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Double L Market: Westport's First Farm Stand Turns 30

Lloyd Allen’s Double L Market in Westport is celebrating its 20th year. The market, now in its third location near Hillspoint Road, is the “original” farmstand. Described as “eclectic” it has weathered every storm and outlasted the competition thanks to a very dedicated group of followers. “When you’ve done this for as long as I have you get to know a lot of people and what they want. We want to be able to offer the best!” Allen told me.

“We were a farmstand and farmers market long before anyone else - before it became a thing. We were wild, and on the side of the road, in the open air and having lots of fun doing it.” Although Allen and his staff are no longer on the side of the road, and are now in an enclosed air-conditioned corner store, a little bit of that wildness still remains. “We are still having a great time,” he added. “You meet people who are passionate on both sides of the market - the growers are passionate about producing the best and our consumers are passionate to find and eat the best.”

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Bill Taibe To Open New Restaurant in Downtown Westport: Tavern Fare in Old Spruce Spot

Bill Taibe is passionate about Westport. Its vibe. Its verve. And its role as a culinary capital. Few would dispute that he is partially responsible for that vibrancy. Opening the landmark Le Farm in 2009, Chef Taibe rocked and rolled the town’s culture with a menu that was as loud, lush and as unpredictable as his playlist. 

The Whelk followed in 2012 -- featuring creative spins on local mollusks and other creatures of the deep.  Three years later, he imported Japanese gastropub cuisine to Saugatuck with the stylish Kawa Ni, a twist on Far Eastern dining and drinking. 

This trio of radically different hot spots inspired other new Westport restaurants, bakeries, butcheries, fisheries, and specialty shops, as well as a re-invented Farmers Market. The city became a magical destination for dining and shopping.  

Then last year, Taibe shocked the local food community with the impromptu, seemingly impulsive, and very enigmatic announcement that he was closing his celebrated Le Farm. “It was time,” he told us. No other reasons were offered. Nary a notion of what was next. Bill wasn't being coy. He simply didn't know.

Bill now knows much more. And he’s ready to share some of his ideas with CTBites’ readers.

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TerraSole, A Small Italian Eatery in The Heart Of Ridgefield 

Unless you’re a resident of Ridgefield you might not be familiar with TerraSole, a small Italian eatery in the heart of Ridgefield. But I feel it is my job to extol the virtues of this sleepy little gem that has been part of the town’s landscape since 2007, and is poised to enter its second decade with quiet confidence. I was invited to join a group of writers and editors to visit TerraSole and nearly declined. Am I ever glad I went!

When the weather is nice, diners can now sit outside in the newly completed terrace. The pale blue interior is simple yet charming. It is the food that takes center stage and rightly steals the show. While locals are avid fans, non-locals should take note. This charming yet understated destination is well worth the drive.

Owner Pietro Polini, who hails from Puglia and moved to the states in 1999, infuses the region’s flavors into his dishes.


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Friday Froth: New Belgium Beer Is Now Available In Connecticut!

New Belgium Brewing Company of Fort Collins, Colorado, is now a month into making their beer available in Connecticut for the first time. Thanks to an extremely effective initial round of distribution, I've seen their canoe-shaped tap handles popping up all over Fairfield and New Haven counties. Not too long ago, before New Belgium built their new brewery in Asheville, NC, the beer was only scantily available much east of the mountain time zone. It was during this time that I went full-on Smokey And The Bandit and made a beer run from Georgia to Colorado and back again. It started with a heartbreak. 

My trip to Colorado, like that of the Conquistadors, began with an expedition to Mexico. Specifically, an airline ticket to Cancun for spring break. The father of one of my friends in the history program at the University of Georgia was pilot, and I could afford the ticket to Mexico because it was free. The five of us who were going planned to spend the savings by investing in cheap accommodations, cheaper booze, and lasting skin damage. I was hard at work polishing my lustrous C average in college Spanish all the way up to a gleaming B-minus when my hopes were torched like ships of Cortez. The promised five tickets materialized as two tickets, and I hadn't made the cut. 

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Citarella Greenwich - Fresh from the Dock to your Table

“I’ll meet you at the front gate at 5am.”

This email, which I received from Joe Gurrera, the owner of Citarella, required setting the alarm for 3:30am, grabbing two cups of coffee and driving the hour to the Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx. Visiting the new Fulton Fish Market was something I have always wanted to do, mingle with the best purveyors of the freshest and best selection of fish, just hours before it arrives at stores and restaurants in preparation for the day’s fare.

The history of Citarella dates to 1912, when a small fish shop opened in Manhattan. Over seventy years later, in 1983, Joe Gurrera purchased the shop and Citarella was born. Joe’s passion for fish started when he was a small boy venturing, in the dead of the night, to the original Fulton Fish Market. It was during these nightly excursions that he educated himself on the various fish and, more importantly, how to choose the best of the best.

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Nibble: CT Food Events & Happenings for Week of August 1-7

The Loft in Sono turns 20 on August 5th and they are celebrating with a party. Doors @9pm, half price drinks and a kickin DJ. Happy anniversary!

