Category Archives: Restaurants

Photo Challenge #132

For the 2nd week in a row, the photo challenge showed something on the side of a building.

This time, it was a silhouette of 5 guys playing music.

Not only did 10 readers know that the image was from 323 — across from Coffe An’. But many also knew that the reason the musicians are there on the restaurant wall is because every Thursday night, there’s live jazz by the bar.

Readers also noted that before it was 323 — named for its Main Street address — the restaurant had also been Bogey’s, Oliver’s, Crossroads and Stone’s Throw.

And probably others.

Congratulations to Fred Cantor, Robert Mitchell, Jeff Jacobs, Jane Nordli, Seth Braunstein, Lance B. Lundberg, Karen Wambach, Linda Amos, Joan Kern Soboslai and Joyce Losen. (For the photo and all comments, click here.)

Here’s the newest challenge. If you think you know where in Westport this is, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Richard Hyman)

 

Pic Of The Day #77

The view from Parker Mansion (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Pop-Up Pyrotechnics

Westport has welcomed pop-up outdoor dining.

A pop-up Halloween shop.

Now — just in time for July 4th — we’ve got a pop-up fireworks stand.

It popped up in the parking lot of the Rio Bravo/Julian’s shopping center — the one near Maple Avenue that was once anchored by Pier 1.

Of course, this being Connecticut, you can’t get the real, big, honest-to-goodness finger-losers here — not in the parking lot, or anywhere else in the state.

For those, you have to go to Pennsylvania.

You know: the Keystone State.

Paying It Forward At Pearl

The other day, Kelly Lavoie and her husband Rick celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary at Pearl.

The couple at the next table were celebrating their 13th anniversary — and the husband’s birthday.

All 4 shared a nice conversation, and best wishes. Then the younger couple said goodbye and left.

When Rick asked for the check, their server said the other couple had already paid it.

Kelly and Rick were speechless. Days later, they still can’t believe it.

Unfortunately, she says, they did not get the other couple’s names. They just know they’re from Rowayton.

“If for some reason they see this, we want to thank them,” Kelly says.

“It was such a wonderful surprise — the ultimate ‘paying it forward.’ We are amazed by your generosity!”

Kelly and Rick Lavoie

Bistro Du Soleil Shines On Saugatuck

The latest addition to Westport’s dining scene comes with plenty of ready-made fans.

Bistro du Soleil has opened on Riverside Avenue, across from Minute Men Cleaners — between the Black Duck and the train station.

Owner Maria Munoz del Castillo earned raves for Rincón Taqueria in Norwalk. She cut her teeth at an earlier Bistro du Soleil, also in Norwalk, owned by her parents, Soledad and Bernardo Munoz del Castillo.

Bernardo Munoz del Castillo offers escargots.

That Soleil is now closed, but Bernardo’s wizardry is strongly felt in Saugatuck. A craftsman as well as a restaurateur, he lovingly made every table — including the outdoor seating — as well as the handsome wooden bar. (He’s also a playwright and poet.)

Bernardo hand-crafted this handsome wooden bar.

Soledad and Bernardo came to the U.S. from Chile in the 1980s. Trained as a French chef, she made a name for herself here. In addition to restaurants, Soledad had a catering business — and was a favorite at the Westport Farmers’ Market.

The new Soleil’s menu is Mediterranean, with French flair. Dinners include salmon, seafood bouillabaisse, grilled rack of lamb, marinated grilled skirt steak, Muscovy duck breast — and a parrillada with chorizos, skirt steak, pork chops, half chicken, tomato, onion, bell pepper BBQ and cilantro chimichurri that serves 3-4.

As politicians, consultants, bridge engineers and ordinary Westporters debate the future of Saugatuck, here’s a suggestion: Do it over a meal at Bistro du Soleil.

Westport 1st Selectman Jim Marpe (with scissors) joined Munoz del Castillo family members and friends at last night’s official ribbon-cutting ceremony for Bistro du Soleil.

New Paleo Cafe Seasons Saugatuck

Cindy Hartog is a formally trained chef. She moved to Westport in 1990 for her husband Mark’s job — he’s deputy director of Westport EMS — and built her own thriving kids’ cooking classes/birthday party business called Cindy’s Sous Chefs.

Two and a half years ago though, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. She lost interest in cooking things she could not eat. She concentrated instead on foods that did not make her sick.

Three months later Cindy’s middle daughter Danielle — herself a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America — was diagnosed with a different autoimmune disorder.

