Tag Archives: Kawa Ni

Willkommen, Westoberfest

For a decade, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association sponsored Blues, Views & BBQ.

This year, after the Labor Day weekend music and food festival evolved into a regional event — drawing visitors from as far as New York, but who seldom ventured beyond the Levitt Pavilion and Imperial Avenue venues — the WDMA handed it off to the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

That left a hole in the downtown group’s calendar. They wanted something new — but Main Street oriented.

Welcome, Westoberfest! It’s set for next Saturday (October 13), from 1 to 5 p.m.

Like Oktoberfests everywhere, this one features beer, food, music and more. Over 18 local and regional breweries will offer seasonal craft beers in the Elm Street parking lot. Merchants will walk around, handing out coupons and free items.

Rothbard Ale + Larder and Kawa Ni will serve special cuisines. Amber Anchor plays; kids can enjoy face painting, and the Westport Artists Collective, Historical Society, Library, Wakeman Town Farm and Earthplace will all participate too.

Also on tap: a pop-up artisan market courtesy of the Westport Farmers’ Market, and a classic car rally and exhibition through the Small Car Company of Westport.

It’s all free (except for the beer tasting). Those tickets ($35 for single, $60 for a pair, in advance online only, and a pack of 10 for $280, in advance online only) are available here.

If you think a lot goes on in Westport next weekend, you’re right. There’s also Saugatuck StoryFest at the library, Jesup Green and other sites.

This is one time no one will sing the downtown blues.

Farmers’ Market Serves Up Top Chef Battle

The Westport Farmers’ Market is 12 years old — and wildly popular.

Every Thursday from May through November throngs fill the Imperial Avenue parking lot, on a hunt for fresh produce, meat and fish, baked goods, even pizza, tacos and dog food.

But the Market always looks to add spice to its spices, herbs and more.

So — even though the Westport Farmers’ Market is a community celebration, not a competition — they’re introducing a Chef of the Market contest.

Starting this Thursday — and running once a month through the fall — 12 well-known names battle it out through an opening round, semifinals and finals. The winner will be, I guess, the chief chef.

The brainchild of board member — and no-slouch-himself chef Bill Taibe — works like this.

On the 3rd Thursday of each month, 3 chefs go head-to-head-to-head.

At 10 a.m., they get $20. They have 45 minutes to shop for ingredients, cook, and present their appetizer-size dish to the judges. PS: Electricity is not allowed.

In keeping with the fun theme, judges are randomly selected from any shopper who wants to participate.

In 2015, chefs prepared a recipe at the Westport Farmers’ Market. This year, they’ll compete against others. (Photo/Oliver Parini)

The first round runs through August. The winner of each group moves on to the semifinals, the 3rd Thursday in September.

Finals are set for “Fork it Over,” the Westport Farmers’ Market annual October fundraiser.

All chefs donate one $50 gift certificate from their restaurant. The winner gets every gift card — so he can enjoy his competitors’ meals yet not pay for them — along with other prizes.

The early chefs — particularly those tomorrow — have it tough. They can’t choose from flavorful snap peas, strawberries or squash. However, Taibe is sure they’ll do imaginative, tasty things with this month’s bounty, like radishes and kale.

Fresh produce is one of the Westport Farmer’s Market’s most popular attractions. Chefs competing in this year’s competition know exactly how to prepare it. But can they shop for it — and finish their dish — in just 45 minutes?

All 12 chefs gathered at the Market last week, to pick their dates out of a hat.

There was already smack talk — including between the chefs at Taibe’s own Whelk, Kawa Ni and Jesup Hall, all of whom are competing. Other Westport chefs represent The Cottage, OKO, Match Lobster Burger and Amis.

There’s chatter on social media too.

Starting Thursday, the rest of us can see where it all leads.

Let the Chef of the Market games begin!

Chef competitors include: May 24, Geoff Lazlo, Ben Freemole, Christian Wilki; (June 21) Matt Storch, Jeff Taibe, Adam Roytman; (July 19), Jonas/Brad, Anthony Kostelis, Anthony Rinaldi; (August 16) Nick Martschenko, Dan Sabia, Carlos Baez.

Remembering Jessica Shure

Jessica Shure — a Staples Players star in productions like “Guys and Dolls,” “Mame,” “The Mystery of  Edwin Drood” and “The Sound of Music” — died on Wednesday of a brain aneurysm.

