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Jesup Hall in Westport: Bill Taibe Recreates LeFarm

After Bill Taibe unexpectedly shuttered the acclaimed, but miniscule LeFarm two years ago, his disappointed fans and following hoped for another game-changer from the chef who also minted Westport gems Kawa Ni and The Whelk.

Last March, Taibe opened a Community Tavern in Westport’s historic Town Hall. “Jesup Hall” was planned to be a classic tavern, serving food with a contemporary spin from a set menu of steaks, burgers, chicken, even mac and cheese. A family-friendly gathering place in the heart of the town he loved.

“What the hell was I thinking?” the chef recently confessed to CTBites, his self-deprecating laugh completely owning the miscalculation. Though his Tavern revival would doubtless have become a smash hit, it instantly became Taibe’s albatross.

“This just wasn’t me,” Taibe admits, finally able to grin at his blunders. “I was trying to do something new when all I really wanted was to go back to the beginning and offer our loyal customers food similar to what we had prepared at LeFarm and hopefully create new favorites at the same time.”

He started slowly, implementing changes in the kitchen along with Chef Dan Sabia and the team. As the menu evolved with the spring and summer ingredients that were growing and available, new dishes were created and everything was falling into place. Taibe even decided it was time to bring LeFarm chicken liver back! In just a few months the original tavern had evolved to a food concept close to LeFarm – this time with ample space and a vibrant bar.

Jesup Hall’s new, lighter menu features uncommon cuts and sourcing, often accented with fermented vegetables and berries, and executed with sexy simplicity.

Consider his 14 oz. Lamb steak (above), soon to debut on the menu. Forget conventional lamb cuts like chops and leg. Taibe opts for the hard-working shoulder and its succulent meat, laced with intermuscular fat and collagen. While the bone-in blade may not be knife friendly, it sweetens the meat, and lush with melted cartilage, the lamb is finger-licking good. Escorted by persimmon and turnip slices, the dish exemplifies the new found simplicity — only three ingredients — protein, fruit and root vegetable.

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Lou Gorfain