Danielle and Cindy Hartog

They searched fruitlessly for ways to fulfill their fondness for gourmet food.

So they set about creating their own place. They wanted it to be warm and welcoming — not, Cindy says, “a stark ‘health food’ place.”

They found space in Bethel, but it did not work out. Then, online, they spotted a vacant storefront right here in Westport.

This Tuesday (June 6) — next to Dunville’s on Saugatuck Avenue — they’ll open NewBrook Kitchen + Artisan Market.

It’s a “paleo cafe”: no gluten, milk, soy or corn.

But that does not mean there’s no flavor or creativity.

In fact, the menu — to eat in or take out — sounds mouth-watering.

There are 3 salads daily, each with a protein like chicken, steak or salmon. Sandwiches are served with paleo bread, baked in-house. There’s soup, cookies, nut milk coffee and vegan ice cream. Cindy makes desserts with coconut — not white – sugar.

Several Saturdays a month, Danielle will cook savory 4-course meals, served at a communal table. She describes a 16-hour braised short ribs with onions, carrots, wine and a good beef stock — without flour or corn starch. It’s served with a vinaigrette berry salad, and almond cake.

The “Artisan Market” part of NewBrook Kitchen offers handmade jewelry, candles, scarves, and gourmet chocolate.

The official opening is Tuesday (with samples all day).

Cindy and Danielle Hartog, in their new space.

And the name?

Cindy’s father — who died 12 years ago — was a self-made man. He named his 2 businesses after their 2 sites: New Jersey and Brooklyn.

NewBrook Kitchen is an homage to him.

And a great destination for anyone looking for fresh, well-prepared and very flavorful paleo food.

“Saugy Thursdays” Are Here. We’ll Drink To That!

College students are familiar with Thirsty Thursdays. (Very familiar.)

Now, the Boathouse Restaurant at Saugatuck Rowing Club introduces “Saugy Thursdays.”

From 5 to 7 p.m. every Thursday, they feature drinks and small bites.

A DJ kicks things off this week (tomorrow, June 1). On June 8, Greg Wall — the Jazz Rabbi — plays.

Everyone is invited to Saugy Thursdays.

Even college students home for the summer, suffering from Thirsty Thursday withdrawal (21 and over, of course!).

The Boathouse Restaurant introduces Saugy Thursdays, starting this week.

 

Picasso, Warhol And Matisse Hang In Westport

The Westport Public Art Collection has been around for over 50 years. It’s grown to over 1,500 works — paintings, watercolors, drawings, prints, cartoons, photos, sculptures and murals — by international artists (Picasso, Warhol, Matisse, Mothewell, Miro, Christo, Calder) and, just as importantly, giant Westport names like Stevan Dohanos, Hardie Gramatky, Leonard Evertt Fisher, Miggs Burroughs and Ann Chernow.

But a “Friends” group was formed only last year.

Now they’re planning their 1st-ever fundraiser. Set for Thursday, June 8 (7 p.m., Rive Bistro), it includes a special exhibit of art from the collection — including all those masters listed above.

There’s also an auction of fantastic works — like Larry Silver’s classic “Beach Showers” photo — and a chance to meet and mingle with our town’s top artists.

Larry Silver’s famous “Beach Showers.”
(Photo courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery)

Funds raised will help conserve, maintain and display works in the Public Art Collection.

If you’ve ever been inside a Westport school — or any other public building — you’ve been impacted by the collection. It hangs in hallways, libraries, classrooms, lobbies, offices and conference rooms. It inspires, provokes, soothes and challenges students, teachers, library-goers and Town Hall visitors.

Students in Staples High School’s Inklings classrooms are inspired by photos from prize-winning photographers (and alums) Tyler Hicks, Lynsey Addario and Spencer Platt.

The Public Art Collection is one of those Westport treasures that surround us every day. Most of us seldom think about how the art got there — or what it takes to keep it alive and fresh.

But members of the Westport Permanent Art Collection — and their Friends group — do. That’s why they want to see you at Rive Bistro on June 8.

(For tickets and more information, click here. To learn more about WestPAC, click here. For a searchable online database of works in the collection, click here.)

Westport artist Stevan Dohanos’s Saturday Evening Post cover has special significance. The models were all Staples students. The Westport Permanent Art Collection recently restored the original artwork.

Duck! It’s 25 Years Of Karaoke

In 1992, Leigh Henry tried to sell Pete Aitkin a karaoke jukebox.

The Black Duck owner said no.

But he asked Leigh — a 1968 Staples High School grad, with a long and varied music career — if he’d host a karaoke show instead.

