Former Coco cook to open downtown Northampton restaurant

  • Pioneer Valley natives Abby Fuhrman and Aaron Thayer will be opening a new restaurant, Patria, this spring in the lower level of Thornes Marketplace. They are currently renovating the space which was most recently home to ConVino Wine Bar. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pioneer Valley natives Abby Fuhrman and Aaron Thayer talk about Patria, the restaurant they’ll be opening this spring in the lower level of Thornes Marketplace. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pioneer Valley natives Abby Fuhrman and Aaron Thayer talk about Patria, the restaurant they'll be opening this spring in the lower level of Thornes Marketplace. The restaurant space, which also opens onto the Armory Street plaza between Thornes and parking garage, was most recently home to ConVino Wine Bar. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pioneer Valley natives Abby Fuhrman and Aaron Thayer talk about Patria, the restaurant they’ll be opening this spring in the lower level of Thornes Marketplace. The restaurant space was most recently home to ConVino. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 1/3/2020 4:58:13 PM

NORTHAMPTON — When ConVino closed in August, the restaurant’s owner said panhandlers and increased traffic from the city’s recreational marijuana dispensary, NETA, had negatively impacted downtown business.

But a married couple opening a new restaurant in the former ConVino space does not share those concerns. “Not at all — not whatsoever,” said Aaron Thayer, a classic French cook by training. 

Thayer and Abby Fuhrman, a social worker, plan to open Patria in the former ConVino Wine Bar space in the basement of Thornes Marketplace this spring. Patria is Latin for homeland — a nod to the couple’s Western Mass roots.

Most recently, Thayer was a cook for a year and a half at Coco and the Cellar Bar, the popular Easthampton restaurant that has been a recurring semifinalist for a James Beard Award, or as some call it “the Oscars of food.” Before that, Thayer worked at a Beacon Hill steakhouse, Mooo…., and under celebrated chef Ken Oringer at Clio. In 2014, he and Fuhrman moved to San Francisco, where he worked at Atelier Crenn, now a three-star Michelin Guide restaurant, its chef the first woman in the U.S. to receive the guide’s highest rating. He later helped the chef open another restaurant, Petit Crenn.

Thayer plans to bring his experience and techniques learned at Michelin-starred restaurants to Patria, “but done in a way that’s accessible to people in the Valley,” he said. “And maybe doesn’t seem so pretentious.” 

Currently, the couple lives in Northampton. Fuhrman, 29, is from Amherst while Thayer, 32, grew up in both Northampton and Hadley.

Thayer’s mother was named Patricia, which the duo considered as a name for the restaurant. But “Patria had a little more mystery to it,” Fuhrman said. 

Thayer will be Patria’s chef, while Fuhrman is involved in designing the space and will manage the staff, among other duties. 

The duo bought a building on Union Street in Easthampton and had planned to open a restaurant called Hunt & Gather in late 2019. But the cost to renovate the space into a restaurant ended up being prohibitive. “We just kept hitting roadblocks with the cost,” Fuhrman said.

The name Hunt & Gather didn’t feel right for the Northampton space, they said, so they brainstormed a new name.

Patria’s food would most succinctly be described as “New American Cuisine,” Thayer said, but “I try to stay away from that term. It’s so vague.”

Items on the menu will include tempura maitake mushrooms with aerated Humboldt fog, a goat milk cheese. “Basically it’s a savory whipped cream,” Thayer said of the aerated cheese. 

The dish is “a fried mushroom dipped in cheese,” Fuhrman chimed in.

A staple of Patria: Parker House soft rolls with “everything seasoning” and butter made by Thayer.

Some of the food, such as roasted duck crown, will come in portions for four to eight people. “The highlight of the menu will be our family-style menu,” Thayer said. 

As much of the ingredients as possible will be sourced locally, including from farms such as Kitchen Garden Farm and the seafood company BerkShore. But not all ingredients will be from the Valley — New England seasons make that difficult, the owners said. “We’re not just going to have roots on our menu for four months,” Thayer said. “At a certain point, you need to look outside your area.”

They also plan to serve cocktails and are applying for a liquor license. In particular, Fuhrman said, they love “classic Prohibition cocktails” and — influenced by their years spent on the West Coast — tiki drinks. 

This winter, they are working on renovating some parts of the restaurant. In addition to a dining area, they envision one section serving as a lounge space with a smaller menu. There, Fuhrman hopes people will feel like they can come in and just have a drink if they want. 

“We want to give a lot of options for people,” Fuhrman said.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.


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