Tag Archives: Bill Taibe

The 3rd Time’s The Charm

Actually, the 1st 2 are pretty charming as well.

Bill Taibe — owner of Le Farm and The Whelk — will open his 3rd Westport restaurant early this summer.

CT Bites reports that the site is the short-lived Bistro 88 space in Bridge Square — formerly Peter’s Bridge Market. It’s just a few steps away from The Whelk in Saugatuck Center.

Bill Taibe serves up octopus and squid at The Whelk.

Bill Taibe serves up octopus and squid at The Whelk.

Taibe — much beloved for his fierce dedication to locally sourced farms and distributors — told the food blog that the new spot will “take its culinary and design inspiration” from Japanese pubs. The emphasis is on small dishes, and great drinks.

He called it an Asian version of The Whelk — including a communal table — offering a mix of Japanese and Chinese dishes. You can also buy a bottle, write your name on it and store it for later.

Saugatuck has been on the culinary map for a couple of years now. In June, a new kitchen warms up — and the area will be even hotter.

 

A Beef With Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart may no longer live here, but it’s not like she has a bone to pick with us.

Yesterday, in her cleverly named “The Martha Blog,” she gave a nice shout-out to Saugatuck Craft Butchery — the shop on Riverside Avenue (opposite the old Doc’s)  that’s drawing raves from plenty of non-Martha normal people as well.

(On Monday I was at The Whelk — Bill Taibe’s equally excellent restaurant next door, whose meat comes from Craft Butchery. Sure, Bill’s menu is heavy on oysters, clams and other seafood. But my lamb burger at least equaled any dish I had in New Zealand. And the meat there was waaaay beyond mouth-watering.)

But back to Martha (of course). She wrote:

Recently, I learned of Saugatuck Craft Butchery, which opened its doors last November in my former hometown of Westport, Connecticut, and is owned by Ryan Fibiger. Fibiger started his career in finance on Wall Street and after relocating from Manhattan to Westport with his wife, Katherine, he became deeply disenchanted with the food choices in his new neighborhood.

Ryan Fibiger and friend.

Fibiger learned about a Butchering 101 course being taught by Joshua Applestone at his shop in Kingston. After taking the class, Fibiger started rethinking his career path, spending his weekends as Joshua’s apprentice. Along the way, he met Paul Nessel, who had some restaurant experience and was also deeply interested in the art butchery. The two found a shack to rent near Kingston, which they dubbed ‘Meat Camp’, and spent an intensive eight months learning the craft.

Saugatuck Craft Butchery is a gem of a shop, which Ryan and Paul run together.  They are one of perhaps ten butcher shops in America that deal with cutting whole animals from nose-to-tail, sourcing their organic meat from local sustainable farms.  It’s also a very friendly shop with wonderful customer relations and a true sense of community.

Okay, as a food writer Martha is no Ruth Reichl or Frank Bruni. But the woman knows her onions.

And her grass-fed, grain-finished, all-natural, humanely raised beef, pork, lamb and poultry too.

Martha Stewart talks turkey about Saugatuck Craft Butchery.

The Whelk

A whelk is an edible sea snail.

The Whelk” is the name of the newest restaurant in town. Located across from the old Doc’s on Riverside Avenue, it’s the latest addition to the funky mix of Italian, Mexican, seafood, steak and Mario Batali-type places that are fast making Saugatuck an actual lively place to be.

The owner’s name — Bill Taibe — is familiar. He also owns leFarm, the highly acclaimed Colonial Green restaurant offering fantastic local produce, fish and meats.

Bill Taibe serves up his octopus, squid and fries in beef gravy dish.

His newest venture is similar — much of the food is locally sourced — but very different. The Whelk’s menu spotlights oysters, clams and shrimp.

There’s smoked fish pate, salmon jerky and lobster rolls, along with chilled seafood salads, a tuna burger and blackened fish sandwiches. I recommend the spectacular (and innovative) octopus, squid and fries in beef gravy.

Meat (for dishes like the lamb burger) comes from just across the plaza — the mouth-watering Craft Butchery — while general manager Massimo Tulio (you know him from Fat Cat Pie and  Fountainhead) has designed an extensive list of hand-crafted wines. “All the growers have their hands in making it,” he says proudly. “There’s nothing with chemicals.”

