At THE SPREAD (70 North Main St., SoNo), much of the New American cuisine can be classified as comfort food, but we talked to the restaurant’s owner, Chris Hickey, to get his personal recommendations. The shrimp and chorizo chowder tops his list, having won last year’s ChowderFest competition. Executive Chef Carlos Baez changes the menu frequently based on the season and what’s available at local farms, adding three or four new items every week. Yet some fan faves never go off the menu, including the ricotta gnocchi with veal and sage veloute, and the beef tongue, which may sound strange to the uninitiated, but it’s essentially the ultimate beef sandwich that’s many steps in the making. The Food Network recently took note of Carlos’ bold talent and invited him to a challenge with Bobby Flay, during which he’ll cook a traditional Mexican dish. Watch for the episode to air in early February 2016.
At ELM (73 Elm St., New Canaan), Chef Luke Venner, who became the restaurant’s executive chef last May after working in Manhattan at BLT Steak and BLT Fish, is turning out some seriously innovative dishes. Among the must-try items right now are smoked short-rib chili with hominy and garlic toast; Korean fried chicken wings; Tuscan kale dip with charred bread; rigatoni with ‘nduja bolognese; whole roasted chicken with tardivo and grilled lemon; ranch ribeye with roasted bone marrow and black garlic gremolata. For dessert, check out the zeppole—ricotta donuts with a side of maple ice cream and berry jam.
Don’t miss the famous chili at JIMMY’S SOUTHSIDE TAVERN (340 Heights Road, Darien). The restaurant won the Chili Challenge at Darien Nature Center for the second year in a row, its classic beef recipe beating fourteen other competitors for first prize. Other new, hearty dishes on the fall lineup are a porterhouse for two, meatballs and a lobster pot pie.
At CAVA WINE BAR (2 Forest Street, New Canaan), Chef Nube Siguenza introduced a few new seasonal dishes for fall. Check out the spiced shrimp appetizer with roasted pumpkin and toasted pumpkin seeds, as well as the longtime favorite, Brussels sprouts with fontina risotto cake. For entrees, Nube is serving up a hearty veal osso bucco, duck breast with parsnip puree and seared yellowfin tuna with autumnal sides, a carrot puree, and roasted cauliflower. If you visit Cava in New Canaan or its sister restaurant Scena (1077 Post Road, Darien) on Sunday and Monday nights, bottles of wine are discounted 35 percent.
When it comes to comfort food, it can be worth a drive out of town to find a dish to soothe your craving. At PALOMA in Stamford (15 Harbor Point Road), the short ribs are one of the signature dishes at this Latin-inspired, waterfront restaurant. Executive Chef Chris Bateman’s version treats the incredibly tender beef to an ancho-cacao rub and pairs it with seasonal veggies and a horseradish gremolata.
Sometimes the most familiar, nostalgic snacks are also the truest comfort foods and that’s the case with the all-natural gourmet potato chips from LOCAL LEGENDS made in Norwalk. A partnership of Kevin Conroy of Rowayton Seafood and Joe Sequenzia, the Local Legends brand launched this summer with basic SoNo sea salt chips as well as cool flavors like Northfield Cheddar Maple Bacon and Nantucket Cranberry & Cracked Pepper. You can scoop up a bag of the crispy snacks at Rowayton Market (157 Rowayton Avenue) and Darien Whole Foods (150 Ledge Road).
Great comfort food comes in snack sizes, too. While you’re shopping for holiday gifts and home décor, you can pick up some of the pumpkin cinnamon macarons and a special pumpkin spice latte topped with whipped cream and fresh caramel drizzle at KIRBY & CO (1029 Post Road, Darien). The café team will be preparing some sweet treats that make delicious presents: think handmade truffles and chocolates in fab Louis Sherry vintage reproduction tins, as well as peppermint bark, sea salt caramels and holiday cake pops.