Category Archives: Restaurants

Mike And Kathy McGovern Are Totally Baked And Sauced

It may be the best business name in town.

It may also be the best business idea ever.

“Baked and Sauced” is a converted Airstream trailer. It comes to your home or business, parks, serving scrumptious desserts and fantastic craft cocktails for your wedding, neighborhood party or corporate event.

“Baked and Sauced” — get it?!

Baked and Sauced - logoThe clever concept — rolling bakery and bar — and ingenious execution come courtesy of Mike and Kathy McGovern.

He’s a Westport native (Kings Highway, Bedford Middle School, Fairfield Prep ’89) who started out as a newspaper reporter, spent 8 years with Priceline.com, and now works in online marketing for a New York travel company. (He’s also been a bartender, which is kind of key to this whole story.)

She’s from New Hampshire, but spent the past 25 years in Connecticut. Kathy owned a Fairfield bakery called “Muffin But the Best” — memorable business names are a McGovern family trait — and now works for a small family newspaper chain in Wilton.

They got married 3 years ago. Kathy wanted to take her baking talents to the next level. But it’s a competitive field, and she needed a hook.

Pina colada cupcakes: Pineapple rum cake with coconut buttercream frosting. Yummmmm!

Pina colada cupcakes: Pineapple rum cake with coconut buttercream frosting. Yummmmm!

One of her specialties is alcohol-fused desserts. Most bakers put liquor in the cake itself; you get the flavor, but not the “pop.” Kathy put it in the filling and frosting, so it didn’t bake off.

Her desserts — including cupcakes and brownies — tasted like cocktails.

Kathy’s sister lives in Austin, Texas. While visiting, the McGoverns saw the legendary Gourdough’s food truck. The owners specialize in doughnuts. (Mike calls the “Fat Elvis” — grilled bananas and bacon with peanut butter icing and honey — “unbelievable”).

But it’s not your ordinary, street-style food truck. Gourdough’s’ is an Airstream trailer — an attraction almost as big as the “Fat Elvis.”

A light bulb went on in the McGoverns’ heads.

Vintage Airstreams are as rare as trucks selling “Heavenly Hash” doughnuts, though (marshmallow with chocolate fudge icing, topped with brownie bites).

Finally, a year ago, the couple found a 1968 model in Indiana. It was in rough shape, so they got a good deal.

The dealer spent 15 minutes showing them what they needed to know. Then — though neither had ever towed anything before — they headed back to Westport.

The trailer sat in Mike’s mother’s driveway on Jennie Lane for several months. Whenever they could, the McGoverns worked on it. Guided by YouTube convert-your-Airstream videos, they put in a new floor, built shelves, and gave it a clean, sleek, modern interior, while keeping the rustic exterior.

Mike and Kathy McGovern, with their converted Airstream trailer.

Mike and Kathy McGovern, with their converted Airstream trailer.

The neutral tones inside can match up with any wedding color scheme. The McGoverns know which side their bread is buttered on.

Mike and Kathy trademarked the “Baked and Sauced” name, designed a logo and put up a Facebook page. Then they — and their business — took off.

Last summer, they did weddings (one in a backyard, one at the beach, one rehearsal dinner) and several parties.

The Airstream boasts 3 refrigerators, and a full bar. Kathy makes the cupcakes (like Raspberry Bubbly: Champagne cake with Chambord buttercream frosting), push pops (Irish Car Bomb: Guinness cake, Jameson chocolate ganache and Baileys buttercream frosting) and brownies (with Thimble Island porter beer and pretzels). They’re served at tables with retro cake stands and cupcake towers. (They offer non-alcoholic desserts too.)

Mike tends bar.

The interior of the trailer. Come on in and party!

The interior of the trailer. Come on in and party!

The McGoverns have a catering/liquor license. “Baked and Sauced” is not a food truck — otherwise they’d be called “Baked, Sauced and Toasted” — so they cannot ride around like the Good Humor Man, searching for business.

That’s fine. When it comes to food and drink, there’s plenty of room for everyone here.

Unless the Good Humor Man starts offering pumpkin-spiced vodka Creamsicles.

(To learn more — or get the party “rolling” — click here.)

Serving hungry, thirsty guests. (Photos/Erik Trautmann)

Serving hungry, thirsty guests. (Photos/Erik Trautmann)

 

Kids Eat Free! (Well, Okay, 10% Off)

On the one hand, Westport teenagers always complain “there’s nothing to do here!”

On the other hand, they love to eat.

In an effort to convince hungry kids that there are things to do in Westport — like, go to a variety of local restaurants — the Youth Commission has created a Student Discount Partnership.

