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Have ya' tried Brick + Wood Pizzeria & Wine Bar? Neapolitan Pizza and Italian specialties in Fairfield's Brick Walk. Tasty...

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Connecticut Magazine's "Experts' Picks" & Readers' Choice Dining Awards

Get ready to bite into the restaurants judged the best of the best in Connecticut by the "experts" from Connecticut Magazine, who range from veteran restaurant critics and food writers to contemporary bloggers who track the trends—and hottest, newest places—along with cookbook authors and even a former restaurant owner. And to make sure the state's hottest food destination (Fairfield County, of course) was well represented, our friends at Connecticut Magazine reached out to CTbites for key input.

Altogether, with some food savvy Connecticut Magazine editors sprinkled in, it's a group for which dining is a passion—and dining at the best places is an art that takes constantly having a collective finger on the pulse of the Connecticut dining scene.

Taken together, Connecticut Magazine's Readers' Choice Dining Awards and its Experts' Picks feature make for a beautiful January magazine, as they also provide a comprehensive view of the state's tastiest places to eat well.

Click, enjoy and let us know if Connecticut Magazine got it right:

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CTbites Staff & Chef Picks for TOP EATS OF 2014

In terms of eating, the CTbites team of writers, photographers, and chef friends have managed to sample and savor more than most. 2014 has been a stellar year for restaurant openings as Fairfield County and the surrounding areas continue to draw great culinary talent.  Instead of coming up with a top ten list ourselves, we asked the CTbites extended family to share some of their most memorable meals and dining experiences this past year.

Here are our favorite meals and restaurants of 2014. 

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WestportREADS The Dubliners: Dine Around Town Dublin-Style in January

WestportREADS, sponsored annually by the Westport Library since 2001, is once again underway, this time with some of the best fiction ever written in the English language—Dubliners by James Joyce. Help celebrate the 100th anniversary of this classic book in January, which is full of exciting and thought-provoking programs related to the book, Dubliners by James Joyce. WestportREADS is funded by Jerry A. Tishman.

In conjunction with this event, CTbites is co-hosting a curated dinner series, “Dine Around Town: Dublin,” offering the opportunity to dine and sample many traditional and delicious Irish inspired dishes; Irish Beef Stew , Guinness Glazed Short Ribs, Filet Mignon Shepard’s Pie, Wild salmon Marinated in Irish Whiskey, in a private setting with local chefs and in their local restaurants.

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Holiday Flip Cocktail Recipe via Sean Nye of Match in SoNo

Looking for the perfect Holiday Cocktail recipe for your festivities? Sean Nye has mixed up a little something special for CTbites, from his new post, behind the bar of Match in South Norwalk. 

Sean hails most recently from Walrus & Carpenter, as well as Bodega and South End in New Canaan. Jusy sayin...the man knows how to make a drink. 

Enjoy this truly delicious recipe for the "Holiday Flip" made with Applejack Brandy, cardamaro and nutmeg. And if you're simply too tired from opening presents, just go order one at Match.

Holiday Flip Cocktail Recipe

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VESPA Opens in Downtown Westport with Italian Inspired Fare 

Here's the buzz- VESPA (Italian for WASP) has arrived in Westport, so get ready for the sting. Perfectly situated on the corner of Post Road and the Saugatuck River, the brand spankin-new haunt from Westporter Bobby Werhane and his partner Kevin Lalumiere of Experience Hospitality Group shares its patio space with Bar Taco and nuzzles up snugly to the water's edge. VESPA is the group's second local restaurant (NEAT opened recently, right across the lot) and it's poised for success. 

We were invited to a "friends and family" soft opening where we enjoyed a large cross section of the very approachable and creative Italian inspired menu, prepared by Werhane's allstar kitchen team. Executive Chefs, Brian Reilly (Greenhouse Tavern and Noodle Cat) and Craig Wallen (Spasso and sous chef at Gramercy Tavern) work alongside Pasta Chef, Laura Bonechi (Jean-George's The Inn at Pound Ridge), and, by the way...her hand-rolled pasta is seriously crave-worthy. 

