Tag Archives: Chef’s Table

Christie’s Country Store: A Dash Of Renovation?

For a place that looks almost exactly like as it did 7 decades ago, Christie’s has seen a lot.

For decades, Christie Masiello and her nephew Don ran the Cross Highway store as a country market. Nearby residents bought milk, eggs and produce there.

When the Masiellos finally sold it, there were changes (including a brief, forgettable moment as a dry cleaner).

In 2009 John and Renee Hooper bought it, and brought back the comfy, community gathering place vibe. They added burritos, prepared foods, Frosty Bear ice cream and a Sunday farmers’ market.

The couple wanted to offer brunch in the winter by the fire, and on the porch in the summer, plus a limited dinner menu. But state regulations prohibit expanding the septic system — a prerequisite for the changes — so after 9 years the Hoopers closed Christie’s.

Chef’s Table took over in April 2019, adding premium sandwiches, soups and a salad bar. But it closed this past January. Owner Rich Herzfeld said, “Very simply, the location didn’t work out for us.”

Jonathan Mathias

Jonathan Mathias thinks it can work for him. The 1977 Weston High School graduate — who for 20 years has built A Dash of Salt into a full-service catering firm with clients throughout the tri-state area, and as far as Maine and Florida — had long been encouraged by Christie’s owner, Tim Purcell, to give it a try.

Now Jonathan wants to.

He’s got some intriguing ideas. He’d transform the patio, with inviting seating, and hang rattan swings by the entrance. He’d bring back the ice cream hut, and sell Arethusa dairy products from Litchfield inside. He’d offer pick-up Community Supported Agriculture boxes from a farm partner, and local fresh eggs too.

With a bit of attention and fixing up, Jonathan says, Christie’s could be vibrant and exciting. He mentions Harbor Market in Sag Harbor as a model.

But he needs community support. He was buoyed by many positive comments when he floated the idea on Facebook.

Of course, online likes don’t translate into cold cash. Putting a first-class market requires extensive funding. Purchasing the building would be ideal. He’s looking for investors who share his vision.

Interested residents — or anyone who would like to know more — should email contact@adashofsaltcatering.com.

Christie’s, and its traditional front porch.

Just tell him Christie Masiello sent you.

Another Westport Closing: This Time It’s Chef’s Table

For nearly 70 decades, Christie’s Country Store served the Cross Highway/Bayberry Lane neighborhood well.

It went through a couple of changes after Christie Masiello and her nephew Don Masiello sold the store — including, very briefly, a dry cleaner. But when John and Renee Hooper bought it in 2009, they quickly brought back the comfy, community gathering place vibe.

They ran it that way for nearly a decade — adding, among other things, burritos, prepared foods, Frosty Bear ice cream and a Sunday morning farmers’ market.

The building is a non-conforming use, in a residential neighborhood. Zoned as a retail food establishment, it can operate as a takeout deli, with limited seating indoors.

The Hoopers wanted to offer brunch in the winter by the fire, and on the porch in the summer, plus a limited dinner menu. But state regulations prohibit expanding the septic system — a prerequisite for the changes — so last December, after 9 years, the couple closed Christie’s.

The classic front porch.

The good news: Chef’s Table took over. Rich Herzfeld — who opened his first store under that name in 1995, at what is now Aux Delices on Church Lane, before moving to Fairfield — added Cross Highway to his menu.

He opened April 1 of last year. Today came the stunning news: He’s closing January 15.

Chef’s Table was here less than 10 months.

It’s a tough location. There’s not a lot of traffic — at least, not a lot that stops for premium sandwiches, soups and a salad bar.

As much as the neighborhood loves it, they don’t always support it. Students from nearby Bedford Middle School and Staples High love it too, but they’re not high-margin customers.

Middle schoolers hang out in 2015– near a menorah, moose and reindeer.

Rich says, “Very simply, the location didn’t work out for us. We appreciate the folks who have supported us. We hope to see them at our Fairfield location. Many of our crew will come back to Fairfield with me.”

Tim Purcell owns both the store and the adjacent auto repair business. He is already negotiating with a new tenant to replace Chef’s Table.

It’s a food service. Not a dry cleaner.

Chef’s Table Now Serving Cross Highway

Christie’s Country Store closed in December.

But less than 4 months later, the 6-decade Cross Highway tradition continues.

Chef’s Table opened today. That’s good news for residents of the Cross Highway neighborhood. As well as workers and delivery people in that area. Plus of course students at nearby Staples High and Bedford Middle Schools.

