Tag Archives: Alison Milwe Grace

Roundup: Masks, Gatsby Day, Ospreys …

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Yesterday’s announcement by the Centers for Disease Control that fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks in most situations — including indoors — will be effective next Wednesday (May 19) in Connecticut, Governor Lamont said yesterday.

That’s the date other restrictions will be lifted too.

Connecticut residents can’t abandon their masks just yet. Wait until May 19! (Photo collage/Miggs Burroughs)

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Happy Gatsby Day!

A few years ago, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe declared May 14 “Gatsby Day” in Westport.

That’s the date — 101 years ago today — that F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald signed their lease for the house at what is now 244 South Compo Road.

Marpe said that Gatsby Day should be celebrated in perpetuity. COVID has prevented celebrations last year — the centennial! — and this. But historian Deej Webb (who literally wrote the book on “Gatsby in Connecticut”) wants to make sure that Westport remembers the day.

It’s interesting to note that the Roaring ’20s — the decade associated so closely with the legendary author and his wife — were a direct result of the influenza pandemic of 1918-19.

Will a similar decade follow COVID? And if so, will the direct result of the Roaring ’20s — the Great Depression — ensue too?

FUN FITZGERALD FACT: Deej Webb says that the iconic shot of F. Scott and Zelda in front of their Westport house was not, as is often assumed, photoshopped. It’s legit:

We know the Westport Country Playhouse is a town jewel.

So does the National Endowment for the Arts. They just awarded the Playhouse a $10,000 Arts Projects grant. It supports “Ain’t Misbehavin,” the musical planned for 2022.

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Nico Eisenberger writes: “I just witnessed an unbelievable spectacle. Three bald eagles went up against 3 ospreys in a full-on battle for the skies … all right above the new osprey nest on the way to Burying Hill.

“They screeched, swerved, swooped, dove, teamed, ganged, isolated, regrouped and went at it again and again. My measly iPhone photo [below] doesn’t do it justice. It was jaw-dropping.

“I caught a hint of this growing local rivalry a few times over the past few days, but nothing like the epic battle now.

“I am sure there will be more. Fingers crossed for all involved, especially our new nesting pair. So far, it seems they have been able to defend themselves nicely.”

Nico copied Patrick Comins, executive director of the Connecticut Audubon Society. He replied:

“This is something we will see more and more of, especially with the overlapping hunting territories of the nesting eagle pair and many ospreys. Bald eagles regularly harass osprey, steal their prey, and occasionally kill or injure ospreys in the process.

“But both species treat each other with some degree of respect, because each can cause damage to the other.”

(Photo/Nico Eisenberger)

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Now there are 3.

Easton has joined the Westport Weston Health District.

Which means it needs a new name. Suggestions (beyond “Westport Weston Easton Health District,” I guess) are welcome. Email publichealth@wwhd.org.

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The only thing better than al fresco dining may be doing it with the best local bounty. Oh, yeah … with chef Alison Milwe Grace in charge.

The popular caterer works her magic at Wakeman Town Farm on June 12 (6 to 9 p.m.). The menu for the WTF fundraiser (for educational programs) includes chilled spring pea and basil soup, spring vegetables, spring lamb chops with mint chimichurri or herb-dusted salmon over asparagus, with lemon-thyme berry trifles. BYOB adult beverages.

Guests can stroll the grounds and gardens, visit the animals, and enjoy acoustic music.

Click here for tickets, and more information.

Alison Milwe Grace, at Wakeman Town Farm.

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And finally … there was no Billboard Hot 100 on May 14, 1920 (the day, noted above, that F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald signed their Westport lease). It started August 4, 1958.

However, there are records kept of the top records of 1920. The most popular song that year was Al Jolson’s “Swanee.” “How I love ya, how I love ya …”

The rest of the top songs include a few folks I’ve heard of (Paul Whiteman, Eddie Cantor, Jascha Heifetz, Sergei Rachmaninoff). But 2 titles caught my eye, for different reasons.

