Category Archives: Restaurants

Goodbye, Garelick & Herbs. Hello, GG & Joe’s.

After 6 years in Saugatuck Center, Garelick and Herbs is leaving.

Owner Jason Garelick told the Westport News, “I had a 5-year lease on our Saugatuck store and the past several months, we were going month-to-month, since our lease ended in 2019. It wasn’t drawing as many customers as it was in the past.

“Parking is tight in the area. You couldn’t get into the lot because of the train traffic. We were mostly only drawing customers from one section of Westport. In Saugatuck, you rely more on customers coming from the train station.

“Also, we were busier during the summer time. Closing a store is always a difficult decision and the area is great, but it just wasn’t worth it for us.”

The final day is Saturday, February 29. The flagship store in Southport, and the Greenwich location, will remain open.

Meanwhile, a new place is getting ready to open on Parker Harding Plaza. It’s near the rear door of Rye Ridge Deli, closer to TD Bank.

GG and Joe’s will feature acai bowls, coffee and toast. Yes, toast.

The sign in the window says they’ll open this winter.

They better hurry. Spring arrives in 24 days.

Friday Flashback #180

I’ve written about this before.

But every so often, a reader discovers a 35-year-old video about Westport. And sends it to me, as if I’ve never seen it.

If you lived here in 1985 — as I did — you know it well.

That year, the Marketing Corporation of America gave the town a 150th- anniversary: a 30-minute film.

MCA is no longer around. Westport is no longer the “marketing capital of America.”

But after 3 1/2 decades, “Westport’s Got It All” is the gift that keeps on giving.

The video is filled with celebrities who lived here. Strangely — or, perhaps, understatedly and on purpose — none are named. Jim McKay reads a newspaper by the river. Harry Reasoner sits near a tennis court. Joanne Woodward has a cameo.

ABC's "Wide World of Sports" anchor Jim McKay sits on the banks of the Saugatuck River, in the town he called home.

ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” anchor Jim McKay sits on the banks of the Saugatuck River, in the town he called home.

Okay, so Rodney Dangerfield cracks, “The town of Westport has my respect.” But that’s the closest anyone comes to identifying him or herself.

The video opens with a cheesy, “Westport’s Got It All” song (including the line “Kids hanging out at the Dairy Queen…”). It’s sung by former Westporter Dara Sedaka — Neil’s daughter.

But the pace quickens. There are shots of Main Street, the Playhouse, Staples, Compo, the downtown art show, Longshore, Cockenoe, the Levitt and the Memorial Day parade (ending at Jesup Green).

Most look pretty much the same today. But there are plenty of other places and things that are long gone: Remarkable Book Shop. The White Barn Theater. Mohonk House. Hay Day (in its original location, opposite Carvel). MCA.

And, of course, restaurants: Manero’s, Chez Pierre, Ships, Peppermill, Three Bears, Allen’s Clam House, Connolly’s … and on and on.

I found the voiceovers fascinating. Mason Adams, Alan Parsell, Herb Baldwin, Claire Gold, Julie Belaga, Dick Leonard, Cary Pierce — I recognized the voices of so many former politicians, educators, students and others.

Crusty Yankee Alan Parsell was 83 years old when he was interviewed for the 150th-anniversary video.

Crusty Yankee Alan Parsell was 83 years old when he was interviewed for the 150th-anniversary video.

Here are some of the things they said:

  • “Nothing goes on here that people aren’t concerned about. For every issue, there are at least 10 sides.”
  • “I’m worried the town is losing its mix of a variety of people.”
  • “Westporters have extraordinary aspirations for their children. And they’re willing to pay for it.”
  • “I work 2 jobs, 90 hours a week, to keep my head above water here.”
  • “Westport has the sophistication of New York, the exuberance of a California town, the quaintness of New England — and a sense of humor.”
  • “We do have latchkey children, as more and more parents go off to work.”
George Weigle conducts the Staples Orphenians. They sound great in the video.

George Weigle conducts the Staples Orphenians. They sound great in the video.

