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Sunday
Nov082009

Bill Taibe's Inspired Farm-to-Table Fare @ LeFarm

While busily building my stationery empire this summer, I noticed an exciting transformation happening downstairs from my office (Colonial Green in Westport). The Italian restaurant favored by the blue haired crowd had closed and serious construction was underway on a new place. Over the next several weeks, there was a buzzing of saws, table tops were painted, artwork lay arrayed on the sidewalk, and chicken wire went up in the window.  I took note of the words “Le Farm” scribbled on the front window and thought to myself, this is promising. I couldn’t resist asking one of the men standing out front if he was le farmer (he wasn’t). Then I heard rumblings (and soon confirmation) that foodie darling and former chef at Stamford’s famed Napa and Co., Bill Taibe, was le man behind LeFarm. LeFarm was to be Westport’s newest outpost for farm-to-table cuisine. As a charter member of the farm-to-table club, I couldn’t have been more excited.  I’d live on a farm if it wouldn’t derail my shoe collection.

While I didn’t make it to LeFarm on opening night, October 7th, I did the following evening and I've been back twice since. I was blown away by the transformation of the space. They’ve created a rustic farmhouse setting that is as stylish as it is inviting. The walls are planked with rough whitewashed wood, and paned mirrors give the illusion of barn windows. Metallic mesh sconces cast an atmospheric light. The back of the narrow dining space reveals an open kitchen, flanked by wire baskets filled with farm-fresh potatoes and an antique scale, giving it a general store feel. Each wooden table has a cheesecloth covering (very cool) and a mason jar filled with black eyed peas acting as a silverware caddy (ok, a little kitschy, but in keeping with the theme). You think to yourself, I’m in a barn, but it smells good, and I don’t have to wear Wellies (thank God).

LeFarm's menu highlights local growers, and features local ingredients in inspired and artful combinations. Every dish is unique in its medley of distinct yet harmonious flavors.  Le connection to le farm is real, and the menu reflects Chef Taibe's meticulous sourcing. Chalkboards alert you to the featured farms of the week. Urban Oaks, Maple Hill Farm and Holbrook Farm were among those featured this past week. The menu will change frequently to reflect what is available. Our server told us the chef’s seven year old son picked all the spinach that day, an industrious sort. The kind I’d like on my own farm.

Speaking of spinach, I tend to judge farm-to-table restaurants by their salads. And LeFarm’s are stand out and substantial.  Marinated sweet golden and red beets are drizzled with honey and tossed with spicy arugula, pine nuts, shaved parmesan and pomegranate seeds that explode with unexpected sweetness and flavor. The baby lettuce and spinach salad is mounded high on the plate with a smattering of chewy roasted tomato chips, thin slices of the most addictive black truffle cheese imaginable and a wonderfully subtle dressing with a hint of mushroom.

If salads aren’t your thing, their signature Griddled Octopus starter is worth trying. It comes served in a blue ceramic terrine on top of a stone slab. The combination of tender octopus with crispy roasted potato, fennel, creamy aioli and Harissa for kick is amazing. But it’s the addition of the chorizo that elevates this dish and makes it crave-able. You’ll find yourself scavenging with your fork for the bits of zesty sausage that are like buried treasure on the bottom of the dish. 

The Whipped Chicken Livers topped with bacon and a deliciously sweet and tangy shallot marmalade was a hit with the table at large. It was fresh and flavorful, and although it begged the question, does pate really need bacon on top, it certainly worked here for me. 

The entrees are equally appealing. The sea bass I had on our first visit was outstanding.  Served with sweet roasted cipollini onions, bacon and an amazing farro preparation – chewy, with hints of vanilla – it was the table favorite. While it hasn't been on the menu in subsequent visits, I'm holding out hope for its return. My husband has been unable to resist ordering the taggliatelle with white Bolognese each time we’ve been back. The fresh made pasta is cloaked in the perfect amount of meaty sauce and perfectly seasoned. White does not mean creamy by the way, nor does it mean that it’s at all light – just that it’s made with white wine instead of red. It is literally divine. Personally, I'm still dreaming about the potato gnocchi. Tender pillows of pasta in a sauce of truffles, cabbage and parmesan, and then, as if it couldn't get any better, it is topped with a fried sunny duck egg (soft...sunny side up). An incredible and unexpected combination of flavors.

