…. expect wine tastings paired with live music, more exclusive cooking demonstrations, more tours and classes. Last year’s list of 24 participating restaurants rose to 31 this year, many offering a limited-time, prix-fixe menu.

To participate, chefs are required to look to area farms and waters to fill their plates.

“It’s a matter of helping our community and finding food that’s fresher, not frozen,” said Shohreh Durkin, food and beverage manager for the historic 1926 Tarpon Lodge & Restaurant on Pine Island, which uses Wallace’s greens as much as possible. “It’s a higher cost, but it’s the stuff you’d like to eat yourself. Bigger suppliers are becoming aware of it.”

Every Restaurant Week menu will have locally sourced ingredients, whether it’s red Gulf grouper for the chimichurri dish at Matanzas on the Bay or Immokalee tomatoes smoked for the cream sauce in Il Cielo’s potato gnocchi.

“We were a little stricter with locally sourced (menus) this year,” said Nancy MacPhee, program manager for product development at the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, the Restaurant Week organizer. “Last year, we found we were the biggest hero to the small farmer, raising awareness and generating business for farmers.”

So they added more farm tours.

The Pine Island Botanicals tour is one of the 12 culinary experiences, compared to the seven offered the inaugural year …..