Category Archives: Restaurants

Pete Aitkin Buys A New Black Duck

If you know the Black Duck — and who doesn’t? — you know the popular riverfront barge/bar/restaurant/hangout shares a name with the Black Duck racing boat.

Owner Pete Aitkin just received his latest toy: a custom-built 30-foot twin 300-horse Merc speedboat.

Last night, the Duck docked at the Duck.

This morning, Pete pulled it out of the water at Compo. He’ll store it till next year.

The Black Duck, with Pete Aitken at the helm.

The Black Duck, with Pete Aitkin at the helm.

The Black Duck — food version — put Westport on the “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” map.

The maritime Black Duck did the same for offshore boat racing.

Tutti’s, Tarantino’s, Tarry Lodge: Top that!

(Hat tip: Randy Chiristophersen)

How Much Does It Cost To Buy A Beachfront Restaurant In Westport?

$2 million.

That’s the price “233 LLC” recently paid “Beachhouse LLC” for the property at 233 Hillspoint Road — aka Positano’s.

If the rumors that the waterfront restaurant will be turned into a private home are true, it will mark the 1st new residence on that stretch of Hillspoint Road since the pavilion on Schlaet’s Point was demolished 3 decades ago.

Positano's, on Hillspoint Road near Elvira's, may soon go the way...

Positano’s, on Hillspoint Road near Elvira’s, may soon go the way…

 

...of the old pavilion at Schlaet's Point, just around the curve closer to Soundview Drive.

…of the old pavilion at Schlaet’s Point, just around the curve close to Soundview Drive.

 

What’s Up With This Mansion?

Word on the street — Riverside Avenue — was that Mansion Clam House may have closed.

It was shut Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. There’s no activity today. The sign in front of the building is gone, and the exterior lights have been on for a few days. It looks deserted.

But folks in the know say Mansion will try to open on Friday.

Let’s hope it’s just a bump in the road — Riverside Avenue — for this long-lived, much-loved Westport institution.

Mansion Clam House

Mansion Clam House (file photo).

 

Get Your Fixe At Restaurant Week

Positano’s and Splash are rumored to be on the doomed list. Westporters will hate to see them go.

Yet — in this dog eat dog(ho ho)  world — restaurants open and close all the time. Our dining scene is alive and well.

To show off what’s out there, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring “Restaurant Week.”

It runs from this Sunday (October 5) through October 19. Alert “06880” readers will notice that is actually 2 weeks, not 1, but there’s nothing wrong with under-promising and over-delivering.

Arezzo -- one of Westport's most popular restaurants -- is among the many spots offering special Restaurant Week menus.

Arezzo — one of Westport’s most popular restaurants — is among the many spots offering special Restaurant Week menus.

Each of the 27 participating restaurants offers a prix fixe meal. Lunches are $15, $20 or $25; dinners, $25, $30 or $35. Brunch starts at $20.

Restaurant Week participants include 323 Main; Acqua, Arezzo; Artisan at the Delamar; Blue Lemon; Boathouse; DaPietro’s; Geronimo; Gray Goose; Little Barn; Mario’s; Matsu Sushi; Mumbai Times; Pane e Bene; Pink Sumo; Post 154; Rive Bistro; Rizzuto’s; Sakura; Spotted Horse; Tarantino; Tarry Lodge; Tavern on Main; Terrain; Tierra; Tutti’s, and Via Sforza.

Two specialty cocktail venues — Luxe and Neat — serve pre-dinner drinks and nightcaps.

It’s a good thing Restaurant Week is really 2 weeks. With a little planning (and figuring in brunch and drinks), you can try every spot.

(For more information — including menus — click on the Chamber’s website.)

Jamie Graves Is A Sommelier, For Goodness’ Sake

This story is for anyone who drinks sake at Sakura. Or worries whether their unconventional kid will do okay in life.

Or — for teenagers and 20somethings — if you yourself wonder where your path may lead.

At Staples, Jamie Graves played bass in the jazz band and skied on the boys team. He graduated from Oberlin in 2002 with a major in modern history, a minor in East Asian studies, and no idea what to do next.

Jamie Graves

Jamie Graves

He got a job teaching English in a Japanese elementary school. When his year was up, Jamie found an entry-level position as a cook in a Western-style restaurant outside Tokyo.

