One-night-only restaurant pops up in support of farm market
Generally, the only thing popping up in the greenhouses at Gilbertie's Herb Gardens in Westport are sprigs of thyme, basil, rosemary, dill, sage and other fragrant culinary and medicinal plants.
But Saturday, the crop that "popped up" was a restaurant.
Its name was Fork it Over, and diners did -- a crowd of about 200 people paid $150 each for the chic-yet-casual experience of feasting on the dishes of five local "powerhouse, farm-to-table" chefs, including several James Beard Award winners and nominees, to support the Westport Farmers Market.
The one-night event of "great food, great wine, great friends and a great cause" was sold out in less than five hours, according to Lori Cochran-Dougall, director of the not-for-profit Westport Farmers Market. Cochran-Dougall said the money raised will support the growers, educational programs and the community service mission of the market.
Cochran-Dougall said the appeal of this local pop-up restaurant "goes back to the talents of these five chefs and their commitment to supporting local farms."
"On any given Thursday you can see these chefs shopping at the market," said Cochran-Dougall. Each chef created four small plates and they were asked to use a minimum of four local ingredients in the meals they prepared, among those ingredients were beets, micro-greens, potatoes, goat cheese, eggs, fish and meat.
"We all believe in local living communities and taking care of the neighborhood," said Michel Nischan, author, sustainable food movement advocate, resident chef of the PBS television series, Victory Garden, and owner/founder of the Dressing Room restaurant in Westport. His latest book is "Sustainably Delicious: Making the World a Better Place, One Recipe at a Time." Among the small plates that Nischan, his wife Lori, and Jon Vaast, chef of the Dressing Room, prepared were Brussels sprouts with dried cranberries and crispy pork belly with soft-poached egg and sun choke mustard.
"What's cool about tonight, you have five chefs from the most popular and cutting-edge restaurants in Fairfield County under one roof coming together on a Saturday night for a really good cause. As far as I'm concerned the money is going to the right cause," said Chef Bill Taibe, owner of le Farm and the Whelk.
He and his team made smoked bluefish pate and foie gras terrine with marmalade served on winter squash toast.
Taibe said the local farmers' market creates a place where local chefs can shop for local ingredients and where they can interact with the farmers that the chefs don't usually have access to because of the schedules of both. "It becomes a very communal place," he said.
Matt Storch, owner and chef of Match, called himself a good customer of the Westport Farmers Market and all its farmers. "I want to make sure they have a place to sell their products. I use a lot of the products from the farmers' market at the restaurant," said Storch, who made "naked ravioli" and rolled raw tuna in blood orange, jalapeno pepper and basil with a dot of black truffle.
Theodora Kyratsous of Litchfield and Ian Morrison of Danbury not only appreciated the concept enough to travel some distance to attend. They also liked the unique twist of choosing their own dinner plate from a table of mismatched vintage china supplied by Something Borrowed, owned by Chris Hickey and Lauren Kreter.
The winter market takes place Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the greenhouses at Gilbertie's Herb Gardens, 7 Sylvan Lane, through March 15. For more information, go to www.westportfarmersmarket.com.