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Hibachi
Feng Asian Bistro
Canton, (860) 693-3364, and other loca-tions (ginzacuisine.com)

Hibachi cooking is at once an art form and an interactive show, and the chefs at Feng have mastered both. Bring a large group or get to know your neighbors as you sit around the tableside hibachi grill. Be dazzled by the spinning spatulas and flaming volcano onions, but be ready—your chef may want you to lend a hand for one of his tricks. Choose from meat, seafood, vegetables or a combination, and share some laughs during this fusion of food and fun.

Hot Chocolate
Chocopologie
South Norwalk, (203) 854-4754 (knipschildt.com)

At Chocopologie you can enjoy hot chocolate anytime. This traditional drink is listed on the menu in a number of pleasantly different ways: Hot (rich, dark, 70 percent cocoa), Spicy (with criollo cocoa beans and a blend of chipotle, cinnamon, clove and ginger spices), Iced (regular or spicy) and Frozen (regular or spicy, blended with ice). Their signature drink is half espresso, half dark hot chocolate and topped with lavender foam—
heaven in
a cup.

Hot Dogs
Super Duper Weenie
Fairfield, (203) 334-DOGS (superduperweenie.com)

Get a taste of major U.S. cities through the different dogs on Super Duper’s menu. Choices include the Californian (homemade meat chili, freshly chopped onion, American cheese and hot relish), the Georgia Red Hot (sausage, sauerkraut, mustard and sweet relish) and the New Yorker with sauerkraut, onion sauce, mustard and hot relish. If the hot dogs themselves aren’t enough to entice you, the superb fries and various sandwiches should seal the deal. This Food Network-acclaimed joint has come a long way from its beginnings as a mobile hot dog stand.

Hot Food Bar
Stew Leonard’s
Newington, (860) 760-8170 (stewleonards.com)

Choose the food category, and chances are “the world’s largest dairy store” does it proud. Case in point: the hot food bar at Stew’s in Newington, where you’ll find not only the crowd-pleasers developed at the Norwalk flagship, e.g., chicken chili, New England clam chowder, sausage and peppers, but international fare (Italian, Chinese, Polish), freshly grilled meat (New York strip and rib-eye steaks) and a carving station from 11:30 to 1 p.m. (roasted pork loin, smoked salmon or beef). One of the most popular items is an Asian delight: steamed salmon with black bean sauce.

Ice Cream
UConn Dairy Bar
Storrs, (860) 486-2634 (dairybar.uconn.edu)

For almost 60 years this dairy bar has been serving rich, mouthwatering ice cream. It’s all made right at the creamery, and there are always at least 24 flavors on hand. The signature flavor, “Jonathan Supreme” (named for UConn’s mascot), combines peanut butter swirl with chocolate-covered peanuts in vanilla ice cream and is sure to fuel Husky spirit. Seasonal flavors include Butter Pecan, Peppermint Stick and Pumpkin, making this treat enjoyable and accessible whatever the time of year.

Italian Ice
Vecchitto’s Italian Ice, Middletown, (860) 346-7301,
and Old Lyme, (860) 434-9231

A frozen delight that has won over generations of Italian ice lovers. For over 80 years, the Vecchitto family has been making this creamy treat fresh daily during the summer months, churning out 14 different flavors—including lemon, almond, chocolate and, our favorite, watermelon. Here’s our only problem with Vecchitto’s Italian Ice: It’s served in those old-school paper squeeze cups, which can make it challenging to suck and slurp out every single delicious drop!

Italian Sausage
Liscio’s Meat Land, Bridgeport,
(203) 372-2264

“Sunday gravy” wouldn’t be as good without handmade Italian sausage from Liscio’s. When John and Donna Pozezanac bought the neighborhood butcher shop in the 1980s, John’s kielbasa and sweet and hot Italian sausage drew customers from all over the state. Now nephew Charlie Murawski and his wife Margaret run the shop, keeping its glowing reputation for prime meats and friendly service intact. Most notably, Charlie churns out the same sweet-and-spicy plump links and patties made from John’s secret recipe, which includes freshly ground pork and whole fennel, and no fillers or preservatives. Between 250 and 300 pounds of the savory stuff go out the door each week. Now that’s gotta be good.