I don’t often order chicken in a restaurant but LeFarm’s is consistently excellent. It is perfectly roasted with a crispy skin and moist interior and is served with creamy Anson Mills polenta, a delicious hazelnut jus and a salad of arugula and shaved parmesan. On our first visit, the chicken was served alongside a mini cast iron dutch oven filled with rosemary infused white beans. They were cooked with sweet roasted tomato, and finished with a homemade breadcrumb topping giving it wonderful texture and great mouthfeel. 

Mildly disappointing was the pork belly which while super tender on our first visit, was notably tough on our most recent visit. All was forgiven however by the accompanying stewed farro with carrots, onions and apple mustard. The sauce was amazingly syrupy and sweet; the grains were perfectly chewy. The combination of flavors was inspired…just sublime. And I’ve no doubt the pork belly will be back to perfection next time.

LeFarm’s path from farm-to-dessert table is a bit unorthodox, but if you’re open minded and don’t mind checking your undeniable need for chocolate at the door (I’m struggling here), it works. The cornbread topped with maple chili gelato and bacon has that pleasing sweet and salty combination.  The beet and apple pound cake is an interesting contrast of flavors – earthy beets set against the sweet apple cake, made better by homemade whipped cream. A more conventional choice of apple crisp with raisins and a scoop of gelato was quite yummy. Multigrain cookies are also on the menu. I’m sure they’re delicious, but there’s a limit to how healthy I’ll go with dessert!

So if you’re a Bill Taibe devotee or just a farm-to-table fan like myself, get yourself to LeFarm in short order. It’s tucked just off the Post Road in Colonial Green behind George Subkoff Antiques.They’re open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday and lunch Wednesday through Friday.

LeFarm 256 Post Road East, Westport 203.557.3701

LeFarm on Urbanspoon

 

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Reader Comments (22)

Also excited to see this newcomer because I love to support local CT farms. We visited recently for lunch and I agree that the grilled octopus was great. I wanted more! The portion was small if you're really hungry but then it was lunch. We also tried the turkey sandwich which was very good but nothing special for $13. The banana bread with chocolate and gelato ($10) was yummy for dessert, although we had trouble identifying the Sauvignon flavor in the gelato- a bit weird. Overall, a nicefresh lunch experience, although a bit pricey for some items I thought.

November 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPotluck

We ate here a few weeks ago and it was by far the best restaurant meal we've had in recent memory. Starting with farm fresh ingredients is key, but culinary alchemy is a requisite to make the duck divine and pork belly meltingly tender. The wine list is obviously carefully chosen and reflects the attention to detail paid at every level. I'm so glad for the relaxed atmosphere and amiable staff. It's a winner.

November 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergreenfoodgal

Went for lunch last week and was blown away by the food, decor, and service. Unbelieveably fresh, simple, clean ingredients combined with laid back atmosphere make for a winning experience. Cannot wait to try again for dinner and work my way through the menu, though after sampling the burger it will be hard to order anything else. Still dreaming about it 5 days later. Also loved the tuna app and the pappardelle bolognese.

November 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFood is Good

went here... great food.... horrid service. they only seem to care about the friends of the managers and owners. we were a nobody table. and we treated as such. in this economy, how dare you expect good food alone to bring me back- a total bummer, but won't go back on principal. terrible service.

November 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergreenlady

I went last week, and had a truly remarkable dinner. Have been to Napa & Co. recently but not while the chef Taibe was there. Really dug the concept at Napa, and was excited to try another of his creations.

Started with Octopus, was a "risky" choice for us but we LOVED it. The bone marrow was interesting, served in the bone. Very rich, not my favorite thing of the night, but that's just me. My dining partner was enthralled with it. Also tried the buratta, which was as close to heaven as I'm gonna get. The burger we split was fantastic, we liked it as much if not more than the Napa burger which the chef also invented. TRy the cornbread dessert...you will not be disappointed.