  • “It’s a very loving community, in many ways.”
  • “We draw people into town, to go to the theater and movies.”
  • “The Post Road is a disaster. But every town has its Post Road. This one looks better than many.”
  • “Commercialization has really changed this town. It’s been good and bad.”
  • “It’s a generous, gregarious, outgoing town. You can dress any way you like. You can be anyone you want to be. That’s the uniqueness of the community.”

That was Westport, 1985. Thanks to MCA, we’ve got a video record — promotional, but still pretty honest — of who we were.

What’s happened in the past 35 years? Are we better, worse, just different — or the same — as we were back in the days when big cars roamed Main Street, the Church Lane YMCA was still new, and people came from out of town for the movies?

Click on the video below (then wait 10 seconds to begin). Then click “Comments.”

Powerful Photos Raise Breast Cancer AWAREness

Through the efforts of many people and organizations, breast cancer awareness is high. It affects 1 in 8 women, and kills more than 40,000 Americans each year.

But there’s less awareness that less than 10% of all money raised for breast cancer goes to research. And just pennies of that goes to Stage IV.

AWARE is raising awareness of the lack of funding allocated to metastatic breast cancer research. There is no better local organization to take on the task.

The acronym stands for Assisting Women with Actions, Resources and Education. Each year, members partner with a local non-profit. They volunteer with that group, organize an educational event and host a fundraiser.

In past years, AWARE CT has aided the International Institute of Connecticut (human trafficking), Mercy Learning Center (education), Female Soldiers: Forgotten Heroes (veterans) and Malta House (pregnant and new mothers).

Their current partner is the Cancer Couch Foundation. Since 2016, the group has raised over $3 million for Stage 4 breast cancer research.

AWARE’s commitment is total, and strong. The centerpiece is a series of portraits of Westporters, by talented photographer Jerri Graham. Each image includes text, with the subject describing how she or he has been affected by the disease.

The original idea was for each subject to also make a donation to the Cancer Couch, through AWARE. The portraits would be posted on social media, then shown at a fundraiser; afterward, each subject could take her or his photo home.

But AWARE did not stop there. For greater visibility — and awareness — they’ve gone door to door. Over 80 stores, restaurants, salons and medical offices agreed, quickly and enthusiastically, to show one or two portraits inside, or in their windows.

AWARE co-directors Amy Saperstein and Nicole Gerber, with a photo at Aux Delices’ Post Road East location.

AWARE then took photos of the merchants, chefs and doctors, and posted those online. It’s one more special way to raise awareness, of both Cancer Couch and the lack of metastatic breast cancer funding.

Winged Monkey — the first store to join the project, even before there was an image to display — offered to host a fundraiser there.

Joyride joined quickly too. Owners Amy Hochhauser and Rhodie Lorenz are all in. Instructor Mackenzie Pretty led a “Spinraiser” at the studio. She wove breast cancer statistics and information about Cancer Couch between songs — and gave shout-outs to AWARE members who were in the room, on bikes.

All 4 women posed for photos. Pretty’s mother — herself a breast cancer survivor — had her portrait taken too.

Mackenzie Pretty

Other avid supporters: 2nd Selectwoman Jen Tooker, and Westport Farmers’ Market director Lori Cochran-Dougall.

2nd Selectwoman Jen Tooker

When they began, AWARE co-directors Amy Saperstein and Nicole Gerber hoped 25 people would want their portraits taken. Well over 80 responded.

The photos are stunning. Jerri Graham — a very talented Westport portrait artist — captures subjects’ faces and feelings beautifully.

Coupled with each person’s words — about breast cancer’s impact on themselves, loved ones and/or friends — the effect is powerful and immediate.

It’s also, Gerber says, “a call to action.”

Just before Christmas, AWARE’s project took on a life — and death — of its own.

Four years ago, Rebecca Timlin-Scalera of Fairfield was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. It was re-diagnosed later to Stage IIIc, but she did not want to leave Stage IV women behind.

Timlin-Scalera started Cancer Couch, dedicated to Stage IV research. She was looking forward to having her photo taken, for AWARE.

