When we talked with Forrest Pasternack (former Executive Chef of Morello Bistro in Greenwich) a few weeks ago, we couldn’t help but get excited about what he and owner Sal Bagliavio had planned for the reopening of Bailey’s Backyard. A farm-to-table restaurant that would live up to its name, built from the ground, the farm, and garden up. A restaurant where the chef actually visits local farms and buys food from them. A full and complete embrace of what farm to table means. And, after visiting Bailey’s Backyard a few days before opening and being treated to a special preview menu, we know our excitement was well warranted.
The menu is pretty easy to handle, fitting on just one (large) page. In terms of what to order, it’s divided up into a few sections: snacks, sides, greens, starts, mains, and desserts. Of special note is that this is a great restaurant if you’re looking for fresh vegetarian options. You can order whatever you’d like, or have a 3 course meal (starter, main, and dessert) for $27 ($39 with wine pairing) or a 4 course meal (greens, seafood starter, main, and dessert) for $38 ($50 with wine pairing). In addition, you can even have the special Chef’s Tasting which is a seven course tasting menu for a very reasonable $65 or $95 with wine pairings. No tasting menu will ever be exactly the same because it’s built daily based on what’s fresh and from the farms.
Bryan is the man behind the drinks at Bailey’s Backyard. And, when we say the man, we mean THE MAN. He has a great, creative mind, as you can see through his cocktails that feature housemade infused spirits. One drink that we loved was the Mark Twain Manhattan: vanilla infused bourbon with cinnamon syrup, maple syrup, and a small amount of bitters. It’s served with a giant ice cube so that it doesn’t get watered down too easily. The bourbon was mellowed out from the vanilla making it super easy to drink. The sweetness was just right and the scent was intoxicating. Next up was the Habanero Sunrise: jalapeno and habanero infused tequila with OJ, lime, Peachtree Schnaps, grenadine, and Sprite. Have we ever mentioned how much we hate when a restaurant says something is spicy and it’s incredibly lame? Well, that’s not the case here. The heat is definitely on in this drink, but it gets smoothed out nicely by the tequila and the OJ.
In addition, there’s a great wine list that features local vineyards such as Lieb from Long Island. You also can try some brews that Bryan personally picks out including their rotating four taps.
First Tastes of the Menu
Starting off, we need to remind you that this was a sneak preview and we had tasting sizes, so don’t think Bailey’s will necessarily be demure with their portions. It is also important to note that some of their ingredients were sourced just a bit outside of Connecticut due to the fact that the dinner is outside our growing season.
Our waitress (ever the kind soul) began pouring warm butter on our cornbread and said, “I don’t want to over butter it.” Kristien immediately responded, “That’s not possible.” Oh, Lord. The cornbread was nice and toasted on the outside, yet remained moist in the middle. The butter took it up a few more levels, especially with the nice hints of citrus.
While the hummus was creamy and flavorful, the curried pickled cauliflower added a nice strong contrast to this snack.
3) Bacon with pecan nougat, Vermont maple balsamic reduction, and micro basil (Snacks)
Two words: must order. Thickly cut and smoky bacon served atop of not too sweet nougat, perfectly highlighted when dipped with the maple balsamic reduction. IN. LOVE.
The mozzarella was excellent – medium in body with the right amount of salt. It was contrasted with the crispiness of the polenta and the freshly pureed basil. Perhaps the coolest touch was the EVOO powder that was sprinkled all over this dish. It looked like parm, but when you took a bite, it melted in your mouth and had that distinct EVOO taste. Awesome!
Guess who got this one? Not Dan! Kristien had commented to Forrest and Sal how many beet and goat cheese salads fall flat because there isn’t much other contrast, but that wasn’t the case with this dish. This starter stood out because of the contrast from the herbs and acidity of the baby yellow tomato dressing. Oh, and the pistachio brittle was delicate like a thin crouton instead of tooth-breaking like most brittle.
The fried poached egg (breaded) was delicious and perfectly cooked, all ooey gooey inside. The dressing was light and refreshing which is a good contrast to the heavy bacon and gorgonzola.
The sweetness of the pear balances out the perfectly cooked scallop and the crispy prosciutto very nicely.
Rich and earthy, the lamb and its inherent gaminess takes center stage in this dish. The pasta was cooked al dente with that perfectly slight bite to it. A very unique, delicious flavor.
The most delicate Berkshire Pork that we’ve ever had. Literally, the meat flaked off with a simple tug of the fork. The wild boar was served atop white sweet potatoes that added a nice sweetness to the richness of the pork and the roasted pork jus, and contrasted nicely with the savoriness of the mire poix.
We might sound like a broken mp3 player here, but this dish was just phenomenal. Starting off with the halibut, it was crispy on the outside, but so juicy and moist inside. Placed gently in the center was a nice touch of black truffle that we were able to conserve and use with each bite. The arancini was delicate, flavorful, and exploding with flavor. Not your typical heavy lead ball arancini that will sink straight down to your gut.
The gnocchi just melts in your mouth…it’s that delicate and creamy. Paired with the slightly bitter (and yummy) ramps, you got the perfect combination. Plus, with that added parmigiano reggiano, there was just the perfect balance. YUM!
Forrest explained that he wants to keep his desserts simple so they don’t overpower the rest of the meal. This tasted almost like a moist lemon cake that was light, fluffy, and steamed. The sour cream gelato on top was a great balance to the sourness of the lemon. Not too sweet, just how we like it!
While this was more custardy than a flan, it still had great flavor from the coconut and the dulce de leche. It wasn’t overpowering at all and hit the spot. Kristien wasn’t a fan because of the texture, but Dan liked the flavors.
When we tried Forrest Pasternack’s food at Morello Bistro we were immediately hooked on his style, finesse, and skill in the kitchen. When we got in touch after he left Morello, we had a great conversation about life, food, and changing Ridgefield and the nearby community with a focus on local food. After having tried a good portion of the menu, we can confidently say that Forrest, Sal, and Sous Chef Kristina Rogers have a gem on their hands. The care, love, and passion they share for local food clearly comes through on the menu and, most importantly, on the plate. Some of the other highlights of the menu include roasted Brussels sprouts, grilled sweet red onion fritters, tableside steak tartar, lobster cake, lamb meatballs, Greyledge Farm beef burger, and an arctic char with pork belly.
So, after being closed for renovations, Bailey’s will finally be open tonight at 5 pm. If you have the money, we’d definitely suggest doing the Chef’s Tasting to get a nice overview of the menu, but the 3 or 4 course meals are also a great way to try the menu at a good price. Another great thing that will keep you coming back is their Sunday brunch. Forrest is very excited about this as farm fresh ingredients are perfect for this meal. And, lastly, you’ll be happy to know that they will have outdoor seating available.
Congratulations again to Sal, Forrest, Kristina, and everybody at Bailey’s Backyard. Here’s to local food and making a difference in the community one ingredient at a time.
Address: 23 Bailey Avenue
Ridgefield, CT 06877
Phone: (203) 431-0796
Open for lunch and dinner, 7 days a week. Open for brunch on Sunday, too.