Category Archives: Restaurants

Bobby Q To The Rescue

Laura Oestreicher Rikon is a 2008 Staples grad. She lives abroad now, but always appreciates returning to her hometown.

On Saturday night, she and a friend had dinner at Bobby Q’s. They enjoyed their meal — but later, Laura realized one of her earrings was missing.

Laura Oestreicher Rikon, and her beloved earrings.

Laura Oestreicher Rikon, and her beloved earrings.

They have great sentimental value — they were the last birthday present Laura’s grandmother gave her.

Laura and her friend searched all over the car, the parking lot and the street. Finding nothing, they returned to Bobby Q’s.

The staff helped her look around the floor, and in the bathroom. But they said they’d already swept up, so her earring might have been thrown away. They suggested she call in the morning. Laura thanked them and left — very disappointed and upset, yet grateful for their help.

But she dawdled on her way out, still  hopeful she’d find the missing jewelry. Once more, she searched the parking lot. Once more, nothing.

About to give up, she saw 2 men running toward her. They yelled, “We found it! We found it!”

They told her they knew how important the earring was to her. So after she left they crawled on the floor, using their phones for light. There it was!

Laura was thrilled to have her earring back — and floored by the kindness of strangers, who went far out of their way to do a good deed.

“Their generosity was so heartwarming, I couldn’t find words to express my gratitude,” she says. “And all they asked in return was that I pay it forward.”

In her excitement, she forgot to get their names. She hopes that telling her story on “06880″ is one way of thanking them — and letting Westporters know how special Bobby Q’s is.

Bobby Qs Westport CT

 

 

Java Truly “Open” For Business

Earlier this week, Java — the popular new downtown coffee shop — added a few tables and chairs to its Church Lane patio.

This morning it threw its front windows – who knew they were actually doors? – wide open.

Java doors

Spring arrives in Westport in many ways.

Today it came in a warm Bowl of Soul.

 

Wise Words, From Bob And Judy Rosenkranz

Just over 3 years ago, Bob Rosenkranz retired after a long career as an endodontist on Boston’s North Shore. Married half a century, he and his wife Judy — a former phys ed. teacher — had to decide, “What do we do after we grow up?”

They figured they’d split time between their 2nd house in Vermont, and a gated community in Florida.

Their daughter Robin, son-in-law Matt Leon and 3 grandchildren — Jake, Josh and Jessica — had lived in Westport for nearly a decade. Whenever Bob and Judy visited, they stayed in Norwalk hotels. They’d take the grandkids to the usual dining spots — McDonald’s, Swanky Frank’s — and the tried-and-true recreational areas, like the beach.

Bob and Judy didn’t know much about Westport. But one day, they had dinner — by themselves — at Positano’s. They saw a Richard Dreyfuss performance at the Westport Country Playhouse. The next day, they took the train to New York, and stayed overnight. Both had grown up in Brooklyn. They remembered the city from the 1960s. It had changed dramatically, for the better.

Not the "wise men" Judy and Bob met. These guys don't play tennis.

Not the “wise men” Judy and Bob met. These guys don’t play tennis.

Judy — who played tennis with women 20 years younger at home — and Bob visited the Westport Tennis Club. They saw a bunch of older guys playing — quite well — and heard talk about the “Wise Men.” A man named Otis spent an hour chatting with them. “In Massachusetts, no men play tennis in the morning,” Bob says.

Judy broached the subject with Robin and Matt: How would they feel if she and Bob moved to Westport? The “kids” were all for it.

Judy and Bob talked to a realtor, but weren’t sure what they wanted. A rental? Condo? Nothing felt right.

Through a series of coincidences — including friend-of-a-friend stories — they bought the perfect house, off Partrick Road.

Then things really started to happen.

Bob and Judy found great new friends with older couples. They joined 2 film groups. The Fairfield University extended education program. A book club. A bridge group.

Bob joined the Y’s Men (he now knew how it was spelled). He joined 2 regular tennis games, plus 1 of platform tennis. He plays bocce. He hikes.

These are the "Y's Men." They are a very active group. The only thing they don't do is ride camels.

These are the real “Y’s Men.” They are a very active group. The only thing they don’t do is ride camels.

“I don’t know if these guys are former Fortune 500 CEOs or cobblers,” he says. “It doesn’t matter. They’re great!”

He is inspired by Y’s Men like Kurt Rosenfeld and Gun Moen, who is 87 and still skis, plays bridge and poker, and hits the speed bag.

Judy hooked up with a Manhattan art tour group, led by Westporter Joyce Zimmerman. She got involved with the Y’s Women.

She too plays platform tennis — outdoors, in January. She’s also in 4 other tennis games.

Bob and Judy Rosenkranz, in a rare quiet moment at home.

Bob and Judy Rosenkranz, in a rare quiet moment at home.

