Tag Archives: Don Memo

New Downtown Association Head Blends Youth, Experience

When Maxx Crowley left Westport for college, he figured he’d never return.

Less than a dozen years later, he’s the new president of the Westport Downtown Association. He replaces Randy Herbertson, who resigned after 6 years to chair the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee.

If Crowley’s name sounds familiar. it is. He’s vice president of SCA Crowley, the longtime commercial, residential and management real estate services firm.

It’s a family business he did not expect to be part of. After Long Lots Elementary, Bedford Middle School and Fairfield Prep, Crowley headed off to Loyola University in Baltimore.

Like many peers, he gravitated to New York for work (advertising, then real estate) and play. But, he realized, he missed Westport. “It’s a special place. I took it for granted,” he admits.

When COVID hit, New York’s real estate market ground to a halt. Westport’s, meanwhile, was on fire.

Joining his father Steve, and siblings Bobby and Judy, at the 40-year-old firm was a “perfect opportunity.” Moving here — and working at SCA’s Kings Highway North office, just off Main Street — made him realize how much he had missed.

Maxx Crowley (right) with (from left) his brother Bob Crowley and father Steve Crowley.

“My mom used to drag us to The Gap, and all the little stores. We’d have lunch at Onion Alley,” Crowley — now 29 years old — says. “Other times I’d ride my bike with my buddies to Starbucks and the library. My first date was at a restaurant downtown. My brother’s first job was at J. Crew. I always loved downtown.”

He knows there were years with “lots of vacancies. It lost some excitement, some of the mom-and-pop feel.”

But, Crowley says, downtown is in the midst of a major rebound. When Herbertson asked him to be part of the DMA — offering “a young perspective, and a fresh set of eyes” — he joined eagerly.

Crowley — who calls downtowns “the heartbeat” of a town — hopes to build on recent DMA initiatives like Westoberfest to make Westport’s a place people head to for fun.

Asked for a SWOT analysis of downtown, Crowley ticked off strengths: “attracting serious merchant talent; cool, fun stores; new restaurants — and being on the river is huge.”

Downtown offers shopping, entertainment, the Library — and solitude. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

A weakness has been “not doing a good enough job connecting downtown with the rest of the town.” Riverside Avenue, Crowley says, has “incredible stores and restaurants. But it’s easily overlooked.”

One opportunity is “making the river a bigger center point. We can really tap into places like the Library, Levitt Pavilion and Remarkable Theater too.”

As for threats, Crowley cites the impact of online shopping, and the possibility that landlords might raise rents quickly in the future.

Returning to his “hearbeat” theme, the new DMA head wants Westport’s downtown to be a place where people “eat, meet and gather.” Recalling a trip to Italy — where entire towns gathered in a central square to watch World Cup matches on giant TV screens — Crowley envisions similar events here.

It’s what people want when they move here, he says. Though many want more space in Westport than in cities like New York, they miss having “everything you need on your block.” The desire to gather together is strong, he says.

So he’s excited about a variety of ideas. Bill Taibe wants to make Don Memo even more of an outdoor gathering spot. Fleet Feet’s Dave Wright has floated a road race from Compo Beach to downtown.

Dining at Don Memo, last summer. (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

And what about a barge/restaurant on the river? A water taxi connecting Compo, Longshore, Saugatuck and downtown?

Maxx Crowley is open to all that — and more. He says he has a strong board in place, and an excellent staff to implement new projects.

Everything and anything is on the table. The new Downtown Merchants Association  president is ready for action — in a downtown he never thought he’d be part of again.

Roundup: Tom Brady, Don Memo, Magellanic Clouds …

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Eagle-eyed viewers may have recognized a Westport connection during a segment on yesterday’s ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown sow. The fictitious exhibition — “Tim Brady vs. The New York Jets,showcasing the quarterback’s Tom record — was filmed at MoCA Westport.

ESPN rented the space last week. They wanted a realistic museum setting for their tribute to Brady.

