My Top Five+ Fairfield County CT Dishes from 2013

2013 was an amazing year for food lovers in Fairfield County…several great restaurants opened, several chefs moved and are now creating incredible meals in new locations, several more restaurants announced their openings and I cannot wait.

During the year I enjoyed hundreds of courses in Connecticut and on my travels. With all of those flavors and textures, it was an incredibly difficult task in choosing my five favorite Fairfield County dishes for 2013. In fact, I did not since I couldn’t whittle the last one from this list, so it is six, plus three special categories.

Here are my favorite dishes from 2013:

  • elm – The “Tagliatelli Neri” is over the top umami heaven. The dish begins with hand-made cuttlefish ink pasta topped with Peekeytoe crab, sea urchin, sea urchin butter, Calabrian chili, garlic bread crumbs and brightened with Meyer lemon juice and oil. The flavors dance on the palate and textures from the silky pasta to the crunchy garlic bread crumbs, are like none I experienced anywhere else.
  • Match – “Pho” is an incredible Vietnamese soup that Fairfield County needs to embrace. The broth is made from oxtails, ginger, onion, cinnamon, and star anise. When served, thinly sliced rib eye is added and cooked and then finished with cilantro, noodles and Sriracha. This dish is absolutely magical in its complexity of flavors and textures.
  • South End – “Nonna’s Meatballs” are comprised of pork and veal (that’s right, no beef) that are lightly mixed with tons of sheep’s milk ricotta and Parmesan cheese, then lightly fried and cooked in a crushed tomato sauce. The soft and tender texture of South End’s meatballs separates them from all of the others…they are fantastic.
  • Nola –The “Poached Lobster & Cornbread Waffle” is one of my favorite combinations in the area with butter-poached lobster, Queso Fresco cheese, topped with a brown sauce served with sweet, crispy waffles. The outstanding flavors are complemented by the best brown sauce north of Mr. B’s Bistro in the French Quarter.
  • Mama’s Boy – The “Shrimp and Grits” just keep getting better. Perfectly prepared U15 white shrimp, red peppers, scallions, and Tasso sit atop Tennessee sourced grits and finished with a simple garlic butter, white wine, and cream sauce. The grits are my favorite and when paired with the shrimp create an outstanding dish.
  • Bar Sugo – The “Spaghetti Neri” includes squid ink pasta, smoked tomato sauce, shrimp, bread crumbs and Bottarga. The pasta and shrimp are complemented by the smokiness and spiciness of the tomato sauce, but the entire presentation is elevated by the Bottarga, which adds a delightful brininess to the dish.

Top Hamburger – The Whelk – Over 70 hamburgers comprised my 2013 Hamburger search and The Whelk’s hamburger was my favorite. Full of rich flavor, encased in a great bun and topped with some great cheese, onions and house made pickles.

Top Bolognese – Cava Wine Bar – My colleague at CTBites, Lou Gorfain, and I scoured lower Fairfield County for our Bolognese round-up and my personal favorite was Cava’s Gnocchi with Bolognese. What set this apart from the others was the soft, ricotta gnocchi that were pillows of deliciousness.

Top Pizza – Locali – This newcomer uses age-old pizza-making techniques, San Marzano DOP tomatoes and house made mozzarella. The flavors, texture and the perfect amount of char from the wood burning oven produce some of the best Neapolitan pizza this side of the Campo dei Fiori.

Jfood’s Top 10 Bar Burgers – Greenwich to New Haven #2 Super Duper Weenie

The First Runner Up for Best Bar Burger after tasting close to 70 different variations in restaurants comes from a haunt that is know for serving one of the best hot dogs in these parts. But as I stood in line one day I saw a little sign for “The Natural” and decided to give it a shot. And boy was I pleasantly surprised, it was absolutely delicious.

sdw the natural

The “Natural” burger was 6 ounces of delicious chuck and sirloin from Newtown’s Butcher’s Best Market. Owners Gary Zemola, John & Lorin Pellegrino created a very distinct flavor in the meat and the kitchen perfectly seasoned the patty. It was served on a bun from Chaves Bakery (plain or potato depending on the season) that allowed the flavor of the burger to shine. The grill-master cooked it to a perfect medium-rare. The bacon and cheese were excellent additions. You may also want to try one of Zemola’s house-made toppings (recipes are the same for over a decade) to add other great flavors and textures.

See the full list at:

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/5/5/top-10-bar-burgers-from-greenwich-to-new-haven-2013.html

(photo courtesy of Super Duper Weenie)

Super Duper Weenie on Urbanspoon

Jfood’s Top 10 Bar Burgers – Greenwich to New Haven #3 Black Duck

Overlooking the Saugatuck River and in the shadows of I-95 sits the Black Duck. Not visible from the street, this Westport institution has been included in my list of Best Burgers for several years and is again worthy of inclusion. Now #3 on my list of Best Bar Burgers from Greenwich to New Haven is the Black Duck.