There was this topical tune, “Prohibition Blues” …

… and this one: “My Little Bimbo Down on the Bamboo Isle.” It would never fly today, 101 years later:

Roundup: Library Parking Lot, AMG Catering, Miggs Burroughs …

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The Westport Library parking lot is being repaved.

Fingers crossed that the project will eliminate some of those lake-sized puddles that form even after a sprinkle.

Now about the topsy-turvy entrance to the lot itself …

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

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Speaking of books: The Westport Book Shop’s featured artist for May is Miggs Burroughs.

The native Westporter — and devoted book lover — exhibits his large lenticular installation “Sign Language” at the Drew Friedman Art Place. That’s at the rear of the popular used book store on Jesup Green.

“Sign Language” includes 25 small signs. Depending on the angle of the viewer, the words change in ironic or humorous ways.

Miggs has created art since he was 20. Six years later he was chosen to design a commemorative US postage stamp. He has also illustrated covers for Time magazine — and the Westport town flag. Miggs is a co-founder of the Artists Collective of Westport

Miggs Burroughs with his lenticular art. When looked at from a different angle, the words change.

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One more sign the pandemic is abating: AMG Catering has ended curbside pickup.

Business has picked up substantially. Owner Alison Milwe Grace is focusing once again on off-site events.

She is grateful to the many clients who kept her business afloat for the past 16 months. Bon appétit!

Alison Milwe Grace,back to catering.

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Dr. Parthena Penny Proskinitopoulos has big shoes to fill. But she’s ready to step right in.

The Fairfield educator is Staples’ newest assistant principal. She takes over from Meghan Ward on July 1.

She is a former technology integration specialist and social studies teacher. Most recently, she served as interim assistant principal at Roger Ludlowe Middle School.

Staples principal Stafford Thomas says, “Penny was the standout candidate out of a very large and talented administrator pool. She is thrilled to be joining our team at Staples, and I am excited that her arrival will coincide with our summer efforts to create an exciting and fulfilling 2021-22 school year.”

Dr. Proskinitopoulos earned a BA in psychology from St. John’s University, an MA in teaching and 6th year diploma from Sacred Heart University, and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Bridgeport.

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Speaking of Staples: Praise keeps pouring in for the high school’s SLOBs.

Among the many organizations the Service League of Boys helped at last weekend’s community work day: Homes with Hope.

COVID had depleted the food pantry, while more people than ever need help.  A townwide appeal brought in over 300 bags — and SLOBs worked tirelessly to collect and unpack them, then stock the shelves.

It takes a village to help, HwH officials said. They’re thankful SLOBs are part of ours.

PS: If you could not drop off food, monetary donations are needed to buy supplies. Click here: www.hwhct.org.

SLOBs, with officials and friends of Homes with Hope, outside the Gillespie Center.

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During this graduation season, here’s a shout-out to Tom Tarrant. He recently graduated from the Guiding Eyes for the Blind school — along with his new guide dog, a black Lab named Velvet.

Tom is a longtime Westporter, but this is his first guide dog. An avid rower, Tom has participated in his local area’s rowing club on and off for over twenty years. He looks forward to running with Velvet.

He and his wife have 2 sons, ages 20 and 14, and a 9-year-old golden retriever. The newest member of the family fits right in.

Tom Tarrant with Velvet.

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Wendy Crowther found this morel mushroom the other day, in her backyard near Winslow Park. She says, “The morel has a reputation for being one of the greatest mushrooms in the world — edible when cooked and prized by gourmets.  It was such a surprise to find one.”

(Photo/Wendy Crowther)

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And finally … Happy Cinco de Mayo!

The holiday has become commercialized here in the US — primarily by bars and restaurants — and it is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico.

It is not “Mexican Independence Day.” Cinco de Mayo celebrates the day in 1862 when the Mexican army defeated France at the Battle of Puebla. It was part of the Franco-Mexican War — a conflict I had never heard of until a few seconds ago.

