Elevating local ingredients. That was the recurring theme to a recent talk we had with Forrest Pasternack, Executive Chef at Bailey’s Backyard in Ridgefield. We talked about Forrest’s amazing cooking a few months ago when he was Executive Chef at Morello Bistro in Greenwich, but he’s moved on to greener pastures…literally. He’s been working with Sal Bagliavio, owner of Bailey’s Backyard to not only refocus the menu but to rework the philosophy, the heart, the body, and the soul of the restaurant as it undergoes some major changes. While the restaurant is closed right now for renovations, you can expect an opening soon. Let’s look a bit closer into how Forrest plans to inspire diners, fully embrace the philosophy of farm-to-table, get the community involved, and spread the love of all things local across Connecticut.
Planting the Seeds: A Fresh Start, a Local Approach
Forrest knows Ridgefield. He grew up there, and for a long time he’s been looking to get involved in the local food scene of a community and elevate the ingredients found nearby. With great excitement, he shared, “I want to offer a showcase for local ingredients.” And, yes, he’ll be doing that…and not in your typical way, either. He’ll literally be planting seeds with his sous chef in the restaurant’s garden, courtesy of Veronica’s Garden, nurture the seedlings, reap the veggies, then feature them in the dishes. For everything else, the staff will gather the freshest veggies, herbs, meats, and supplies every week from local farms. Some of the farms they plan to visit are Veronica’s Garden of Ridgefield, The Hickories of Ridgefield, and Maple Bank Farm of Roxbury. As for meat, he’s going local too with Greyledge Farm in Roxbury. Even the wine menu at Bailey’s Backyard will be almost entirely local, with lots of Long Island and Connecticut vineyards showing up like Lieb Cellars (we love the wine and the vineyard itself) of Mattituck, New York; Millbrook Winery in Millbrook, New York; and DiGrazia of Brookfield, Connecticut.
Watering the Seedlings: Nurturing the Restaurant, Nurturing the Community
Forrest told us that he wants to be a real driving force in the community in regards to food. By keeping the menu at Bailey’s Backyard local, he’ll be helping to reach that goal. In addition, he was sad to see that the farmers’ market in Ridgefield went away, so he’s going to do whatever he can to try to bring one back. But, it’s not just Forrest who is nurturing Bailey’s Backyard. Chef Pasternack shared, “Sal, the owner, really understands food and he knows farms. He knows local wineries. And, whether people know it or not, he’s been a proponent of farm-to-table philosophy for a long time.”
Picking and Gathering the Crops: Elevating Local Ingredients
As we mentioned, Bailey’s Backyard will have a garden and they will source their veggies, fruits, and meats from other local sources. And, yes, they’ll be preparing some amazing modern American dishes with these, literally, down to earth ingredients. Forrest has put the finishing touches on the menu that will evolve as the crew at Bailey’s Backyard discover new ingredients or as the seasons change. Also exciting to us is the Chef’s Tasting Menu, showcasing a seven course menu that changes every week.
Preparing the Meal: Fresh Food, Made from Scratch
They will be open for brunch, lunch, and dinner straight out of the gate, so you best get ready for some amazing meals. Before we even get to the meals, let’s get to some of the goodies that will be prepared for purchase to go and even at other local stores: pickled veggies, vinegars, pies, sauces, and more. In addition, they’ll be creating their own charcuterie meats in-house. All their desserts will be made in-house and so will breads, such as Irish soda bread and foccacia. For brunch, you can expect Forrest to use the amazing local corn and create beautiful corn cakes, pour out some vanilla maple syrup, and make use of all the clams we have available to us in beautiful clam chowders. And, if you’re lucky enough to stop by for lunch, you could order a two, three or four course meal that will undoubtedly become the highlight of your day.
What’s on the Plate?
Here are some of the dishes that Chef Pasternack will be starting off with:
-Local boneless pork shank with garnet potatoes, mirepoix vegetables, and roasted pork shu
-Smoked Maine lobster ravioli with roasted red pepper glaze, lobster butter, garlic croutons, and basil oil
-Arctic char with roasted romaine, acorn squash, sweet baby ginger, and port wine reduction
-Pan seared halibut with Chef Forrest’s take on a wild mushroom arancini
Bailey’s Backyard will be embracing a snout to tail philosophy when it comes to meat, so expect lots of creative uses of overlooked meat selections. In addition, you can’t go wrong with the pasta dishes with every single one being made in-house, by hand. We had Forrest’s garganelli bolognese at Morello Bistro. It was divine and ranks as one of the best pasta dishes in our books.
We haven’t been so excited about a restaurant opening in a while. It’s one thing to have a farm-to-table restaurant, but it’s another to have a farm-to-table restaurant that completely embraces this culinary philosophy. You have to admire a chef who not only makes it his mission to use fresh, local ingredients, but to also elevate the community around him in the process. The building itself has been completely changed and renovated, so if you think you knew the old Bailey’s Backyard, get ready for some big changes. Chef Forrest called the decor style “modern farmhouse.”
So, while Bailey’s Backyard has been open for 13 years and people typically associate that with bad luck, in Bailey’s Backyard’s case it’s good luck. Sal, Forrest, and company will be, no doubt, plowing right ahead into the great, bold future…one seed, one garden, one farm, and one dish at a time.
23 Bailey Avenue
Ridgefield, CT 06877
This article was originally published on OmNomCT.