The masters of farm-to-table cuisine
There are a fair number of farm-to-table restaurants in our area. Here are three standouts, not to be missed.
In 2013 Bailey’s Backyard hired Chef Forrest Pasternack to transform the menu and utilize only the freshest local ingredients. Chef Forrest, a Ridgefield native, is no stranger to the farm-to-table concept. “I grew up with farm-to-table cookery without even realizing it,” he says. After spending eight years cooking in some of Manhattan’s top restaurants, he was eager to return to Connecticut and reconnect with local farmers. “The community has really embraced what we do,” he adds. The menu changes completely nine times a year, to accommodate the “season-within-the-season changes” says Pasternack. Each week, he visits suppliers like Marble Valley Farm (Kent) and Millstone Farm (Wilton). This summer, Dancing Dog Farm in Ridgefield will be supplying the restaurant with Asian-style veggies not found elsewhere in our area.
Artisan, located in the Delamar Southport Hotel, has been serving inventive, New England inspired cuisine since 2011. At the helm is Chef Frederic Kieffer, who constantly changes the menu with “the rhythm of the seasons and farmstead offerings.” “The changes are exciting,” says Chef Kieffer, “but what motivates me more than the change are the health benefits and the truth in using fresh farm produce.” Favorite local sources include Gilbertie’s (Westport), Sport Hill Farm (Easton), and Newhall Farm (Vermont). This summer, check out Artisan’s new wood-fired grill on the patio. Grilled fish and meats, plus special desserts like grilled pineapple will become summer staples.
Chef Tim LaBant of The Schoolhouse at Cannondale has always been a proponent of local seasonal cooking. A native of Wilton, LaBant started out in the corporate world but soon found himself re-examining his career choice. “I’ve always been a hands-on person,” he explains. “So I had a strong desire to do something more creative. And that’s what eventually drew me to the culinary arts.” He returned to Wilton in 2005 and after running a successful catering business, he opened The Schoolhouse in 2007. The menu is his own “creative vision” and features fresh, locally sourced food. “This was the way I’d always done things,” he says. “I was more interested in getting better ingredients than in creating a ‘concept’.”
The menu constantly changes, sometimes from day to day, depending on what is in season and available. Mill Stone Farms (Wilton) and Holbrook Farm (Bethel) are two he visits regularly. One delectable summer item is the house-made strawberry shortcake with vanilla bean macerated Connecticut strawberries. Also on tap for summer: Chef LaBant will offer a series of cooking classes open to the public.
23 Bailey Ave, Ridgefield
275 Old Post Rd., Southport
The Schoolhouse at Cannondale
34 Cannon Rd., Wilton