It never happened. Just before Christmas, she died.

The Cancer Couch founder’s death stunned AWARE. In her honor, they’ve set a fundraising goal of $50,000. An anonymous donor pledged to match it.

Timlin-Scalera was not the only person unable to be photographed. A woman planned to pose with her husband. Cancer treatment interfered. Her 8- and 6-year-old daughters will take her place.

That’s one of many inspiring stories. Wilson Herrera — the Staples High School custodian/ college student who was profiled on “06880” last fall — and his brother William, a Bedford Middle School custodian — wanted to be photographed. Their mother battled breast cancer twice (and now has ovarian cancer).

Wilson and William Herrera

The sons gave her their photo in December, as a Christmas gift.

But the photo displays in stores, restaurants and medical offices are not the end of AWARE’s involvement with Cancer Couch. They’ll be displayed in another important venue: a fundraiser on Saturday, March 7 (6 to 8 p.m., POPT’ART Gallery, 1 Main Street).

As with everything AWARE does, this is a team effort. Lori Winthrop Dockser — who lost her mother to breast cancer at a young age, and has also been diagnosed with the disease — is donating all the catering staff.

Jesup Hall owner Bill Taibe — another portrait subject — offers free cocktails on the day of the fundraiser, at his restaurant.

Bill Taibe

The fundraiser will include light bites and wine.

And — most importantly — an AWAREness that the fight against Stage IV breast cancer needs all of us.

(For tickets and more information, click here.)  

I am proud to help support this cause.

Today’s Entitled Parking Trick

If you finished your meal at the Sherwood Diner a few minutes ago and wanted to head out the normal way: tough luck.

Some brainiac decided that the exit lane from the main lot was a perfect spot to park.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

The car in the middle in the photo above blocked the entire exit. Everyone had to use the narrow driveway behind the diner — unless they wanted to wait for the driver to finish his or her meal.

Nothing whatsoever indicates this is a parking spot.

And please don’t say “maybe there’s a good reason for this.”

There can’t be.

Chez 180 Est Ici!

Westport’s newest eatery opened a couple of hours ago.

Chez 180 is named for its address: 180 Post Road East. That’s the big building next to Design Within Reach, opposite Le Penguin and Jeera Thai.

The interior, with a view of the Post Road. There’s plenty of parking, and an entrance, in back.

Offering contemporary desserts, fresh baked breads and pastries, crepes, sandwiches, soups, salads, artisanal coffee and more, it’s downtown’s first patisserie since — well, je ne sais pas.

Chef Carlos Perez trained at the French Culinary Institute, then worked at top New York restaurants before returning home to Connecticut.

In 2006 Perez opened La Palette Bakery in Watertown. He operated it for 13 years, while also working as an executive chef. He closed La Palette in June, to pursue Chez 180.

Chef Carlos Perez holds a “Carlos’ 180” muffin. It’s got bacon and shallots, with gruyere, aged cheddar, a soft boiled egg and chives inside.

It looks like a winner. It’s warm and welcoming, with a wonderful menu (click here, then scroll down to see).

Chez 180 is open 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Some of the treats at Chez 180.

Live Jazz At Pearl Aids Scholarship Fund

Quietly — well, not that quietly; it’s music, after all — the Jazz Society of Fairfield County is making its mark.

The group’s mission is to ensure that “live, world class jazz music remains a key part of our area’s cultural life.”

But they do more than just play. Over the past few years the non-profit has raised funds to buy the famous Steinway piano from the historic Village Gate Jazz Club in New York; conducted workshops for area students; produced a benefit concert for Bridgeport’s Neighborhood Studios at the Bijou Theater, and established the Mickey Golomb Scholarship Fund, in honor of a former fan.

Now it’s time to toot their horn.

On Thursday, February 6, they’ll record live at Pearl at Longshore. All proceeds from CD sales, downloads and streaming will benefit the Golomb Scholarship.

