Best of Connecticut 2010: Food and Drink
Roasted Vegetable sandwich from The Dressing Room, Westport.
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Lyman Orchards Middlefield, (860) 349-1793 (lymanorchards.com)
After dominating this category for over a decade, it’s safe to say that Lyman Orchards has become synonymous with great local apple pie, baked fresh with apples picked at the 1,100-acre orchards in Middlefield (owned by the Lyman family since 1741). Putting your fork into the flaky golden-brown crust of a Hi-Top Apple Pie is like digging into pure Connecticut—you know, if Connecticut were a sweet treat (with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top!). Get your slice right at the source in Lyman’s Apple Barrel farm shop, and take it home to enjoy.
Julia’s Bakery Orange, (800) 435-3285 (juliasbakery.com)
Immortalized on “Seinfeld,” babka is a spongy, rich, yeast-risen cake traditionally served on special occasions. It’s a special creation at Julia’s as well—typically available only on weekends or by special order—but, alas, we crave it daily. Particularly the dense, moist, sinful chocolate babka, topped with streusel and ribboned with rich chocolate icing; but that doesn’t mean the cinnamon, cheese, raspberry cheese or apple raisin (available only by ordering ahead) are “lesser babkas.”
SoNo Baking Company South Norwalk, (203) 847-SONO (sonobaking.com)
CIA-trained chef John Barricelli, host of TV’s “Everyday Baking,” has run this bakery-lover’s nirvana since 2005, and it’s a gem. Watch him and his staff work their magic in their glass-walled kitchen, order from the cache of sweets and savories in the display cases, enjoy them in the cozy café or at outdoor tables (in season) or bring them home. Whatever you choose—his coconut cake filled with coconut pastry cream, chocolate ganache cake, raspberry-pistachio tartlets and fresh-fruit galettes are sublime—all are made by hand with the finest ingredients.
The Cookhouse New Milford, (860) 355-4111 (thecookhouse.com)
The Cookhouse thinks they’re “slo-smokin’” and we agree! There are countless reasons why they’re a perennial Best of Connecticut winner. Let’s see . . . slow-smoked baby-back ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken, andouille sausage and burnt ends, fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, corn bread, Mom’s mac ‘n’ cheese, house-made meat loaf—the list goes on. Don’t miss “BBQ, Brews and Blues” every Friday night, a guaranteed good time.
Chabaso Bakery New Haven, (203) 562-9007 (chabaso.com)
If you believe bread is the staff of life, Chabaso artisan breads, made fresh daily with no preservatives and little or no fat, will go a long way toward sustaining that life. Sold at New Haven’s flagship bakery and also at Atticus Café, Stop & Shop, ShopRite, Big Y et al, they run from the new baguette (a best buy at $1.99) to the classic olive-oil ciabattas to the garlic sticks made with California garlic roasted till it caramelizes to a delicious sweetness. Sweeter yet is the cranberry-pecan multigrain, addictive as is and wonderful in French toast or bread pudding.
Archie Moore’s New Haven, (203) 773-9870, and five other locations (archiemoores.com)
What makes one wing stand out from the rest? It’s all in the sauce, and Archie’s has got it down to a science. Their wings are doused in a perfect not-too-mild, not-too-spicy buffalo sauce—so good they sell bottles of it to go. Paired with celery and hearty bleu cheese dressing, it’s no wonder they sell more than 20 tons each month.
Shady Glen Manchester, (860) 649-4245
The oversized portion of cheese on this Shady Glen specialty is first melted on the grill, then folded up, creating a crispy-yet-chewy halo for what some would call a heavenly treat. Garnish with fries, coleslaw and a pickle slice and you’ve got a platter that may be the best anywhere, not just in Connecticut.
Burger Bar & Bistro South Norwalk, (203) 853-2037 (burgerbarsono.com)
It’s pretty amazing that with all the restaurants in South Norwalk, this lively, family-friendly burgerie is always full. You can’t go wrong with their “AAAmazing” burger (7-ounce, $7.75), made with organic beef and topped with lettuce, tomato and onion (20 other toppings are available), though “Innovative” burgers like the Rob ($14), with guacamole, chili sour cream and Pico de Gallo, are also pretty irresistible.