It’s been a year since Sal Bagliavio and Executive Chef Forrest Pasternack worked together tirelessly to give Bailey’s Backyard a new vibe, a new focus on local food, and a new soul. When we went for a pre-opening dinner back in April 2013, we were excited to see what Chef Pasternack was up to since he left Morello Bistro in Greenwich, where we first met him. Our experience was amazing and we came back lots of times alone and with friends and family. We came with our buddies Renato and Alicia, Jay and Ali, and even Kristien’s parents…closing the place down each time. We even sent friends and colleagues, like Ashley and Rudy, Kristien’s hairdresser Ashley, Fran, Kelley & Mike, and many more… all who reported back with RAVE reviews. So, we couldn’t say no when we were invited back for a special writer’s dinner to introduce us to the spring drink and food menu, using local, in season ingredients.
Lucky us got the chance to literally taste almost the entire menu, and lucky you, we’re going to share all the juicy details! Let’s take each dish in order of menu headings. Here we go…
Bryan Walsh is not only in charge of the beverage program here at Bailey’s, but he’s also the mixologist. We’ve had so many killer drinks from him, that we were excited to see some new creations. Like the food at Bailey’s, Bryan keeps things local and seasonal, and of course, hand crafted. So, while you might stop by during winter and get an amazing spiced cider drink that features cinnamon infused bourbon, you’d find that off the menu with new drinks in its place for spring. Here are four cocktails that Bryan prepared for us and that we gladly drank:
Samuel Clemens: ginger infused vodka, lemon, ginger, black pepper, club soda.
Yeah, drink this all day, all night, for breakfast even. Seriously, it’s that amazing. Bryan actually serves this in a repurposed wine bottle that he was able to grind down and smooth over. To make the drink, he steeped ginger in vodka, added some lemon zest, and some black pepper. The drink was lemony, but not too much, and the black pepper added a nice bit of bite and flavor. Our favorite part was how it looked with the peppered lemon slice on the rim…it was almost too good to drink. Almost.
Six Toed Cat: blueberry & mint infused rum, lime, fresh mint, ginger beer
This was another winner in our books, a tribute to Ernest Hemingway’s polydactyl cat. It (the drink, not the cat) was bubbly, ginger forward, and again, Bryan infused the rum himself, giving it a brighter and berry good taste. This is another drink that you could easily drink all day, no probs.
Don’t Call Me Shirley: Housemade citrus vodka, fresh citrus juice, Cointreau
This is Bryan’s response to a Cosmo. Starting off, it was quite strong, much different than the first two drinks that we shared with you. If we were to describe it in any way, we’d say it tasted similar to a grappa with a strong lemon taste. If that’s your kinda style, this is your drink.
Rude Barbara: white rum, strawberry-rhubarb puree, lime
We don’t know who Barbara is, but we’re glad her rudeness inspired this drink. This drink was, literally, “the jam”…that’s because Bryan uses Forrest’s strawberry-rhubarb jam (more on that later) while mixing it up. Think of this as a creative spin on a Strawberry Daiquiri. To be honest, it’s so much better than a daiquiri (the sweetness is balanced nicely) and had all of us sipping heavy and hard. Yeah, this one goes down so easy that it can be pretty damn dangerous.
“For the Table”
These are basically the dishes you’d want to order while you look over the rest of the menu or sip on some cocktails. We started with the Chicken Liver & Grand Marnier Pate that came with an apricot mustard and thyme toast. While we’ve had chicken liver pate in the past and didn’t like it, we wouldn’t be any kind of *good* food bloggers if we didn’t try again. Unfortunately, the verdict is, we still hate pate, but not because theirs wasn’t good. In fact, many people at the table enjoyed it.
We also tried the “Devils on Horseback,” a dish made with North Country Bacon, Armagnac plums, and pears. The Devils were smoky, the plum is beautiful in the dish, and the pear adds a nice contrast to everything, toning down the fattiness and richness of the thick bacon.
And lastly, we tried the Goat Cheese Profiterole, Chef Pasternack’s take on the classic Italian dessert. This one included a big profiterole stuffed with goat cheese, a crispy parmesan “cookie,” and included aged balsamic and a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. This dish screwed with your mind a bit because you expected it to be sweet like a traditional profiterole, but it was actually savory, creamy, and well balanced. In terms of the pastry itself, it was great, though we felt that it might have been just a bit too much dough.
First we tried the Zucchini Fries, prepared with shaved parmesan, a pecan puree, and mint. The fries were golden in color and oh so crispy while keeping the inside warm, soft, and delicate. The mint lightened up the fattiness and breading, while the pecan puree added a nuttiness. We would order this again.
We also tried the Tempura Vegetables that included battered and fried sweet potato, asparagus, and red onion. The tempura, like the fries, were fresh and crispy. On top of the veggies was cashew powder and some Hoisin sauce, adding nice nutty Asian contrast. Kristien’s not a big tempura fan, but did like that the veggies were not overly breaded like some tempura can be. Dan, on the other hand, could have eaten them all day long.