 

 

Roundup: Pauli’s Bagels, St. Paddy’s Catering, Sybil’s List, More

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Bagels are back in the mini-strip mall next to Five Guys and a nail salon.

Bagel Maven closed last winter. The space is now filled by Pauli’s Deli & Bagels. It’s the second Pauli’s; the original is in Norwalk.

In addition to bagels and deli sandwiches, Pauli’s serves plenty of breakfast items, and coffee.

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Is it too early to think about St. Patrick’s Day?

Not if you’re a caterer.

Alison Milwe Grace — one of Fairfield County’s favorite chefs — has already planned her mid-March menu. She features tempting appetizers; corned beef and cabbage with roasted potatoes, roasted carrots and horseradish mustard, and Guinness Shepherd’s Pie.

For dessert: cupcakes with Irish cream frosting; Irish bread pudding with whiskey caramel sauce; Irish coffee crème brûlée, and Bailey’s chocolate mousse.

Of course, if it’s St. Paddy’s Day, Passover and Easter are not far behind.

Alison has menus for those too. Click here to see.

Alison Milwe Grace: catering, 2021-style.

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Carole Schweid appreciated a recent “06880” story about the law that business owners clear snow from their sidewalks.

But, she writes: “Riverside Barber Shop has done nothing to clear their sidewalks 

“It’s on the corner of Riverside, Treadwell and Saugatuck Avenues. There is nowhere to stand — except in the street.

“You cannot reach the button for the light to help cross the street, due to the snow. This is one of the most dangerous corners in Westport, where 3 busy streets merge.

“Every other business in the neighborhood — a place where people walk, due to the restaurants, etc. — has cleared their sidewalks.

“When I asked them to do something to make the corner safer by clearing a path, the woman who works there turned her back and walked away.”

The corner of Riverside, Treadwell and Saugatuck Avenues, at Riverside Barber Shop. (Photo/Carole Schweid)

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For years, Westporters have relied on Sybil Steinberg’s curated reading list.

It’s never more needed than during a pandemic.

Now, the longtime Westporter — a contributing editor and former book review section editor for Publishers Weekly — returns with ideas for winter reading.

Click here for Sybil’s exclusive recommendations, courtesy of the Westport Library.

Or click below, for the video version:

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Speaking of reading: Westport author Christian Hunter’s new book has just been published.

“Influence” is the story of a young woman’s journey from Venezuela to the United States, where she and her family come to grips with the disappearance of her father. Her mission is to find him, and become what she has always dreamed of: a celebrity.

Click below to learn more:

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Among the approvals at Thursday’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting:

  • Conversion of the former Steinway piano store at 499 Post Road East (next to the fire station), to use by Bespoke Auto Hause for an automobile storage garage for privately owned cars.
  • Live music at Basso restaurant, on Jesup Road.

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And finally … Danny Ray died earlier this month in Georgia, at 85.

You may not have known his name. But if you saw James Brown perform, you probably saw “the hardest-working man in show business” being led away after putting everything into a song. Then he threw away his cape, returned to the stage, and gave the audience even more. Over and over again.

Danny Ray was that man. He was also the man who introduced the Godfather of Soul at his concerts.

When James Brown died in 2006, Danny Ray spoke at his funeral. “Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready for star time?” he asked. Then he draped a cape over the open coffin.

 

Catering To COVID

For nearly 30 years, Alison Milwe Grace has been one of Fairfield County’s go-to caterers.

Weddings, fundraisers, corporate events, holiday parties, milestone birthdays, bar and bat mitzvahs — if it was big and fun, AMG Catering was on the scene.

In early March, Grace was scheduled through October 2021.

By mid-March, her books were wiped clean.

COVID devastated the catering industry. As the pandemic wore on, the situation worsened. Bookings were postponed to fall or spring. Then they were pushed back again, to the fall of 2021 — or spring 2022.

A great caterer must be creative and nimble. Grace — a native Westporter, and 1988 Staples High School graduate — is both. As soon as the pandemic hit, she asked her clients what they wanted.

