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Small Plates Menu
Pizzeria Molto, Fairfield,
(203) 292-8288 (pizzeriamolto.com)

So many delicious treats, so little time! At Molto, the ambience is ’50s Roman café, the noise level near-deafening; there’s a 40-foot carrera marble bar and a big screen in back showing ’50s Italian movies. But it’s the food that keeps ’em coming back for more. Molto does a lot of things right—pizza, pasta and salads, to name a few—but we seldom get past the small-plates menu: There are 29 “Italian tapas” listed, including crispy artichoke hearts with tomato sauce, mushroom risotto, roasted beets and fennel, grilled branzino, lobster tail and even osso buco. And if you count the mozzarellas (five kinds), salumi and formaggi, there are well over 40. At Molto, good things do come in small packages.

Smoothie
Granby Village Health, Granby,
(860) 844-8608 (granbyvillagehealth.com)

Whether you’re on a health kick or just in the mood for a fresh and tasty drink, you have to try one of the smoothies at family-owned Village Health. Their specialties include Berry Smooth (made with apple juice, banana, blueberry and strawberry) and Coconut Tropical (pineapple juice, coconut milk, banana, mango and grated coconut). You can also customize your smoothie from an extensive list of fruits, milks, juices and add-ins.

Soda
Foxon Park, East Haven,
(203) 467-7874 (foxonpark.com)

For nearly 90 years family-run Foxon Park has been offering 18 flavors of soda made with only natural ingredients. Traditional tastes include Cream and Kola (yes, with a K), while unique ones include Gassosa (an Italian lemon-lime) and Iron Brew (a blend of cola, root beer and cream). Find these superior sodas at local restaurants and stores, or order them online for picnics and barbecues
 

Soup
Liquid Lunch, Shelton,
(203) 926-6038, and other locations (liquidlunchrestaurant.com)

Soup is comfort food, and there’s nothing more comforting than knowing that on any given day there will be 10 different great soups at Liquid Lunch to choose from, including six always on the menu: chicken noodle, beef barley, vegetarian lentil, tomato basil, French onion and split-pea with ham. Other choices depend on what specialties chef-owner Fred Bialek and his crew whip up, anything from chicken-and-sausage gumbo to collard greens and chorizo. Whatever it is, it’s sure to make your spoon—and your mouth—happy!

Sushi
Tengda, Westport,
(203) 255-6115, and other locations (asianbistrogroup.com)

We’ve been fans of this pan-Asian gem since it opened back in the ‘90s, and we’re clearly not alone since there are now spinoffs in Greenwich, Darien and Milford. The formula for their success? Sparkling-fresh sushi, a creative hand in the kitchen and remarkable consistency over the years. The special rolls are wonderful (our favorite: the Angel Roll—blackened tuna, tobiko, asparagus and radish sprouts topped with yellowtail, salmon and eel), the unagi top-of-the-line, and there are plenty of alternatives if you prefer your fish cooked.

Sushi: Store-Made
Porricelli’s Market, Trumbull,
(203) 268-7569 (porricellis.com)

Grocery-store sushi? C’mon, no self-respecting sushi eater would even consider it, right? Wrong. Porricelli’s Market in Trumbull has an in-house sushi bar (operated by Mr. Sushi and Dumpling catering based in Bethel), manned daily by a Japanese itamae who prepares a variety of delicious maki and sashimi from fresh tuna, yellowtail, spicy salmon, crab, eel and octopus. It’s like having your own sushi chef on call. Made-to-order party platters are also available. If you’re not sure what to order, just ask the chef for his recommendations.

Tapas
Ibiza Tapas, Hamden, (203) 909-6512
(ibizatapaswinebar.com)

Just because they’re called “little plates” doesn’t mean that chef Ignacio Blanco puts anything less than a big effort into creating his tapas. Fusing creativity, traditional Spanish cuisine and culinary expertise, Blanco creates wonderful dishes, including modern cold tapas like atun marinado (marinated bluefin tuna with tomato, scallion, black olive, sesame oil, lemon and sea salt). Just as terrific are the hot ones, such as pimientos del piquillo (wood-roasted piquillo peppers stuffed with oxtail), or even “larger” ones such as braised short ribs in a caramelized garlic and oatmeal beer sauce, with cabbage, potato and smoked bacon. Great things in small bites!

