As if we needed any more proof, this month's calendar says it all: In Fairfield County, we love to dine out. So get ready for a three-week-long Bacchanalia, because October is the month to celebrate local restaurants, with gourmet events -- at special prices -- taking place one after the other.
On Oct. 14, Fairfield will kick off its first-ever town organized Restaurant Week. More than 30 eateries will be offering discounted menus (mostly $10 and $15 lunches and $20 and $30 dinners).
If all goes as planned, the turnout in Fairfield will be just as good as the culinary scene was in Westport this week. The Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Westport & Weston Restaurant Week, running from Sunday through Friday.
"So far, so good," said Bryan Malcarney, owner of Westport's Blue Lemon. "Reservations usually build as the week goes on," he said. "We expect it to be even busier on Wednesday and Thursday." Visitors to the Blue Lemon had their choice of entrees such as grilled swordfish, chicken chilaquiles and penne with mushrooms and sweet Italian sausage.
At Tabouli Grill, a restaurant that's wedged between Fairfield and Westport, business was brisk for Westport Restaurant Week. "It's been great," said Emily Roper, manager. "A lot of regulars were taking advantage of (Restaurant Week), and we also got to see some new faces." On the Tabouli Grill special menu, diners had more than 10 choices of appetizers and entrees to pick from, and about 75 percent of the menu was vegetarian.
In Fairfield, Restaurant Week will include a special passport promotion. All of the participating restaurants will carry the passports, which can be stamped at each successive visit to a restaurant during the week.
Passports with two or more stamps will be eligible for a drawing, in which the top prize will be an overnight at the Southport Delamar hotel.
The discounted meals and the passport promotion provide the perfect excuse to try out some of the new restaurants.
For instance, check out the Asian cuisine at Wafu, the town's newest restaurant, at 3671 Post Road.
With its sparkly chandeliers and iPad menus, you won't even recognize it as the old Friendly's. Or head over to Iso's, 770 Commerce Drive, formerly Fairfield Cafe.
"We have a very good chef from New York," said owner Iso Dedusaj. "We want people to come see the restaurant and taste the food," he said. Dinner options range from veal scaloppini to pan-seared cod with butternut squash puree.
Another newcomer to town is Michael Gennaro's Steakhouse, which opened four months ago at 238 Post Road, just east of the Fairfield Motor Inn. Owner Michael Musto said that, for Fairfield Restaurant Week, they'll be offering customers 25 percent off their entire meal. "We offer only prime steaks," he explained, so rather than offering a prix-fixe meal, he opted to do an overall discount. "We're using Restaurant Week to give our regular customers a little thank-you, and to hopefully attract new customers, too."
Fairfield Restaurant Week also offers the perfect opportunity to get out and about in other parts of town that sometimes get overlooked. Bella Sera, a family-owned restaurant at 437 Tunxis Hill Road, is a perfect example. "We think of ourselves as a destination place," said owner Marco Bracaglia.
"We really like that Fairfield is coming together to do this event," he said. Entree choices will include butternut squash ravioli, frisee salad with dried cranberries, walnuts and gorgonzola, and bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin. "We have a lot of regular customers," said Bracaglia, "and they say they don't want to tell others about us, because we'll get too popular."
As if two weeks of discounted dining weren't enough in each town, Westport will be home to a new three-day event called Foodie Fest, which will feature activities, performances and demonstrations from Oct. 26-28.
The menu of events organized by the Downtown Merchants Association includes things like a Bloody Mary and mimosa demonstration, a kids' sushi-rolling class, a French Champagne tasting and a screening of the film "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."
While all eyes have recently been on Fairfield's burgeoning culinary scene, the two food events in Westport are likely to stir up some excitement. "There's definitely a buzz right now about Westport," said Malcarney.
One thing's for sure, though. With three major food events, October is definitely not the month to be on a diet. Leave that for November.
Patti Woods is a freelance writer. Contact her at email@example.com.
Westport Restaurant Week: www.westportwestonchamber.com
Sept. 30-Oct. 5: Fixed-price dinners at 18 Westport restaurants; fixed-price lunches at some.
Fairfield Restaurant Week: www.connecticutrestaurantweek.com
Oct. 14-20. Restaurants will feature $10 and $15 lunches and $20 and $30 dinners, and other discounts.
Downtown Westport Foodie Fest: www.westportfoodiefest.com
Oct. 26-28. Various events include tastings, demonstrations and workshops.