Suggestions included cooking for families — including college students and 20-somethings now home — and offering curbside meals, with special soups and desserts. Clients also wanted her to teach their college-age kids how to prepare meals.

Grace cooked for frontline workers and food pantries. When the weather got better she helped clients entertain outside, in small groups. She catered intimate backyard weddings (“lots of people got married,” she reports).

She did backyard bar and bat mitzvahs too — tented, socially distanced, and with few guests.

Grace ran cooking camps at her Wilton kitchen — half indoors, half outside.

Alison Milwe Grace

For someone used to handling hundreds of guests, the coronavirus brought big changes. But Grace adapted, and clients were — as always — thrilled.

Now the weather is turning cold again. Once again, Grace reassesses what it means to cater in the age of COVID.

“People are sick of cooking. They don’t want to sit outside at a restaurant, but they’re scared to be inside,” she says.

She’s back to preparing curbside meals. They’re available Tuesdays (after the weekend leftovers are gone) and Fridays (to provide a good weekend meal).

She’s found a niche with private family cooking classes, at their home or her kitchen. Together they design a menu, then prepare it. “People want an activity,” she notes.

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

She’s reopened her Wednesday night cooking classes, for no more than 10 people. Everyone is masked and socially distanced.

AMG’s event coordinator is “working magic with backyard tents and heating options,” and redesigning indoor rooms for safe entertaining.

As the holidays approach, Grace is preparing Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. But instead of 20 or 30 people, they may be for just 4. She’s also added holiday cooking classes.

“It’s a struggle,” the caterer admits. “It’s really sad that people can’t celebrate the way they envisioned.”

She feels bad for her staff too: cooks, servers, bartenders, event planners.

She thinks too of the many DJS, musicians and support people at all the venues she uses. “This industry has suffered tremendously,” Grace says. “I pray we’ll be able to recover.”

Grace is on frequent Zoom calls with colleagues, and reads blogs. “Everything is driven by numbers. No one knows when it will be safe to gather with others, especially indoors. And once it is, people still need to feel comfortable.”

Chef Grace still smiles behind her mask.

Winters are always slow for caterers. This time, the months ahead are “really scary.”

Still, Grace is undaunted. “I’ve given everything to this business,” she says. “I love it. Seeing an event through from start to finish brings me such joy. I’ll do whatever it takes to employ my staff. Right now there’s a huge void in my life.”

Her fixed costs — rent, insurance, vans, workman’s compensation, cleaning, utilities — continue.

Despite sleepless nights, Alison Milwe Grace believes, “I’ll get to the other side. I just want people to enjoy entertaining, and enjoy my food, in these really bad times.”

(Search for AMGCatering on Instagram; email amilwe@optonline.net, call 203-858-4635, or click here.)

Roundup: Cribari Bridge, Senior Center, Wildfires, WTF, More


Stay away from the William F. Cribari Bridge today. The Saugatuck River span is closed through 3 p.m., for inspection. Use alternate routes!

William F. Cribari Bridge — stay away today! (Photo/Sam Levenson)


Registration for Senior Center October-December classes is underway for Westport residents. Non-residents can register beginning Monday (September 21).

The Senior Center also announces upcoming events:

  • Parkinson’s Support (Sept. 23, Zoom, 10:15 a.m.)
  • New to Medicare (Sept. 24, 5:30 p.m.)
  • Summer Concert Series: Harpist Wendy Kerner (Sept. 25, Zoom, 1:30 p.m.)
  • Caregiver Support (Sept. 30, Oct. 7 and 21, 10 a.m.)
  • Bingo (Oct. 1, with delivered lunch (Pct. 1, Zoom, 1:15 p.m.)
  • Just for Women (Oct. 1, 3:30 p.m.)
  • Walk to End Alzheimer’s (Oct. 11).

For more information, click here, call 203-341-5099, email seniorcenter@westportct.gov/seniorcenter.


