EatDrinkShopCook: In 2012, foodies hungry for change?
Updated 6:56 am, Monday, January 9, 2012
The champagne bottles may all be dumped in the recycling bin by now, and New Year's diets are in full effect (for the next few days, anyway), but it's not too late to take a look back at the 2011 food scene.
It was a banner year in Fairfield, where more than 10 restaurants opened. Top-shelf tequilas and gourmet tacos drew diners to Bodega, while hummus and kebabs were on the menu at Safita. Southport saw some new additions as well, with Middle Eastern delicacies from Tabouli Grill and farm-to-table trendiness at Artisan, the Delamar hotel's swank new restaurant.
In Westport, the excitement couldn't be contained (nor could the traffic) with the openings of two big name restaurants, Shake Shack and Tarry Lodge, with the celebrity chef cachet of Danny Meyer and Mario Batali, respectively.
But, of course, while there were openings, there also were closings.
Several Fairfield newcomers, like MacKenzie's and the Greenhouse Grill, didn't last long. Some old standbys, like Bogey's in Westport and Friendly's in Southport, also saw their final days. The list continued with Fairfield Fish Market, Ole Mole, Matsuri and even The Fairfield Spot (at the jinxed site of the aforementioned Greenhouse Grill), which closed only two months after opening.
Always keeping on top of the trends, the area saw its share of the cutting-edge cuisine outlets. Ice cream was on the outs (we said goodbye to Gofer in Fairfield), but "froyo" was hot -- Pinkberry, 16 Handles and Tasti D-Lite all seem to be constantly packed with teenagers, while smoothies at Robek's in Westport and Fairfield also were a draw.
Crepes also were a big draw in 2011. You could find them on Black Rock Turnpike at Bon Appetit Cafe, or in downtown Fairfield at Christophe's Crepe Truck and at the Brick Walk Farmer's Market.
The word on the street for 2011 was that pie was going to finally take down the popularity of cupcakes. Michele's Pies in Westport came swinging onto the scene, but cupcakes still couldn't lose their fans. Pink Sprinkles in Fairfield satisfied plenty of sweet tooths. Michelle Ashear Klem of Westport's Cake Suite, predicted it accurately when she said, "Cupcakes have proven themselves to be much more than a passing trend, and I don't expect their popularity to decline as readily as they are predicting."
The area even saw its share of fame.
In March, all eyes cringed when watching "Kitchen Nightmares" with Gordon Ramsay, who tried (unsuccessfully) to revive Cafe Tavolini in Bridgeport. And in August, Westport cheered on resident Lucia Palmieri as she competed on the Bravo reality show "Rocco's Dinner Party." She got the honor of cooking dinner for Liza Minnelli's 65th birthday, but sadly, didn't win the competition.
But that's all in the past. We've now embarked on a new year and the predictions are rolling in fast and furious. Farm-to-table was all the rage last year. Will it continue? Will the froyo fever finally cool down? Have cupcakes finally seen their day?
The James Beard Foundation said that locavorism, doughnuts and Thai food will be the talk of 2012. Meanwhile, food columnist John Mariani said, "The hot new food of 2012 will be Asian dumplings. Bet on it."
As for me, I'm putting my money on grilled cheese. It was popular in 2011 and I think it will be even more so in 2012. Other trends I predict will be big in the new year include a proliferation of gluten-free foods (with quinoa really making its mark), mini desserts replacing their giant predecessors, and chia seeds. Yes, the same seeds that are used on chia pets. They're edible and by this time next year, they'll be so passe.
Contact Patti Woods at eatdrinkshopcook@