For the next 3 years he studied cooking in several restaurants, learning how to make soba noodles. He also passed high-level written and oral Japanese exams.

Jamie moved to New York in 2007, to be a freelance translator and writer. To make ends meet he worked at Kajitsu, a high-end restaurant. Inspired by the chef, he realized he could make that his career.

He was asked to be an opening manager at David Bouley’s Brushstroke, a prestigious Tribeca restaurant that was a showcase for Japanese tasting menus. He was responsible for daily operations, hiring and training staff, and translating.

Brushstroke’s sommeliers were tremendously knowledgeable about both wine and sake, and Jamie was an avid pupil. He learned how to taste, describe, store and serve sake.

sakamaiHe’s now general manager and sommelier of Sakamai, a creative place with one of the biggest and most interesting sake menus in New York (along with a small, curated wine list).

As a sommelier, he guides diners through wine and sake lists toward something right for their budget.

A good sommelier, Jamie says, is “empathetic, a great reader of people, can translate what someone is saying into what they actually what, and knows when to push for something unusual and when to play it safe.”

Jamie is certainly a good — if not great — sommelier.

When he learned that the Japan-based Sake Service Institute was sponsoring its 4th World Sake Sommelier Competition, he entered.

He didn’t expect much. But Jamie won the New York regional competition, earning a trip to Tokyo for the semis and finals. He visited a few sake breweries, then prepared for the event on September 19.

Of the 25 semifinalists, 20 were from Japan. Jamie was one of 3 Americans.

The press was out in force for the sake sommelier competition.

The press was out in force for the sake sommelier competition. Jamie is at the podium.

For the semis he was given 10 minutes to taste and evaluate 4 types of sake, and 4 of shochu (a Japanese spirit like a mild vodka). He examined a food menu, then stepped into a service situation to advise a couple ordering dinner on pairing and drink suggestions.

Then came a 5-minute oral presentation on explaining and promoting sake. Jamie spoke in Japanese.

The next day, he was announced as one of 10 finalists — the only American to advance.

The final took place in front of 150 spectators, plus journalists from national papers and magazine. Each contestant tasted a glass of sake without knowing about it; they had to identify aroma, color, taste and style, and declare ideal food pairings and possible maker.

That was followed by another mock service with a couple ordering dinner, and a 1-minute summation speech. All that took less than 10 minutes.

Jamie did not win. But he was 1 of 3 finalists named “Tokubetsu-sho” (honorable mention). The judges particularly liked his food pairing speech.

Jamie Graves, proud American at the sake sommelier competition.

Jamie Graves, proud American at the sake sommelier competition.

So how does all this tie back to Westport, and not knowing in high school what your life will be like?

“I’ve always thought that several teachers at Staples, including Karl Decker and Dave Scrofani, were some of the best I’ve ever had,” Jamie says.

“They constantly challenged me to be curious and not settle for easy answers. They also showed me how to be self-disciplined, and truly understand a subject inside and out. That’s helped me in studying Japanese, and learning wine and sake, both of which came outside an academic environment.”

Jamie also appreciates that his time at Staples was “absolutely suffused with music, playing in jazz band and informally with other students. It really taught me how to listen, and gave me an ear for the rhythms of speaking Japanese.”

So, parents and teenagers: Don’t worry about an unclear career path. Enjoy today, and drink in all that’s around you.

Preferably with sake.

 

The Last Splash?

Earlier this month, “06880” reported that Positano’s — the restaurant at Old Mill — will be sold to a Greenwich developer. It will probably be torn down, and be rebuilt as a private home.

But word on the street — and the beach — is that’s it’s not the only waterfront restaurant in Westport set to close.

Splash’s demise has been rumored for several weeks.

Last night, an “06880” reader dined at the Longshore spot. Here’s her report:

Last night we had a very unfortunate evening at Splash. I think we may be seeing the beginning of the end for this beautiful Westport spot. Service was slow, but this was exceptional. One family stood up to leave because their meal hadn’t come. We were told that the majority of the staff walked out and they haven’t been paid for weeks.

Can you find out what’s going on? Imagine if we lose Splash?

“06880” will keep on this story. In the meantime: If you hear something, say something.

Will Splash live to see another Christmas?

