Tag Archives: Balducci’s

Unsung Hero #92

Great minds think alike.

Alert “06880” reader Peter Bricken emailed: “Charlotte is a great person. She has worked at Balducci’s for 30 years. She is widowed and has no children. She is a cat lover, and remembers my now 30-year-old daughter as if it were yesterday.

“She drives down from Orange 3 days a week. Other employees have tremendous respect and love for her. When we chat, there are other customers always smiling. She is blessed with a temperament that could have placed her in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life” as an angel 😇.”

(Photo/Dallas Kersey)

Equally alert “06880” reader Dallas Kersey wrote just a couple of days later: “I was in Balducci’s today, and was checked out by a lady in her late 70s/early 80s. Her name tag says ‘Charle.’ She has been there packing groceries ever since I’ve been in town — over 25 years.

“She is pleasant, engages with customers and is THE BEST grocery packer I have ever encountered. She’s meticulous about fitting your purchases into a grocery bag.”

Everyone who has ever been in Balducci’s knows Charlotte. Today, everyone knows her as “06880”‘s Unsung Hero of the week!

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

School’s Open. Be Careful Out There!

It took exactly one day from the opening of school for the first drivers to race by, totally ignoring a stopped bus and causing an accident.

A Greens Farms Elementary school bus pulled up to the Regents Park curb around 3:40 p.m. this afternoon. The stop sign was extended, yet cars in the opposite (westbound) direction roared past.

The driver honked. One car hit its brakes. But the 2 cars behind were going so fast, they could not stop. The result: a 3-car rear-end collision that sent one person to the hospital.

Police and fire trucks responded quickly. Still, it was quite an experience for at least one kindergartner, whose parents described the scene.

Two of the vehicles in this afternoon's Post Road East crash.

Two of the vehicles in this afternoon’s Post Road East crash.

There are 2 issues here. One is the law: When a school bus is stopped, all drivers must stop too. That’s a no-brainer. The safety of our kids trumps your need to get wherever you are late going.

The second issue is that this section of the Post Road — Regents Park, Balducci’s, and nearby areas — has become increasingly hazardous. Condo residents believe it’s just a matter of time before a tragedy occurs.

There are no stop signs, lights or crosswalks. But there are 2 active driveways and parking lots on opposite sides of the highly trafficked 4-lane street, with cars often exceeding 40 miles an hour.

Interestingly, a police car was parked this morning in the Zaniac parking lot, monitoring this situation during the school bus pickup.

Residents of Regents Park (right) worry constantly about this dangerous stretch of the Post Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Residents of Regents Park (right) worry constantly about this dangerous stretch of the Post Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Traffic will not get better. Last night, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved plans for a 4-story, 94-unit rental property not far away: on Post Road East, opposite Crate & Barrel.

On the other hand, the proposal includes affordable housing units that will help the town earn a 4-year moratorium on complying with the state’s 8-30g statute.

Balducci’s Replies

Last Tuesday, “06880” reported the various rumors around town that Balducci’s may close.

Balducci’s says they’re not closing. Several days later, chief operating officer Rich Durante replied:

Balducci’s Food Lover’s Market is committed to being the ultimate destination for specialty foods and offer our customers great food, whether it’s quality ingredients, chef prepared meals, or catering options. We look forward to continuing to serve the Westport community.

“06880” readers: Please parse that paragraph.

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The Rumor Mill Churns

Anthropologie has announced its move to bigger digs in Bedford Square. A new tenant will eventually move into the current location on Post Road East.

But big changes may be in store for Balducci’s next door too.

Several folks have contacted “06880,” saying that — just a few months after renovation — the store may close. Rumors swirl regarding rent issues.

Architect types have been spotted touring the buildings and parking lot.

If Balducci’s goes — and with Garelick & Herbs moving to the Southport line — the east end of Westport may soon become a gourmet food desert.

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Stupid Parking Tricks (Balducci’s Edition)

An alert “06880” reader spotted this one the other day:

Parking - Balduccis

Here’s the story behind the photo:

In the Balducci’s parking lot, I saw this young guy drive this SUV Cadillac Escalade into a spot next to a Volvo wagon. There was nothing in front of his car (no snow bank or anything). He turned right into the spot, stopped the car, got out and walked into Balducci’s, not even turning around to look.

Had he taken a moment, he would have easily been able to straighten his car, allowing some space between his and the car next to it.

I waited around. A woman came out. She struggled to get into her car and back it out.

A couple of people wrote obscenities in the dirt on the guy’s car. When he came out he looked at the obscenities, got into his SUV and drove off. I guess he’s proud that he has achieved this status in life: entitlement.

Trashy Parents

Denise Torve was at Balducci’s the other day. She watched happily as a young mom and cute tot in a souped-up stroller enjoyed a snack.

Denise was less happy when the time came to leave. The mom decided she didn’t need to pick up the plate, food or juice container her little darling had dropped.

Balduccis garbage

When Denise pointed out the mess, the mom looked right through her.

And we wonder why kids leave water bottles all over the fields.

Moshe’s Noshes

My friend Moshe Aelyon is a creative genius. A master of fashion, design and entertainment, there’s always something cool going on in his life.

Moshe Aelyon

One of his many sidelines is blogging about food. “A-la-mo” is filled with musings on memorable meals in Moshe’s native Turkey; hidden-gem restaurants in Dubai and Lebanon; stylized salmon croquettes — the blog subjects I fantasize about, if only I had grown up in the Middle East and knew everything there is to know about cooking and wine and entertaining, with culinary skills up the wazoo.

But I don’t.

So I was more than intimidated when Moshe asked me to contribute something to his blog.

I was petrified.