Litchfield County is hosting its first food truck festival on August 6 and 7.  In addition to celebrating the mobile cuisine, there will be vendors, crafters, antique dealers, and more.  It will take place at the Terryville Fairgrounds. 

On Monday nights, The Fez offers ½ price bottles of wine off the entire wine list!  It’s also game night where guests can pull out the checkers, bananagrams and more.

Visit the Avon Free Public Library in Avon, CT for their Farmers Market on Monday nights from 4-7pm.  It features 15 local farms, vendors, and purveyors.

The Sign of the Whale, Stamford’s rooftop beer garden, now has a lobster dinner special every Tuesday night.  Dig into a 1.25 pound lobster, corn, new potatoes, and sausage for $24.95.  The promotion starts at 5pm and continues while supplies last.

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Zucchini Fritters Recipe & Edible Flowers via The Westport Farmers' Market

Edible flowers are all the rage, and squash blossoms are perhaps one of the most familiar of culinary botanicals. Though tremendously popular today, serving the flowers of plants in the Cucurbit family – which includes Cucurbita pepo (zucchini, yellow squash, acorn, and pumpkin, among others) – dates at least as far back as 16th century Italy, and to Native Americans before then. Barcelona of Fairfield will bring this Mediterranean tradition to the Westport Farmers’ Market as this week’s featured chef. Don’t miss their demonstration, complete with recipe, starting at 10:15.  

Squash blossoms are not the only edible flowers you’ll find at the market. Muddy Feet Flower Farm, of course, is chock full of flowers for your table and recipes, but other vendors feature flowers for your plate and palette, too. Nasturtium, lavender, calendula, thyme, dill, clover, begonia, elderberry, and even daylilies adorn dishes and recipes, from cocktails to the main course. Make this the week you gather an armful of edible flowers to try at home. 

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Best Warm Lobster Rolls in Connecticut: 2016 Updated Edition

Enough of the Lobster Salad roll vs. Warm Lobster roll debate.   After all, when dining on whole steamed lobster, only a land lubber would first chill the meat, lather it in mayo, and sprinkle on some celery. Whole lobster is best devoured warm and buttery.  Just like a Connecticut Lobster Roll. Our state lays claim to the warm lobster roll because it was first created at a Milford café named Perry’s sometime in the twenties.   Elsewhere in New England, warm lobster rolls are rarely served.

Since 2014 CTbites has celebrated summer with a survey of Connecticut Lobster Rolls available along the shoreline.  We stand by our past evaluations since those versions of rolls remain relatively consistent from year to year.  After all, the three simple ingredients of a warm lobster roll -- bread, butter, and meat – never change.  Such variables as doneness, toppings, and cuts are not an issue.

So for 2016, at the suggestion of readers, chefs, and staff, we add a dozen new restaurants, trucks, and drive-ins to the 2015 portfolio. This list represents the NEW additions. 

And CTbites even ventured mid-state, far from the shore, for one of the best lobster rolls in Connecticut.  Which is where we begin …

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CTbites Invites: Happy Hour on the River at Vespa for $39 

Third in the Summer 2016 Happy Hour series presented by CTbites, happens on Tuesday August 9th 5:30-7:30 at the gorgeous outdoor patio of Vespa in National Hall. 

Overlooking the Saugatuck River and Downtown Westport, for $39 per person, enjoy delicious appetizers from Chef David White while sipping on specialty Summer cocktails.  Price includes specialty cocktail, "Color Blind"  and second drink of your choiceBuy your tickets here 

Menu items include:
- Golden Fried Artichoke Hearts with lemon zest and fiore di sale
- Chicken Liver Toast with Red Onion Mostarda, Crispy Spring Onion and Sourdough bread
- Fresh Whipped Ricotta Toast with Kumquat Marmalade and Chili Roasted Hazelnuts
- Heirloom Beet Salad with warm goat cheese, ginger salted pistachios, avocado yogurt and lemon

"Color Blind" cocktail is a refreshing mix of Citadelle Gin, Lemongrass Basil, Lemon Juice, Boston Bitters, and Basil Oil.

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El Segundo Opening in Downtown Sono: The Spread Team + Global Street Food

The Spread was the first: hip, smart, happening.  Contemporary Sono. 

El Segundo, by definition, will be The Second.  This time:   Street.  Urban. Old World Global. 

“We’ll have street food from each of the 7 Continents,” said Chris Hickey as he recently gave CTBites a preview of The Spread team’s new joint set to open in early August.   Hickey and co-owners Andrey Cortes, Chris Rasile, Shawn Longyear and Executive Chef Carlos Baez envision an international playground for the palate.

“We’re going to have some fun,” Chris promised, grinning.   

Open the corrugated metal garage door, and the vista is a courtyard boasting a fountain, storefronts, and looming apartments.  A piazza in Naples?  A market in Buenos Aries. A food fair in Bangkok.     

Inside the restaurant, you’re on a side street.   The vibe is almost Third World.  The predominant motif is that corrugated sheeting – the humble material that shelters much of the earth’s population. A wall is painted in the brilliant graffiti of Duster, New York’s notorious tagger.    On the wall, a subway door and a Number 6 Train to Duster’s Bronx.  Its boogie.  Its street food.  

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