It seems I've been doing a lot of eating out lately, and have tried to check out some new/newer places instead of frequenting my old favorites. Here are some places I've been recently....it's a huge mix of places that span the spectrum. All good, depending on what kind of mood you're in...
Nice night out:
The Pine Social, New Canaan, CT
I am usually suspect of restaurants in shopping plazas. However, although a Walgreen's anchors one end of this new and quite-attractive plaza, the second you step in the door, everything that was left behind you is immediately forgotten. The ambiance is fantastic. The lighting is great and the vibe is energetic, but not too loud that you can't hear your friends. The space has a nice bar (although not lots of extra room for standing--we were lucky two people were getting up from the bar as we walked in), lots of wood accents and comfy, tonal colors. I felt as though we were in a uber-cool club lodge of some sort. And then there was the food. I have to say that every single thing we ate was excellent. With the one exception of my husband's Filet Mignon not being cooked as he requested (it was too rare for him, but perfect for me), our meal was fabulous (we shared the tri-color salad and the calamari, I had the duck for my entree, and we shared Pots du Creme with pistachio biscotti for dessert). Our server was friendly, attentive, and helpful. What was best is somehow we managed to snag the front booth that overlooks the lounge area where they had a musician playing guitar and singing a great array of songs new and old. I would highly recommend Pine Social both for groups or a romantic date night.
Perfect weeknight outing:
Kiraku, Fairfield, CT
As a devotee of Wild Rice in Fairfield, I was hard-pressed to try another Asian-fusion restaurant, but I'm sure glad I did. Kiraku is relatively new to town and is in a completely renovated space that once housed Al's Place (on the Post Road near the intersection with Mill Plain Road). The space is narrow and not as open as Wild Rice, but the lighting and ambiance were good. I went with my two kids, and we all shared an assortment of dishes. My girls are dumpling-divas, and both gave the thumbs-up on these huge, plump and very juicy pork dumplings. We also had a noodle and chicken dish which I thought was excellent, plus a selection of sushi rolls. The food was great, service was extremely attentive. Definitely a place I'll return.
Taberna, Bridgeport, CT
Years ago I ripped out an ad from the newspaper for Taberna. It has been pinned to my bulletin board ever since, and for some reason, I never made it there. We often eat out with friends and I'm usually hesitant to suggest a restaurant to which I've never been, or for which I do not have a personal recommendation. This was one of those places. When a friend said she'd been and enjoyed it, my husband and I ventured up Bridgeport's Madison Avenue (past Tuscany, another great eatery to which you should venture) to check it out. More of a mix of Italian and Spanish than strictly Spanish ("Mediterranean fusion" they call it) and not so much a tapas place as a regular restaurant (not sure where I got the idea it WAS tapas), the food was very good. Granted there were only two of us and we didn't try a wide selection from the menu, but I have to say everything we ate was excellent. I particularly enjoyed the fresh anchovy salad (it's delicious, despite what you might think about anchovies) and the homemade light-as-air ricotta gnocchi. The service was excellent too.
When you're hungry, day or night:
Mike's Pizza, Fairfield, CT
Why it took me 10 years to try a place that I've come to find out is a Fairfield institution is beyond me. The newly-renovated space is a perfect place to take kids for a great casual meal. My kids LOVE it and have proclaimed the hamburgers 'the best EVER'. I think part of it is that they love that the owner waits on us and is so friendly and accommodating. It's a real family owned, family focused restaurant that makes you extra happy not to be in some awful chain eating frozen chicken fingers. The food is good but not fancy. It is a great spot for basic Italian food, Greek-style pizza, simple salads, sandwiches, etc. Their signature dish is the chicken turnover, which is a little like a calzone, but instead of ricotta cheese inside, it is a breaded chicken cutlet, tomato sauce and mozzarella wrapped up in pizza dough and baked. Okay, a little carb-heavy, but really tasty! And yes, they have beer and wine too. Perfect for lunch or dinner with the kids.
Click to learn more about my Connecticut cooking classes or read my Season To Taste food blog.
Above photo from Flickr.com