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Weekly Nibble: Bodega Happy Hour, Braising Class, X-Mas Dinners, Two Roads Brewing & More

Bodega Taco Bar has just launched Happy Hour at both locations, and it's a party. $3-$6 Bar Bites including: Pork Belly Pinxto, Cocktail Egg with Gaucamole and bacon, and Tostones w/ Achote roasted pork plus well priced beer and cocktails. Monday 4-11, Tues-Fri 4-6 pm. 

Perfect your braising skills just in time for Christmas with a Winter Braises cooking class at Barcelona West Hartford on Tuesday December 23 at 7pm.  It is $29 per person plus tax & gratuity. To make a reservation, please call 860.218.2100.

On Tuesday, December 30 from 11am-1pm, Stew Leonard’s of Newington will have a kids cooking class.  The menu is luau inspired: sweet and sour meatballs, pineapple salsa, hawaiian spam sliders and tropical cupcakes.  There will even be hula dancing.  It costs $25 per child.

Also on Tuesday, join Half Full Brewery for a holiday tasting and growler fill from 5pm-12am.

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Sono Baking Company To Take over Java Coffee in Westport

Yep. It's true. In a few short months, Java Coffee in Westport at 44 Church Lane is a thing of the past (sad to see them go). The good news? Sono Baking Company has just signed the lease for that very same location, and hopes to be up and running by February-ish. 

Owner, John Barricelli, says "The old Java location will be more of a cafe, with our primary retail storefront in Westport being the Post Road shop." "This location will not be a full bakery, but will feature complete menus for breakfast and lunch, great coffee, and possibly dinner...down the road."

We will keep you posted as we get closer to the opening date. 

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CTbites Readers Get Special Gift @ Sugar & Olives Winter Market

CT Bites readers who shop the market get a free gift with a purchase of $25 or more, a seasonal seasoning; a tin of our coffee salt rub (great for roasts or steaks) featuring Gorilla Coffee Beans and Himalayan Pink Sea Salt. Keep it or gift it, either way it’s a delicious addition to your holiday meal.

This indoor, rain-or-shine market/outing will run every Friday through February (except after Thanksgiving Christmas and New Year’s), offering locally produced edibles, including milk, eggs, cheese, honey flour, grains, produce and meats. More Info Here. 

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What Makes A Beer A Connecticut Beer?

Recently there was some discussion on Twitter, that infinite forum for public opinion, as to what makes a beer Connecticut Beer. At issue was the newly released Sip Of Sunshine IPA from Lawson's Finest Liquids. SOS, as we'll call it, is brewed at Two Roads in Stratford, Conn., so Elm City Beer Lovers asked if it belonged on their "Best of CT Beers" list. The obvious catch? Lawson's Finest was established in Warren, Vermont circa 2009. So: does being brewed and sold in Connecticut make it a Connecticut beer you're drinking? It depends on what you think.

First, we have to consider how hard a line we're going to draw. Some beers are obviously capital C-B Connecticut Beers: New England Brewing in Woodbridge, Beer'd Brewing in Stonington, Relic Brewing in Plainville, Southport Brewing Company... all established, licensed, brewed and sold in Connecticut.  
: Connecticut Beers

That's easy, but are beers like these the only ones worthy of the name? What's the orthodoxy here?

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Kids & Adult Cooking Classes @ Aux Delices 

Aux Delices' 2015 Winter/Spring Kids & Adult Cooking Class Schedule has just been announced. Aux Délices offers cooking classes for adults and children at their professional catering kitchen in Stamford. Classes are generally held on Wednesday evenings for adults and Sunday afternoons for children. Classes are hands-on for children and both participation and demonstration for adults. 

Their focus is to teach easy, interesting and seasonal food preparation, utilizing a variety of cooking techniques. The chef instructors are from Aux Délices, as well as from well-known restaurants in Fairfield County and New York City. Lynn Manheim, the Cooking School Director does an incredible job engaging and challenging both children and adults, while teaching students the basics of cooking along the way.  

View the complete schedule below...For more information, click here. 

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