TeaRoom
Savvy Tea Gourmet, Madison,
(203) 318-8666 (savvyteagourmet.com)

If you’re a tea connoisseur, or are just looking to learn more about tea, head straight to Savvy Tea. Owners Phil Parda and Judith Guard offer 250 loose-leaf teas from around the world, as well as ways to further your “tea education” at special tea tastings hosted by Parda. The spacious shop, located in a glass trestle-style building at Station Square near downtown Madison, is worth visiting, but you can also sample tea in the comfort of your home after ordering from Savvy’s online tea shop.

Truffles
H. Mangels Confectioner, Milford,
(203) 783-9770   (hmangels.com)

It’s hard to find truffles that live up to the trifecta of superior chocolate standards— homemade, great melt-in-your-mouth taste, and none of that artificial stuff. H. Mangels has been using only fine chocolate, butter, heavy cream and liquor for over 100 years to create a tempting array of flavors, including the popular Bailey’s Irish Cream, Champagne, All White Chambord, Grand Marnier and traditional Peppermint.

Vegan Menu
It’s Only Natural, Middletown,
(860) 346-9210 (ionrestaurant.com)

ION has delighted diners for more than 30 years with a menu of vegetarian and vegan specialties, with all dishes prepared using the best available, organic, local ingredients. The diverse menu, which is updated frequently, includes sweet potato enchiladas (available with vegan mozzarella or cashew Parmesan) and tempeh “crab” cakes. The restaurant doubles as an art gallery, featuring the works of local artists, and the deck/herb garden is adorned with benches from Higganum’s City Bench Furniture.

Wedding/Specialty Cakes
Ana Parzych Custom Cakes
Cheshire, (203) 439-7979
(anascustomcakes.com)

Make no mistake about it: Ana Parzych is no mere baker—she’s a “sugar artist.” And believe us when we call her elegant cakes “every bride’s dream come true.” Each and every cake accent is hand-crafted from sugar, whether dahlias, roses or lily of the valley “fresh from the garden”; a fondant lace appliqué inspired by the bride’s dress or Parzych’s exquisite signature “brushed embroidery.” As for flavor, cakes and fillings are made from the freshest and finest ingredients. Hello, Tahitian vanilla filled with fresh strawberry and vanilla mousseline and finished with meringue buttercream and vanilla fondant . . . mmm. 

Wine Selection: Restaurant
Ristorante Luce, Hamden,
(203) 407-8000 (ristoranteluce.com)

Connecticut’s mightiest wine cellar sits quietly under a lovely Italian eatery in the Mt. Carmel section of Hamden. Curated for decades by restaurateur Raffaello Iannaccone and his sister, Elena Fusco (now of Bin 100), Luce’s impressive collection consistently wins top honors from Wine Spectator. No wonder: The 27-page wine list has something for all tastes and budgets, from a $28 Tuscan “Conti Contini” Sangiovese to a 1961 Chateau-Mouton Rothschild Bordeaux for $1,500.

Wine Selection: Retail
Mt. Carmel Wine Shop, Hamden, (203) 281-0800 (mtcarmelwine.com)
Is it coincidence that the state’s best wine retailer is across an alley from Ristorante Luce, the restaurant with the state’s best wine list? Well, yes. Since the repeal of prohibition in 1934, the shop has been building a spectacular wine collection and now specializes in rare Bordeaux, white and red Burgundies, Rhone and Port (many in the four-digit price range). But it’s a neighborhood place, too, and owners Bob and Ben Feinn (nephews of the founder) shop the globe to find great values for everyday wine enthusiasts.

 

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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