Category Archives: Restaurants

Cathy Walsh’s Westport

After 30 years in town, Cathy Walsh knows Westport.

But despite all that time — and her long service on the Planning & Zoning Commission — it took a pandemic for her to really appreciate the things she sees every day.

For the past 9 months, Cathy has walked all over town. The day after Thanksgiving she did a 7 1/2-mile loop to Burying Hill Beach. The next day she took her regular 6 1/2-mile neighborhood walk.

Like many other Westporters, COVID helped Cathy see Westport through new eyes.

Unlike many others, Cathy stopped along the way to take photos. Here are some scenes from last week’s walks.

Burying Hill Beach jetty.

Burying Hill tidal creek.

Nyala Farm.

Greens Farms Church cemetery.

Saugatuck River, behind Belden Place.

Parker Harding Plaza footbridge.

Canoeing on the Saugatuck River, downtown.

Saugatuck River west bank, behind Arezzo.

Riverside Avenue walkway.

Rive Bistro restaurant.

Saugatuck River, looking north.

William F. Cribari Bridge, and Bridge Square.

Seahorse in Saugatuck. (Photos/Cathy Walsh)

Even during a crisis, Westport is beautiful. Thanks, Cathy, for helping us notice so much we don’t always see.

Roundup: Turkey, Wind, More


Thanksgiving is already in our rear-view mirror. But this story from last week will keep you smiling through Christmas.

From noon through 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Westport Housing Authority delivered 376 holiday meals to residents at 4 sites: Canal Street, Hidden Brook, Sasco Creek and Hales Court.

Boston Market on Black Rock Turnpike supplied the turkeys, hams, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, mac and cheese, salads, cornbread, and apple and pumpkin pies.

Housing Authority officials Amanda Sayegh and Andrea Santamaria organized it all, and distributed the meals with the help of interns.

“Our residents are fabulous,” says WHA executive director Carol Martin. “This made them so happy. A little bit of safe, social contact — and a Thanksgiving meal — goes a long way.” (Hat tip: Jim Ezzes)

 


How windy was it yesterday?

Westport had nearly 750 power outages at 2 p.m. By 4:45, that number was below 5.

At the storm’s height, even heavy sandbags could not keep Finalmente’s outdoor dining tent down.

That’s not what any restaurant needs now, for sure. But then again, what do you expect from 2020?


And finally … December 1 is World AIDS Day. This song is dedicated all the men, women and children, taken far too young by this dreadful disease.

 

Pic Of The Day #1322

Amis restaurant, Bedford Square (Photo/Joel Treisman)

Roundup: Pearl Closes, Scam Warning, More


Yesterday marked the final day for Pearl at Longshore.

Judy Auber Jahnel was there, as the waterside restaurant ended its 5-year run. She says: “Had a wonderful early, last (melancholy) dinner and sunset at Pearl tonight. The staff even took a pic on the lawn. I’ll miss them!

(Photo/Judy Auber Jahnel)


Police report a scam in Saugatuck.

Someone entered a store yesterday, claiming he had to inspect the fire extinguishers. He told an employee he had spoken with the store manager, and showed an invoice for $198.15 to cover the replacements that the manager had “agreed would be paid in cash.” The employee paid; the man said he’d return with 2 new extinguishers, but never did.

The suspect is white, approximately 6 feet tall and 190 pounds, in his 30s. His black sweater and blue shirt attempted to mimic a Fire Department official. Anyone with information about this scam should call 203-341-6000.


And finally … George Harrison died 19 years ago today, of lung cancer. He was just 58.

Nearly everyone has a favorite Beatle. He was mine.

Unsung Heroes #167

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

Odds are your celebration will be smaller than usual. You’ll miss loved ones, friends, and the random strangers who sometimes make it to your table.

It’s our first COVID Thanksgiving, thanks to some guy in China who ate a bat last year.

But if this year looks different, much remains the same. Turkey, stuffing, pies, getting stuffed — that stuff doesn’t take a holiday, just because we’re quarantined, locked down and nasal swabbed up the wazoo.

And of course, all those turkeys, stuffingses and pies don’t magically fall from the sky. This is the time of year when caterers are kings (and queens).

Catering, 2020-style.

It hasn’t been easy. Caterers have done the pandemic pivot. They’re cooking for smaller groups. They’re finding new ways to operate, from the kitchen to delivery. Some regular customers have said “sorry — not this year.”

Perhaps you brought a prepared dinner from a gourmet outlet, like Mystic Market or Garelick & Herbs. They too have had a rough time. They’ve pared back hours, addressed customers’ concerns, dealt with suppliers who have  coronavirus issues at their own farms and factories.

If you’re having dinner out — and some restaurants are open tomorrow — you know the entire industry has taken a hit. Owners are doing whatever they can for their customers, and their creativity knows no bounds. This has been an astonishingly tough 8 months — and what’s traditionally the slowest time of year is not far away.

