Best of Connecticut 2009: Food & Drink
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RESTAURANT BAR/BEER SELECTION
Eli Cannon's Tap Room Middletown, (860) 347-ELIS (elicannons.com)
Perhaps you consider yourself a beer connoisseur. Or maybe you just love to try a new brew once in a while. Either way, Eli Cannon's is the place for you, as the owners pride themselves on offering some of the most unusual, tasty beers on tap (and rightfully so!). There are 33 real ales on tap daily, rotated constantly to ensure freshness and chosen from a master list of nearly 170 varieties, plus all your favorite bottled brews, wines, malt beverages and liquors-oh, and did we mention they serve very good food, too?
RESTAURANT WINE LIST
Ristorante Luce Hamden, (203) 407-8000 (ristoranteluce.net)
This fine-dining favorite offers a menu of Italian classics that make it worth the visit, but nothing takes your dining experience to the next level like a smooth glass of vino. Ristorante Luce, winner of a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for seven years running, boasts a wine list that includes more than 1,000 selections spanning five decades. Choose from eclectic hand-picked wines from Italy, California, France, Germany, South Africa, Chile and Australia-there's a wine for every palate and every budget.
Sycamore Drive-In Bethel, (203) 748-2716 (sycamoredrivein.com).
It's safe to say that the Sycamore is a place where time has happily stood still since the 1950s-neon signs and vintage memorabilia, carhops and cruise nights, and root beer "the way they used to make it"-literally. The secret recipe for this tasty homemade brew has been passed down from the Sycamore's original owners and followed faithfully for the past 40 years, a flavorful concoction served in a frosty mug. Enjoy it straight, or experience it as part of the Sycamore's old-time root beer float. Either way, it'll leave a great taste in your mouth.
Min Ghung Asian Bistro Glastonbury, (860) 659-2568 (minghungcuisine.com)
Sake reigns supreme at Min Ghung Asian Bistro. The restaurant offers not only the traditional ozeki (hot) sake, but 10 different cold sakes as well as saketinis. Be sure to try the classic dry The Wondering Poet and the cold, sweet Asian Pear. The No. 1 saketini on our list is the Lotus Blossom, a mixture of Asian Pear with lychee juice, triple sec and lime juice.
Balducci's Greenwich, (203) 637-7600, and Westport, (203) 254-5200 (balduccis.com)
Balducci's salad bars aren't the biggest ones around, but they're a class act. Along with three types of salad greens, there are choice add-ins like roasted asparagus, sautÃ©ed mushrooms, artichoke hearts, grilled veggies, sliced avocado, steamed broccoli and hearts of palm, plus delicious roasted cashews and pistachios to sprinkle on top. Combine as you like-the healthy possibilities are limitless.
Carbone's Hartford, (860) 296-9646 (carbonesct.com)
Caesar salad with a special Carbone's twist is a must-have. Prepared fresh tableside, the Carbone Caesar Salad is made with lettuce, egg yolk, anchovies, hot peppers, Tabasco, mustard, red wine vinegar, cheese and croutons. Caesar Alla Carbone features Romaine lettuce tossed in the house's special Caesar dressing. Top off either with tender grilled chicken breast or calamari.
Carmen Anthony Waterbury, (866) 622-7636, and other locations (carmenanthony.com)
The Signature Chop Salad has been a top seller at Carmen Anthony for over 10 years. It's a tasty confetti of red pepper, cucumber, Kalamata olives, carrots, lettuce and red onion, with Gorgonzola cheese and a spark of hot cherry pepper, tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette and topped with a big luscious shrimp. "It's been imitated in many, many Connecticut restaurants," says owner Carmen Vacalebre, "but never duplicated."
Max Downtown Hartford, (860) 522-2530 (maxrestaurantgroup.com)
It's largely thanks to popular WTIC DJ Gary Craig, who lobbied hard to get it on the menu (and consulted on the recipe), that the "Hollywood" Cobb Salad is now Max's top lunchtime seller. Max's delicious version of the chopped-salad classic-chicken, greens, applewood-smoked bacon, avocado, tomato, hard-boiled egg and Gorgonzola-is pretty faithful to the original, which actually goes back to The Brown Derby in Hollywood, circa 1937.