By Analiese Paik
Just three months ago we reviewed Bistro Seven in this piece, but notable and exciting changes significant enough to warrant a grand reopening brought us back for a well-deserved update.
It’s important to note what hasn’t changed: Bistro Seven remains a casual American bistro serving locally sourced comfort food. Former Sous Chef Marcelino Martinez has been promoted to Chef de Cuisine and the new menu includes at least five Latin-inspired dishes that pay homage to his Puerto Rican roots. Lunch service is gone, however, so the kitchen and wait staff can focus on dinner service. General manager Cristian Caldarariu joined six months ago, bringing with him seven years of experience in fine dining establishments in Bermuda, to help Donati further refine the concept of an American bistro and take the restaurant to the next level of service. “The chefs go to the market, take all day to prep, then Christian has the front of the house come in two hours before service to be in synchrony. Everybody’s engaged and focused. It’s more fun” said Donati.
Bistro Seven has outsourced the sourcing of a significant portion of the food they buy from local farms and artisans, ensuring a seamless flow of the freshest and highest quality ingredients. “It’s a labor intensive process to source locally. We had interns working on it and it was very time consuming” said Donati. Today, Pound Ridge Organics supplies the restaurant with over fifty percent of their weekly produce, eggs, bread and cheese. It was a serendipitous meeting with the daughter of Pound Ridge Organics owner Donna Simons at a friend’s dinner party in Manhattan that initiated the business relationship. “I met Donna the next day. I invited her to come for a chef’s challenge” said Donati. The challenge was then Sous Chef Marcelino Martinez’s opportunity to prove himself to management and earn the title of Chef de Cuisine. “He executed fabulously. Everybody needs a test. Everybody needs to prove themselves” said Donati.
Donna Simons sat next to me at the grand reopening dinner so we got to talk shop as we enjoyed the tasting menu and Bistro Seven’s house red wine. She started Pound Ridge Organics, a local food co-op, after enough friends became committed to buying local-sustainable food, but lacked the time to visit each farm. She developed relationships with over sixty local farms and artisan purveyors to source clean, ethically produced, local organic food for her friends, and then opened up membership to the community, which now includes over 400 families. It wasn’t just her dedication to supporting local families and farms that brought Simons a bit of fame though.That came after Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurant, The Inn at Pound Ridge, signed on as a food service customer and preferred her micro batch maple syrup to another she had brought to a tasting. “I couldn’t believe they chose my maple syrup over Crown’s. I wasn’t able produce enough to supply the restaurant from my trees, so I feverishly began tapping trees on other properties. Then there was too much sap for me to process, so I had to bring it to the restaurant where they boiled it down in a 30 gallon evaporator” said Simons.
“Donna is extremely organized. Each Sunday she sends us a preliminary list of what’s available from the farms and Monday a full list arrives” said Donati. Balthazar bread orders are placed on Mondays for Wednesday delivery. Tuesday, vegetables and cheese orders are placed for same day or Wednesday delivery. Bistro Seven’s cheese plate has been replaced with the cheese of the week, which is used in the mac and cheese of the week. Breno ran through this week’s vegetable list from Simons: kale, radishes, squash, tomatoes, turnips, braising mix, edible flowers, chives, sage, oregano, thyme, rosemary, mustard greens, peppers, broccoli, spinach, tatsoi, cabbage, fennel, garlic, onions and potatoes.
Kale and mixed greens are contract grown by one-woman-farmer Debra Sloane, who will be building a greenhouse next year to extend her growing season. “She reached out to us at the beginning of the season saying ‘If you commit to me, I’ll commit to you.’” said Donati. Sloane delivers to the restaurant each Saturday on her way to the New Canaan Farmers’ Market. Sport Hill Farm, Holbrook Farm, Ambler Farm and Riverbank Farm – all organic growers – complete this list of regular local farm purveyors.
As the menu was being revamped for the grand reopening, Donati told Martinez “The only thing you can’t touch is the cauliflower stacks.” Martinez suggested that he come up with something better, and created Vegan Squared. The dish – a vegan lasagna stacked with layers of grilled zucchini, squash, and zesty marinara sauce – was offered on the grand reopening tasting menu and can be found on the regular menu under Fillers. Baked to al dente perfection, the lasagna was elegant, balanced, and replete with the flavors of fresh fall vegetables.
Roasted root vegetable bisque is both vegan and gluten-free, quite a departure from classic roux-thickened bisques. The contemporary bisque gets its flavor and consistency from roasted and pureed squash and potatoes judiciously spiked with pimenton, an essential Spanish seasoning that lends heat, smoke and color to traditional dishes including chorizo and paella.
“Marcelino is very talented. I want to help his growth. It’s nice to work with somebody you have a lot of synergy with.” Tostones, beef and cheddar empanadas, mojo pulled pork, tequila fajita shrimp salad and arroz con pollo comprise the Latin dishes currently on the menu, which will change again in December. Donati said to expect more Central and South American, Caribbean, and Spanish dishes as Martinez’ influence on the menu grows. I put in my bid for Tortilla Espanola. It is potato season after all.
991 Danbury Rd, Wilton, CT 06897
Hours: Monday-Wednesday 5 pm to 10 pm; Thursday-Saturday 5 pm to 10:30 pm; Sunday 10 am to 3 pm, 4 pm to 9 pm