Working with the Downtown Merchants Association and Chamber of Commerce, commission members have signed nearly 30 restaurants (and 2 businesses: Suited.co and Lux Bond & Green). They offer 10% off for Staples, Weston High and Greens Farms Academy students presenting a school ID. Only 2 places said no.

Participating locations sport a sticker. The eye-catching Minuteman design was created by Staples senior Julia Schorr. Baker Graphics printed 70, for free.

Student discount sticker

The program began just a couple of weeks ago, with low-key publicity. But participation — and feedback — has been great. Oscar’s, for example, has seen a definite bump in business, from groups of teens.

Oscar's owner Lee Papageorge gives thumb's-up to the Youth Commission's Student Discount Program.

Oscar’s owner Lee Papageorge gives thumb’s-up to the Youth Commission’s Student Discount Partnership.

A girl reported that she and her friends had a great time at Spotted Horse. They gave everyone a discount, even though a couple of kids forgot their student IDs.

Outside the Spotted Horse, with student IDs from Staples, Weston and Greens Farms Academy.

Outside Spotted Horse, with student IDs from Staples, Weston and Greens Farms Academy.

“We wanted to concentrate on home-owned places, where kids could have an impact,” says Youth Commission member Reece Schachne, discussing why members selected restaurants instead of chain stores.

Publicity has come mainly through Instagram (“wycstudentdiscounts” is the handle). Youth Commission co-chair Kyle Ratner is helping coordinate an official launch this week, with announcements on the “Good Morning Staples” TV show, a story in the school newspaper Inklings, and the website westportyouthcommission.org (launching February 9).

You’re probably wondering: Why do Westport students need a discount for anything?

Lower prices are not the main aim, Reece and Kyle say. It’s more about making sure teenagers know they have plenty of things to do, and many places to do it, all around Westport.

Especially if it involves food.

(For more information, click here. Participants in the program include 323, Acqua, Angelina’s, Arezzo, Bartaco, Black Duck, Blue Lemon, Border Grill, Da Pietro’s, Finalmente, Freshii, Garelick & Herbs, Jeera Little Thai Kitchen, Joe’s Pizza, Lux Bond & Green, Mumbai Times, Oscar’s, Planet Pizza, Rizzuto’s, Señor Salsa, SoNo Baking Company, Spotted Horse, Suited.Co, Sweet Frog, The Boathouse, Tutti’s, Villa del Sol, Viva Zapata and Westport Pizzeria. Any restaurant or business interested in joining the program should email kyle.ratner1@gmail.com or matthew@westportwestonchamber.com)

Railroad Place Redevelopment: Still Stalled

The opening of Harvest restaurant — in the former Mario’s space — has brought renewed attention to Railroad Place.

It’s also reminded people of the long-rumored Railroad Place project — a redevelopment plan for a larger area that shares the name of the small but significant street on the westbound side of the railroad station.

With Saugatuck Center completed and thriving — Riverside Avenue is now a hot spot filled with new restaurants, a butcher shop, gourmet food store, sweet shop, paddle rental store, 27 apartments and more — Westporters have waited for the next phase.

It’s unrelated — who’s-who-wise — to the Gault family’s Saugatuck Center work. But it’s been rumored for years, as a natural next step.

Negotiations have proceeded, in fits and starts, since 2011. In 2012, LandTech — the highly regarded engineering and planning firm headquartered on Riverside Avenue — drew up an RFP for the families who have owned the property for nearly 100 years, to seek developers.

It involved all the land bordered by Railroad Place, Charles Street and Riverside Avenue, as well as the private parking lot adjacent to Luciano Park.

All the land, that is, except the Mario’s/Harvest building, and the grim, out-of-character office building at 21 Charles Street. They have their own owners. All the rest of the property in the plan is owned by 2 families.

An aerial view of the proposed Railroad Place development. Charles Street (including the office building is at left); the train tracks run diagonally across the top. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

An aerial view of the proposed Railroad Place development. Charles Street (including the office building) is at left; the train tracks run diagonally across the top. Luciano Park is at the bottom. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

LandTech’s proposal — in collaboration with Westport architect Peter Wormser — envisions an entirely new look for the 3-acre space.

Steps next to Harvest will lead to a bluestone plaza, similar to the one between the Whelk and Saugatuck Sweets that draws musicians, sunbathers and people-watchers.

A view from the westbound train platform across Railroad Place.

A view from the westbound train platform across Railroad Place.

Surrounding the plaza will be a mix of retail stores and apartments. There’s room for a small movie theater and boutique hotel.

