Chef Profiles By Christy Colasurdo
Now that there’s a chill in the air, you may be tempted to hibernate. But before you commit to your hideaway, read our guide of the local dining scene. While not a comprehensive listing (that would be a tall order), it should be enough to tempt you out for quick lunch dates and lingering dinners alike. Whether you prefer a cute place or one that’s vibrant, you’ll find plenty of choices—and those restaurants are busily crafting special dishes for the holidays. Tapping into the seasonal nostalgia, we asked a few chefs to reminisce about treasured traditions and culinary rituals, and provide hints of what they’ll be serving at their restaurants in late fall and winter. Also, a few of our own staff share top picks at local places. Enjoy!
Three new restaurants transform historic spaces
Housed in Bedford Square’s stately red brick building with Tuscan flair, Amis is an ideal winter destination, featuring an array of hearty winter specialties, from house-made pastas to braised meats. The chefs recently launched their fall-winter menu, which features grilled quail with sweet potato mash, paccheri pasta with pumpkin, bacon and sage, a huge pork chop parmigiana, and a rock shrimp ragu with creamy polenta. The venue will also be introducing its catering menu for corporate lunches and social events in the home as well as accepting reservations for holiday parties. And, in November, Amis is scheduling a seasonal wine dinner with an Italian import company.
Westport’s former Town Hall has undergone a most welcome makeover. File it under “Chef Bill Taibe Can Do No Wrong.” The cozy restaurant serves portions that are plentiful, flavorful and filling. As with Kawa Ni and The Whelk, Taibe’s other two restaurants in Westport, diners are drawn to the unexpected, hold the pretentiousness (for example, slow-roasted short ribs with peppers and onions). “The room at Jesup Hall is so warm and inviting,” say Taibe. “As much as we love the patio in the front of Jesup for the warmer months, the inside—with the large windows, the soft lighting and colors—just creates the perfect setting for a fall or winter meal.”
If you love a water view, dock at the The ’Port. Located alongside the Saugatuck River, the newly opened restaurant was the Inn at National Hall back in the day. Its menu appeals to today’s tastes. Consider the Spinach Bucatini. “At the first Westport Farmers’ Market, I chose local spinach for a homemade pasta and fresh bacon, and a favorite dish was born,” says Chef Justin Kaplan. There’s something for everyone. The owner, Sal Augeri, is a fifteen-year resident of Westport and the investor group is made up of local families. He’s on site every day, alongside Chef Kaplan, to make it feel like a home away from home. Look for the new ’Port Family Dinner Night. “Food, friends and family go together naturally,” he says. “We’re excited to bring people together in such a special space to celebrate the holiday season.”
“I love when restaurants, and even stores, reuse historic buildings in town. Jesup Hall did such a thoughtful renovation of the space. Now, it’s authentic and relevant, and it brings new life to the area.”
DIANE SEMBROT, EDITOR
OWNER/CHEF: JESUP HALL, THE WHELK
& KAWA NI
Bill Taibe is a James Beard Award–winning chef with three restaurants: The Whelk (thewhelkwestport.com), Kawa Ni (kawaniwestport.com) and Jesup Hall. What dish does he crave at the holidays? Not what you might guess: “It has to be my mother’s creamed lima beans. I’m still not quite sure how she does it. She puts water, flour and frozen lima beans in a pot, and it turns out delicious. Don’t tell her, but since I was a kid, I have been sneaking salt and pepper in them for her.”
Favorite holiday tradition
“Thanksgiving…Watching football…Dallas Cowboys. It’s my favorite day of the year.”
Favorite seasonal fare:
“This will be our first fall and winter at Jesup Hall. I would imagine we would start pulling from our days at LeFarm, with braised meats and slow-cooked vegetables, or whatever the farms are giving us. We are always trying to extend the warmer seasons as long as we can by preserving what we are getting now to utilize in our fall and winter menus.”
Holiday cooking tip:
“Do as much work as you can in the week leading up to the holiday. Try not to wait until the day of. Find recipes that allow you to braise or pickle. Make sure you have a sufficient amount of your favorite adult beverage.”
