LOOKING back at the restaurants I reviewed this past year in the eastern part of Connecticut (including New Haven and Hartford Counties), I remember many that I would enjoy eating at again. Too many to revisit here. So I have limited my choices to those that are representative of a culinary trend, offer especially good value for the money or have a very distinctive style.

A trend that has been hard to miss this year is the growing attention being paid to where our food comes from, and how it is produced. This movement is born of concerns for food safety, dwindling farmland and transportation costs, and the yearning for food that tastes like it is supposed to. The idea that the apples and tomatoes, even the cheese we are buying, should be produced locally, using sound environmental practices, is catching on in Connecticut. Several of the best restaurants I reviewed define themselves significantly by their commitment to this philosophy.

Chief among these is Still River Café in Eastford, in the northeast corner of the state. The husband-and-wife owners, Robert and Kara Brooks, gave up legal careers to turn the barn on their rural property into a restaurant. Still River, open weekends only, serves a contemporary American cuisine using produce grown in the organic gardens and greenhouses visible from the front window of the restaurant. Ms. Brooks does the cooking while Mr. Brooks mans the front of the house and the garden. What produce the Brookses cannot grow (and that is surprisingly little) is bought locally. Meat, seafood and dairy (Still River serves a generous local cheese plate) are also from the Northeast. Enhanced by an elegant, Zen-like presentation, the food is as beautiful as it is tasty. Dishes are served in trios of tastes; entrees like poached cod on polenta johnnycake, with cod cakes and cod and clam chowder, maintain a farm-to-table sensibility.

Jason Collin, chef at Firebox Restaurant in Hartford, also dishes up a farm-to-table American cuisine, but in an urban setting. The restaurant represents one arm of a Melville Charitable Trust initiative to restore the Frog Hollow neighborhood surrounding Firebox. Another arm is a farmers’ market that goes up once a week during summer and fall in the parking lot adjacent to the red brick restaurant. Collin’s seasonal menu ingredients are locally sourced, whenever possible, some from the market next door. The food is hearty and well made, from mussels in basil butter sauce, to country pork pté, and Stonington flounder fillets served over buttered fennel and leek. The panna cotta melts on the tongue.

The vegan restaurant Ahimsa, in New Haven, is the brainchild of young Nirav Shah, who founded the restaurant as a way of putting his commitment to vegan philosophy into practice. About one third of the menu is raw. Almost 80 percent of the produce used is organic and the restaurant buys whatever is available locally, depending on season. The cuisine is a mix of cultures. My favorites have been Indian and Sri Lankan dishes: tomatoey, cinnamon-spiced Gujarati korma (stew); upma (a creamy spiced semolina mixture garnished with cashews); a Sri Lankan coconut-rice pancake called appam; and nasi lemak, a plate of coconut rice with spinach and peanuts.

Full Story: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/16/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/