Stephanie Webster likes to eat and tell. She is a devoted and accomplished food lover, one who would likely travel great distances on the promise of a superior prosciutto alone.
She is also the founder and editor-in-chief at CTBites , a veritable online gastro-bible for Fairfield County, known for its sumptuous photography and trustworthy evaluations. With at least one dozen regular contributors, CTBites has grown from a one-woman food blog into a virtual destination for local eaters to get the skinny on everything food, from chefs to farms to markets to restaurants. Recently, I had the great pleasure of sitting down for lunch with her at Carolines Crêperie , a cozy café, tucked away on Elm St. in New Canaan.
After we order our savory crêpesWebster choosing la Provençal, complete with Ratatouille inside , and me opting for a crêpe combination of brie, bacon and pearwe get down to the business of discussing her recipe for success. I was raised in Manhattan, she begins. Nobody cooks in Manhattan, so you learn where to find the best knishes, the best black and white cookies, the best of everything. Being in the know is a very big deal in New York. She got so good at sniffing out the most delicious restaurants and unique markets, that it became second nature to her.
After moving from New York to Seattle, she finally settled with her family in Westport. It took me a little while, but I made my peace with the suburbs, she laughs. And I started my search for the best food in Connecticut. But what I found was that there were no online reference guides, no places for people to go to find out about new restaurants or great markets. So, I decided to make one. Webster easily married her lifelong love of food with her professional skills in web development and real talent for photography. She mixed it all together, and CTBites was born.
In the beginning, it was not all positive, Webster says, referencing the double entendre in the sites moniker. But in my search, I found that there is actually great food happening in the suburbs, and in Fairfield County in particular.
That was back in 2009, when she started CTBites. Since then, the site has grown exponentially. I quickly realized I couldnt eat everywhere myself, says Webster. So I enlisted the help of some friends, friends who loved to eat and who could write as well. I didnt want trained critics. I was going for a real persons perspective. I wanted the site to have a clean, fresh voice, a voice thats fun, not snarky. Like youre talking to your best friend over lunch about a great new restaurant she just tried.
What Webster has built in two years is arguably an unparalleled resource for food lovers in Fairfield County. Weve grown in ways I never could have imagined, she says. Webster is also quick to note that CTBites' executive editor and new media guru, Amy Kundrat, has been one of the more important ingredients to the success of the site. Very soon, well be launching CTBites Invites , which will be a way for us to give people access to some of the chefs and events that we have access to. The new program, featuring unique and exclusive culinary events, is slated to roll out before the end of the year.
As Webster and I are wrapping up lunch, I finally ask her the most important question of the afternoon: What are her favorite local restaurants?
Oh, she laughs. There are so many. I will say that Le Farm , The Schoolhouse , Valencia , The Boathouse , Napa & Co. and Match are right up there. But its easy to get the feeling that if I asked her the same question on a different day, her list might change dramatically and would likely include at least one taco truck or other hidden gem that requires the kind of insider knowledge Webster values.
In lieu of a regular lunch interview with Webster, we may just want to continue reading her site. Chances are, she'll tell us everything we need to know.
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