The 2001 graduate is remembered by Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long for her “exceptional soprano voice, quirky sense of humor and devotion to musical theatre.” Here she is as Deirdre Peregrine/Rosa Bud in “Drood”:

As a senior, she performed a memorable spring concert solo with Alice Lipson’s choir.

She headed to Northwestern University and pursued acting after Staples, then changed careers and focused on food. She became a valued pastry chef at Bill Taibe’s Whelk and Kawa Ni. (Click here for a profile of her there.)

Jessica Shure (Photo courtesy of CTEatsOut.com)

Friends are invited to stop by the Shure house today (Saturday, December 30), from 1 to 6 p.m.

Her sister Caitlin and brother Dan suggest that contributions in her name can be made to a local animal shelter or the American Civil Liberties Union,

(Hat tip: Jim Honeycutt)

Slicing Up Saugatuck

The 6th annual Slice of Saugatuck was the best yet.

Perfect late-summer weather; a record number of 50-plus restaurants and businesses, and a large, relaxed crowd enjoyed an afternoon of strolling, eating, music, eating, shopping, eating, kids’ activities, and eating.

Thanks go to the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, plus the Slice’s many sponsors.

And congrats to the Gillespie Food Pantry: recipient of some of today’s funds.

Here’s what the Slice looked like, starting and ending at Bridge Square:

Owner Bill Taibe (right) and his Kawa Ni staff served Japanese delicacies (and drinks).

Firefighters at the Saugatuck station promoted fire safety (and offered a seat in their very cool truck).

The Whelk offered some delicacies …

… while a few feet away on the riverfront plaza, the Silver Steel Band played.

Matt Storch dished out fries. The Staples High School graduate’s new Match Burger Lobster restaurant opens in 2 weeks.

Socks — a face painter — came from Norwalk.

The Funicello family’s Tutti’s is always a Slice of Saugatuck favorite.

Mersene — owner of the very popular Indulge by Mersene — welcomed Railroad Place Slice-goers with her typically funky goods.

Every kid loves a bounce house.

A tae kwan do place lured passersby with this inflatable guy.

The Slice included Saugatuck Avenue too. Here’s the mouth-watering scene at Dunville’s.

All roads led to the Slice of Saugatuck. If you’re reading this before 5 p.m. — there’s still time. After 5, several restaurants extend the fun with specially priced menus.

Bill Taibe Honors Yesterday, Tomorrow

Starting with Le Farm — and continuing through the Whelk and Kawa Ni — Bill Taibe has offered diners 3 very different visions of what a great restaurant can be.

Now he’s preparing a new space.

It’s in Westport’s original Town Hall: the 1908 stone building next to Restoration Hardware on the Post Road, opposite Patagonia. The building already houses another dining spot — Rothbard Ale + Larder — in the lower level (once the town’s police headquarters, including a jail).

Westport's original Town Hall, on the Post Road next to Restoration Hardware. It's now home to Rothbard Ale + Lager -- and, soon, a new Bill Taibe restaurant.

Westport’s original Town Hall, on the Post Road next to Restoration Hardware. It’s now home to Rothbard Ale + Larder — and, soon, a new Bill Taibe restaurant.

Even as he builds, Bill is not sure of the menu. The other day, CTBites reported:

“Westport needs a real old time tavern,” Taibe told us. Unlike his other restaurants, there will likely be few twists, no high wire acts. “This menu would probably not be as aggressive,” he suggested. “Unlike the Whelk and Kawa Ni, we’d even have red meat.”

He loves the downtown location, and the site’s historic bones. So even though his new, as-yet-unnamed restaurant is a work in progress, Bill knows one thing.

He’s asking Westporters for old photos of the 1st Town Hall. You can donate other memorabilia too: menus or anything else from produce markets, shops, butchers, bakers, and fish mongers.

You can find him at wtaibe@aol.com.

Or any of his restaurants, current or future.

(Hat tip: Johanna Rossi)

Entree Nous: For Valentine’s Day

No, the headline above is not misspelled.

Just between us: “Entrée Nous” is a beautifully produced, creatively conceived and cleverly named concept.

The hard-cover book features a dozen Fairfield County restaurants.

But it’s more than just gorgeous photos of food. If you call for a reservation, tell the restaurant you’ll be using “Entrée Nous” — and bring the book — you’ll receive 1 complimentary entrée.

That sure beats flowers for a Valentine’s Day gift.

“Entrée Nous” is the brainchild of Weston residents Mica DeSantis and Elizabeth Menke. They met through the Weston Women’s League.