Leigh said yes.

Which is why — a quarter century later — the Duck is celebrating 25 years as Westport’s go-to karaoke restaurant/bar.

Leigh is a storied figure in Fairfield County. While still a Staples student, his band — Mandrake Root — opened for the Doors, and Sly and the Family Stone.

Leigh spent 15 years organizing shows, then booked music for clubs and private events. For 3 decades his band Celebration has played weddings and parties. He’s the vocalist in another group — the Leigh Henry Band — and also DJs.

In the early ’90s Leigh was selling karaoke machines, like those in Asia where people pay to sing. But Aitkin thought that if the Duck sponsored karaoke, there should be a host.

Before the opening show, Leigh wondered if anyone would come. He still recalls the first person — a woman named Maureen. She sang “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”

At that moment, Black Duck karaoke took off.

Black Duck karaoke, in the early days.

“Tuesday nights were wall to wall,” Leigh says. He added Mondays too, for 23 years.

Leigh’s karaoke fans like older music — classics. Not a lot of hip hop. The 3 all-time favorites, Leigh thinks, are “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Sweet Caroline.”

The Duck itself plays a huge role in Tuesday karaoke’s long success.

“The vibe is completely comfortable,” Leigh notes. “It’s a great equalizer. There are no pretensions. Bikers, tech guys, yuppies — everyone leaves their attitude at the door, and mucks in together.”

Just another Tuesday at the Duck.

The layout helps too. “There’s a bar where people sit safely. They can engage or not,” Leigh observes. “You can sit at tables. The place is small enough to be intimate, but large enough so there’s a lot of energy.”

Mike “Wolfie” Connors — the popular bartender from Day 1 to 2015 — also played a big role, Leigh says.

Five years ago, the Duck celebrated 20 years of karaoke with a party — and a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

Westport’s favorite karaoke spot.

For this 25th, Leigh upped the ante.

Tuesday, June 13 and 20 are “Applause for the Cause” nights. They’re like Relays for Life — except people sing to raise money, rather than walk.

The 1st night is “Only a Pay-Per-Tune”: donate $25 to sing a song.

The 2nd evening is a “Sing-a-thon.” Team leaders who raise $500 earn a 3-tune mini-set. They can perform themselves, or offer their slot to friends.

Leigh’s goal is $10,000 for the American Cancer Society.

Good times never seemed so good.

(To become a team leader, sign up for a song or make a contribution, click here. For more information, email lh@leighhenrymusic.com) 

Brett is one of many Black Duck karaoke stars.

“Night On The River” Is For The Birds

After 21 years, nearly everyone in town has a birdhouse.

For more than 2 decades, residents enjoyed a Birdhouse Auction. The idea was creative, fun — and totally Westport.

Local artists created amazing, unique and very cool birdhouses. They were showcased in Main Street store windows, kicked off by a springtime “stroll.” Then — as the highlight of a fun party — people bid to buy them.

All funds went to Project Return, the North Compo Road group home for girls and young women undergoing difficult times.

This special lenticular birdhouse was created by Miggs Burroughs.

But according to Jeff Wieser — CEO of Homes With Hope, the Westport housing organization that oversees Project Return — the effective shelf life of a fundraiser for most non-profits is 7 to 10 years.

The Birdhouse Auction took a tremendous amount of time and effort, by a dedicated core of volunteers. They asked a lot of very generous and talented and local artists.

And — as noted above — you can fit only so many birdhouses in your back yard.

Last year marked the final Birdhouse Auction. But Project Return needs as much support as ever.

Fortunately, a group of volunteers has created a new fundraising event. It’s a summer party with cocktails, dinner and dancing at the Saugatuck Rowing Club. Called “Night on the River,” it’s set for Saturday, June 3.

Vineyard Vines’ Main Street window — with white outfits specially for the “Summer Nights” gala.

Wieser is particularly pleased that a “great group of younger people” has taken over the planning.

“The next generation is getting involved in Westport volunteerism,” he says. “They’ve got a new canvas of creativity.”

But they’re keeping some of that old Main Street stroll flavor.

Because the dress code for “Night on the River” is “strictly summer white,” organizers are asking downtown merchants — most of whom own clothing stores — to feature white clothes in their windows.

In addition, Amis restaurant created a special “Summer Nights” cocktail. It drew raves at its recent debut.

“Hopefully this is the start of a whole new tradition,” Wieser says.

Hopefully too the birds won’t notice there are no new feeders this year.

(Click here for more information on — and tickets to — “Night on the River.”)