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