EO_Black_Duck_Burger1This burger was six ounces of handcrafted 80-20 Angus and I ordered mine topped with frizzled onions and cheese. It was cooked to perfection, the exterior had a nice crust and medium pink occupied the middle. It was rich in flavor and the texture was soft and the size of the patty allowed the flavor of the meat to be the highlight of the burger. The frizzled onions were fantastic. The bun was plain but sturdy enough to handle the juicy burger and did not interfere with all the great flavors of the meat. The onion rings were my choice, with a crispy, thick coating.

See the full list of my Top-10 Bar Burgers at:

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/5/5/top-10-bar-burgers-from-greenwich-to-new-haven-2013.html

(photo courtesy of Ctbites.com)

Black Duck Cafe on Urbanspoon

Jfood’s Top 10 Bar Burgers – Greenwich to New Haven #4 Cherry Street East

The second week of the countdown to the best Bar Burger from Greenwich to New Haven continues. And in the Number 4 slot is Cherry Street East. This institution burnt to the ground several years ago and the owners and locals joined forces to rebuild an exact replica of the former CSE. I am glad they did, since the Vermonster combination is one of my favorites in the area.

Minolta DSCThe “Vermonster” was served on an English muffin with bacon and sharp Cheddar cheese. The 8-ounce burger was ground and hand-formed daily on-site and cooked on a gas-fired indoor grill. The meat reminded me of the old-fashioned soda shop burgers and the Cheddar cheese and bacon added great flavor. The English muffin was a great addition and added just a little bit of tang. The fries (regular and sweet potato) were very good but the house cut onion rings were probably the best in the area and a perfect side for this great burger.

See the full list of my Top-10 Bar Burgers at:

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/5/5/top-10-bar-burgers-from-greenwich-to-new-haven-2013.html

Cherry Street East on Urbanspoon

Jfood’s Top 10 Bar Burgers – Greenwich to New Haven #5 Burgers Shakes & Fries

EO_BSF_Double2

For number 5 on my list of Best Bar Burgers from Greenwich to New Haven I bring you Burgers, Shakes and Fries. The brain child of owner Kory Wollins, BSF started the burger revolution in these parts several years ago and is still going strong, with a second, larger  location in Darien. Many want their burger on a bun, but I think the BSF burger is just fantastic on the griddled bread.

There are two locations, but the burgers were significantly better in the Byrum location. The meat was delicious and cooked to order. My selection was the single with bacon. American cheese and fried onions, plus fries and a chocolate shake. The meat was rich in flavor and perfectly prepared, the bacon and cheese added saltiness and creaminess, respectively and the grilled onions were the best in the area. I loved the buttered and grilled toast as the “bun.” The fries were also fantastic and for a change of pace the sweet potato tots were also a good option. The burger, shake and fries were a fantastic meal.

See the full list of my Top-10 Bar Burgers at:

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/5/5/top-10-bar-burgers-from-greenwich-to-new-haven-2013.html

(photo courtesy of CTbites.com)

Burgers Shakes & Fries on Urbanspoon

Jfood’s Top 10 Bar Burgers – Greenwich to New Haven #6 Dinosaur BBQ

The countdown continues to the best bar burger from Greenwich to New Haven. And unlike other lists, I actually tasted close to 70 different hamburgers for this list.

us burgerThe “Dino Burger Deluxe” was 6 ounces of Angus beef topped with BBQ caramelized onions, melted cheddar cheese, tomato, house-cured pickles and BBQ mayo. The patty was cooked over a wood grill and the flavor of the meat absorbed a lot of great smoky flavor. The onions were a little pungent but the cheese and BBQ mayo were both great additions, the latter added just a touch of spice. The griddled bun was basic but the grilling increased the flavor and crunchiness. The Dino Poutine, fries covered with cheese and pulled pork, was a great side to go with.

For a full list go to…

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/5/5/top-10-bar-burgers-from-greenwich-to-new-haven-2013.html

Dinosaur Bar-b-que on Urbanspoon

Jfood’s Top 10 Bar Burgers – Greenwich to New Haven #7 Barnum Publick House

Barnum Publick House seems to stay below the radar…and when I visited, the staff was fantastic. I had a great conversation with the server, who was extremely passionate about the burger, telling me it was the best around. He was not far from the truth. Something about an English muffin brings back fond memories of burgers I made as a teen back in NJ.