So this week’s Unsung Heroes are everyone who has anything to do with providing tomorrow’s dinner. If you helped put a turkey, stuffing or pie on our table: We know it wasn’t easy.

But when we sit down at Thanksgiving to give thanks, we’ll be thanking you too.

Tomorrow’s meal

Roundup: Outdoor Dining Tents, More


COVID, colder weather, the holidays, heated tents — when considering outdoor dining, Westporters have lots to think about.

The other day Rowena Weems asked Bartaco about their tent. News reports said that outdoor tents with no open panels are no different than being indoors.

Chris Messina — Bartaco’s regional director — replied:

“We purchased a heated tent with 3 motors. This circulates air more than 3 times the amount of inside. These motors pump heated fresh air at all times.

“In addition, the tent is not perfectly sealed, so ventilation is actually even better than the already great specifications we have.

“The small tents in New York City with no heated units or ventilation are worse than indoors. That’s not what we and most restaurants are investing in.

“We’ve spent a large amount of money to ensure our guests are safe and we can all get through this together.”

“Here are Bartaco’s specs:

  • Total tent area: 33,972 cubic feet.
  • Heating system CFH (cubic feet per hour of fresh, hot air): 288,000 cfh
  • Air changes per hour: 8.5

“In a normal insulated building with HVAC, there might be 3-6 changes per hour (on the high side).” 


Sure, Thanksgiving is around the corner. We’ve already had our first frost.

But the recent weather revived thoughts of summer. Well, at least for this one guy at Compo Beach on Friday.

(Photo/Sheri Valente)


Thanksgiving is Thursday. Which means it’s time for … Christmas lights!

Andrew Colabella spotted these — the first of the season? — on Edgewater Hillside.

The hell with the turkey. Get out there and decorate!

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)


And finally … on this day in 1963, President John F. Kennedy was murdered in Dallas. There have been a number of turning points in American history. This was one of the most crucial.

 

Pearl At Longshore Closes Soon

For nearly 5 years, Pearl at Longshore has been a favored destination. Diners loved the menu, the location, the decor and the service.

Perhaps there were not enough of them. Today, owners Marc and Lois Backon write:

Dear Westport,

With Thanksgiving approaching, our hearts are filled with gratitude for the Pearl family – from the staff to investors, the town of Westport and guests who we have had the pleasure of serving since February of 2016.

This may seem a bit ironic today as we announce that on Saturday, November 28, Pearl at Longshore will be closing.

Our story and mission for Pearl was actually quite simple when we set out on the journey in 2015. We wanted to bring life back to Longshore for Westport and the surrounding community, when we saw the restaurant and patio space within the Inn at Longshore laid bare for over a year.

We wanted to resurrect this very special location and turn it into the gem of Westport for all to enjoy and be proud of. We wanted to create jobs, we wanted to create a “uniquely Pearl” environment for people to create their own special memories over delicious food, drink and entertainment.

We, and hope all who frequented Pearl — whether for special occasions with family and friends, date night, graduations, holidays, drinks at the bar after a long work week, round of golf or enjoying live music on the patio in the summer — believe we succeeded at this mission.

There is a great opportunity and destiny ahead for Pearl. A new management group is taking over responsibilities for The Inn at Longshore, and in turn will also take over the restaurant and patio area. They will have the ability to holistically reimagine Longshore, and not be restricted by what restaurant space is today.

All that is special of Pearl remains open until the evening of the Saturday the 28th, so please come in and enjoy. We also invite all to have Thanksgiving dining at Pearl, or pick up for home dining.

Again, we are so very grateful for being able to bring Pearl into the lives of so many people and appreciate the dedicated support of the staff and of the community for the last 4 years.

(Hat tip: Janet Kinnally)

New Medical Office Proposed For Julian’s Plaza

The sign says that Saugatuck Grain & Grape is moving to 1460 Post Road. A few doors down in the same shopping plaza, Julian’s is a popular restaurant

But beer, wine, pizza and pasta may not be on the menu for long. Plans are afoot to redevelop nearly all of what is officially (but never called by anyone) “Greens Farms Plaza.”

The entire 3,654-square foot building — with the exception of the Bluepoint Wellness medical marijuana dispensary — would be converted to medical offices. That use is permitted in the existing General Business District location.

1460 Post Road East. Rio Bravo restaurant closed this summer.

The applicant — Chicago-based ROA Investments LLC — also proposes “a substantial and attractive upgrade” to the exterior. Along with a glass-enclosed entrance and enhanced landscaping, the front drive would be reconfigured.

The Architectural Review Board has voted unanimously to recommend
approval of the building design to the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Turn Your Clocks Back. It’s Restaurant Savings Time!

Earlier this month, we pushed clocks back an hour. Just what we needed: another hour in 2020!

But here’s a time-shifting effort we can all get behind.