Our next course was the Grilled Asparagus Salad that included frisee, prosciutto, Black Truffle Hollandaise, shaved Pecorino, and an herbed red wine vinaigrette. The salad screamed out fresh with the Hollandaise adding a nice flavor. Some other complex flavors came in from the smoky charring on the asparagus spears and the bite from the black truffles. We both enjoyed the salad itself, but Kristien found the dressing to be too salty.
We had two starters, the first being the Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Poke. Forrest explained that Bailey’s is Modern American and that means American from all over like this dish that’s a play on a Hawaiian classic. Fresh cubed ahi tuna was served with garlic, soy sauce, wakame (Hawaiian seaweed salad), and black sesame seeds. The fish (raw) was coated in a deliciously toasty sesame oil. And, for an added crunch and texture contrast, Forrest included crispy puffed wonton chips. This was fantastic and a unique dish for us to try, a nice alternative to our typical raw fish favorites of ceviche and tartare.
Up next was the Whipped Foie Gras with Caramelized Onion Pierogi. This dish was served with delicately roasted red wine pearl onions, a chive cream, and a white truffle/bacon powder. This is Forrest’s take on a Rich Man / Poor Man dish. The pierogi was freshly made and had great flavor inside, getting an additional burst of flavor from the sweet and caramelized pearl onions. While we don’t ever order Foie Gras at restaurants, this was perhaps some of the best that we’ve had. To get it the way he wants it, Forrest takes Hudson Valley Foie Gras then slow cooks it for hours, making it delicate, creamy, and concentrating the flavor even more.
Everybody at the table was feeling some major pain at this point, many wondering how they could possibly get through the next two dishes and the desserts, too. But, lucky for us, we’re experienced gluttons and food-stuffers, so we didn’t let a hundred more bites of food stop us. So, we cried out bring on the pain, and out came the Firecracker Rock Shrimp Scampi. Crispy breaded rock shrimp were served over housemade and hand cut linguine, covered in a scampi with diced shallots and roasted garlic. The pasta was cooked perfectly al dente (Forrest is a pasta master, btw) and was a great choice to lop up the buttery scampi sauce. This entire dish was brought together with a nice sweet hit from Meyer lemons. Kristien said she could’ve eaten a bucket full of it… and Dan assures you she could.
Our last savory dish was the Slow Roasted Suckling Pig, served two ways with a rich Cracklin-Red Eye Gravy. The first way was low & slow braised shoulder. This cut was delicate and forked off nicely with just a gentle tug. While this seemed to be most people’s favorite cut, the torchon served underneath the shoulder was also great and shouldn’t be overlooked. The meat from the torchon actually came from various parts of the pig that Forrest cooked low + slow again. It had a smokiness to it that we enjoyed and also had some nice caramelization going on, adding even more 3D flavor. Bringing it all together were light and spicy corn fritters with aromatic and floral notes from lavender and buttered peas. The contrasting flavors of rich, fatty, smoky meat paired nicely with the lavender peas and corn fritters. If you’re a card-carrying pork-avore, this will be your definite go-to dish.
“Save room for dessert,” people say…stupid amateurs. They obviously don’t roll like we do. We don’t save room: we make room! And, with the last two plates that Forrest had in store, we had to make a lot of room.
First we tried the Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart. This dessert delivered, being all we hoped for and more. The strawberry-rhubarb jam that we mentioned before mixed together nicely to create balanced flavors of sweet and tart. Oh, and speaking of tart, the shell itself was crispy and didn’t become soggy at all. On top of the tart Forrest prepared a Toasted Meringue, and to the side he put a scoop of local Arethusa Farms Vanilla ice cream. Chef shared that if he had the space and the means, he’d definitely make his own ice cream. Somebody get this man an awesome ice cream maker…we’re excited about that possibility.
And, finally, we had the House Made “Coffee & Donuts” which we first tried on Christmas Eve. When you order this dish, be ready to share because there are three donuts: Almond & Chocolate, Powdered Sugar, and Dulce de Leche & Bacon. All three were excellent by themselves, but the Pomegranate-Espresso Sauce helped to brighten up and “lighten” the donuts a bit. While the donuts were on the greasy side, let us ask you an important question: if that bothers you, why the hell are you ordering donuts covered in bacon? ;) But, seriously, our favorite of the trio was the bacon because you had the creaminess of the Dulce de Leche on top of the donut, balanced with the smokiness and savoriness of the bacon. Each donut was soft…something you could literally sink your teeth into. If you can handle super heavy, rich desserts, then this will be up your alley.
It’s always great to go back to a restaurant that changes their menu often based on what’s in season. While it might intimidate some who are less adventurous, we assure you Bailey’s is a “safe place” to try new stuff. With a chef as talented as Chef Forrest Pasternack, you really can’t go wrong. So, we highly recommend you get your butts on over there soon, before they change their menu again for summer… it’ll be the perfect excuse to go back again…and believe us, you will want to.
Address: 23 Bailey Avenue
Ridgefield, CT 06877
Phone: (203) 431-0796