The 6:30 and 8:15 p.m. sets feature an all-star cast: legendary pianist Andy LaVerne, 7-time Grammy-winning bassist Jay Anderson, fiery Mingus Big Band trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, first-call drummer Jason Tiemann, and famed “jazz rabbi” Greg Wall (saxes).

Greg Wall, the Jazz Rabbi.

Wall — who doubles doubles as the spiritual leader of Westport’s Beit Chaverim — says the “energy, enthusiasm and response” of the audience will make the CD soar.

This is Jazz FC’s first live recording. Wall is proud that the project combines 2 of the group’s important goals: supporting jazz in the area by featuring world-class artists, and supporting music education for the next generation.

(JazzFC is raising funds to help defray the costs of recording, so more money can go toward the scholarship. Click here for information, and to contribute. All donations are tax-deductible.)

Micky Golomb

Little Beet Grows In Westport

Ongoing construction has made the Fresh Market shopping center a bit grotty.

But it won’t last forever. And when the work is done, a new fast-casual eatery will join current tenants like Colonial Druggists, Dan’s Liquors and Orangetheory Fitness.

The Little Beet opens this summer.

According to its website, the 5-year-old chain offers “wholesome, healthy food that not only tastes great, but makes you feel great.” Food is “carefully sourced … from farmers and purveyors we trust, guaranteeing all of our food is gluten-free and better for you.”

There are a dozen Little Beets already, in New York, Westchester, Long Island, Washington DC, Virginia and Florida.

The menu includes make-your-own rice and quinoa-based meals, poké and other bowls, vegetable sides, and breakfast sandwiches, parfaits and oatmeal.

The Little Beet Grain Bowls

A little bit of the Little Beet menu.

And if you don’t like it, there’s Dunkin’ Donuts across the street.

FUN FACT: The Fresh Market shopping center is actually called The Village Center. That’s as little known as the official name of the Sherwood Island Connector: State Route 476.

(Hat tip: Neil Markman)

Congrats, Gaetano’s!

Countless Westporters — including scores of Staples students — know that Gaetano’s is a great deli.

Now the rest of America knows it too.

The Post Road East place — it’s in a basic mini-strip mall diagonally across from Stop & Shop — has just been named the Best Deli in Connecticut, by the Food Network.

The Westport location shares the honor with 2 other Gaetano’s, in Stratford and Monroe.

The Food Network says:

Here’s a NYC insider tip: Manhattan’s Little Italy may draw the tourists, but locals head instead to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.

It was there that the owners of Gaetano’s Deli got their start. Guy Catalano and Milanno Ukehaxhaj worked together at the famous Mike’s Deli on Arthur Avenue before bringing their own Italian-style delicatessen to Stratford, Connecticut, more than 2 decades ago.

The pair have since expanded their operation into 3 locations to keep up with local demand for Gaetano’s mix of Italian grocery items (including housemade mozzarella) and stuffed breads crammed with pepperoni and cheese, eggplant parm and the like.

The Food Network used this photo to illustrate Gaetano’s great menu.

The selection of panini alone takes up nearly an entire page of the menu, with more than 20 different ways to fill the grilled sandwiches. Each one starts with Italian bread picked up daily from Addeo’s Bakery in the Bronx, which is then piled high with classic deli meats.

Options include bresaola (cured filet mignon), Oldani salami and plenty of Boar’s Head varieties.

If you haven’t tried Gaetano’s yet, that should whet your appetite.

If you need even more, here’s a link to their mouth-watering menu.

Tell ’em the Food Network sent you.

(Click here for the full Food Network story, with all 50 Best Deli in the State selections. Hat tip: Frank Rosen.)

Stand Cafe Attracts Hard-Core Vegans — And Many More

Jenna Jacobs McPartland did not plan on opening a vegan restaurant.

She grew up in suburban Minnesota; moved to New York at 20 to study at a conservatory; acted off-Broadway, got married; got pregnant.

Her husband was killed on 9/11. Six days later, their son was born.

Jenna was lifted by the kindness of friends, and strangers. After hand-writing 1,200 notes — and realizing how many people did not have the support she did, after her husband died very publicly — she helped start September Smiles, a non-profit to help non-9/11 widows deal with tragedy.

