WESTERLY — From butternut squash maple mascarpone bisque and herb goat cheese portabella mushrooms with balsamic drizzle to burgers and fish and chips, local chefs have come up with a tantalizing array of new dishes — and some good old-fashioned blue plate specials — to add to their menus for next week’s popular Restaurant Week.
The program, sponsored by the Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce, is intended to make dining out locally more attractive and more affordable, said Lisa Konicki, the chamber’s executive director. Regular and first-time patrons can experience the cuisine and ambiance of local establishments at discounted prices, she said, with the goal of inspiring them to become regulars.
Restaurant Week 2013 begins Sunday and runs for eight days through Oct. 6. The 14 participating restaurants offer three-course, fixed-price menus of $15 for lunch and $25 for dinner. No coupons, tickets or passes are required; diners simply mention that they’ve come for Restaurant Week and are given the special menu.
“I hope to sell a thousand lobster boils next week,” said Andrew Nathan, chef and owner of two popular Westerly restaurants. “We love restaurant week.”
Nathan, who owns the Cooked Goose in Avondale and the recently opened Sea Goose in Dunn’s Corners with his partner and wife, Jennifer Gibson, said the annual event offers restaurant owners unbeatable opportunities. “I’ll be a great way to introduce people to our menu at Sea Goose,” Nathan said, “and a chance to let people know what we’re doing.”
Gibson said, “With all the new restaurants in town, it’s a great opportunity for the people in Westerly-Pawcatuck... especially now that people are traveling here, as a restaurant destination.”
The Sea Goose opened earlier this summer to much acclaim and instantly became popular with its notable raw bar and expansive, roomy interior. It also became very busy. Now that tourist season has quieted, Nathan said, year-round residents get to experience Sea Goose, and all local restaurants, without the wait and with terrific prices.
Nathan’s lobster boil consists of a one-pound lobster, mussels, clams, Adouille sausage, potatoes and corn. The three-course dinner includes a choice of a half-dozen Ninigret Cup oysters, zuppe de cozze (mussels in spicy red sauce) and a roasted beet salad with hazelnut vinaigrette with goat cheese for appetizer choices, and chocolate mousse, fresh baked pie or toll house cookie bar sundae for dessert. At $25 per person, the price is right.
James Roland owns Ella’s Fine Food and Drink on Tower Street with his wife, Jeannie Roland, an award-winning chef. “We’ve already had a lot of reservations,” Roland said. “This is a win-win for everyone and a great opportunity for us to show what we do. The chamber does a great job with this. Last year was very successful.”
Konicki said, “It’s our fourth annual. It’s one of those things that’s strongly received by everyone.”
“This year will be really exceptional,” she added. “Not only do we have our returning restaurants, but we have new ones too.”
The newcomers are Amigo’s, Brazen Hen and Sea Goose. Returning are Bridge, Casa Della Luce, 84 Tavern on Canal, the Shelter Harbor Inn, Guytano’s Cafe, The Haversham, Ella’s, The Cooked Goose, The Pavillion, Venice and The Twisted Vine.
Chris Lusk, the chef at the Shelter Harbor Inn, is about to participate in his first Restaurant Week in Westerly. Lusk, who arrived in Westerly a few months ago, said he and his team had fun putting together a special menu, which includes Cajun fish tacos for lunch and braised beef short ribs over creamy polenta with a barbecue glaze for dinner.
Wendy Carr, owner of the newly opened Amigo’s on Canal Street, said Restaurant Week was “another great chamber event.”
“We’ve got a great menu and I’m excited people will get the opportunity to experience it,” said Carr, who also owns Prime Time Cafe, which is not participating in this year’s event.
The lunch menu at Amigo’s features items like jicama cucumber carrot salad with grilled shrimp in tamarind vinaigrette. The dinner menu features items like roast pork loin in cumin mango glaze with chilaquiles (fried tortilla smothered in tomatilla salsa).
Down the street at the Brazen Hen, an “upscale Irish Pub,” Chef Donny Highland is preparing for a busy week.
“We’re going to have a little bit of everything on the menu,” said Highland. “We’ll have salmon and steaks and crab cakes but I bet the shepherd’s pie will be the best seller. Our owner, Leo Roche, makes it himself and the people love it.”