Underrated holiday ingredient?
“Persimmons are in season from October through February. They are a great fruit that you can use in both savory and sweet dishes. Find a really great hoshigaki recipe [Japanese massaged dried persimmon], and you can dry any persimmons you don’t use fresh.”
Not the shy type? Great! Call the gang and head out for a group meal at a local restaurant that plays to the crowd
With its beachy vibe, you might think bartaco just washed up onto shore, but not so. It knows exactly how to set the stage for good times: a sprawling bar with vacation-inspired cocktails and food to share, like trays of outrageous tacos, including baja fish, pork pastor (with pork marniated in pineapple juice and spices), cauliflower and duck, and sides, like spicy cucumber salad.
In the coziest of restaurants, The Cottage owner/chef Brian Lewis offers creative American, seasonally driven meals. It plays rustic but is actually quite elegant, which you’ll see when your meal arrives. It’s as much a paradise for Instagram devotees as it is for those with a sophisticated palate. Try Blue Cheese Toastie with Anjou pears, bitter greens, walnuts and smoked honey and Kabocha Squash Angolotti with pumpkin seed oil and sage crumbs. The popularity of the Japanese-inspired dishes he developed last spring have prompted a second restaurant to open this fall. Staff Pick: “The Smoked Salmon and Avocado Toast is my go-to for a decadent weekend brunch,” says Camilla Herrera, contributing editor. “I love the bright colors, the blend of crunchy and smooth textures, and salty fish with sweet avocado.”
SCHOOLHOUSE AT CANNONDALE
Fall in love with the romantic and intimate Schoolhouse. The converted space is home to Chef Tim LaBant’s fine seasonal American cuisine, which embraces New England tastes. For example, consider the Millstone pork with pickled mustard seeds and cabbage. Simply beautiful, this is a great choice for a date-night dinner.
Tarry Lodge is for those who love to gather, linger and savor. You’re just not in a rush to leave an upscale restaurant that helps you slow down and lean in for interesting table talk. Order something shareable, like pizza from the steel-clad, wood-burning Mugnaini oven. The team, Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Andy Nusser, know how to set the stage, and it’s a treat to indulge in Nusser’s handmade pastas, fritti and meats cooked over the wood-fired grill. The main dining room can accommodate groups of up to twenty-one food fanatics.
Terrain Garden Cafe knows there’s more to social dining than tapas. Take, for example, boards. The Farm House board is a crowd-pleasing arrangement of charcuterie, cheeses, house-made pickles, preserves and crostini. Shareable snacks include home-cut fries, crispy chickpeas with kale chips, and beet terrine with whipped chevre, pistachio and pita bread. For dinner, perhaps Autumn Pappardelle with butternut squash bechamel. Chef Jess Bengston says she spearheads “off-the-wall events, like the Oktoberfest with Two Roads and Captain Lawrence IPA, with live music, yard games and the food assembled and served out on the patio.” She also hosted a dinner with the Westport Farmers’ Market and CTBites. “We invited some of the best chefs in Fairfield County, along with some of our favorite farmers, to talk industry secrets, trends, recipes, family, life, love and all the things in between.”
“Having a father from Maine, I am a seafood lover by default. The lunch special of three tacos and a salad is a go-to—I always get the fried oysters. The rojo, habanero and verde sauces are great.”
GARVIN BURKE, SENIOR ART DIRECTOR, FRONT OF BOOK
CHEF: TERRAIN GARDEN CAFE
Who doesn’t get nostalgic around the holidays? Chef Jess Bengston reminisces about treasured holiday traditions and provides an update on what she’ll be serving this fall and winter.
“My father’s side of the family is very Swedish, and on Christmas night we make a big batch of glogg! If you don’t know what that is, it’s warm red wine, sauternes and aquavit, raisins, almonds and spices, and just an incredibly distasteful mouthful of alcohol! Prior to chugging our glogg we toast: ‘Meanscoll, Deanscoll, Alavaka Flikascoll (men). Women say Poikascoll, which translates to ‘I toast, we toast, we all toast the pretty women/handsome men!’ Cheers and then chug!”