Will Splash live to see another Christmas?

 

 

 

 

Qdoba Is No Longer The Newest Mexican Restaurant In Town

Last winter, word on the calle was that 2 popular Mexican restaurants were coming to town.

Qdoba came. Chipotle did not.

But when no one was looking, Señor Salsa snuck up on us.

Senor Salsa

The Westport outpost of the Fairfield-based Mexican grill just opened on Post Road West, at the corner of Sylvan Road South.

For years, that was the site of Connolly’s. During its long vacancy, there were rumors that Señor Salsa was coming in. Finally — long after everyone forgot — it’s happened.

The menu features burritos, tacos, fajitas, tamales, quesadillas and more. It seems on the Qdoba end of the scale — perhaps Cuatros Hermanos — rather than Bartaco or Villa del Sol, both of which are quite different from each other.

And then there’s Viva’s, which has been here since (it seems) Emiliano Zapata himself was alive.

But Westport’s restaurant scene is a big tent.

¡Bienvenidos, Señor Salsa!

Senor Salsa menu

(Photos by — and a hat tip to — alert and hungry “06880” reader Lisa Shufro.)

Slice Is Nice!

Hundreds of Westporters — and many more out-of-towners — poured into the narrow streets of Saugatuck today.

They ambled along Riverside Avenue, Railroad Place and Saugatuck Avenue, enjoying our 3rd annual Slice of Saugatuck festival.

Food and drink was the main attraction. Over 25 restaurants and merchanats — including Viva’s, Mansion, Rainbow Thai, Craft Butchery, Saugatuck Sweets, The Duck, Chinese Takeout, Cuatros Hermanos — even 99 Bottles and Dunkin’ Donuts — offered treats.

But there was music too, ranging from School of Rock and folk to steel drums, along with stuff from hair salons, galleries and a tae kwan do place.

The weather was perfect. The vibe was cool.

And — because most people stayed off the roads — even the traffic was fine.

It was a fantastic slice of life, on a wonderful Sunday afternoon. With proceeds benefiting the Gillespie Center food pantry too, what’s not to like?

Tutti's was 1 of many Saugatuck restaurants dishing out some of its most popular items. Lines formed instantly, and stayed long.

Tutti’s was one of many Saugatuck restaurants dishing out some of its most popular items. Lines formed instantly, and stayed long.

The plaza between Saugatuck Sweets and The Whelk rocked all afternoon long.

The plaza between Saugatuck Sweets and The Whelk rocked all afternoon long.

What's a street festival without a bounce house? This one was in the Rizzuto's parking lot.

What’s a street festival without a bounce house? This one was in the Rizzuto’s lot.

Mr. Sausage showed up too, to help promote Saugatuck Craft Butchery's carnivorous samples.

Mr. Sausage showed up too, to help promote Saugatuck Craft Butchery’s carnivorous samples.

Downunder was busy all day, offering kayak and paddleboard rides. Nearby, boat owners tied up at the dock.

Downunder was busy all day, offering kayak and paddleboard rides. Nearby, boat owners tied up at the dock.

 

Positano’s To Change Hands — And More?

An Old Mill area resident writes:

My husband and I are devastated over rumors that Positano’s will be sold to a developer from Greenwich, to become a residential home.

I’m not sure how many people know that the wonderful owners of this restaurant fought to have 3 tables of outdoor seating a few years ago, but were denied due to a very few uptight neighbors. This devastated the owners.

Most of us in this area love them, and Positano’s. Having a restaurant on the beach in Westport is truly magical, even a necessity.

The number of marriage proposals that I’ve seen take place at Positano’s is a testament to the beauty of the space.

Positano's, on Hillspoint Road near Elvira's.

Positano’s, on Hillspoint Road near Elvira’s.

I can’t believe there aren’t more options for both food and festivities on the Sound. I have heard wonderful stories about Allen’s Clam House (now the Sherwood Mill Pond preserve).

Splash will now be the only water view restaurant on the Sound.

Today, I called Positano’s to track down the rumor. A representative said he could not confirm the potential sale, for a private residence. He said, however, they would “probably” move by the end of the year.

The Calm After The Storm

Once today’s storm passed, Fred Cantor headed to Compo Beach. Here’s the serene scene:

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

Plus, he reports, Joey’s was open.