The last 4 years have been rewarding for Cindy and Danielle Hartog.
The mother and daughter run NewBrook Kitchen & Artisan Market on Saugatuck Avenue, next to Dunville’s. Their “paleo café” — offering tasty full course meals, salads, soups, cookies, nut milk coffee and vegan ice cream — has been a passion project.
But COVID hit hard. They tried to reinvent their business. Unfortunately, they say, it wasn’t enough.
NewBrook hopes to close on June 7. Yet challenges remain.
They must sell most of their furniture and inventory. That includes a French antique tasting room table, Restoration Hardware high tops and West Elm smaller tables, along with truffle mayo, organic dark baking chocolate and much more. Pricing is over half off.
Among the items for sale: a Parc Monceau French antique parquet table.:
The bigger challenge is finding someone to take over the last year of the lease, and buy the kitchen equipment.
The entire setup is for sale: 2 ovens, refrigerators and freezers, plus everything else necessary to cook professionally.
The Hartogs are willing to negotiate. The remaining 1-year lease is extremely affordable — under $2,500 a month — with the option to renew for another 5 years. That’s rare for Westport.
Their landlord is “incredible,” they say. He’s helping any way he can.
The full store of gluten-free gourmet groceries is dramatically on sale. The Hartogs hope to hear too from restaurants or bakeries that need bulk ingredients, like chocolate.
To learn more, text or call Cindy Hartog (203-858-6993), or email NewBrookKitchen@gmail.com.
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.
Low-key, little-publicized and itinerant until 1978, the WCT produces 5 mainstage shows a year, plus readings and workshops. Its productions draw small but devoted audiences to its spare, intimate auditorium in the basement of Town Hall.
Now — as town officials examine whether to reclaim that space — one woman is reaching out to a demographic the WCT has long ignored: kids.
Cindy Hartog studied film and television at NYU, then got a degree from the Neighborhood Playhouse conservatory. But she realized she preferred teaching to acting, and after earning a master’s in educational theater from NYU, Cindy organized drama workshops for children and teens.
She married Mark Hartog — best known locally as deputy director of Westport EMS, but also a community theater guy. Cindy worked in the Temple Israel nursery school for over a decade, taught cooking to kids, then a couple of years ago created the WCT Juniors program.
In less than 2 years it’s grown to encompass a 12-week program of performance skills, theater games, improv and scene work, as well as weekend master classes in improv.
A Westport Community Theatre improv class, directed by Heather DeLude.
Unlike other theater programs, these are not performance-based. The goal is to teach confidence, public speaking and performance skills, along with scene-writing and technical expertise.
Cindy’s Juniors classes draw youngsters from 6 to 16. On Friday afternoons they warm up together, then split into 3 age-appropriate groups for voice work and other activities. They come together at the end for improv and games.
The older kids are not involved in their own high school theater programs. One, for example, attends Hopkins; 2 are home-schooled.
Cindy notes, “They find a place here, and end up making great contributions.”
She believes in the power of theater to change lives — whether youngsters perform a play onstage or not.
Cindy’s program “tries to help kids become better people,” she says. “We want them to be well-rounded, confident and happy.”
Yet as she uses theater to prepare youngsters for life, she worries about the future of the Westport Community Theatre. Town officials are studying how space is used in Town Hall. When its yearly lease is up, the WCT — which before 1978 bounced between Westport, Weston and Fairfield — may be forced to find a new home.
It’s a search many Westporters are oblivious to.
“We put up lawn signs,” Cindy says of the WCT’s publicity for its mainstage shows.
“We have a banner on Main Street. We march in the Memorial Day parade. But a lot of people still don’t know about us.”
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