At the restaurant:
“Our culinary director [and James Beard Award-winner], Chef Jeff Michaud, is fresh off a trip to Italy and has been training the staff on how to make the pasta in-house—a technique he’s been perfecting.” (Try the new ravioli stuffed with squash and ricotta and topped with a kale pesto.)
“We really want to show off our dinner menu, and the space here is gorgeous for dinnertime. We love being known for our fast, casual brunch, but we do a beautiful dinner [Wednesday through Sunday, 5–10 p.m.], and want to be more accommodating so that our neighbors in Westport have better access to us.”
RIDE THE TIDE
Spotlight on dining in revitalized, waterside Saugatuck
THE BOATHOUSE AT SAUGATUCK
Don’t worry, you don’t have to row out and catch your dinner at The Boathouse at Saugatuck. All those rowing shells are for athletes training for a big regatta. The rest of us can sit back and relax as we soak up the water views and the sporty/clubby feel of this riverside restaurant. Located above the Saugatuck Rowing and Fitness Club, The Boathouse offers diners a second-story view of the river—as well as a menu that will get the heart racing. Imagine digging into Executive Chef Paul Scoran’s menu that makes the most of the catch of the day.
Newbies should try: Strozzapreti
Rive Bistro is not technically in Saugatuck, but as you zip down Riverside Avenue on your way to the revitalized food scene, don’t miss this gem. This quaint, friendly French hideaway is set dockside along the river and in every season defines cozy. The dining room features an open view of the water, but we think you’ll only have eyes for your meal. Catch the trout almondine and the lobster risotto. Otherwise, fend off winter’s chill the French way, with an organic chicken breast with potato puree and Madeira mushroom sauce. Every dish is a treat for the senses; and it would be a shame not to linger and enjoy dessert.
Newbies should try: Rive Wagyu Beef Burger with Brie
Located bankside of the Saugatuck, The Whelk is an upscale yet friendly restaurant. Its seafood lures in diners, even the pickiest ones, again and again. “At The Whelk, during the winter months, we offer ‘Dinner with Friends,’ a four-course, family-style dinner for larger groups,” says owner/chef Bill Taibe. “Each one is different. Chef Anthony Kostelis does a great job crafting each menu and making it a special experience for our guests.”
Newbies should try: Smoked Sunburst Trout Dip Beef Burger
Kawa Ni, Japanese for “on the water,” is not a Japanese restaurant; it’s an American restaurant that is influenced most deliciously by Japan. Have a seat at a communal table, order some fine sake, and have fun choosing from so many inventive options. Staff Pick: “Every single dish I’ve tried at Kawa Ni has been delicious,” says Megan Gagnon, market editor, “but the Karage Don Chicken rice bowl keeps me coming back. The sauce is unreal.” Art Director Katie Conte agrees, saying, “It’s a fancy version of General Tso’s Chicken—so much better. It has a light batter and is sprinkled with sesame seeds.”
Newbies should try: Peekytoe Crab Rangoon with ginger-carrot dressing
Sit down, because we’re going to lay this on you: massive chunks of lobster from local waters and from Maine, dripping in butter. Then one-up such a hunky piece of New England love with this: a burger perfected at Chef Matt Storch’s co-owned hot spot Match and complemented with double-fried fries or onion rings. These mouthfuls of regional and local pride are new to the Saugatuck area, but are sure to recieve a warm welcome. Storch, a proud Staples grad, is no newbie to the area, so he knows exactly what locals crave.
Newbies should try: Lobster or a burger, of course
“I love the scallops at The Whelk. They are perfectly seared with a mix of coco beans and brown butter. The nuttiness of the butter mixes well with both scallops and beans, and then there’s a hint of salty broth from pork or pancetta, so you have this wonderful taste of fresh seafood mixed with fall flavors. It tastes like a dish I had in Calabria, Italy.”
