My visit to Taste of Ridgefield, a fantastic annual food and wine event in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
I’m going to confess from the start: I ate way too much when I visited Ridgefield, Connecticut last month, but if you’re going to attend a gourmet tasting event, you have to go “all in” and indulge! My friend invited me to join her for the 18th annual Taste of Ridgefield, a premier food and wine event hosted by the Ridgefield Rotary Club. Held at the historic Lounsbury House, the event featured displays from the area’s chefs, food artisans, and beverage purveyors. It was a great opportunity to sample some of the best culinary talent of the region, and support what I instantly perceived to be a warm and gracious community. Proceeds from Taste of Ridgefield benefit the Rotary Club’s scholarship fund, in addition to grants for a number of local organizations. Fabulous food in support of a great cause? What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Dating to 1896, The Lounsbury House is a beautiful marriage of gracious elegance and grandeur. Striking columns greet visitors at the main entryway amidst a sweeping porch that runs the length of the facade. The interior is adorned with preserved wood moldings, and a focal staircase allures visitors to its landing with soft light filtered through stained glass windows. For this particular event, tasting tables were set up in each room and hallway, with a harpist at the base of the staircase providing an ambient backdrop to the setting. Every aspect of the event was, in one word, “lovely.”
With more than 30 area food and beverage establishments participating in this year’s event (and yes, I visited them all), I’ve selected a few of my favorite bites for this post. I can never resist Croque Monsieur (above), and the taste that Sucre Sale provided as one of my first stops did not disappoint. It was a perfect buttery, crispy, cheesy morsel to start the event. Strolling around the corner, I immediately honed in on the beautiful display from Little Pub (below), featuring Orange Ginger BBQ Pulled Pork with Thai Peanut Slaw and Wasabi Mint Yogurt. The combination of textures and balance of sweet and spicy flavors was outstanding.
I was completely enamored with the creamy agave butter that Southwest Cafe paired with their Green Chile Cornbread. This was the first time I’d had this particular sweet-savory combination, and I can see why the appetizer is often mentioned in the Cafe’s reviews. Of course, alongside so many great food options, Taste of Ridgefield also gave guests an opportunity to sample new wines and spirits. I discovered two reds via family-owned Acona’s Wines & Liquors: Slingshot Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley), which just begged to be served with steak; and Mas de Gourgonnier (Provence, France), a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The latter was smooth, rich, and complex, but not overpowering. In short: very drinkable and would be well-paired with a range of meat dishes and cheese boards.
Of course, no tasting event is complete without dessert, and the creamy artisanal gelato from Johnny Gelato was a wonderful way to round out the afternoon. The delightful father and daughter team treated guests to tastes of their homemade Sea Salt Chocolate Fudge, Java Chip, Cannoli, and Banana Stracciatella flavors. Talk about an impossible choice, and definitely a Ridgefield “must visit” to indulge in their extensive menu of gelato and sorbet.
Last, but certainly not least: miniature cupcakes from The Cake Box. They were so good that my friend and I went back for seconds. My favorite was the Sweet and Salty (vanilla cake, vanilla buttercream, homemade salted caramel sauce), while my friend fell in love with the Mochaccino (chocolate cake, espresso buttercream, semi-sweet ganache drizzle). Excellent salted caramel confections can be difficult to execute, but The Cake Box balanced the flavors perfectly; the cupcake was not too sweet, not too salty, and frankly, a reason in and of itself for me to make the two-plus hour trip from Princeton to Ridgefield again in the near future.
Don’t miss next year’s event (look for announcements on the Ridgefield Rotary page as the date nears). With its hospitable residents, charming downtown with local shops and boutiques to explore, and vibrant culinary scene, Ridgefield is a wonderful stop in Connecticut’s Fairfield County.