Smoke from the wildfires out west have reached Westport. This was the scene yesterday evening, at Compo Beach:

(Photo/Stephen Raffel)


COVID has canceled many traditional activities. But not Oktoberfest!

Wakeman Town Farm celebrates outdoors on Thursday, October 8 (5:30 p.m.).  Chef Alison Milwe Grace cooks up a great German meal (with a veggie option for non-meat eaters). Bring a sweater or jacket and your favorite German beer or adult beverage. Click here for details and tickets.


Teaching has always been stressful. During COVID, it’s exponentially tougher.

To help educators de-stress, Positive Directions has launched a Teacher Support Group. Trained counselors lead discussions Wednesdays from 7 to 8 p.m. via (of course) Zoom. The cost is $40 per session. Email amiceli@positivedirections.org, or call 203-227-7644 for reservations.


With kids back at school — meaning more than half the time, they’re learning at home — parents may need a private office.

Serendipity Labs — the on-demand workspace at 55 Post Road West — offers a complimentary private day office for all new inquiries. It’s available weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Serendipity memberships include high-speed WiFi, complimentary coffee, spacious common areas, guest reception and concierge services. For details click here, call 203-979-4084 or email mburns@serendipitylabs.com.

Serendipity Labs, 55 Post Road West


Classic movies continue this Saturday (September 19, 8 p.m.) at the Remarkable Theater. Earthplace co-sponsors “Raiders of the Lost Artk.” Click here for tickets and more information.


Speaking of movies: Ethan Hawke will direct a new movie about the lives and careers of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. The project has the blessing of Woodward — now 90 — and the actors’ family.

The film is expected to focus on their 50-year marriage, including their decision to raise their children in Westport rather than Los Angeles. (Hat tip: Johanna Rossi)

Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman.


And finally … today would have been B.B. King’s 95th birthday. He died 5 years ago, but the thrill of his blues guitar will never be gone.

 

Roundup: WTF; Reopening; Historic Homes; More


How you gonna keep ’em away from the farm?

Wakeman Farm Town announces a slew of interesting events.

A “Rockin’ Lawn Party” (Wednesday, August 5, 6 p.m.) includes live music and a customized picnic box by Terrain Cafe. Tickets ($80 for 2; ages 21+ only) include a donation to WTF. BYOB (blankets — or chairs — and beverages). Click here to order.

An outdoor movie — “The Pollinators” — is set for Friday, August 7 (gates open at 7:30 p.m., film at 8:30). The filmmakers will be on hand, and WTF hopes to sell honey from their hives. The ticket price of $15 includes fresh popcorn from Sport Hill Farm; wood-fired pizza is available to order. Click here to order.

Noted chef and caterer Alison Milwe Grace celebrates summer’s bounty with a 4-course farm feast on Tuesday, August 25. The $90 ticket includes a WTF donation. Click here to order.

To learn more about WTF — including an online workshop on CBD (Monday, August 3), click here.


Tomorrow’s ReOpen Westport Advisory Team meeting welcomes a special guest.

David Lehman — commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development — joins the discussion, and answers questions from the community.

The Thursday, July 30 virtual event begins at 11 a.m. The meeting will be live streamed on www.westportct.gov, and broadcast on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. Residents may email questions prior to the meeting  (reopenteam@westportct.gov).

Lehman will provide an update on modified rules for business sectors, and the decision to delay Phase 3 of reopening.


Your house may be old. It can also be famous.

The Westport Historic District Commission  is seeking nominations for its annual Westport Preservation Awards. Properties should show:

  • Rehabilitation and Adaptive Re-use: making a property compatible for new use by preserving features that convey historic, cultural, or architectural values.
  • Restoration: returning a property to its form at a particular period of time.
  • Reconstruction: new construction depicting the original form, features and details of the non-surviving historic structure.
  • Special recognition of individuals or organizations that advance the cause of historic preservation.

A structure must be at least 50 years old, and fit at least one of these criteria:

  • designed by a significant architect
  • the property is associated with a significant event or person;
  • the structure is indicative of a significant architectural style or period.