PETER MICHALSKY, CHIEF REVENUE OFFICER
OWNER/CO-OWNER/CHEF: MATCH, NOM-EEZ & MATCH-BURGER-LOBSTER
Matt Storch is one busy guy. With eighteen years at the helm of Match (matchsono.com), he branched out in 2016 with Nom-Eez (nom-eez.com), serving Vietnamese specialties in Black Rock. This year he and Jason Wojnarowski, owner of Donut Crazy (donutcrazyct.com), brought Match’s food into the gourmet donut bar/sandwich shop. He also opened Match-Burger-Lobster at Fleishers Craft Butchery, offering burgers, foot-long dogs, fried Copps Island oysters, onion rings, and more.
“We have kreplach [stuffed dumplings] parties. We make my great-grandmother’s recipe and have a huge gathering to make them all. We prepare a cheese version and eat them with sour cream and egg creams. We make about 600!”
At the restaurants:
“We love doing Peking Duck around the holidays, especially at Nom-Eez. Fall into winter are my favorite months for truffles, as well as the famous osso bucco at Match, a cold-weather mainstay on the menu.”
“The hardest thing for holiday cooks is to get all the food on the table hot. Make a list of items from the longest to shortest cooking times. This should be the cooking order: Get the large roast (turkey, rib-eye, etc.) out of the way first, and let it rest. It’s OK to gently reheat just before serving. You can make potato dishes early. Just have a plan to keep them warm. Cook the green vegetables last.”
Harvest is a beautiful addition to the restaurants by the train station. When it replaced the legendary Mario’s Place in 2016, it quickly won people over as a new, upscale dining option. Not everyone could pull that off, but Harvest is in the capable hands of the Siguenza family, experienced restaurateurs. With top restaurants in other towns, they know what it takes to be successful. A gorgeous interior and welcoming staff go a long way. Plus, Chef Gustave Christman III’s flair is undeniable. Try the Chicken Scarpariello with mashed potatoes. Of course, the jaw-dropping wine list doesn’t hurt.
After years overlooking the Saugatuck River, Mansion Clam House gave way to Parker Mansion in late 2016. Sea scallops and cajun salmon come along with short ribs and wild mushroom meatloaf on the menu. The salads, also, are a healthy option, with your choice of protein source: chicken, duck, tuna or filet mignon—or your personal mix of greens. And just in case you thought it was impossible to find fish ‘n’ chips in Westport, fret no more. This one is actually crispy and comes with the essential coleslaw and red onion. Pair your meal with a craft beer or featured draft of the day.
For big flavor on the fly, don’t miss Rainbow Thai. The restaurant, which opened in January 2013, may seem unassuming, but the menu and flavors more than make up for it. Come as you are and don’t be shy about digging into the spring rolls, Thai salad, pad Thai noodles, or pineapple duck curry—or any other main dish. Not for those who prefer bland and boring, this place is a many-varied mix of ginger, peppers, curries, chilies, and more.
This oyster bar and restaurant, which opened in 2009, has crowd-pleasing fare, like fish dishes, a raw bar, juicy steaks and chops, hearty pasta and Neapolitan pizza fired up in an authentic brick oven—because when you’re dealing with longtime favorites, shortcuts won’t do. The extensive menu, complete with linguine with clams and chicken parmigiana, is paired with your choice from the appealing wine list and after-dinner-drinks menu. Enjoy your meal in a bright, open, contemporary space right across from the river. (Stay for the flourless chocolate cake.)
Everyone loves a family-run Italian restaurant. That’s why if you go to Tarantino’s (open since 1994), you will probably run into someone you know. While the bar beckons after a long day, so, too, does Maria Marchetti’s freshly made pasta as well as the tasty gnocchi, the pappardelle al ragu di cinghiale, and the veal scaloppine in a mixed mushroom white wine sauce that will help you forget about winter’s chill.
Family-run Tutti’s, open since 2002, has a cute name for a cute restaurant. Located in a little brick building, it serves all-time favorite Italian dishes like nana makes them, thanks to Chef Pasquale Funicello of Salerno. The classics—including rigatoni Bolognese and veal scallopini—are authentic, and the environment is as easy as Sunday dinner with the family. They even have meatball grinders for lunch—plus, you can order online.