Like the rest of the Saugatuck development, The Whelk is light and airy. There’s a long white marble bar, a couple of large communal tables, then plenty of window tables. There will be outside dining too (whenever).

Last night, the place was filled for a private party. Bill plans a soft opening next week. It should fill quickly, as many new restaurants do.

A whelk

But The Whelk will have staying power. And when spring and summer finally arrive, it and the entire Saugatuck neighborhood — including a new Asian cuisine and sushi bistro around the corner in the former Peter’s Bridge Market — will be rockin’.

They’ll do it 2012-style. But in many other ways, Saugatuck will be just as alive as it was 50 or 100 years ago.

RSA Takes Root

Farmers like to grow things.  They don’t like to market, advertise and transport them.

Bill Taibe likes to cook.  He loves using local ingredients — the fresher the better.

The convergence of area farmers and Taibe is good news for diners — and not just fans of Le Farm, Taibe’s Colonial Green restaurant that earns raves for showcasing market-based food cooked and presented in a homey, comfortable and very sustainable atmosphere.

Bill Taibe wears his convictions on his chest.

Thanks to RSA — “Restaurant Supported Agriculture,” a concept that Taibe knows needs a zippier name — 5 local restaurants now offer the best in local products.  Banding together, they guarantee farmers a market for their goods.

Promising to buy takes pressure off the farmers.  They reciprocate by planting what the chefs request.  Make no mistake:  It’s not just lettuce, tomatoes and corn anymore.

Taibe — who built 2 previous restaurants on the barter system, and admits he “may have been born in the wrong century” — explains that RSA is based on the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model currently enjoyed by many Westporters at the Wakeman Town Farm.

RSA is less structured –shares are not bought in advance from farmers — but the concept is similar.

Once a week — via the Green Village Initiative — 5 restaurants (Le Farm, the Boathouse and Dressing Room in Westport, plus Wilton’s Schoolhouse and Fat Cat Pie Company in Norwalk) receive a list from local growers of whatever’s ripe.

By 4 p.m. each Monday the chefs respond with their own list:  what they want.

The farmers pick the crops on Tuesday morning; by 2:30 that afternoon GVI volunteers have gathered it, transported it back to Wakeman Farm, and it’s ready for pick-up by the restaurateurs.

“We sit around there for half an hour talking, eating each other’s tomatoes, and sharing ideas,” Taibe says.  “It’s fantastic.  Do you know how hard it is to get 5 chefs together any time?”

Then they head back to their restaurants, to cook.

Taibe enjoys working with RSA partners. “There’s a lot of jealousy and competition in this business,” he admits.  “But people don’t eat at just 1 restaurant.  They go to other places.  I prefer they go to places with like-minded owners and chefs.”

Taibe gives huge props to GVI.  “They get nothing out of this, other than fulfilling their passion.  I only wish to be so good-hearted.”

He also loves the “circular economy” that RSA helps develop.

“This gives hard-working farmers a guaranteed place to sell their products,” Taibe says.  “If we can get them delivered to us, they can stay and do what they do best.  And not worry about the rest.”

The Hickories in Ridgefield and Stone Gardens in Shelton are RSA’s 1st mainstay farms.  Soon, Taibe hopes to add milk, cheeses — and maybe protein and livestock — to the list of farms.

Right now, he says, “We need farmers to trust us, so they can plant what we want.  Everyone today grows a lot of the little stuff — kale, bell peppers, whatever’s safe.  We want to branch out.

“The key is for us to guarantee we’ll purchase what they buy.”

He hopes to continue the concept through the winter.  “Farmers have greenhouses,” he notes.  “We’ll keep getting products from around the state.”

RSA is, Taibe says, “a really simple formula.  It’s sure to grow.”

And, like all the food prepared and served so freshly and creatively at the 5 RSA restaurants, it will grow with love, care and goodness.

From Colonial Green To 30 Rock

Bill Taibe has had a big month.

First, the highly touted chef opened a new farm-to-table restaurant — LeFarm — in Colonial Green.

Mmmm good!

Mmmm good!

This morning he was sharing roasted pork belly and acorn squash recipes with Al Roker on the Today show. 

What’s next?  Cooking for Barack and Michelle? 

Stay tuned.