Owner Rich Herzfeld and son Dave — who will manage the eat-in/takeout breakfast-sandwich-grill-soup-pizza-and more place — greeted a steady stream of happy customers, starting early this morning.

David and Rich Herzfeld, earlier today.

In February, Rich told “0688o” he hoped to open by April 1.

He made good on that goal. (No fooling!)

Staples High School students enjoy the new spot.

That’s a great omen for Chef’s Table, which began in Westport (both locations closed after the 2007 recession), and now includes a very popular spot in Fairfield.

And for everyone else hungry for — as Chef’s Table’s t-shirts say — “Fine Food Fast.”

Christie’s still lives. In honor of the 93-year-old tradition, the sign says “Chef’s Table at Christie’s Country Store.”

Chef’s Table Returns To Westport! Cross Highway Rejoices.

When Christie’s Country Store closed in December, a shiver went through the Cross Highway neighborhood.

The breakfast/sandwich/grill/grocery place had been around since 1926. It served nearby residents, Staples and Bedford students, and plenty of landscapers and workers nearby or passing through.

But it was a non-conforming use, in a residential area. Now it was shut. These things don’t usually end well.

Fortunately, this one does.

Chef’s Table is moving in. Rich Herzfeld will pick up right where John Hooper left off.

It’s a homecoming of sorts. Herzfeld — the Culinary Institute of America-trained baker/chef, who honed his trade under Jean Yves Le Bris at La Gourmandise in Norwalk — set off on his own in 1995. He opened his first Chef’s Table at 44 Church Lane.

It was, Rich recalls, “like a small Hay Day.” High-end prepared foods and fresh salads drew a devoted downtown crowd. Two years later, Herzfeld added soups.

In 2001 he opened a 2nd Chef’s Table, on the Post Road in Fairfield. Two years later he added a 3rd, in the former Arcudi’s pizza restaurant next to  Carvel.

The 2007 market crash hit the 2 Westport locations hard. Suddenly, Rich says, everyone was brown-bagging lunch, or eating fast food. Corporate catering dried up.

The Fairfield site — with a broader demographic — did fine.

Rich sold the Church Lane spot to the Wild Pear. Arcudi’s returned to its original spot.

Wild Pear took over from Chef’s Table, on Church Lane. It closed in 2013. After extensive renovations, it is now the site of Aux Delices.

The 2 locations changed hands again. Today, both — coincidentally — are Aux Delices.

Meanwhile, Rich had asked commercial realtor (and Staples High School graduate) Tom Febbraio to keep an eye out for any place here that was already set up for a Chef’s Table-type operation.

Last year, John Hooper’s Christie’s lease was up. Tom told Rich. He was not only interested — he’d loved it for a long time.

“I knew Christie’s well,” Rich says. “It’s a great location. It has history. And the space is perfect for us.”

He’ll sell his signature soups, salads and sandwiches. A few years ago he got back into baking, so there will be plenty of croissants and baguettes.

Rich Herzfeld, with his delicious sourdough bread.

There’s a pizza oven in back — something the Fairfield Chef’s Table lacks — so Rich will make sourdough pizzas too. (The crust is great, he promises — “it takes 3 days to make!”)

The Fairfield location — not far from Fairfield University, Fairfield Ludlowe High and 2 middle schools — is “student-centric,” Rich says. His new Cross Highway spot is even closer, to Staples High and Bedford Middle Schools.

“I have a 21-year-old and a 14-year-old,” Rich notes. “I know what kids want.”

He plans to sell old-fashioned candy, ice cream — and items like milk, sugar and toilet paper, for neighbors who just need one or two quick items. And he would love to resurrect the Frosty Bear ice cream gazebo.

“We’ll be listening closely to what neighbors and customers want,” Rich says. “We’ll try to make it happen.”

Though Chef’s Table will operate from around 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Rich predicts his bread-and-butter will be breakfasts and lunches. He’s especially excited to serve breakfasts — “good food, providing great energy” to folks working in the area.

Christie’s — with its handsome front porch — has always been a welcoming, neighborhood place.

The Cross Highway store will be overseen by Rich’s son David. Now 29, and the breakfast guru at the Fairfield spot, he grew up at Chef’s Table on Church Lane. When he was just 9, David was baking cookies — and selling them at a table there.

Rich hopes to open by April 1. (No fooling!)

And the name?

It will be “Chef’s Table at Christie’s Country Store.”

Rich knows the 93-year history of the spot he’s moving into. He loves the legacy.

He can’t wait to begin writing the next chapter.

(Hat tip: Suzannah Rogers)