Nominations can be made by private residents, not-for-profits, commercial firms, and government institutions and officials. Please include photos and a brief narrative describing why the property or person deserves an award. Nominations should be emailed to rwmailbox@aol.com, by August 14.

A 2018 Preservation Award winner, at 75 Kings Highway North.


Next up in the Westport Library’s Camp Explore program: science TV host Emily Calandrelli.

The “Bill Nye Saves the World” and “Xploration Outer Space” star will be online this Monday (August 3, 4 p.m.).

Calandrelli makes science-related topics easily understandable, for audiences ranging from from Google, Pixar, MIT and CERN to colleges and schools around the country. Her topics include science communication, space exploration and women in STEM.

Click here to register for the Camp Explore event.


And finally … one of the best in our parade of classic summer songs.

Catering With Grace In A Crisis

The plight of restaurateurs is sadly visible.

Closed dining rooms and curbside delivery offer stark reminders of the coranvirus’ devastating impact on an important slice of Westport life.

Less visible is what’s happened to caterers.

They’re the backbone of Westport’s culinary scene. They’re at every social event in town, serving superb food and making us feel, well, really catered to.

We seldom think of the work behind the scenes: shopping, prepping, cooking, transporting.

And we never think of the constant grind of finding clients, presenting tasting menus, signing contracts, and managing the back end of a business.

Just over 2 weeks ago, that business imploded.

In the hours after schools closed, and town officials held an emergency press conference, the owner of AMG Catering & Events lost just about every booking.

Several fundraisers, 2 art shows, a barn party, a wedding, 1 bar and 1 bat mitzvah, christenings, Passover seders, Easter dinners — all set for March and April — vanished.

Some were postponed to the fall — or spring of 2021. Others were canceled outright.

Graduation parties in June are on hold. Meanwhile — as uncertainty fills the air — no one is booking anything new.

Also gone: her spring adult cooking classes.

Alison Milwe Grace

Meanwhile, Grace — a 1988 Staples High School graduate — has fixed costs, like rent for her commercial kitchen. And she worries about all the part-time employees, like cooks and servers, who depend on her.

But you don’t spend 3 decades in the catering business without building up plenty of good will.

Grace has been heartened by the reactions of her longtime clients.

“The minute this happened, I had an incredible support system,” she says. “People asked for massive quantities for their freezers.”

At first it was mainly soups. As she asked what they wanted, she began cooking stews, chili, full meals.

With time on their hands, many clients are cooking for themselves. But, Grace notes, “that can be exhausting. Some people want me to help, with 2 or 3 dinners a week, or soups for lunch.”

They’re also grateful to not have to shop themselves, or order online. “You have no idea what your supermarket will be out of,” Grace says. “And you don’t know what’s in your Instacart or Peapod delivery.” Assuming, of course, that you can get one.

A professional caterer is helpful for people looking to eat healthy. Cooking that way is not as easy as it sounds.

Food for the soul …

To make ordering easy, Grace creates “Food for the Soul” curbside menus — a different one each weekday.

Want a taste? This coming Monday, it’s arroz con pollo, and tomato dill soup with brown rice.

Grace is adapting in other ways. Instead of a 20-person minimum for a Seder, she’s now doing them for 4.

Caterers are used to working closely with health departments. A pandemic makes that paramount.

Grace follows strict guidelines. She does not shop at grocery stores. All provisions are delivered by vendors.

… and soups too!

Practicing social isolation, Grace cooks by herself. “It’s just me. There’s no one else in the kitchen. I’m following every CDC and local health rule,” she says.

But — like many food professionals in Westport — Grace is spending some of her time helping others. She has cooked for the Gillespie Center, and hopes to do the same for hospital staffs.

“Cooking de-stresses me,” she says. “It’s helping save my mental life.

“Before the virus, all I wanted to do was feed people. Now, I want to do that even more. All I have is food.”

And a bit more time. Every night she, her husband Bob, and their 3 teenagers spend an hour together at dinner.