Have to disagree with previous poster about the service. Was treated like gold by our waitress despite not knowing a soul.

Hard to believe you'll find a better experience in Southern CT. The space is small, can get a bit cramped especially when you have folks waiting to sit. But that's about the only drawback I can find with Le Farm.

November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBABABOOEY

LeFarm is a treasure! From food to ambiance is notorious how much they care for everything they do.
We have lunch last week there, first to arrive and last to leave while after the last table, and even we didn't know any one at the restaurant everybody seems very nice and amicable, to say it in one word: professional.
Love the fact that we can order wine by half bottles, looking forward for many more events at this new restaurant!

November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJWestp

After reading the glowing reviews on this site, we tried this restaurant last night. I arrived at 5:40 for a 6pm reservation and the place was empty. I said I was early and was promptly greeted with "we are still setting up". Unfazed by the unwelcoming remark, I asked if I should just leave and was told no, please have a seat at the counter to wait. I felt about as welcome as hair in the soup.
When I asked to see a menu I was told it was still being printed. The manager explained that most everything is locally sourced, so the menu is printed at the last minute, which made sense.
After my other two dining companions arrived we were seated promptly. My wife immediately commented on the loud music, but we did not say anything. For a place that small, the music volume must make for a deafening experience when the place is full, which it was not at 6pm.
At last the menus appeared and we were intrigued by it, Certainly different from the usual CT offerings and many of the dishes sounded really good. The wine list is small and esoteric and somewhat fairly priced. Appetizers were inventive and very good, octopus, local cheese and a roasted potato salad. However, the entreés were somewhat disappointing. The duck (at $32!) was very good, but not special, the "white bolognese" pasta was also good, but not special. However, the skate wing, which I ordered was: 1) insanely salty 2) Undercooked (still pink on the inside) and 3) on the bone! Anyone who has cooked skate knows how difficult it is to get a decent fillet from the bone, it takes great care and good knife skills. A restaurant serving skate on the bone, should at the very least list it that way on the menu! Needless to say, it was sent back to the kitchen. No word were said or apologies extended.
Finally, while I was sitting at the counter I had seen a lonely looking chocolate cake that had obviously seen better days. When we ordered the chocolate dessert, what did it turn out to be? Yes, that lonely and dried out chocolate cake!
I think that LeFarm has a strong concept going in sourcing most of their food localy. I applaud them for that.
However, they have only been open six weeks and it shows. I wish them luck and will say that I will not be returning for a while.

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEduardo Zayas

My wife and I finally broke down and made reservation to try out LeFarm. Typically we wait for a restaurant to be up and running for at least a year before trying it but with all the positive reviews we broke our rule.

What an extreme disappointment. We had a 7:45 reservation and were not seated until 8:15. Our server with great sarcasm informed us that 2 of the 5 entrees and 3 of 6 or 7 appetizers were no longer available when were ready to place our order. After reconsidering our selection and attempting to place an order for the second time Mr. Sarcasm informed us one of our new selections now was no longer available.

The reservation book was seemingly full from opening until 9pm as I glanced at it Bill, do you think you could figure out how much food to purchase?? Hell, if your out of Bass half way through the night, send your dishwasher to Stew Leonard's as a last resort! Or if you really are not interested in running a restaurant for the general public (i.e. Relish), throw in the towel.

December 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWestport Local

Westport Local...for him to go to Stew's for fish would be going against the whole philosophy of the place. Maybe that cuts it at Mario's or Tavern on Main, but this is a more-evolved restaurant and it sounds like you might be a little "behind the times".

LeFarm has been packed every time I've been there (twice for lunch, twice for dinner) and it's the best food I've had in the area. To suggest that Bill throw in the towel because you couldn't get bass is borderline-retarded. And I don't get the Relish reference. That place closed because of a conflict between Bill and his partner. Unless you have some inside info we do not know. You certainly seem to have an agenda.