“Try the Green Curry with Chicken at Rainbow Thai. It’s a mix of coconut milk, zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper, bamboo shoot, lime leaf and basil with green curry. It’s great on autumn workdays when you want to get warmed up. And when they say “curry,” they mean it.
This curry is not dumbed down for the American palate. Just the way I like—with spice.”
GARVIN BURKE, SENIOR ART DIRECTOR, FRONT-OF-BOOK
Need a quick gift or sip for the table? Drop into Saugatuck Grain & Grape (375 Post Rd. W.), which had been by the train station for some six years, then went black only to return to cheers a few months later. • Fleishers Craft Butchery (fleishers.com), sells fresh meats and offers butcher training. Its Craft Kitchen closed, but the shop itself carries on.
The latest places to open in Saugatuck
BISTRO DU SOLEIL
This recently opened Mediterranean eatery near the old post office appears to be just another happy café, open for lunch and dinner, but its menu is all business; consider Mussels con Chorizos, Pan-Seared Foie Gras and Bouillabaisse.
NEWBROOK PALEO CAFE
Cindy and Danielle Hartog whip up gourmet Paleo dishes for their new eatery, Newbrook Paleo Cafe. It’s both casual and contemporary and right on trend. Staff Pick: “The Nutty Caveman cookie is my pick for a protein-packed, not-too-sweet treat. This cookie is divine, made with almond meal and loads of chocolate and nuts. It is hearty and filling and certainly big enough to split—but, trust me, you won’t want to share it! And for a girl who hasn’t had a good bread pudding since cutting out the gluten, the Paleo Pumpkin Bread Pudding is heaven. Finally, I buy the Nut & Seed Loaf bread by the loaf. Although it’s petite, it is satisfying and nutrient-packed” says Amy Vischio, creative director.
ROMANACCI PIZZA BAR
Have a casual wine and dine with friends at this taste of Italy. Whether you choose to sit at the bar overtaking the room or opt for an outside high-top table, enjoy the extensive wine menu. The name Romanacci, translating to “from Rome,” carries meaning since Head Chef Graziano Ricci comes from there and was trained in Europe. Try one of their artisan pizzas like the Colosseo, with roasted eggplant, fresh ricotta and shredded mozzarella.
If you love dive bars (who doesn’t on occasion), head to Black Duck Cafe (blackduckwestport.com). Find unfussy fare (burgers, seafood, steaks), plenty of beer, music and good times. Not bad for a place named for a rumrunner’s boat. By all appearances, the place (a converted 1840s barge) should have fallen into the river, yet decade by decade, it clings to the shoreline like a barnacle—and Westporters love it.
Sweet tooth? Make a stop at Donut Crazy (donutcrazyct.com) at the Westport train station. Consider the fall-loving The Scout–Samoa, a cake donut half-dipped in milk chocolate, smothered with dulce de leche and toasted coconut, and drizzled with chocolate fondant. Staff Pick: Boston Cream: “From the cream to the chocolate icing and everything in between, this tastes real, just like the ones I had as a kid,” says Colleen Crowley, assistant editor.
Escape the family drama and head to Dunville’s (dunvilles.com) with a pal. For more than three decades, it’s been a come-as-you-are restaurant/bar with live music and food, like ribs and steaks, that you can sink your teeth into.
No time for a sit-down meal? Consider fueling up at Embody Fitness Gourmet (embodyfitnessgourmet.com). This attractive, contemporary eatery offers hand-crafted blends, juices, salads and other healthful options. Staff Pick: “The GT Surge is satisfying and refreshing, with a hint of sweet and tart. The taste is evocative of a mojito,” says Crowley, “but because it’s an iced tea, you can enjoy it during the day without feeling guilty or tipsy.”
