern-day tearoom where tea lovers flock not only to sample the wide selection of 250 loose-leaf teas on offer, but also the delicious soups and sandwiches, cheeses and baked goods-and to learn more about living the "tea lifestyle." Co-owner and Chinese-tea enthusiast Phil Parda is always willing to share his knowledge of Chinese tea and the Chinese-tea culture with customers. Make a reservation for one of the formal tea tastings or elegant high teas, or just drop by to indulge in the tea experience.

TRUFFLES

H. Mangels Confectioner Milford, (203) 783-9770 (hmangels.com).
H. Mangels has been making truffles the same way for three generations-handmade with the finest chocolate, butter, heavy cream and liqueurs. These melt-in-your-mouth creations of dark, milk and white chocolate come in 21 flavors, including caramel delight Dooley's toffee, raspberry Chambord, coconut (coconut-flavored white chocolate center, dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with toasted coconut-mmm!) and some special favorites offered seasonally. If you can't decide, try a few samples at the counter, then order a box of 16.

VEGETARIAN MENU

Thali Too New Haven (203) 776-1600 (thalitoo.com)
With Thali Too, it looks like renowned Indian chef Prasad Chirnomula has come up with an unbeatable formula: delicious, inexpensive fare (nothing on the menu's over $10) that's good for you, too. On the menu: soups, salads, chat (Indian street food), rice dishes (or make your own at the rice bar), flavorful entrées, lassi (yogurt drinks with fruit purees)-and yes, even wine and beer. And all can be enjoyed on the spacious outdoor terrace right on the Yale campus.    

WATER VIEW (RESTAURANT)

Cobbs Mill Inn Weston, (203) 227-7221 (cobbsmillinn.com)
The scenery is the main attraction at Cobbs Mill. With a wall of windows facing a plunging waterfall, pretty flower beds and two pewter bars rescued from the cruise ship S.S. Normandie, it's a storybook sort of place. There's both a dining room menu and a bar menu; no matter where you sit, you can order from either. This is the ideal place to host a special event or enjoy an intimate dinner for two.

WEDDING/SPECIALTY CAKES

Take the Cake Guilford, (203) 453-1896  (originaltakethecake.com)
Maybe you want a classic wedding cake: multilayered with white-on-white buttercream  frosting, flounces and curlicues galore. Or maybe you want nothing of the sort. Don't worry; Take the Cake in Guilford has you covered. Using only the freshest ingredients-butter, sugar, flour, eggs and chocolate-the bakers at Take the Cake have been satisfying  customers for nearly 20 years. No wedding in sight? No worries; Take the Cake will do a delectable cake for any occasion.

WINE BY THE GLASS

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar West Hartford, (860) 676-9463  (flemingssteakhouse.com)
Go ahead, name another place that has 100 wines by the glass. (We couldn't either.) And the sheer breadth of choice here-with multiple pinot noirs, syrahs, cabs, chards and zins, among others-makes dining out fun. If you want to learn something while you imbibe, try a "Wine Vine," miniportions of any three wines you choose from the list in a cute little holder. It's a great way to educate your palate-or just to sample some cool new vintages.

Best of Connecticut 2009: Food & Drink

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