So my #7 burger from Greenwich to New Haven is Barnum Publick House.

bl barnum publickThe “Barnum Burger” was 100% Angus beef with shredded Iceberg lettuce, tomato, Special Sauce served on an English muffin and I added Cheddar cheese and bacon. House-cut fries were included. The burger was prepared on an indoor grill and absorbed a tremendous amount of smokiness. The patty was perfectly charred on the exterior while the interior was moist and flavorful. Two slices of basic bacon added a little saltiness and the cheese was nicely melted. The English muffin was a great complement plus the fries were delicious.

Barnum Publick House on Urbanspoon

Jfood’s Top 10 Bar Burgers – Greenwich to New Haven #8 BJ Ryan’s Pub

I tasted over 60 hamburgers to develop the list, yes I actually tasted versus just cut and paste from the menus. And I rated the Top-10 Bar Burgers from Greenwich to New Haven. The first two listings were in New Haven, and for #8 we move to Fairfield County and BJ Ryan’s Pub in Norwalk.

bl BJ Ryan

The B.J. Ryan Burger was delicious; a simple burger served on a soft roll. The meat was perfectly charred on the exterior and juicy on the interior. The grind of the patty was not too compressed or too loose and a slice of American cheese brought all of the saltiness that was required. The fries, which are extra, were not in the same league and not worth the additional cost. (Not to be confused with the one that is sold at its sister restaurant BanC House).

See the full lists of my Top-10 Bar Burgers at:

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/5/5/top-10-bar-burgers-from-greenwich-to-new-haven-2013.html

B.J. Ryans on Urbanspoon

Jfood’s Top 10 Bar Burgers – Greenwich to New Haven #9 Prime 16

Yesterday the first of the Top-10 was published with old stand-by Louis Lunch grabbing spot #10, and today, a second New Haven favorite makes the list.

Over the last year I sampled over over 60 burgers in search of the best Bar Burgers and Best Restaurant Burgers. And since May is National Hamburger Month, I will countdown the best of the best from Greenwich to New Haven.

Each of these was sampled and enjoyed and not just a description from their website.

NUMBER 9…BL Prime 16

Prime 16 (New Haven) – Prime 16 served an excellent bar burger, 100% organic and humanely raised ground beef cooked to my requested medium-rare. Even though the meat was compressed, it was a large patty, delivered excellent flavor and was juicy throughout. There were two thin slices of bacon that added just a little saltiness and the soft brioche roll was the perfect choice to encase the patty and added a little sweetness. The russet fries were very good but I would recommend the sweet potato fries, which were excellent, some of the best I tried.

Go to CTbites and see the entire list:

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/5/5/top-10-bar-burgers-from-greenwich-to-new-haven-2013.html

Prime 16 on Urbanspoon

Jfood’s Top 10 Bar Burgers – Greenwich to New Haven #1 Parallel Post

People ask me all the time where they can find the best bar burger. And when I tell them, “The Trumbull Marriott” I love to look at their reaction. “The Trumbull Marriott?” Yup, the Parallel Post in the Trumbull Marriott is my 2013 choice as the Best Bar Burger from Greenwich to New Haven.

The brainchild of Chefs Dean James Max, Chris Molyneaux and Ali Goss this unexpected pleasure was fantastic. Chef Dean is an incredibly gifted Executive Chef, and when I spoke to him, he was in Southern California overseeing the opening of yet another restaurant to add to his portfolio. A resident of Boca Raton Florida and owner of several high end Florida restaurants, Chef Dean worked with Chefs Chris and Ali to create a delicious menu of farm to table cuisine, and the burger was one of those items.

bl parallel postThe “Double Burger” created by Chefs Dean James Max, Chris Molyneaux and Ali Goss was my perfect Bar Burger. Comprised of seven ounces of grass-fed beef from Ox Hollow Farm, topped with Vermont cheddar cheese, Benton bacon and served on brioche bun from Brothers Bakery in NYC. The flavor of the meat was delicious, deep, rich and then grilled to achieve a nice char on the exterior. The Cheddar was perfectly melted and just sharp enough to complement versus overwhelm the meat. The Benton bacon added great saltiness and smokiness to the burger. The brioche bun was sweet and buttery and grilled for just a little crunch. The fries were also fantastic, crispy on the exterior, soft and moist on the interior and slightly salted. This was a perfect burger from top to bottom.

So hat’s off to everyone at Parallel Post in the Trumbull Marriott for creating the Best Bar Burger from Greenwich to New Haven – 2013.

See the full list of my Top-10 Bar Burgers at:

http://www.ctbites.com/home/2013/5/5/top-10-bar-burgers-from-greenwich-to-new-haven-2013.html

Parallel Post on Urbanspoon