Viva Zapata (vivazapata.com) will never die. It opened in 1969, and has been a fun place for a quick bite ever since. Of course, you can stay for a full dinner—with any of your fave Mexican dishes—but for generations, Viva’s has also served as a blast for drinks, nachos and a little flirting as the sun sets.
Cozying up with Italian comfort food
Chic, cool and comfy—and it’s close to home. Sold! But don’t miss out on the best part: fusilli with vegetables, capellini with shrimp, lamb pappardelle, veal ravioli and so on; or maybe a BR Porchetta burger (Prime Wagyu beef, crispy pork belly, salsa verde aioli, caramelized balsamic onions and fries, naturally). It’s an easy place for two or many more.
Cozy and romantic, diners savor the authentic Northern Italian cuisine that Chef Pietro Scotti prepares masterfully. Even if one doesn’t succumb to the charms of his sophisticated menu, including braised sweet breads over sautéed peas, pancetta, morel mushrooms and port wine reduction, one will be won over by the cozy atmosphere. It’s perfect as fall gives way to chilly winter evenings.
The family-owned and -operated Finalmente is a cozy little place that serves up Italian food, infused with passion from regular trips to Italy to visit with family. Owner Andre grew up in Isola Di Ponza, and his brother Augusto traveled from Italy to Westport to teach him how to make the family’s Tuscan cheesecake. Added to the menu as a special, it’s now a favorite on the dessert menu of this restaurant that feels like home.
PANE E BENE
There might as well be skid marks off the Post Road for all the hungry drivers turning into Pane e Bene. This little place is recommended to us again and again, especially the veal chop with garlic and rosemary, though the unique Mare e Monti (black truffle egg fettucini with sea scallops and wild mushroom in black truffle cream sauce) is hard to resist.
Driving down the Post Road on the other side of town, you might miss this place. It would be your loss not to ease up and try the latest menu offerings, especially the traditional pasta dishes, like Pappardelle il Forno. Winter’s sting doesn’t stand a chance against fresh pasta in a creamy sauce. Or go for an easy Sunday drive and stop by for brunch. You’ll rave about it. But don’t expect to just pop in this place and get a table—a reservation is probably your best course.
“Sometimes we all just want to escape, so it’s funny that I hear again and again about Finalmente. It’s cozy, it’s little, it’s so easy to miss while zipping along the Post Road—yet it’s a hot spot. I credit the fresh pasta, which will exceed your expectations. Make sure someone at the table orders the Osso Bucco, so you can
steal a bite.”
DIANE SEMBROT, EDITOR
Go for Drinks, Stay for Dinner
Escape New England cold snaps at this fine French bistro. It’s warm and inviting. The fall/winter menu launches in November and “features such classic bistro items as Tagine de Poulet with preserved lemon and olives, Gigot d’agneau with baked polenta and gremolata, Classic bouillabaisse with a saffron aioli,” says co-owner Anshu Vidyarthi.
Newbies should try: Moules Frites
If you’re over 21: Riesling from Alsace
An all-American roadhouse eatery with creative, contemporary, big-flavor offerings that foodies love, like Chatham Fish ’n’ Chips and Baby Back ribs. Add creative cocktails and live music, and this place knows how to have a good time and attract people of all ages.
Newbies should try: Brussels Sprouts Salad
If you’re over 21: Maple Old-Fashioned
The Little Kitchen is a large Indonesian-Chinese restaurant with dramatic red walls and dishes that hit the spot. Staff Pick: “The crispy fried spinach is like crunchy air, with a tad of sauce.” Donna Moffly, advisory editor. Show up early for drinks at its curved bar and tasty bites at the sushi counter.
Newbies should try: The Westporter roll, of course
If you’re over 21: Ozeki
THE PEARL AT LONGSHORE
Water views add to the tranquil and beautiful setting at a fresh addition to the food scene. Find a seat on the upstairs porch, which is enclosed and heated.
Newbies should try: Compo Beach Bouillabaisse
If you’re over 21: Bloody Mary bar at Sunday brunch
The ‘Port loves to bring people together, whether big or small groups. Sample—and share—the food with the appetizers.
Newbies should try: Truffle n Cheddar Tater Tots.
