CTBites readers and residents of New Canaan who are eagerly awaiting Chef Brian Lewis’ cuisine at elm Restaurant will soon enjoy this new addiition to the New Canaan culinary scene. Elm's much anticipated opening is scheduled for March 20 to coincide with the first day of Spring.
The facade of the building and the interior space has been beautifully updated to reflect a sleek and minimalistic architectural style. The feel of the restaurant is airy and open and offers ambiance that is warm, relaxing, and stylish. The layout includes a large, handsome pewter-covered bar separating the main dining area from the less formal bar seating. A Chef’s Table with a view into the immaculate kitchen can be quickly enclosed behind sliding glass panels for a private dining experience for up to twelve guests. And if you like to watch, grab a chair at the four-seat tasting table where Chef Lewis will prepare and present special menus to lucky guests.
Chef Lewis envisions the entire experience as “delicious dining” for friends and family, and the menu is designed to deliver familiar food with bold flavors. He describes the composition of the menu as using the “culinary landscape and applying age old cooking techniques.” I received a sneak preview of the menu and was impressed by the creativity and selection that elm will present.
The opening menu includes crudos, house-made pastas, seasonal produce, plus meats, poultry and fish; each combination designed to present complementary flavors and textures. I enjoyed a small taste of the upcoming menu in a delicious combination of Hudson Valley foie gras with dried apricots and leeks on freshly baked toasts, plus a small bite of elm’s grapefruit and orange gelee, a delightful and refreshing palate cleanser. Chef Lewis promises that his guests will feel as comfortable sitting at the bar enjoying a crudo and pasta as they do relaxing at one of the tables enjoying several courses that “fit their mood for the evening.”
The culinary staff joining Chef Lewis represents talented chefs from several of the Metropolitan area’s most highly regarded restaurants. Pastry Chef Caryn Stabinsky's resume includes notable Manhattan restaurants Oceana, wd-50 and the Monkey Bar. She was awarded Time Out New York’s Critics Choice Award while working as the Pastry Chef at Urena. Chef Lewis tapped Chef Michael Paez as Sous Chef who joins elm from the renowned Manhattan restaurant, Momofuku. In addition, Christopher Catanesi joins the staff as General Manager and Beverage Director. Chris brings a wealth of experience from positions at Gramercy Tavern, Blue Hill and the Dressing Room. Catanesi remarked that he will source the wine selections from wineries that use “hands-on, old artisanal methods.”
While elm’s primary focus is creating the finest culinary experience, Chef Lewis is dedicated to sourcing only from the most desirable purveyors. The restaurant will supplement locally raised ingredients with selected farms and vendors that both meet the restaurant's high standards and offer ingredients not available locally.
One evening I had the pleasure of meeting with Chef Lewis and Millstone Farms owners Annie Farrell, Jesse Fink and Betsy Fink with whom Chef Lewis will be working closely. The goal was to gain the farmer's perspective on how the relationship amongst the farmer, chef, community and guest could provide a synergistic benefit to all. Millstone Farms in Wilton is one of the most respected farms in Fairfield County and I was educated by Annie Farrell and the Finks as they described their agricultural philosophy. “Raise vegetables, greens and livestock, and add value to those raw products to make local farming more viable, and provide local food year round.” This was more than a farm to farm-stand business model. I was initially surprised that only one and a half acres of the 75 acres of Millstone was dedicated to raising vegetables, and it produces over 400 species; and Millstone produces some of the highest quality produce in Fairfield County. Plans for this coming year include, for the first time, a variety of tubers, some species that date back to the Incas. In addition Millstone humanely raises some of the finest livestock, including lambs, pigs and chickens (turkeys are also on the farm in the fall).
Annie Farrell and the Finks have formed partnerships with only a handful of local chefs over the last several months and Millstone and Chef Lewis have discussed different programs to foster the relationship with the community. In many areas Millstone is a pioneer in developing sustainable techniques in both farming and the raising of livestock. They view elm Restaurant as "an extension of what we are doing here." Chef Lewis is also excited about expanding this partnership to process surplus crops for distribution to those less fortunate in Fairfield County.
Chef Lewis and Annie Farrell's approach includes many unique ideas. They are discussing additional varieties of produce that Millstone will plant, without any assurance that the Connecticut climate will cooperate. The partnership will also include an internship for one of the restaurant’s employees to spend time on the farm, learning the Millstone farming and livestock raising methods through a three month internship. Many programs to jointly give back to the community by educating the young and old on proper farming and food preparation techniques are under discussion.
After listening to Chef Lewis, Annie Farrell and the Finks, and experiencing the elm Restaurant concept, I gained a deep appreciation for this unique partnership that will foster the personal and culinary relationship among the farmers, the restaurant and the community.
Stay tuned to the next segment of elm Restaurant’s opening after I enjoy a full range of the cuisine and give a sneak preview of the opening menu.
elm Restaurant 73 Elm Street New Canaan, CT 06840