This week, the local food scene was surprised and saddened to hear of the end April closing of Westport’s Blue Lemon. A long time fixture in Westport’s dining scene, Blue Lemon opened in 2003 joining the then limited restaurant scene anchored by Da Pietro’s , The Mansion Clam House and Tavern On Main. Back then, Chef/Owner Bryan Malcarney, having lived in Connecticut most of his life, had just returned from a two year stint as Chef de Cuisine at The Straw Hat on the Caribbean island of Anguilla, and jumped at the chance to open his own restaurant.
I caught up with Bryan on the eve before St Patrick’s Day, while he worked lunch service at his other restaurant, Rory’s in Darien.
Over a simmering 15 lb. Corned Beef Brisket, Bryan and I talked about his decision to close Blue Lemon and shared with me how life has changed for him and for the local restaurant scene.
CTbites: How has being a Chef/Owner changed over the last few years?
Bryan: It has definitely gotten more competitive and challenging. When I opened Blue Lemon, we mailed out a paper Newsletter announcing specials and menu items. There were few email lists and no social media. Today, diners get their information from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts. We do send emails out for our events and wine dinners, and most of our regular customers know to look for them.
CTbites: With Blue Lemon closing, what are your plans?
Bryan: I still own Rory’s in Darien, which is a popular spot. We have a big local and loyal following who love to come in for a beer and sit at the bar and everyone seems to know each other. It is a casual “hangout” with specials posted daily on a chalkboard. Today’s Specials include of course, Corned Beef and Cabbage for $13.95, Meatloaf for $16.99, Swordfish or Salmon for $23.99 and salads, burgers and sandwiches. I am thinking I may add a couple Blue Lemon dishes to the menu. The Monday Blue Lemon Dover Sole was always a hit, so maybe we offer “Blue Mondays” at Rory’s?
CTbites: If you weren’t a Chef, what would you be?
Bryan: A teacher…I really like to mentor and teach, and I have taught cooking classes in the past. Plus my kids like to cook with me.
CTbites: You have three kids, do they ALL like to cook?
Bryan: They like to come to Rory’s after school and the youngest who is only 7, is the first to grab an apron and offer to help out. Just last week they helped make the Caesar salad dressing.
CTbites: What was the last dish you cooked for yourself and family?
Bryan: Pork and Shrimp Dumplings. The kids helped me, which was really fun. We had like an assembly line going. One made the stuffing, one cut the wrappers, and one folded and closed them up.
CTbites : What inspires you in the kitchen?
Bryan: A trip to the market seeing a wonderful piece of fish, new ingredients, even just opening the walk in and creating something from what is in there…sort of my own personal “Chopped”.
CTbites: You have always been involved in community events and supporting non-profits, will that continue with the closing of Blue Lemon?
Bryan: I love Westport and it’s hometown feel. I hope to continue to be involved in the Downtown events like Blues Views and BBQ, and Art About Town and hope to continue to be part of the community. I have received many emails from local patrons thanking me for wonderful dinners at Blue Lemon and even received a note from Staples High School thanking me for hosting Senior Internships over the years.
CTbites: Finally, what are your favorite restaurants? And is there a chef you would love to cook alongside with?
Bryan- Always loved Picholine in New York City, and here in CT, I really like Michael Young’s Luncheria Valencia and the new Vietnamese restaurant in Bridgeport, Can Tiin. I greatly admire Jean Georges, and given the opportunity would love to cook alongside him.
Blue Lemon is scheduled to close after dinner service on Saturday April 9th. Blue Lemon’s always sold out final Wine Dinner is Thursday April 7th featuring a delicious four course dinner plus dessert and co hosted with Harry’s Wine and Liquor and Gathering Harvest with Winemaker Carol Shelton presenting the pairings with each course.
Menu includes Poached Pear Stuffed with Almond, Ricotta and Apricots over Baby Arugula, Lobster Tamales, Smoked Hanger Steak with Grilled Asparagus and Raspberry Sauce, and Braised Boneless Short Ribs with Root Vegetables and Polenta. Dessert is a flourless chocolate cake with homemade salted caramel ice cream.
Although nearly sold out, Bryan is willing to add another date that week so if you want to enjoy the last of Blue Lemon, email Bryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the restaurant at 203 226 2647.