Today, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce rolls out “Restaurant Savings Time.” Encouraging diners to eat earlier is a way to help restaurants cope with the governor’s executive order closing businesses at 9:30.

Some restaurants could lose an entire seating of patrons — particularly on weekends. So, the Chamber says, everyone should eat one hour earlier than usual.

If everyone is on board — and at their tables — every eatery would benefit.

“Have a great dinner at 6:15 instead of 7:15 is the request. I am confident Westporters will respond, ” says Chamber executive director Matthew Mandell.

“It’s all about flexibility and a desire to adapt to a new situation, while still enjoying what our town as to offer.”

Flyers and posters will go up at restaurants. The logo — designed by Miggs Burroughs (of course!) — will be posted on social media.

“Restaurant Savings Time is a great idea. Support your local restaurants and dine a littler earlier, but also be sensitive to leave time to those coming after you,” said Tarantino owner Frank Marchetti. “We will get through this together.”

The new initiative follows BYOB: Bring Your Own Blanket. That Chamber project urges diners to stay warm while dining outdoors. Click here for more information, and a list of restaurants offering outdoor dining.

“5 Weeks In Westport”: New Film From A Different Age

The past 8 months have felt like 8 millennia.

But here’s something to look forward to: “Five Weeks in Westport.”

That’s the title of a new romcom/drama/mystery narrative feature film. Shirlee Hauser and her husband Howard Friedman wrote and filmed it — predominantly in Westport — over a 3-year period.

It just screened at the Mystic Film Festival. This week it premieres at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, in that city and Hollywood. (Hollywood, Florida, that is.)

And it was all done with a budget under $5,000.

Shirlee and Howard’s Westport roots are deep. They moved here in 1995 with their young son Josh.

After Howard retired from advertising — he created and directed TV commercials — he felt bored. With a small $700 camera bought on Craigslist, he filmed short pieces around town — things he felt beautiful or touching.

One was the YouTube classic, “The High Tide Club.”

That was not his first film. In the mid-1970s Howard had written and directed a small independent project, “Sweet Talk.” It won him a Best New Director awrd, and found its way onto cable TV.

But that was it — until “Five Weeks in Westport.”

The plot: When mysterious international film director Ross Griffin arrives in Westport to stage a play based on real events, the lives of retired New York actors Mary Evans and her husband Gus Jacobs — along with close friends Grace and Murray — are upended. Revelations from the past unfold.

The cast includes Westporter Leigh Katz, who had extensive stage experience; Westport Community Theater favorite David Victor; Fairfield’s Kitty Robertson, a veteran of film and TV (and Gault spokesperson); soap/film/TV actor Will Jeffries; Peter Wood, who is leading man-attractive and provided a needed motorcycle, plus up-and-comers Sunny Makwana, Chris Finch, Erin Shaughnessy and Nancy Sinacori.

Shirlee and Howard co-directed. Their son Josh came from Massachusetts to do sound and hold the boom. Staples High School junior Sydney Winthrop helped too.

The directors’ home doubled as 2 separate houses. Jessica Bram’s living room was used for a scene requiring a baby grand piano.

The first exterior shot took place on a hot summer morning outside of Oscar’s Delicatessen. Owner Lee Papageorge gave permission, adding he’d be sorry to miss it. Shirlee and Howard had no idea that within a week, Lee would die of lung cancer.

Three other restaurants in the film have since closed or changed hands too: Tavern on Main, Christie’s Country Store, and Joey’s by the Shore.

Scenes were also filmed at Barnes & Noble (soon to move), Pane e Bene, Compo and Burying Hill Beaches, Westport Community Theater and the downtown Fine Arts Festival.

Scenes from “Five Weeks in Westport.”

The process was helped by advice from Marshall Brickman, who co-wrote and/or directed films like “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan” and “Sleeper, and helped create “Jersey Boys” on Broadway.

When Shirlee and Howard learned that post-production would cost $40,000, they decided to do it themselves. He took on the arduous task of sound mixing and color correction.

The couple’s first look at the final product came at the Mystic Festival. “It played looked and sounded just fine,” Shirlee reports.

The audience reacted just right too — laughing and falling silent appropriately — and finished with a burst of applause.

The Mystic and Fort Lauderdale film festivals are among the few that, during COVID, have in-theater showings (with masks, and audiences capped at 50% capacity). They also make their films available virtually.

Howard Friedman and Shirlee Hauser.

“We don’t anticipate winning any Academy Awards,” Shirlee says. “But the entire experience has made us both very grateful.”

They feel gratitude toward their cast; for “living in such a generous town that allowed us, without hesitation, to film where we wanted,” and for the visually lovely scenes they captured.

As the pandemic rages, “Five Weeks in Westport” is also a bit of a time capsule: a reminder of a town that existed just a couple of years ago.

Or — as it feels now — once upon a time.

For a “virtual screening” via the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, click here. It’s available through November 22. Click below for a sample reel (top) and the trailer (below).