If you’re over 21: Dark & Stormy, with rum, ginger beer and lime
ROTHBARD ALE + LARDER
Transport yourself to a European gastropub and fill up with belly-warming goulash, a sampling of kielbasa, weisswurst, bratwurst and more. Staff Pick: “The Käsespätzle is like a German version of mac ’n’ cheese with Gruyere, herbs and a crumb topping,” says Megan Gagnon, market editor.
Newbies should try: Weiner Schnitzel
If you’re over 21: Beck’s Pilsner
SPOTTED HORSE TAVERN
The John Sherwood Mansion (1808) was preserved and adapted for The Spotted Horse, a restaurant that combines a convivial vibe, historic charm and modern seasonal fare. Staff Pick: “I love the Artichoke Caesar Salad because the dressing is not to too strong,” says Jennifer Frank, sales director. “The Ahi Tuna Tacos have perfectly seared tuna with a pineapple salsa, crunchy jicama and fresh mint. The wasabi yogurt sauce adds a kick,” says Cristin Marandino, executive editor.
Newbies should try: Spotted Horse Pasta
If you’re over 21: Liquid Tiramisu
“The Pan-Roasted Atlantic Salmon at The Spotted Horse is my go-to every time. The salmon has just a slight hint of lemon, not overpowering, but the best part is the sweet pea risotto. The salmon complements the risotto, not the other way around.”
BRIAN R. FEIDT, CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
When Aqua left, diners wondered about the new Boca Mediterranean Restaurant & Bar, but it quickly found a following. Look for a wine-tasting dinner in November; Sunday brunches and dinners, mid-fall; and prix fixe menus for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Staff Pick: “The Brussel sprouts drizzled with truffle-infused honey and toasted almonds melt in your mouth,” says Kerri Rak, production director.
This little Thai kitchen has been dishing up authentic Thai food for a year. This year it even had a celeb spotting: Anne Hathaway.
For a long time, Positano’s enjoyed a water view. Then it made a dramatic change by moving to The Dressing Room’s old space, right next to the Westport Country Playhouse.
This little neighborhood joint—with salads, wings, seafood and such— revamped the 1884 historic house (once an onion barn) into a hotspot. Part of the appeal are jazz performances by Rabbi Greg Wall, known as “the jazz rabbi.” On Thursday nights, he plays a 1937 Steinway “M.” Local jazz fans paid for it after learning it was from the Village Gate in Manhattan and played by jazz legends.
VILLA DEL SOL
After eighteen years at 36 Elm Street, it’s a new dawn for the family-owned and -operated Mexican restaurant. It recently gave way to Bedford Square and will relocate elsewhere in town.
CHEF: TAVERN ON MAIN
Tavern on Main (tavernonmain.com) is one of Westport’s quintessential winter eateries, a historic 1813 Sea Captain’s house with low ceilings, antique hardwood floors and three original brick fireplaces to take off the chill. Polo Ramirez, who hails from Mexico, shares his holiday favorites.
“Roast Pork Adobada is a traditional preparation of pork marinated in a blend of chiles, lime juice and spices. The typical chiles used for this dish in Mexico are either Guajillo or Chipotle—in New Mexico, a variation is made using regional Hatch Chiles. There are numerous recipes for various spice blends used in this dish, but, typically, a combination of allspice, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf and nutmeg are part of
Underrated holiday seasoning:
“Citrus juices and zest. Typically, Mexican cuisine uses limes more than lemons, but as we move into the seasonal citrus varieties available in the market, oranges and other citrus fruits can be added.”
“I make the stock [for French onion soup] from scratch, and caramelize the onions for a deep, rich flavor, topping each crock with toasted bread and cheese gratinée. We rotate our soups on a daily basis.
CHEF: ROTHBARD ALE + LARDER
Jonathan Vaast says that fall and winter are perfect for the heartier fare at Westport’s cozy European gastropub, Rothbard Ale + Larder (rothbardct.com).
In season: “Fall is the best. All of my favorite vegetables come around: brussels sprouts, beets, parsnips, broccoli, potatoes.”
