A Bloom of One’s Own?

Just as we were moping through a dreary lack of controversy, we received this email from James Sklar, owner of the now-defunct Bloom Restaurant in Hastings-on-Hudson. We thought we’d post his letter simply because it’s tantalizing. Sold? To whom? To re-open as what? Huh?

As the final page turns on Bloom, my head is filled with bittersweet thoughts. Creating such an ambitious restaurant was stressful and wonderful. I poured my heart and soul into every detail from the moment I signed the lease. While many restaurateurs are passionate about what they do, I don’t think there has been anything like Bloom in the New York region. From the filtered water, the organic ingredients, farm fresh produce, biodynamic wines, wild caught seafood and grass fed meats, no restaurant can come close to what I accomplished. I challenge anyone in Westchester to find such attention to detail in any restaurant. You simply will not find anything like Bloom.

I closed in August for the last two weeks for a much needed break. The decision to remain closed permanently and sell was difficult. In the end, the stress of running such a large restaurant was too much for me.

The amazing support and compliments from my customers has been fantastic. My heart felt thanks to all my regulars and my fans.

Before I go, I wanted to address just a few things. There were a few rumors started, one that I blogged under an assumed name, praising my restaurant and the other was that I had financial difficulties. Both are simply untrue. I did consider legal action at one of the media outlets, but in the end it would be such an expensive and time-consuming endeavor I dropped it. Those who know me and who are among my large fan base know the truth.

Bottom line, the choices of really good quality food are in short supply. I hope more restaurants embrace filtered water, agave nectar, organic wine, eco-friendly cleaning products, support local organic farms, wild seafood, and grass-fed organic meats. With so many places opening up in Westchester, my hope is that more can be like Bloom.

When you eat out, ask questions. Challenge the so called trendy restaurants on their menu. For example, when you go out for sushi, ask if your fish is wild caught or farm raised. If it’s farm raised, don’t bother. If you think mercury in tuna is bad (which it is), the farm-raised seafood is junk. You don’t have to believe me, do your own research.

I created Bloom because the choices are so limited in our county. Hopefully more places will adopt the Bloom model. That would be best for all of us.

James

Here’s what we know: Bloom’s space, which was re-opened for one night for a Dennis Kucinich fundraiser, has been lying fallow since August. A shame, because even though Bloom’s beautiful, eco-friendly décor might be a little tainted by the restaurant’s failure, the space itself has great bones. The large site has a nicely-sized, separate bar that can accommodate crowds of drinkers (and not just those waiting for tables), plus, it’s fronted by a bank of glorious French doors. When these doors are open to summer’s breezes, the room is like one of our favorite spots in the West Village or Paris—urbane, sophisticated, charming. Sadly, this diamond has been getting a little shopworn, having been glittering in vain since September while rumors of sales and contracts blew around like autumn leaves.

This being a small world (and us being gossip hounds), we heard that Joe Bastianich (wine importer, Mario Batali’s business partner, and son to Lidia Bastianich) and Andy Nusser (of Casa Mono and a starring roll in Bill Buford’s Heat) came up to look at the space. These Big Fish inquiries at Bloom were ultimately fruitless, unfortunately: Bastianich and Co. passed on the spot because, allegedly, the price was too dear. According to a now-removed ad on Craigslist.com, Bloom was going for $575,000.

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The Bastianch/Nusser/Batali news was interesting, though, since it speaks of the group’s larger interest in Westchester. The Bastianich crew has owned Port Chester’s decrepit Tarry Lodge since the beginning of 2007, while they were reportedly looking at Bloom this past September. Currently, the Manhattan-based group is seeking to staff their as yet undeclared, unspecified, unannounced “Italian” restaurant on the Tarry Lodge site with an ad on Craigslist.com. Wonder what type of Italian they’ll be serving? We’ve heard (from trustworthy sources) that with its pizza ovens, the spot is slated to be another Otto.

Then the rumor mill spat out the more realistic buzz that the folks behind Restaurant One in Irvington were interested in buying Bloom, and were looking to re-open it essentially unchanged – that is, with the same décor and the same organic concept. We were dubious, simply because if Bloom hadn’t worked the first time, why should it work under another owner?

Whether or not the intention is to reopen the spot as Bloom, all indicators suggest that One is the buyer. They’ve certainly been in negotiations longest. (The sale is, as yet, totally unconfirmed by Restaurant One or James Sklar, try as we might). When asked about the buyer, Sklar was coy, saying only that: “There is news on the space, but due to contractual obligations I can’t get into it. I can say that I am not planning on reopening and am selling the business.” We’re waiting with baited breath, since Restaurant One was elected Westchester Magazine’s Best New Restaurant of 2007 – by closely edging out Bloom, in fact.

Whether or not they’ve visited the short lived Bloom, our readers will recognize Sklar’’s name: he’s no stranger to the local foodie blogosphere. As he alludes in his letter, Sklar has quarreled with a blogger at The Journal News, and we’ve had our own tussles with him here on EATER. (See “Has Bloom Faded, or Is It Just on Permanent Vacation“). Nevertheless, we miss a lot about Bloom—the free, triple-filtered water instead of high-priced, ecological-disaster bottled water (see EATER “New Year’s Revolutions: Things We Are Soooo Over in 2008“), Bloom’s sophisticated décor and, especially, the pretty, potent cocktails designed by Marty Vaz.

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