Jerk Chicken
Tropical Breeze Jamaican Kitchen
West Haven, (203) 931-7115
(tropicalbreezejamaicankitchen.com)

This chicken is so authentic, you’ll think you’re in Jamaica. Jean Ross’ Tropical Breeze Jamaican Kitchen makes jerk chicken that’s as good as it gets. Prepared in what she calls “the old home style,” the chicken is marinated with a rub of Scotch bonnet peppers, scallions, garlic, thyme, ginger, coriander and allspice. Then it’s grilled slowly, producing sumptuous fall-off-the-bone barbecue with a spicy, flavorful crust. It’s served with Jamaican-style rice and peas made with fresh coconut milk. Pairing it with Jamaican kola champagne raises the experience to a Caribbean dream.

Late-Night-Bites
Mamoun’s Falafel, New Haven,
(203) 562-8444 (mamouns.com)
A favorite of night owls and insomniacs since 1977, Mamoun’s virtually introduced Middle Eastern cookery to New England, and continues to serve up delicious, inexpensive falafels, baba ghanoush, shawarma and kebobs until 3 a.m., 365 days a year. It’s also a favorite place for lonely Yalies far from home: Mamoun’s busiest day of the year is Thanksgiving.

Macaroni and Cheese
85 Main, Putnam,
(860) 928-1660 (85main.com)
No, mac ’n’ cheese is not just a kids’ dish. It’s a regular special at 85 Main, a reflection of chef-owner James Martin’s creativity with fresh ingredients he gets from area farmers. Expect delicious variations on the theme—like “Maine Lobster Adult Mac & Cheese,” four ounces of pulled lobster meat—equal to a pound-and-a-half lobster—with baby spinach, artichoke hearts, roasted sweet corn, vine-ripe tomato and fresh herbs with Cabot cheddar and Gruyere Mornay-tossed penne; and “Adult Mac & Cheese Pesto Chicken,” free-range heritage-breed chicken with sweet basil pesto, roasted cherry tomato, baby spinach, roasted yellow and red peppers with Cabot cheddar and aged Parmesan Mornay-tossed penne. We’ll be right over.

Meatballs
Basta Trattoria, New Haven,
(203) 772-1715 (bastatrattoria.com)

At Basta Trattoria the simple meatball becomes an Italian delicacy—made with ground Black Angus sirloin and Pecorino Romano cheese. Add in some of their own San Marzano tomato sauce with caramelized onions and a dollop of locally produced ricotta and you’re in for an experience rather than a meal. You can order Anonna’s Meatballs as a small plate, or find them as a part of the “Italian Summer Dinner” entrée. Either way, they’re delizioso.

Milkshake
Joey Garlic’s, Farmington,
(860) 678-7231, and Newington, (860) 372-4620 (joeygarlics.com)

How can you go wrong with 25 different flavors of old-fashioned, hand-dipped milkshakes? Made with premium Häagen-Dazs ice cream, whole milk, fresh fruit and fruit syrups, this frothy treat really is the cream—ahem—of the crop. We went with banana, our usual shake of choice, and got the creamiest milkshake we’ve ever tasted. Joey Garlic’s has it all, from classics like vanilla and chocolate to unusual flavors like Blueberry Amaretto and Funny Bone.

Muffins
Koffee, New Haven,
(203) 562-5454 (koffeefamily.com)

Here’s what we consider when looking for good muffins (in addition to the good flavor): 1. Are they fresh? At Koffee, muffins (and other goodies) are baked daily from scratch, right on the premises; 2. Is there variety? Yes, from corn to cappuccino, and numerous flavors in between; 3. Are they generous? A single Koffee chocolate-chip muffin seems to have more chips in it than an entire bakery, and can probably feed two (if you wanted to share—and we don’t!); 4. Do we want to try another? Yes, please.

Minchies
Trader Joe’s, Westport, (203) 226-8966,
and other locations (traderjoes.com)

Where else can you find cinnamon-coated almonds, Peanut Butter Cups Trax Mix, banana crisps, chocolate-covered blueberries, Irish soda bread cranberry crisps and roasted Gorgonzola crackers all under one roof? Thanks to unique and reasonably priced items like these, Trader Joe’s has become a must-stop for foodies across the state.

 

Best of Connecticut 2011 Food and Drink

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Best of Connecticut 2013

Best of Connecticut 2013

Best of Connecticut 2013

It's our annual survey of all our favorites in the state, from food and drink to places to visit and things to do.

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