“We could never do that before. Now it’s a highlight of my day. And I know it is for other families too.”

(Search for AMGCatering on Instagram; email amilwe@optonline.net, or call 203-858-4635. Of course, AMG is just one of many local catering companies hit hard by the virus. Grace urges you to reach to out any of them, and find out their offers.)

Teachers Whip Up A Tasty Day

For years, the Westport Farmers’ Market and Staples High School’s culinary arts program have teamed up to bring great food to folks in need.

Once a month, students shop for provisions at the market. Then they prepare and serve a delicious, nutritious meal at the Gillespie Center.

Yesterday, many more people got in the act.

As part of Westport’s Professional Development Day, culinary students and staff helped interested teachers — from throughout the district — shop for ingredients, then create and serve a meal too.

The initiative was led by Staples’ 3 culinary instructors: Cecily Gans (owner of The Main Course Catering, and a member of the Farmers’ Market Board); Alison Milwe-Grace (owner of AMG Catering and Events), and Laura Wendt.

Staples’ 3 culinary instructors (from left): Laura Wendt, Alison Milwe-Grace, Cecily Gans.

The goal was to give educators in the district “an overview of the culinary program’s relationship with the community, the Farmers’ Market, the farmers who provide the raw product for meals the students create, and the challenges those students face as they put meals together,” Milwe-Grace says.

Gans adds, “Building relationships around local food, and connecting farmers to the recipients of the food they grow, catch or raise is fundamental to the Farmers’ Market mission.” The Professional Development Day event strengthened other relationships too: those between students and teachers.

The Farmers’ Market and culinary instructors are dedicated to helping students “grow” — as cooks and people.

Yesterday, those students turned the tables on some of our town’s top teachers.

Westport teachers cook for the community.

Alison Milwe Grace Reveals All

Reveal parties are all the rage these days. They showcase everything from home renovations to the gender of a fetus.

The other day, Alison Milwe Grace — one of Westport’s favorite caterers — got into the reveal party act.

But she did far more than provide hors d’oeuvres for a new dining room, or the cake to say whether the new baby will be a boy or girl.

Alison hosted a reveal party for Kaden. He’s Make-a-Wish Connecticut’s newest recipient. The organization fulfills the dreams of youngsters battling serious illnesses.

Kaden’s friends and family gathered in Alison’s kitchen. They cooked together: Hawaiian sweet and sour chicken, with fresh pineapple and coconut rice. Plus Hawaiian potato salad.

Yep — Kaden is headed to Hawaii.

Kaden and his friends have fun. (Photo/Eileen Sawyer)

When the cooking was done, everyone ate together at a communal table. They had a wonderful meal.

And they talked about Kaden’s upcoming Hawaiian trip.

Mahalo!

Staples, Cesar Batalla Students Cook Up Friendship

Stacey Henske is a dedicated volunteer. She’s involved with many worthy causes — including Westport PTAs.

But she and several other Westporters also serve as room moms at Cesar Batalla School in Bridgeport. Through the Brighter Lives For Kids Foundation, they help provide opportunities and experiences to city children that will enrich their education.

Stacey works with Melody Curran’s 2nd grade class. The other day, she helped organize a visit to Alison Milwe Grace’s Culinary 1 class at Staples High School.

“The Staples students were fantastic with the kids,” Stacey reports. The high schoolers helped the youngsters bake chocolate chip cookies with M&Ms. They learned to measure ingredients, crack eggs and use a mixer.

They already knew how to eat cookies, Grace notes.

The field trip was a Henske family affair. Learning Through Lighthouse — a Staples club that her freshman son Spencer is involved with — paid for the bus.

And her daughter Samantha — a 5th grader at Kings Highway Elementary School — was there too. As the 2nd graders’ adopted “room sister,” she often helps a little girl in a wheelchair.

No word yet on what’s next for the Staples/Cesar Batalla menu.

Staples and Cesar Batalla students. Chef Alison Milwe Grace is at right.