Yet Moshe is persistent. When he told me I could write about “anything” — so long as it had to do with food — I remembered what I always tell my writing students: Write about what you know best.

Here’s my post. It ran a few weeks ago. Bon appétit!

—————————————————

Moshe’s wonderful blog is filled with orgasmic descriptions of delectable dishes. There are stories of appetizers, entrees, desserts. I read about bok choy that “weeps a bit of water.” Emotions flow freely, for sure.

Everyone adds his or her favorite recipe.

Moshe asked me to do the same.

I have many talents. I write, I coach soccer, I walk to the planet Zork with my eyes closed.

But cooking is not one of my talents.

Still, in an effort to engage in this great conversation – and, perhaps, be asked to dine by people who can actually cook – I’ll share my favorite food story.

It’s a list of the top five places in and around Westport to score free samples.

Whole Foods’ food looks too good to eat. That’s why they have free samples.

First – that is, in fifth place – is Whole Foods. The selection is natural and organic, which of course makes me feel all kinds of virtuous about wandering around eating, but it’s skimpy. It’s like a highly regarded New York restaurant that brings you two sprigs of parsley, with some exotic sauce, and charges 24.95 (without the dollar sign). Everyone goes “oooooh, marvelous,” but you’re thinking “WTF?” You really have to dig to find samples at Whole Foods, but when you do they are good. Just not real filling.

Balducci’s is in fourth place, a drop from years past. In earlier incarnations – Hay Day, and something else that lasted 6 minutes – the place was filled with samples. Fruit slices, cheeses, entrees and sides right out of the oven, plus tons o’ pastries. Now they’ve throttled back, so like at Whole Foods, you’ve got to be a hunter/gatherer rather than a scarfer.

Sure, it’s weird eating mac-and-cheese out of a urine cup. But it’s free!

Fresh Market takes third place. I’ve had some fantastic half-sandwiches there – roast beef, pulled pork, great stuff. Yeah, it’s weird eating it out of a plastic urine specimen cup, but you can’t beat the price. Fresh Market also offers cookies and cheese platters, while every so often – random Saturdays and holidays – they turn the place into a banquet. Carving stations, steam tables, all manned by very friendly staff urging you to eat. One more Fresh Market note: There are samples at the checkout counter, but they’re hidden in little cardboard boxes you have to open. Don’t be shy!

In second place is Garelick & Herbs. Specializing in chips and dips, brownies and cookies – and lots of them — this upscale gourmet store gets bonus points for compactness. No need to wander aimlessly looking for free food; it’s all right there, between the counter and the register.

In first place – no surprise – is Stew Leonard’s. The sign calls it the “Worlds Largest Dairy Store” (no apostrophe), but it could also be the Worlds Largest Free Food Emporium. From the entrance (cookies, other pastries, and for some reason, usually spinach pie), through the winding aisles past rice cakes, pomegranate juice, and on and on and on, Stew’s is sample heaven. More often than not, there’s even something like jelly beans at the customer service counter after checkout.

What’s wrong with this picture? There are no other customers pushing the guy aside to get their free samples.

But that’s your normal, weekday, early morning and evening free fare at Stew’s. Saturday and Sunday afternoons make those offerings look like Oliver’s gruel. Weekends are when vendors pour in, handing out their wares in a free Norwalk version of an Arab souk. The latest yogurt bars, salsa dips and ice cream flavors – they’re all there. And more.

Saturdays and Sundays are also the days Stew’s sets out cheeses, salads – even shrimp – as samples. You can eat an entire meal at Stew’s.

And I often have.

About That ‘Exciting Announcement’ From Balducci’s…

Last week, Balducci’s director of marketing promised “an exciting announcement” about the company. She wouldn’t say what it was, or when it was coming.

This morning, a self-described “displaced balducci’s employee” posted this comment underneath that story: “the announcement is that Kings has bought the stores that are still open.”

A quick search of cyberspace revealed no official word. But the closing of 4 Balducci’s stores — including 2 in Manhattan — has generated plenty of press. The New York Times weighed in; so did the New York Post and the website Chowhound.

Whether you are a Balducci’s booster from the Hay Day days (back when Bear Stearns touted it as a great acquisition) or think “gourmet food” feeds into every frou-frou stereotype about Westport, the place is an institution in town.

“06880” will continue to be all over this story, like pesto on salmon.

Bye-Bye Balducci’s

Balducci’s is closing.

Wait, wait — before you get all verklempt about your butternut squash and goat cheese ravioli, Bilinski chicken sausages and Caribbean pumpkin black bean soup, listen:  It’s the two stores in Manhattan, and one each in Ridgefield and Washington, D.C., that will soon sell their last green crushed olive spreads.  The Westport location — along with Greenwich, Scarsdale, Bethesda (MD), and McLean and Alexandria (VA) — escaped the cutting knife.

Jennifer Barton, Balducci’s director of marketing, did not mince words.  “The Westport store will remain open,” she said soothingly when I called a few minutes ago.  “That store will not close.  No, no.  There’s no talk of that.  Not at all.  We are in the process of reorganizing our business and closing underperforming stores” — she sounded so disappointed at their failure to meet Balduccian standards — “but those six other stores are doing fine.”

Jennifer was on a PR roll.  “We look forward to making an exciting announcement about our remaining stores in the coming weeks!” she chirped.

Wow — an exciting announcement about the Westport Balducci’s!  I could barely contain myself.  Perhaps, I prodded, she could give me a teeny hint?

“No, I’m sorry, I can’t,” she said corporately.  “But it will be a very exciting announcement, in the coming weeks.”

To celebrate, I’m heading out right now.  I’m thinking a tin of Royal Osetra (Acipenser Gueldenstaedti) Kazakhstan caviar would be perfect.

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