As an aside, so that this is not a TOTAL waste of time...what did you wind up having? And how was it?

December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFood is Good

Besides all the other ridiculous things that Westport Local said, I can't get past the first comment about not going to a new restaurant until it is up and running for "at least a year". Seriously? Boy you are missing out on a lot of good meals with that rule.
We've eaten at Le Farm 5 times...love the food, not crazy about the "tightness" of the space, but they did a very nice job on the upfit. The place has been packed every time we have been, and strangely they've never run out of a single menu item. Maybe Mr. Sarcasm just didn't like Mr. Crankypants?

December 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkbfood

The beauty of restaurants is that we are all free to agree/disagree on what we like or don't like about a restaurant. Some may love a certain place, while others find it not to their liking. On my visit to Le Farm , I found the food to be decent, but certainly not great. They get an "A" for creativity but I found the entrees and appetizers to be nothing special. The wait staff was a little disinterested. The cost is pricey for what you get, in my opinion, and I won't be going back anytime soon.

That being said, it is an odd location and one that will require strong word of mouth in order to succeed long term. I understand it has been quite crowded so maybe they will find that right audience for them , but I would recommend asking around to see who you know that has been there and ask a lot of questions. It may suit you just fine or it may end up in your "farm" system of restaurants as it will with me........

January 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTST

Oh, I think they've found their audience LeFarm is PACKED all the time. Can't get into that place for weeks. I read the Advocate and they got celebs in there like every night.

Anything Taibe does is gold. I mean, even Napa & Comapny is a success despite the fact that the former owners nearly ran that place into the ground.

January 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChucklehead

TST,

Not trying to question your credibility, but what exactly did you have and when exactly did you go? What did you specifically find to be decent? What do you think is "creative"? How was the waitstaff "disinterested"? What do you find "pricey for what you get"? All entrees are in the mid-$20's range, far less than other places in the area, significantly less than Bill's old place Napa + Co.

I tend to read vague posts like this and call them into question. You sound like some previous posters who throw out unspecific catchphrases without going into any kind of detail. So please be helpful and let us who have had different experiences know how yours "fell short". Be specific, please. If you can.

January 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFood Is Good

We local 'foodies' have been and still are fans of Chef Taibe's local, fresh cuisine, which we
discovered at 'Napa and Co', Stamford, CT and had continued to enjoy at 'Le Farm', Westport, CT.
However, we feel that the wine selection does not live up to the food. Unlike the carefully
conceived and well executed dishes, the wine list is overpriced.

The service ranges from friendly to dry but when things heated up in this enclosed space we
started to feel trapped in the frenetic atmosphere. What started as a welcoming experience, being
greeted personally by the chef, evolved into unexpectedly being moved by the under-pressure
restaurant owner before 8pm because of the number of bookings. It became such an unpleasant
experience that we decided to leave before we had completed our meals.
As they say in France 'Ferme la'.

January 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLocal gourmets

Funny, we went to both Napa and Le Farm and felt the wine selection at Le Farm showed MUCH more intelligence, thought, and value than at Napa! Also, myuch preferred the intimacy and romance of Le Farm over the noisy, downtown, Courtyard Marriott restaurant. Not to mention the ample parking!!!

January 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWhine or Wine?

We just got back from a Wednesday lunch, and couldn't be more impressed. The service was excellent, and it has the best hamburger for miles. The other dishes are inventive and beautifully presented.

March 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWestport Diner

Why does this debate have to be Napa vs. Le Farm? The poster that claimed Napa was a Taibe concept was misinformed. The concept was well under way before Taibe joined Napa is the last two months before they opened. I am heavily involved in the downtown retail development and these people made Telluride successful for ten years when they sold it and created Napa as a wine friendly cuisine. And there are no previous owners. It' still the same owners and still thriving. You don't have to put one restaurant down to complement another folks.
They are also not affiliated with the Courtyard but those that are fans of Napa know this.
I'm sure LeFarm is great. Let's just be happy for people thriving in this economy rather than trying to hurt a business.