Jenna Jacobs McPartland

Jenna remarried, and moved to her husband’s home in Weston. She finally reached Broadway — with a walk-on role in “Oklahoma!” for one night, 3 days before it closed.

She divorced, and married her “third and final” husband. Jenna now lives in Westport, with her blended family.

A few years ago she read “Eating Animals,” by Jonathan Safran Foer. She had already given up red meat, but now went fully vegan. As part of “learning how to really cook,” she attended New York’s Natural Gourmet Center. She graduated in 2015.

Jenna began looking for Westport locations, to start a vegan restaurant. Last year she bought the Stand Juice Bar at Fairfield’s Sportsplex. It was the right opportunity — she would not have to build a customer base from scratch.

Now called the Stand Vegan Café — with a full menu — she’s made it her own. She believes in “whole, organic, non-GMO, local plant foods for the planet, the animals, our bodies, and our spirits.” (She also believes “a yummy cookie is totally worth it once in a while!”)

Jenna calls her menu “very comfort food-y.” Breakfast (served all day) ranges from tofu broccoli quiche and ancient grain oatmeal to Belgian waffles and a very popular Seitan bagel sandwich.

Lunch includes soups, a hummus plate, sandwiches and wraps, cauliflower-based mac and cheese, salads and toasts. There’s a full bakery, and of course juices and smoothies. Many of the dishes can be made gluten-free.

Stand Cafe, where the food is as good as it looks …

“It’s a gentle introduction to veganism,” Jenna explains. She realizes non-vegans resent being called “unethical or wrong” for their diets.

Jenna is proud that “a lot of non-vegans come in and love what we serve.” She’s threading the needle, with food that’s “interesting enough for hard-core vegans, but approachable enough for skeptics.”

Good food, she says, is “all about high-quality ingredients, with high-quality techniques.”

The Stand Café is “almost a zero-waste establishment.” A farmer collects all her scraps for his fields. Nearly all material is compostable.

She pays her employees above standard restaurant rates. “We’re a family,” Jenna says.

… including dessert!

That’s not entire selfless, of course. With 6 children ages 21 to 9 in her blended family, she needs “a life outside my restaurant. Everyone who works here loves what we do. We feel like we’re achieving something together. We all look out for each other, and cover each other.”

Besides her “Oklahoma” walk-on role, Jenna Jacobs McPartland did not make it to Broadway. But her Stand Café is now a shining star.

(Jenna also supports local artists. Every 3 months, she features someone different on her walls. Next up: Westport artist Lisa Stretton.)

 

Pic Of The Day #1000

Nearly 3 years ago — on April 17, 2017 — “06880” introduced a new feature: Pic of the Day.

Here’s what I wrote:

Let’s give a hearty welcome to the latest member of our online community: the Pic of the Day.

Every night around 9 p.m., I’ll send out an image of Westport. The photos will be recognizable and relatable. Some will be artistic; others whimsical or surprising. One might have cool angles or shapes; the next might make you look at a familiar scene in a different way.

All will be cool. None will be more than a few days old.

There won’t be any text, beyond a caption and photo credit. The plan is to provide a quick snapshot of Westport for you, before bed (or first thing in the morning). [NOTE: That rule is not hard and fast. Sometimes there is text. Like today.]

Any image anywhere in town is fair game. However, I’ll stay away from sunsets. That’s WestportNow’s specialty! [NOTE: I break that rule occasionally too!]

Lynn U. Miller — Westport native, longtime friend and very talented photographer — will provide many of the shots. (She also came up with the superbly punning “Pic of the Day” name.)

But I’ll also rely on a stable of other fine photographers, like John Videler, Amy Schneider and Katherine Bruan.

And you. If you’ve got a photo you think would work for this feature, send it along: dwoog@optonline.net.

So here — without further ado — is “06880”‘s very first Pic of the Day. Enjoy!

The very first Pic of the Day: behind the Black Duck, on the Saugatuck River (Photo copyright Lynn U. Miller)