Farm-to-Table Dining At Its Best: Bailey’s Backyard in Ridgefield, CT
What do you think is the most important ingredient in the farm-to-table dining? Fresh local herbs? Fresh local cheese? Humanely raised chicken from the nearby farm? Based on my recent experience at Bailey’s Backyard, an American Farm-to-Table restaurant, the main ingredient of successful farm-to-table dining is … passion.
It was enough to listen to the Chef Forrest Pasternack, who was presenting each and every dish during the dinner, to see and feel the passion. Each and every ingredient had its place. The potatoes were not just the random potatoes from Idaho, there had an exact source – Maple Valley Farms in Kent, CT. Whipped cream was not coming from the random can acquired in the Restaurant Depot – it was coming from the farm in Litchfield, Connecticut. Every little ingredient had an exact source, and there was a relationship built behind all those ingredients – and that takes a lot of passion and hard labor.
And then you can see, or rather taste, the results of passion and hard labor. Each and every dish we had at the dinner had a soul. You could taste and admire each ingredient by itself, and then they played together in the concert, delivering an immaculate experience. As usual, I will attempt to present our dinner in the form of the pictures – it will not do the justice to the unique experience, but it probably can make you hungry.
We started with the cocktails, of course. Fresh and local ingredients in the cocktails are as important as in the food, and Brian, the master behind the bar, had a great selection of carefully crafted concoctions. I had The Ballard (Cucumber infused gin, fresh lemonade, splash of elderflower liqueur), which was tangy, a bit grassy and very refreshing.
The first item to appear on the table was, of course, the bread. To describe it, the first thing which comes to mind is “loaded” – raisins, cranberries, spices, perfectly breakable texture, very tasty – locally baked, of course:
Our first dish was Butternut Squash Soup (butternut squash from Veronica’s Garden, Litchfield, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, local honey, Crème fraîche) – it was presented step by step – first the plates with all the condiments came out, and the hot soup was poured into each individual plate. The soup was well balanced, with the nice creamy texture, a bit of a heat and a touch of cinnamon.
As you can imagine, for me the dinner should include wine (of course I can make exceptions – if I’m in the BBQ joint, beer is my friend). The wine list at Bailey’s Backyard is simple, but quite versatile, with most of the wines priced quite reasonably. Considering that this is a farm-to-table restaurant, the only change I would suggest is to add a selection of local (CT/NY/MA), organic and natural wines (in case Brian would read this post : ) ). I took a full advantage of the “by the glass” selection, and had three different wines with the dinner. First one was 2012 Actobat Pinot Gris, King Estate, Oregon. The cutting edge acidity which was present in this wine, was working very well with the soup – while accidental, this was a successful pairing.
Next up was Slow Roasted Berkshire Pork Belly (Baby Pink Shrimp, Artisanal Grits, Roasted Baby Bell Peppers – Veronica’s Garden, Ridgefield) – roasted baby bell peppers worked perfectly with pork – this was definitely an excellent combination. Sweetness of shrimp and creamy, oozy grits were adding a great complexity here as well.
Now for the next glass of wine I had 2012 Ernie Els “Big Easy” Chenin Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa – this wine had a bit less acidity than the Pinot Gris, and it had some nice body presence – medium to full body, somewhat plump with white stone fruit notes. Worked perfectly with the next two dishes.
Slightly changing the pace, the next dish was a salad – Roasted ‘Ida Red” Apple Salad (Apples – Averill Farms, Washington Depot, CT, Cinnamon Carrots, Belgian Endive, Black Currant, Fresh Dill, Buttermilk Dressing) – it was very interesting to listen to the passionate presentation of this dish by Chef Forrest, talking about black currants being soaked in the Riesling, mentioning all the farms where the different elements of the dish were sourced from – really different and unique. The dressing was perfectly balancing the dish, and everything worked together as a whole – perfect crunch in the texture, sweetness, acidity – including the bright visual appeal.
Next we were presented with Citrus Marinated Swordfish (Sauteed Romano Beans, Rosemary & Finnish Potato Puree – Maple Valley Farms, Kent, CT, Saffron Mousseline) – swordfish (caught that day in Boston) was perfectly cooked, which is not an easy task by itself, and then it was simply heavenly together with that homey, rustic puree (next time, I just want a bowlful of that puree). Excellent dish overall.
The dinner was nicely progressing according to our tasting menu, and then we had a surprise. White plate with the spoon appeared in front of everyone. Rested in the spoon was Herbed Ricotta Gnocchi with truffle powder. Chef Forrest came out to quickly present the dish, and then all of us happened to eat it almost at the same time. So this, my friends, was a true food porn at its best – forget the picture, the picture tells you nothing , but you had to hear that almost simultaneous moan coming from everybody, followed by the “oh my god” expressions. I remember some of the Food Network competitions required chefs to make the best single bite-sized food they can. Single bite or not, this was one of the most spectacular food experiences I ever had. I can’t describe it any better for you, sorry – but if you are in a mood for some food porn, the address of the restaurant is at the bottom of this post.
Before getting to our last main course dish, I got a glass of red wine – 2010 Rocca delle Macìe Sasyr Sangiovese Syrah, Tuscana IGT - dark red fruit nose, medium to big body, plums, hint of dark chocolate and espresso notes on the palate, nice balance. Enough power to stand up to the short ribs.
Last entree – Balsamic Glazed Boneless Short Rib (Spanish Black Radish, Gilfeather Turnip Puree – Coch Farms, VT, Chick Peas, Smoked Paprika) – I would have to call this dish an ultimate comfort food. Everything perfectly worked together, and if you ever had well prepared, slow cooked short rib, you know how heart-warming that meat gets, after it absorbs all the flavor and literally falls apart so it can be eaten with the spoon. This was a perfect finish to our main course.
And then there was dessert. We had two different desserts. First, it was Nutella Mousse (whipped cream – Arethusa Farms, Litchfield, CT, Chocolate Crumble) – perfectly light, not overly sweet, very tasty:
Our last dessert was Pumpkin Cloud 9 (Brioche “Pain Perdu”, Whipped Pumpkin Custard – Jansal Valley Farms, Westport, MA) – another staged dish, where the brioche arrived first, then the whipped pumpkin custard was individually scooped on top of each “toast” – another very balanced dish, not overwhelming with sugar or pumpkin notes itself. It was an excellent finish to the very tasty meal.
All the dinners come to an end. It is interesting to see how 3 hours go by unnoticed, when you have a great company, great food, great service. This was definitely a unique experience, listening to the Chef presenting each and every dish, talking about what farm-to-table really means, talking about all the farms and all the people who work very hard to create this wonderful experience.
As always, the last thing left to do is to thank Chef Forrest, drinks master Bryan Walsh, and the owner and our host Sal for their passion and the wonderful time we had. We will be back!
Disclaimer: I attended the dinner as a guest of management. All opinions are my own.
23 Bailey Avenue
Ridgefield, CT 06877