Mica DeSantis and Elizabeth Menke.

Mica DeSantis and Elizabeth Menke.

Mica is a New Jersey native with an IBM marketing background, and plenty of volunteer experience with charities.

Elizabeth grew up in Minnesota, earned an MBA and spent years in Europe as an investment banker. Overseas, she was intrigued by “passport-style” guides that introduced residents to area restaurants, while offering complimentary meals and donating part of the proceeds to charity.

For the Fairfield County edition — the prototype of an idea they hope to replicate in similar areas around the country — they sought an interesting, eclectic mix of dining options. They wanted a variety of price points, cuisines and towns.

Westport is represented by Kawa Ni. The women like Bill Taibe’s concept, and strong flavors.

Kawa Ni's photo in "Entree Nous." (Photo/Lauren Santagata)

Kawa Ni’s photo in “Entree Nous.” (Photo/Lauren Santagata)

Other “Entrée Nous” restaurants near Westport include The Spread and Cafë Chocopologie in SoNo, Barcelona and Martel in Fairfield, and Artisan in Southport.

Like a chef who sends out an unexpected dessert, the book delivers a couple of delightful surprises. A section toward the end explores Fairfield County’s “food support system,” including the Westport Farmers’ Market.

And a page dedicated to Community Plates explains how the non-profit transfers fresh, usable food that would otherwise be thrown away by restaurants, markets and other food industry sources, to folks who need it.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will benefit Community Plates.

Mica and Elizabeth plan to keep that concept — a wide range of restaurants, a focus on local markets and farms, and a page dedicated to a food-oriented  volunteer organization — in every “Entrêe Nous” they produce.

"Entree Nous" features a handsome hard cover, and gorgeous photos inside.

“Entree Nous” features a handsome hard cover, and gorgeous photos inside.

A US Customs delay pushed delivery of the books to December 22. Elizabeth drove to New Jersey, then hand-delivered pre-ordered copies in time for Christmas.

Reaction has been very positive. In addition to introducing newcomers to the culinary delights of Fairfield County — and expanding the horizons of longtime residents — “Entrêe Nous” is popular with realtors and stores specializing in local products.

The dozen restaurants featured are happy to spread the word about their menus. They appreciate the luscious photographs, showing off their food and decor. (None of them paid for inclusion.)

And, of course, lovers everywhere are delighted they can give the gift of a complimentary meal — not chocolates or flowers — on Valentine’s Day.

(To order a copy, click on http://www.entreenous.net. For information on bringing “Entrêe Nous” to your community outside of Fairfield County, email info@entreenous.net.)

Adieu, Le Farm

Six years ago, Bill Taibe opened Le Farm.

Encouraged by the success of Michel Nischan and The Dressing Room, the noted chef saw in the narrow Colonial Green space a chance to open his own seasonal, locally sourced restaurant in a town he felt would support the concept.

Westport did. From the time it opened, Le Farm was busy and vibrant.

Bill Taibe

Bill Taibe

But after a few years, Taibe was no longer its working chef. He opened The Whelk, featuring sustainable seafood and local produce in the newly developed Saugatuck Center.

An immediate success, that spawned Taibe’s 3rd restaurant: Kawa Ni, a creative Japanese-fusion place around the corner, in Bridge Square.

Now Taibe is back to only 2 Westport restaurants. Despite its success, he closed Le Farm. He felt he’d reached his goals there, and now wants to serve more people than he could in just an 850-square-foot space. He has embraced the title of “restaurateur.”

“I’m 40 years old,” he says. “I started working in a butcher shop at 16, and in restaurants at 20. I find great joy in finding great chefs. These days, I’m more of a ‘creative director.’ Le Farm no longer fit in that plan.”

Le Farm, in Colonial Green.

Le Farm, in Colonial Green.

He did not just dump the spot, though. He sold it to Brian Lewis, an excellent chef at Elm in New Canaan, who had been looking for his own restaurant.

“He’s super-talented, and sources his food well,” Taibe says. Lewis will open a new restaurant there in mid- to late-November.

It will be “a cool, casual incarnation” of the space, Taibe adds. “He may add more of a bar.”

It won’t be called Le Farm., though. Taibe retains rights to that name.

“There were lots of tears when I told the staff and customers,” Taibe says of the closing. “It’s a special place, and it’s important to a lot of people.”

Meanwhile, he’s on a hunt for his next — and bigger — Westport property.