March 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPEACE

I dunno, I don't really see a debate here. As I posted in a different thread, since Taibe was the creative force behind the cuisine of both places, there will be comparisons. People have different opinions, no one is right or wrong. Misinformation is unfortunate, but to be expected in a business where word of mouth is gospel and not always taken at face value.

Bottom line, both places are great, better than any others in their respective areas. Hopefully both can continue to co-exist as shining examples of fine dining in SW CT.

March 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G.

We just had lunch there today and totally agree with TST but with much more criticism.

The food was not only not extraordinary, it was less than okay. $18 for a plate of four, over-salted, scallops over a miserly bed of over-salted greenery was outrageous and unacceptable. The request for bread that was met with an arrogant, haughty attitude was despicable. The waiter explained that bread is not served at the table and is only a menu item. Did he mean that since this is a "nouveau" farm and not a peasant farm the standard bread basket is not served? For $18 a lunch entree (about 3 bites maximum) one would expect a whole baguette! The mussels were a better choice and served with one entire slice of bread. Not too much on the menu for vegetarians - a salad of greens, apple and cheese (bacon withheld) was about the only choice and not especially tasty.

We found the wait staff was disinterested at best to downright rude and pretentious at worst. One expects better service and treatment when paying Manhattan prices. The scant and mediocre food at outrageous prices is not exactly what the mind conjures up when thinking of a "Farm". Adieu La Ferme! A Jamais!

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMonsieur Fermier

I had low-to-no expectations about this restaurant, as it's been around nearly a year and I'd not hear much about it. We went on Saturday (6pm reservation), and at first things weren't looking good: the only waiter in the house was yukking it up with a nearby table of four and seemed to have no interest whatsoever in greeting us or taking our drink order. But then I caught his eye with my NYC-native impatient look, and he seemed to jump into gear - we were treated thoughtfully and with care the rest of the evening.

Ah, but the food and drink. Lest anyone not be interested in reading further once I've given our overall impression, here it is: it was one of the best meals I can remember having in a very long time - better than Blue Hill in Manhattan, to which I think it can be fairly compared. We started with a half-liter of the grenache, and a glass of the sparkling rose from Australia (which he duly warned me was quite sweet). Both were wonderful, but even more so was him telling my partner that even though he's poured the half-liter, if she didn't like it, he'd gladly exchange it for something else.

I'm not going to do a blow-by blow of our meal, but one overall caveat is important: this is NOT food for the calorie conscious or the Osianna just-a-touch-of-olive-oil-please crowd. It's hearty food in filling portions. That having been said, there were a couple of truly outstanding creations: the scallops with harissa and pickled watermelon was like a taste and texture explosion - sweet, raw scallop; cilantro-packed harissa; and crunchy, cold, vinegary slivers of watermelon rind for punch. Unbelievable. My partner had the milk-soaked pork shoulder, which gently fell apart like pork brisket in a puddle of cheddar-laced grits and fresh, pop-in-your-mouth lima beans. Her eyes rolled back in her head with delight, and she was nearly silent through the entire dish.

I am a sweet/salty combination fanatic, so all the desserts were practically made for my palate, and between the two of us we ordered three of them. They brought all three out with candles for my partner's birthday, and each was delicious, particularly the cornbread with bacon and the chocolate pot de creme. All in all, I cannot wait to go back.

October 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTravels4Food

Been looking for a great place in Westport and seem to have found it! Cannot wait to try the Cavatelli dish, sounds wonderful. Also look forward to trying the burger, I'm told it's the same bun and bacon that they use at Napa, so I bet it is really good! Thank you in advance jfood, would not have found this without you!

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteryumyumeatemup

Congrats to Bill Taibe and LeFarm for being Best of Fairfield County Weekly's big winner this year! Taibe is Best Chef, and LeFarm is Best Overall Restaurant.

Other winners include Market (Best Place To Dine Solo;Most Romantic;Best Desserts) and Barcelona (Best Wine List in a Restaurant).

Great list of winners this year! Well-deserved!

May 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterA.K.

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