A closeup of the rendering above. Mario's is, of course, now Harvest restaurant.

A closeup of the rendering above. Mario’s is, of course, now Harvest restaurant.

Nearby, planners envision an enclosed, year-round green market.

Two levels of underground parking would accommodate 480 cars.

It’s not a done deal, of course. The 4-story development would need a zone change, to embrace Transit-Oriented Development (programs to link transportation centers with surrounding neighborhoods). The floor area ration would require a text amendment.

The view across Riverside Avenue, from Tutti's. The buildings in the artist's rendering would replace the current cleaners and adjacent buildings.

The view across Riverside Avenue, from Tutti’s. The buildings in the artist’s rendering would replace the current cleaners and adjacent buildings. The Charles Street office building is on the far right.

The project has moved very slowly, in part because of land valuation questions. No developer has yet signed on.

But Railroad Place — the property — is an unpolished gem, waiting to shine. Bordered by existing businesses and a train station — with a major highway nearby — it’s ripe for development.

Stores and shops in the proposed Railroad Place development.

Stores and shops in the proposed Railroad Place development.

Exciting plans have been available for several years. They’ve been shopped around, creating excitement among everyone who’s seen them.

The 2 families that own most of Railroad Place have not yet agreed on the next steps. When — that is, if — they do, the future of one of Westport’s most intriguing, often-underutilized sections of town could be very, very cool.

Entree Nous: For Valentine’s Day

No, the headline above is not misspelled.

Just between us: “Entrée Nous” is a beautifully produced, creatively conceived and cleverly named concept.

The hard-cover book features a dozen Fairfield County restaurants.

But it’s more than just gorgeous photos of food. If you call for a reservation, tell the restaurant you’ll be using “Entrée Nous” — and bring the book — you’ll receive 1 complimentary entrée.

That sure beats flowers for a Valentine’s Day gift.

“Entrée Nous” is the brainchild of Weston residents Mica DeSantis and Elizabeth Menke. They met through the Weston Women’s League.

Mica DeSantis and Elizabeth Menke.

Mica DeSantis and Elizabeth Menke.

Mica is a New Jersey native with an IBM marketing background, and plenty of volunteer experience with charities.

Elizabeth grew up in Minnesota, earned an MBA and spent years in Europe as an investment banker. Overseas, she was intrigued by “passport-style” guides that introduced residents to area restaurants, while offering complimentary meals and donating part of the proceeds to charity.

For the Fairfield County edition — the prototype of an idea they hope to replicate in similar areas around the country — they sought an interesting, eclectic mix of dining options. They wanted a variety of price points, cuisines and towns.

Westport is represented by Kawa Ni. The women like Bill Taibe’s concept, and strong flavors.

Kawa Ni's photo in "Entree Nous." (Photo/Lauren Santagata)

Kawa Ni’s photo in “Entree Nous.” (Photo/Lauren Santagata)

Other “Entrée Nous” restaurants near Westport include The Spread and Cafë Chocopologie in SoNo, Barcelona and Martel in Fairfield, and Artisan in Southport.

Like a chef who sends out an unexpected dessert, the book delivers a couple of delightful surprises. A section toward the end explores Fairfield County’s “food support system,” including the Westport Farmers’ Market.

And a page dedicated to Community Plates explains how the non-profit transfers fresh, usable food that would otherwise be thrown away by restaurants, markets and other food industry sources, to folks who need it.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will benefit Community Plates.

Mica and Elizabeth plan to keep that concept — a wide range of restaurants, a focus on local markets and farms, and a page dedicated to a food-oriented  volunteer organization — in every “Entrêe Nous” they produce.

"Entree Nous" features a handsome hard cover, and gorgeous photos inside.

“Entree Nous” features a handsome hard cover, and gorgeous photos inside.

A US Customs delay pushed delivery of the books to December 22. Elizabeth drove to New Jersey, then hand-delivered pre-ordered copies in time for Christmas.

Reaction has been very positive. In addition to introducing newcomers to the culinary delights of Fairfield County — and expanding the horizons of longtime residents — “Entrêe Nous” is popular with realtors and stores specializing in local products.

The dozen restaurants featured are happy to spread the word about their menus. They appreciate the luscious photographs, showing off their food and decor. (None of them paid for inclusion.)

And, of course, lovers everywhere are delighted they can give the gift of a complimentary meal — not chocolates or flowers — on Valentine’s Day.

(To order a copy, click on http://www.entreenous.net. For information on bringing “Entrêe Nous” to your community outside of Fairfield County, email info@entreenous.net.)