The couple dines out often. They love Westport’s restaurants, including Jewish-style delis Gold’s and Oscar’s. (In their previous life, the nearest deli was 35 miles away, in Newton.) They call the choices in supermarkets “phenomenal.”

As for shopping, it’s “fantastic — accessible and easy.”

They show off the library, beach — and many other parts of Westport — to out-of-town friends. They are awed by Staples Players performances, and love the Playhouse (especially the recent Harlem Dancers show).

I should note here that Judy and Bob are 2 of the warmest, most outgoing and funniest people that I have ever met. They also seem to have found a fantastic balance between doing things as a couple, and on their own. Still, their excitement about their new home town is astonishing.

“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Judy says.

“I don’t have enough hours in the day,” Bob adds. And then he starts describing all the great hiking spots he’s found, like Sherwood Island in the off-season.

Many longtime Westporters have never been to Sherwood Island State Park. The Rosenkranzes love it.

Many longtime Westporters have never been to Sherwood Island State Park. The Rosenkranzes love it.

What’s nice to hear — beyond so many great words about Westport – is that, as Judy says, “people who have been here 30 or 40 years are opening up their lives to new people like us.”

But don’t think the Rosenkranzes spend all their time playing tennis, dining out and going to shows. They’ve cooked dinners for the Gillespie Center, done other volunteer work, and are always on the lookout for ways to give back.

Plus, of course, there are the grandkids. Judy and Bob were “mesmerized” by a recent Long Lots music concert (“there was no dissonance at all — and they had a whole ensemble with steel drums!”), and they are faithful attendees at endless soccer, baseball and lacrosse games.

Nor do they just travel between Westport and New York. They recently returned from a trip to Patagonia. (The region, not the store.)

But Bob and Judy always come back — physically, and during our conversation — to the wonders of their new home town.

“We love it here,” they keep saying.

Almost as much as we love having them here.

 

Turning The Tables

What’s new at Compo? A number of new tables, in the pavilions by Joey’s and the volleyball courts.

These look a lot more user-friendly than the heavy, mess hall-style ones that have seen (many) better years.

Beach benches

So why were they empty?

It was the 1st beautiful Sunday of spring. After the winter we’ve had, no one wanted to be indoors — even at an open-air pavilion.

The beach was packed. I know these tables will get plenty of work, very soon.

 

The 3rd Time’s The Charm

Actually, the 1st 2 are pretty charming as well.

Bill Taibe — owner of Le Farm and The Whelk — will open his 3rd Westport restaurant early this summer.

CT Bites reports that the site is the short-lived Bistro 88 space in Bridge Square — formerly Peter’s Bridge Market. It’s just a few steps away from The Whelk in Saugatuck Center.

Bill Taibe serves up octopus and squid at The Whelk.

Bill Taibe serves up octopus and squid at The Whelk.

Taibe — much beloved for his fierce dedication to locally sourced farms and distributors — told the food blog that the new spot will “take its culinary and design inspiration” from Japanese pubs. The emphasis is on small dishes, and great drinks.

He called it an Asian version of The Whelk — including a communal table — offering a mix of Japanese and Chinese dishes. You can also buy a bottle, write your name on it and store it for later.

Saugatuck has been on the culinary map for a couple of years now. In June, a new kitchen warms up — and the area will be even hotter.

 

Chef Grace Plays “Kitchen Casino”

Alison Milwe Grace thrives on chaos.

The 1988 Staples High School graduate is in her 10th year teaching a full load of culinary classes at her alma mater. She also owns AMG Catering, a thriving business that for over 17 years has served a full course of weddings, b-mitzvahs, parties, fundraisers and corporate events — while also offering cooking classes and corporate team-building kitchen events.

Oh, yeah. She has 3 kids, ages 11, 8 and 5.

But nothing could have prepared Chef Grace for the chaos of one day in January.

Chef Alison Milwe Grace. (Photo courtesy of Town Vibe)

Chef Alison Milwe Grace. (Photo courtesy of Town Vibe)

For a wild 17 hours, the Institute of Culinary Education grad — whose resume includes a stint as the only female chef at Manhattan’s Patroon — competed in the Food Network’s “Kitchen Casino.”

The Food Network placed 4 talented chefs in “a high-stakes game of chance that is all about skill, speed and adaptability.” Racing a clock, competitors have to “outcook and outsmart their competition in 3 casino-themed challenges — slots, poker and roulette — for a chance to win a $30,000 jackpot.”

One test: The kitchen spins like a roulette wheel. Each chef gets someone else’s dish in progress, and must deal with it. While making suitably pissy comments.

Chef Grace calls it “cooking your brains out, with a time limit.”

The "Kitchen Casino" set includes a revolving roulette wheel, with 4 cooking stations. Each has an oven and stove top.

The “Kitchen Casino” set includes a revolving roulette wheel, with 4 cooking stations. Each has an oven and stove top.

