Column: A decade of memorable eating in and around Connecticut

A 'Not Bread Alone' column.

Four hundred and eight weeks ago, I started writing the Not Bread Alone column. Chris Bosak, business editor at The Norwalk Hour, took a chance on a recently retired restaurant guy to write a weekly column on restaurants, food and wine. He was pretty brave. It was my first writing gig. 

Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to explore restaurants, meet people behind the scenes, follow new home-cooking paths and dive deep into the world of wines and spirits

Over the years, I’ve seen trends come and go, restaurants open and close and innovation in the face of disruption. Leaders in the food business keep adapting as the industry constantly evolves. Fortunately, consumers are always ready to try something new.

Back in the fall of 2013 I introduced myself as someone who likes to eat. That hasn’t changed a bit. Writing about food has focused my interest and pushed me to broaden my horizons.

Oktoberfest, at a long-gone Norwalk restaurant, was the first eating out column. I’m still a fan of German food and the seasonal beer-hall hoopla, but I can’t think of any restaurants that do it these days. Instead, the celebration has rightfully been adopted by the many new craft breweries. The beer is great, but the cuisine has been left behind. 

Ethnic restaurants were hidden gems waiting to be discovered. A closer look at the local dining scene revealed small eateries covering almost every ethnicity. Created to serve local immigrant enclaves, their audience broadened as their delicious food found new fans. 

In Norwalk alone, I was able to enjoy food from across Central and South America, around the Pacific Rim and from Eastern Europe. Marsha and I spent time exploring these small family-run operations and sharing them with a wider audience. 

The Connecticut coast has more than its fair share of high-end restaurants. These establishments, helmed by experienced, creative chefs, offer the finest American and European food and service available anywhere. They too are worth exploring.

We tried to give equal attention to well-established restaurants along with new establishments. Restaurants like Bruxelles Brasserie in SoNo and L’Ostal in Darien tended to make a splash, drawing a lot of attention. It’s always great to get an early look at a recently-opened place, but long-standing restaurants including Carole Peck’s Good News Cafe in Woodbury and Luc’s in Ridgefield with loyal followings and strong reputation deserve attention too. 

Cooking at home allowed for another kind of in-depth exploration of food and drink. There was a memorable dinner, each course accompanied by a hand-crafted hard cider. We also gathered some amateurs and experts for comparative tastings of butter, artisanal chocolate, homemade blueberry muffins, gingerbread and croissants from local bakeries. 

When we could, we tried for a peek behind the kitchen door to see where the magic happens – learning how Fritz Knipschildt creates world class chocolates, Italian markets make fresh mozzarella, and chef Caitlin McGowan shops at the farmers market. The skilled people behind the scenes are just amazing. 

The pandemic set the food world on its ear. With no warning, eating out went full stop. Restaurants scrambled for ways to keep in touch with their customers, retain their staff and stay alive. Some made it, some didn’t, but restaurants will never be the same again. Better maybe, but not the same. 

After a long and fascinating run, this is the last regular column for Not Bread Alone. Thanks for reading! Your feedback, suggestions, comments and shared tips have all been welcome and encouraging.

We won’t stop exploring restaurants and sharing experiences. You can keep in touch with Marsha and me by signing up for emails at FranksFeast.com. We’ll update you on our delicious and memorable food adventures. See you there!

Frank Whitman can be reached at NotBreadAloneFW@gmail.com.