Troy’s Take: Fandoration In Falmouth

Troy ClarksonAmy Rader Photographer - Troy Clarkson

“Passionate” is one of those words that has become so commonplace in our lexicon, its meaning has become a bit watered down. It has become synonymous with “admire,” “like,” or even “appreciate,” all very nice and positive descriptive terms, but certainly not on a par with passion. I like peanut butter, but it’s not something about which I’m necessarily passionate. I enjoy watching the TV show “Chopped,” but I can’t lay claim to feeling passionate when the contestants take their places in the “Chopped” kitchen. Passion is reserved for those things and people about which we possess a fervent admiration.

So, after spending an enjoyable, interesting, and educational morning with Gates and Kate Rickard, the owners of Main Street’s newest eatery, the Bear in Boots Gastropub, I searched for a word to adequately describe the palpable passion emanating from this husband and wife team for their new venture—and for Falmouth.

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I came up with a new word—fandoration—to describe the fanatical adoration, in a very positive and sincere sense, that this remarkable and accomplished couple have for their newly adopted hometown and for their colleagues up and down the restaurant row that is our Main Street. I didn’t just spend a morning with two skilled and classically trained chefs who have served at some of the world’s finest restaurants, I was welcomed into the world of two committed parents, two life partners, and two devoted citizens who made a conscious choice to become part of the fabric of the Falmouth community.

Gates and Kate came to Falmouth as part of a deliberate life plan to plant roots (and boots) and sprout a successful future for their family. Six years ago, they were living and working on Martha’s Vineyard, owners of the thriving and admired Rickard’s Bakery, a New York-style wholesale and retail bakery, widely acclaimed for its sophisticated French techniques and world-class breads and pastries. During their trips to the mainland, though, they became enamored with Falmouth’s vibrant downtown, and what Kate call’s Falmouth Village’s “quaint and adorable” qualities. They fell in love—one might say they developed a fandoration—and decided that Falmouth was the place for them and their three children. “The kids need a community,” noted Kate. The Rickards then began their journey to Main Street. 

At first, they envisioned another edition of their successful bakery in downtown Falmouth, one that would continue their tradition of painstakingly prepared breads and pastries, skills that both of these Johnson & Wales trained gastrophiles honed working in some of the world’s top venues, like the Metropole Hotel in Brussels. Moving toward that goal, they bought a house in Falmouth and began preparations for selling some of their Vineyard pursuits and began their quest for a downtown location. Shortly thereafter, Maison Villatte opened on Main Street, and after thoroughly enjoying the high quality offerings from that world-class eatery, their palates pleased but hopes dashed, they refocused their quest.

This turning point provides insight into the kind of people with which Falmouth has been graced in the team of Kate and Gates. Not wanting to open a restaurant that would be in direct conflict and competition with any existing player on Restaurant Row, they instead began extensive research and brainstorming on a concept that would complement the jewels that currenlty dot our downtown. They settled on the concept of a gastropub, a flexible genre that is most certainly not a traditional British pub and most certainly not haughty fine dining.

Calling it a “flexible genre,” the extremely well-spoken and equally affable Gates explained that their concept of a gastropub is that of food with fine dining standards in a relaxed atmosphere. Adding that, “food should be delicious and not pretentious,” the similarly cheerful and obviously cultivated Kate noted that children are welcomed in their new creation, evidenced by the homemade mac and cheese and chicken fingers on the menu. In fact, everything, from the breads to the ketchup, from the pasta to the ice cream, is made fresh in the basement of this culinary fantasy land right in Falmouth Village. From the band saw they use to butcher the meat fresh daily to the pastry oven that creates their own burger buns, the Rickards are committed to high quality in all facets of their operation. Even the staff is quizzed on current events and geography before being hired, resulting in a committed and engaged staff. 

The name Bear in Boots is also reflective of the quality of the folks behind the food. The Rickards’ three children, Alex, Charlie and Ava, are affectionately known to their parents as Boots, Bear, and Squirrel. They close the restaurant on Sundays in the off-season specifically to spend time with their home version of Bear, Boots and Squirrel. Although Ava’s nickname didn’t make it into the name of the restaurant, she is present throughout the comfortably decorated interior of Bear in Boots, symbolized by strategically placed decorations. There’s even a photo of Kate’s parents on their first date, further evidence of the family commitment of this impressive couple. 

Visitors to Bear in Boots will be met as they enter with a large player piano nestled above the eating area. They were inspired at a previous Christmas Parade to have a place where locals could come and eat, relax, and enjoy. I think they’ve found it. 

At the close of our visit, Kate summed up the Rickards’ simple philosophy on food, fun, and life. “It’s not where you are, it’s who you are with,” she noted with a wide smile. Gates nodded in agreement, content that they’ve found a home—in Falmouth and at Bear in Boots. I agree, and hope that Gates, Kate, Bear, Boots, and Squirrel are with us, sharing their fandoration for Falmouth for many wonderful seasons.

(Mr. Clarkson may be contacted at votetroy99@aol.com and followed on Twitter @TroyClarkson59.)

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