“I find myself eating a lot of the beef bourguignon or the cassoulet that comes with a confit duck leg. We started offering confit and roasted suckling pig dish for six to eight people that’s three courses; it’s really decadent.”
“Get all of the little stuff out of the way, so on the day of the holiday, it’s just pulling out what’s already prepped and cut, then cooking it. Also clean as you go; having a tidy work area always makes for an easier time cooking.”
“My family never used chestnuts in any holiday dishes, so for me, personally, it would have to be those.”
“During the summer months, our menu is full of lighter fare, but German and European food tends to be associated with heavier, heartier food, which really fits the colder winter days and nights. Our menu really reflects that, from the food to the beers and cocktails. There’s just something about hanging out in the basement of the old Town Hall, eating schnitzel, sausages and braised meats while enjoying a warmed glühwein.”
MARKETS & TO-GO’S
GOOD FUEL WHEN TACKLING HOLIDAY TO-DO’S
By Diane Sembrot and Allison White
Gourmet salads, sandwiches, desserts and more. Staff Pick: French Ham and Cheese. “It reminds me of the sandwiches of my childhood in Bulgaria,” says Senior Art Director Venera Alexandrova. “The flourless chocolate chip cookie cures my craving for sweets every time,” says Jeanne Craig, contributing editor, “especially when combined with an iced coffee.”
Grab flowers, cheese, gourmet coffee, dessert and maybe a sandwich or box lunch from the food stations. TRY: Falafel and grape leaves
Family-own market, with fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts, salads and more. TRY: Corn chowder
CHRISTIE’S COUNTRY STORE
An old-school store with hip sandwiches. TRY: “Godmother,” chicken with artichoke hearts, spinach, feta cheese and Yuzo miso vinaigrette
343 Main St.
Serious, unfussy donuts, coffee and sandwiches. Staff Pick: Tuna Melt. “It’s so good!” says Holly Keeperman, contributing art director
DOUBLE L MARKET
Organic, hand-picked produce, grass-fed meats, fresh seafood and more. TRY: Anything owner Lloyd Allen recommends
FLOUR WATER SALT
Just organic flour, purified water and sea salt make up their sourdough bread. Staff Pick: “Rob VanKeuren’s breads and pastries are worth the drive on Saturday mornings,” says Colleen Crowley, assistant editor.
Healthful salads, burritos, soups and juices. TRY: Pangoa Bowl
THE FRESH MARKET
Upscale market with produce, coffee, bread, ready-made salads and more. TRY: All-vegetable sushi
FJORD FISH MARKET
Picky? Head to Fjord, which is proud of its responsibly sourced seafood. TRY: Catch of the day
GARELICK & HERBS
Gourmet salads, sandwiches and more freshly prepared foods. TRY: Chicken Pot Pie
An old-school deli in the best way. TRY: Hot pastrami on rye
THE GRANOLA BAR
Organic granola, coffee and seasonal food. TRY: “The Shrek”
GREEN & TONIC
Organic food, juices and more. TRY: Berry Acai Bowl
Falafel sandwiches, salads and more. TRY: Chicken Shawarma
LE ROUGE CHOCOLATE
Fresh chocolate—yum! TRY: Kentucky Bourbon Truffles
Organic beef and provisions from Uruguay, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia; new to Westport.
A market with ready-to-eat options. Staff Pick: Chicken Kabob. “Most tasty, moist and organic chicken ever found on a stick,” says Creative Director Amy Vischio.
Plant-based kitchen, with nutritional, organic, vegan, gluten- and GMO-free meals. TRY: Super Green Smoothie
PETER’S WESTON MARKET
A full-service market with a deli, salad bar and fresh produce. TRY: Chicken salad sandwich
SUGAR & OLIVES
Seasonal eating in a chic space with a happy vibe. TRY: Hippie Chic Pea Curry Bowl.
WAVE HILL BREAD
Artisan bread made with organic whole grains milled onsite; served in specialty markets. TRY: Three-grain