Yesterday, Westport Felt A Sonic Boom. Today, There’s A Different One.

If you’re a true Westporter, you’ll know the significance of this post.

If you’re not — well, go back to your hipster microbrew.

———————————————–

This afternoon, Mike “Wolffie” Connors posted on Facebook:

I am proud and happy to announce that I am starting a new beginning. I am no longer working at the Black Duck Cafe.

Please join me for my first Saturday shift for lunch at Bogey’s Grille & Tap Room (2 Wilton Avenue in Norwalk).

Great food, lots of TV’s and just a great fun place. Hope to see you there.

Mike "Wolffie" Connors

Mike “Wolffie” Connors

Bonus fun fact: Bogey’s general manager is Richard Nistico — formerly of the Red Barn.

Nice Thai!

The restaurant rumor mill is churning with talk that a well-known restaurateur will move into the old post office. That massive property is empty, since Post 154 closed abruptly last week.

Meanwhile, directly across the street, a much smaller restaurant has opened. Very quickly, it’s creating quite a buzz.

Jeera Little Thai Kitchen is located next to the equally small (but also fine) Finalmente Trattoria.

Jeera ThaiI checked it out the other day. I dithered between 2 dishes. Usually when I ask for help, the server says, “Oh, they’re both good!”

This time, the owner responded. Jeeranunn Atiportunyapong — you can call her “Luna” — very confidently told me which one to order.*

It was great. And — as I requested — appropriately spicy.

I’m already a huge fan of Rainbow Thai, in Bridge Square. I’ve added Jeera to my list of favorites.

Interestingly, Westport’s 2 Thai restaurants could fit comfortably in one corner of Post 154. There’s a lesson somewhere in that.

*It was kaprow.

Stop The Presses: Restaurant Actually OPENS In Westport

The restaurant gods take away, and then they giveth.

Just a day after Post 154 served its last, little-lamented meal downtown, Saugatuck welcomed its newest eatery.

In one of its oldest locations.

While dining at Rizzuto’s tonight, an alert “06880” reader noticed some activity across the street. He wandered over to see.

Parker Mansion — the reverently named successor to Mansion Clam House — is open for business.

Parker Mansion - front

Our diner was blown away by the interior. The formerly cramped ground floor is now wide and expansive.

Seating on the 2nd floor overlooks the action below.

Parker Mansion - view from 2nd floor

An outdoor deck will be packed in summer. Even tonight, the view of the river — and the bridge, still sporting holiday lights — was very cool.

Parker Mansion - view from deck

The menu includes steak, other meats and fish. There’s a wide selection of burgers, sandwiches, and “sides and sliders.” Soup specials change daily.

A number of familiar faces are behind the bar, and on the serving floor.

“This is one of those places you hope will make it,” our “06880” reporter says.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Parker Mansion!

Post 154 Closes

Post 154 — the restaurant that opened 2 years ago in the former Westport post office — has closed.

The announcement was made last night, in a Tweet. Its website is no longer working.

Post 154

From the beginning, Post 154 faced challenges. It occupied a sprawling building — with a downstairs too — but never defined itself. Was it a hip destination? A lively bar? What kind of cuisine?

Westport’s dining scene has lost some big names recently. But new spots — like Harvest and Parker Steak House — are opening too.

As for the now-former Post 154 — whose name, you have to admit, worked great for both its Post Road address and its previous incarnation — well, that’s a huge real estate hole to fill.

Post 154 restaurant.

Post 154 restaurant.

That Didn’t Take Long…

Last Friday, “06880” erroneously reported that Bertucci’s will close on Wednesday.

My bad. The restaurant actually shut its doors yesterday.

This morning, the sign was already down…

Bertucci's sign - 1 - Seth Schachter

…and headed to that great restaurant recycling bin in the sky.

Photos and hat tip: alert "06880" reader Seth Schachter.

Photos and hat tip: alert “06880” reader Seth Schachter.

Eye-Catching Alley

To most of us, the alley next to Restoration Hardware is just a shortcut from the parking lots off Jesup Road, to the Post Road and Main Street.

But talented photographer and alert “06880” reader Betsy P. Kahn sees something more. She’s intrigued by the many angles and contours of this often-overlooked Westport nook.

(Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

(Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

Now there’s an added attraction. Rothbard Ale + Larder just opened up in the space formerly occupied by Tierra restaurant. They serve German food and drinks (plus cuisine from Alsace, Belgium and Switzerland).

Early reviews are good. Unfortunately, town regulations prohibit much signage. Let’s hope they make it to Oktoberfest.