Twice a year, magic happens in Howard County. Howard County Restaurant Weeks come around, and area restaurants put together fun and interesting menus at pocketbook-friendly prices to showcase their chefs and their cuisine.

Howard County is crawling with delicious dining venues, and many of them are showcased during Howard County Restaurant Weeks. And this being the event’s 10th year, Visit Howard County has put together an amazing prize package that one lucky person will win by visiting a participating restaurant and posting a photo with the hashtag #HoCoRestaurantWeeks. The package includes an overnight stay at Turf Valley Resort, gift certificates to several area restaurants, a round of golf from the Columbia Association, and more!

So let’s get this party started. Here are some dishes that look especially tantalizing to me:

Braised Lamb Risotto at AIDA Bistro and Wine Bar

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’ve already had this. AIDA previewed its Restaurant Weeks menu this weekend, and it being our favorite HoCo restaurant and all, we jumped at the chance to sample it. It was … beautiful. Pure comfort food. Like something your mama would make for Sunday dinner on a cold winter’s night, with a dash of fancy. It’s what AIDA does best. We had even more items from the Restaurant Weeks menu — they were so tasty, they might deserve their own post.

Crab cakes at Alexandra’s American Fusion

I’ll let you in on another secret: I’ve already had this, too. The selections on Alexandra’s Restaurant Weeks menu are all on their regular menu, but packaged into that special prix-fixe pricing during Restaurant Weeks. The crab cakes are excellent — juicy, plump, and loaded with crab meat. The housemade tartar sauce isn’t your typical tartar sauce — it’s got a delightful kick that you’ve just got to try.

Bourbon Pecan Pie at Centre Park Grill

If this pie is anywhere near as good as I know Centre Park’s cheesecake to be, we will have ourselves a winner. Centre Park is also known for its extensive bourbon selection, so I’m sure they picked a good one to complement the dark sweetness of the pecan pie.

Spinach and Chorizo Salad at County Cork Wine Pub

Though this restaurant is technically in Carroll County, we’ll give them a pass because it’s almost HoCo. Plus, the food looks fun. I’ve never been to County Cork, but it seems to be a favorite gathering place for locals looking for a casual neighborhood vibe with a touch of class. This salad looks refreshing and zingy, and it’s topped off with a champagne vinaigrette. Sounds like a celebration to me — especially since this location is offering a four-course deal, while most others are offering three courses.

DelMarVa Chicken at Hudson Coastal

My 75-year-old neighbor, Carol, waxes poetic any time she talks about crab imperial; you’d think it had replaced ambrosia as the food of the gods. So this chicken-with-cheddar-and-crab-imperial concoction caught my eye right away. Might have to knock on Carol’s door and see if she wants to go for a ride.

Mexican Street Corn at La Palapa Grill

Hola. Me llamo Elizabeth and I’m a Mexican food-aholic. I would eat Mexican food every single dang day if I could (I suppose I could, actually. I’ll have to ponder that at another time). I’ve seen loads of people making variations of Mexican street corn, but this one seems pretty traditional — grilled corn, lime, crema, chili … I always love the food at La Palapa, so we might need to give this one a try too!

Short Rib Rigatoni at Lib’s Grill

Lib’s Grill is one of Maple Lawn’s newer dining options, and another restaurant I have yet to try. Its Restaurant Weeks menu looks delicious though, especially this housemade rigatoni with — HELLO — whipped burrata. Be still my beating married-an-Italian-because-they-love-good-food heart.

Ahi Tuna Banh Mi Lettuce Wraps at The Turn House

I already know from experience that The Turn House nails comfort food. But can they do more ethnically adventurous cuisine? There’s only one way to find out, folks. I hear from the bartender that they’re planning some special Restaurant Weeks cocktails, too, so we best get while the getting’s good, no?

What are you excited about? What are you waiting for?
Let’s do this, HoCo. (And don’t forget to use the hashtag #HoCoRestaurantWeeks for your chance to score that awesome prize pack!)