An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
May 16, 2014
12:49 PM
The Connecticut Table

'Fairfield County Chef’s Table' From CT Bites Brings Fine Dining Home; Events Set

'Fairfield County Chef’s Table' From CT Bites Brings Fine Dining Home; Events Set

At the risk of tempting criticism, we’re going to say it out loud (as our digital audience declared in the results of Connecticut Magazine’s Best Restaurants 2014: Readers’ Choice): Fairfield County is the indisputable capital—more like sizzling hot epicenter—of the state’s terrific and sophisticated dining scene.

There’s no sense in denying it.

Yes, there are great restaurants all over Connecticut, and more than a few clusters of riches (think of Litchfield County, Greater Hartford and the Mystic shoreline area, for example), but Fairfield County hands-down has the highest concentration of dining hotspots—and, notably, most of these restaurants are digitally and social media savvy, they love offering special events, and their ranks grow almost daily.

Such beauty demands a mirror, mirror on the wall, and since being founded in 2009 by former magazine industry photo editor Stephanie Webster, the online dining journal CTbites.com has expertly (and gorgeously) reflected the best of Fairfield County’s dining scene, matching its vibrant energy with a passionate level of engagement and, increasingly, with its own series of branded events.

Now Webster (editor-in-chief of CTbites.com) and her executive editor and partner, Amy Kundrat, who directs new media projects at Yale University, have taken the CTbites engagement to the next level by publishing the cookbook Fairfield County Chef’s Table, which features recipes to make in the comfort of home from more than 50 of the state’s best restaurants and is illustrated by more than 200 color photos by Webster.

They will be at the Barnes & Noble in Westport May 17 at 1 p.m. for a book-signing event, and also will appear May 31 at 11 a.m. at 109 Cheese & Wine in Ridgefield in an event that will feature chefs from Bernard’s and Southwest Café, both in Ridgefield, offering context and some delicious bites.

At Blue State Coffee in New Haven Thursday, Kundrat (right) talked about the three-year process of “wrangling” all the chefs, visiting the restaurants, gathering the recipes and then curating it all to make sure there was balance in terms of types of cuisine, geography from the Fairfield County scene, price points for the food and different cultural references.

The gorgeous book that resulted was published at the end of April by Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press, and is available through Amazon.

The recipes range from seafood paella from Barcelona Wine Bar (shown at top) to The Martha salad from Carole Peck’s Good News Café in Woodbury, maple bacon and eggs from Elm in New Canaan and the caramel-apple tart from SoNo Baking Company & Café in Norwalk.

“Some of them are really awesome,” says Kundrat, admitting that she has yet to try them all. One of her favorites comes from Alvino Villa of Casa Villa Restaurant in Stamford and Hacienda Villa Restaurant in Bridgeport. Chilies Relleno en Nogada (left), Kundrat says, is a traditional Pueblo recipe and “really unique. That’s a real gem.”

“There’s also [recipes from] some really amazing hidden gems,” says Kundrat of the Fairfield County dining landscape, mentioning the Schoolhouse at Cannondale in Wilton as just one example.

“Fairfield County stakes a claim to some of Connecticut’s most diverse terrain, an enviable proximity to New York City, and a discerning community of food lovers driving the demand for a vibrant dining scene,” Kundrat and Webster say in the book. “The Gold Coast boasts some of the country’s toniest neighborhoods, such as Greenwich and Southport, as well as the state’s largest cities, including the historic port city of Norwalk, the corporate-minded Stamford, and the diverse Bridgeport. Fine dining, dense downtown dining districts, and neighborhood bodegas are equally at home along this dense and diverse corridor. Along Fairfield County’s suburban center are such towns as Ridgefield, New Canaan, and Westport, whose historic Main Streets and cultural landmarks draw a family-oriented population. As a result, reclaimed taverns, farmers’ markets, and upscale dining districts scattered with family-friendly options abound. At the landlocked northern fringes, quiet enclaves such as Easton, Wilton, and Newtown have large swaths of protected and undeveloped land, as well as bountiful farmland and a handful of farm-to-table restaurants.”

Although just released, Fairfield County Chef’s Table is already drawing praise from a couple of the Connecticut dining scene’s most notable people.

“Being a travel writer, I see plenty of nice places to live, so why do I choose Connecticut? Simple: for the food. This book proves that rationale,” says Michael Stern of Roadfood.com and coauthor of the Roadfood books and the Lexicon of Real American Food. “Here are delicious recipes from the best restaurants in Fairfield County as well as loving descriptions and evocative photos of them all… The incredible diversity includes not only regular restaurants but also farmers’ markets and ice cream parlors, diners and pizza parlors, coffee roasters and food trucks… This is a great book about a great place to eat.”

“As a decades-long observer and critic of the Connecticut Restaurant scene, I applaud Amy Kundrat’s handsome new book on Fairfield County, center now of so many superb restaurants,” offers Patricia Brooks, a New York Times food writer and author of the Food Lovers’ Guide to Connecticut.

Meanwhile, connect with CTbites.com for the best content on dining well in Fairfield County, and, increasingly, elsewhere in the state.

“If there is one thing we know for certain, it’s that life is way too short to settle for bad food,” Webster and Kundrat say in the “About Us” section of the site.

“CT Bites is a web-based community built by and for people who love food in Connecticut. We love to eat and we love to log time in our kitchens almost as much as we love our families and careers. If you let us, we’d like to be that friend of yours that always seems to know the right place to go, the right time to visit, and the right thing to order. By working together we can help each other get the most out of living in Connecticut and make each bite count. If this sounds like your kind of project, please join us in bringing it to life. We may be building the site, but it’s your community.”

The “About Us” also notes a point Kundrat stresses in our chat: “We can't simply separate the people from the meal. There are many people behind the food we eat – from the owners, chefs, dishwashers, waitstaff – who work exceptionally hard. This doesn't give any one restaurant carte blanche, but it does make us think long and hard before putting pen to paper.”

Editor’s note: Connecticut Magazine and Ctbites.com have an active content sharing partnership that involves an interplay of food and dining content between the websites of the two media entities, as part of a mutually-shared mission and interest in given discerning diners in Connecticut and beyond the intel they need to access the best experiences from the state’s rich food scene. We also have a shared philosophy of highlighting the places that are great and avoiding using valuable resources simply to tell people what to avoid (in case you wondered why both Connecticut Magazine and Ctbites.com so enthusiastically seek engagement on our stories, and for the folks we’re writing about.)

 

'Fairfield County Chef’s Table' From CT Bites Brings Fine Dining Home; Events Set

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