The Food Network found Grace, and asked her to appear. (She has no idea how.) She knew nothing about the show — it’s new, so no one did — and producers said little. They did mention, though, that contestants “might sabotage” each other.

Grace prepped for the shooting by “Googling random recipes, to get proportions right in my head.” She also watched a lot of “Chopped” and “Cutthroat Kitchen.”

The loooong day of shooting — on Martin Luther King weekend — was “the most exhausting, emotional, validating, energizing, exciting day of my culinary career,” Chef Grace says.

She likens the feeling to the middle of a huge catering event. She’ll work with a bride or fundraising organization for over a year; when the big day arrives, it all comes together. But there are tons of moving parts. It’s chaotic.

“The TV show was all that,” Grace says. “It was a very good fit for my personality.”

Alison Milwe Grace on TV

Her Staples students are just finding out their teacher will be a TV star. But her family has known for months.

“They love watching the promos on TV,” Grace says. “They’ve been totally supportive of my career.

“My kids know that Mommy works weekends. For them, seeing me on TV is way cooler than watching me leave every morning.”

So how did she do? Did she win the $30,000 jackpot?

Chef Grace can’t say. She signed tons of non-disclosure agreements. She not only can’t tell “06880″ — she has not told her children. Or her husband.

They’ll find out when the rest of us do. The show premieres April 7. Grace’s episode airs Monday, April 21 (9 p.m.).

It’s the 50th wedding anniversary of her parents, Jeff and Judy. Alison and her family will be celebrating with the extended Milwe clan in Florida.

So she won’t even have to cook.

(For more on “Kitchen Casino” — including a trailer — click here.)

 

 

 

Food, Glorious Food (The Sequel)

Alert “06880″ readers know that my favorite new Westport restaurant — nothing else comes close — is Kibberia.

KibberiaLocated on the Post Road, at the Norwalk line — site of the old John’s Best — it offers fantastic, healthful food; warm, comfortable decor, and a very friendly and community-minded owner, Nick Iskandar.

So — trying to make sure this great spot does not suffer the fate of Cru and La Villa — I’m passing along some Kibberia-related news.

  • Nick has added music on Saturday nights. There’s a guitar player starting this week; more to come later.
  • You can order online. It’s easy — and you get 10% off your 1st order. Kibberia delivers, too.
  • Next: a belly dancer. (As soon as the weather warms up, Nick promises.)

You never saw that at John’s Best!

Some of the many intriguing dishes at Kibberia.

A few of the many intriguing dishes at Kibberia.

Food, Glorious Food

Some restaurants close, and everyone notices. That’s what happened to Cru, late last month. The Dressing Room‘s demise had everyone talking; earlier, so did V’s.

Others quietly shut their doors. That’s the story with La Villa, the longtime Bay Street spot with a steady, seemingly loyal clientele.

I included them in a list of nearby restaurants — along with Post 154, Finalmente and Blue Lemon — in a story about Westport Pizzeria moving in around the corner. They were already closed. One reader commented that she “thought” it was gone; no one responded.

La Villa was one of the 1st Westport restaurants to have pop-up seating 2 years ago. It seemed kind of weird, dining on Bay Street. But they added 5 more tables, in front of the indoor space.

La Villa, in its sunnier days.

La Villa, in its sunnier days.

No restaurant is forever. The Clam Box, Manero’s, Allen’s — all met their end. And who knows what will happen to Mario’s, when the next phase of the Saugatuck Center development begins on Railroad Place?

So, “06880″ readers: Let’s hear from you. Knowing the run will end eventually, what can a Westport restaurateur do to maximize his or her chances of success? What works in this town? What restaurants consistently do it right?

Play nice. Don’t dis. Use full names (yours, as well as restaurants’). And dig in!

Boni’s Back!

In just 6 weeks, Java has become a major player in Westport.

Now the Church Lane coffee shop has upped its game another notch.

Boni Wright — the beloved baker who made magic for generations of Great Cakes customers — is joining Java.

“Come try our fresh pastries baked in house every morning!” trumpeted the downtown hot spot on its Facebook page today. Within 2 hours, it had 20 “likes.”

There’s much more love ahead, as Boni’s many fans flock to say hi — and scarf down her scones — at her new store.

The incomparable Boni Wright.

The incomparable Boni Wright.

(Hat tip for the news tip to Johanna Rossi.)

The town’s most popular baker joins Java

Cru Through?

Cru — the restaurant in the lower level of the Gap building, which drew a loyal following with its eclectic menu, and despite its less-than-visible entrance — appears to have closed less than a year after opening.

The phone has been “not in service” since yesterday. The website goes directly to a Google page. And at 3 p.m. this afternoon, the door was locked and there were no signs of life.

Westport restaurants sometimes arrive with great fanfare, then flame out quickly. Cru seems to be the latest addition to that unfortunate list.

Cru, in its livelier days. (Photo courtesy of Yelp)

Cru, in its livelier days. (Photo courtesy of Yelp)