The “exhibition” features masterpieces like The Hit (2001), Brady The Starter (2001), The Monday Massacre (2010), Backing  Up The Talk (2011), and a “poetic piece” entitled The Departure (2020).

Click below to see. MoCA begins 40 seconds in.

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COVID has taken some steam out of Steam.

The popular newish coffee-and-more place at the head of Railroad Place says that “due to current conditions,” their evening café will be closed until further notice.

However, it’s available for afternoon and evening rentals, events and meet-ups.

Steam will still be open weekdays (6 a.m. to noon), and weekends (8 a.m. to noon).

Here’s a bit of sweet news: They’ve added Ferrara Bakery cannolis to their usual menu of bagels, donuts, breakfast sandwiches, and Balthazar Bakery croissants and pastries.

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Don Memo customers, staff — and many strangers — are pulling together for Kelli Pulkkinen.

The popular manager and server at the downtown restaurant has been diagnosed with a rare type of leukemia. She is just 31 years old.

Don Memo owner Bill Taibe quickly added a new cocktail. The “Universal Donor” helps raise money for Kelli. It costs $14, and includes Casco Viejo tequila, aperol, sparkling rosé, lemon and rose syrup. Rosé and tequila are 2 of her favorite drinks.

Taibe told the Westport News she is “a rock star” and “a fireball”: vibrant, funny and full of energy.

“She’s just a fireball,” he said. “Kali is the kind of person that just gives it her all.”

He added, “It’s hard enough battling cancer. If we can make sure that she doesn’t have to worry about her paychecks and bills and stuff for the time being that’s one less thing, and she can focus her energy.”

Click here for the full Westport News story. (Hat tip: Matthew Mandell)

The Don Memo drink

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There was no rain yesterday morning.

But a full moon and high tide were enough to flood Compo Beach Road.

Compo Beach Road, at Quentin Road. (Photo/Tammy Barry)

Let’s hope this was the worst weather event of 2022.

Hey … a guy can dream.

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You never know what you’ll find at Baron’s South.

The other day, Wendy Crowther was walking off the path, in the woods near the Imperial Avenue entrance. She saw this messy scene:

(Photo/Wendy Crowther)

At first she thought it was a homeless encampment. As she got closer though, she realized the cans were rusty — but unopened.

She now thinks that months — or years — ago, someone stored supplies deep in an existing hole in the tree trunk. As time passed, more of it decayed.

Eventually the cavity collapsed, spilling the cache onto the ground. But who squirreled them away — and why — remains a mystery.

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If you’ve always wanted to know about the “Physical Properties and History of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds”: Here’s your chance!

Clare Burhenne — a Westport Astronomical Society member, and Ph.D. student at Rutgers University — will lecture on that very topic. The free event is set for January 18; click here for the Zoom link; click here for the YouTube livestream.


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Our daily Roundup “Westport … Naturally” feature has run a few photos of vultures recently.

Janine Scotti recently moved the Saugatuck River to a condo near the back of Compo Shopping Center. She was amused to see gulls circling the dumpster, a ways from the water.

This week though, they were bumped by a new flock of birds. Yep: vultures.

(Photo/Janine Scotti)

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And finally … well, you knew this was coming, right?

Pic Of The Day #1636

Dining at Don Memo (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

Roundup: Candidates, Chores, Irene Backalenick …

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A sure sign of fall: Our yards and traffic islands sprout dozens of signs for political candidates.

If you’d like to base your chose on more than placards, pencil in next Tuesday (October 12, noon, Westport Library and streaming). The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Library team up for a debate between the candidates vying for 1st selectman and 2nd selectmen: Jen Tooker and Andrea Moore (Republicans), Jonathan Steinberg and Candi Savin (Democrats), and TJ Elgin and Louis D’Onofrio (independents). Chamber director Matthew Mandell will moderate.

Click here for in-person tickets, and more information. It’s available on Cablevision Channel 79, and will also be archived.

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Another sign of autumn: As leaves fall and Westporters prepare for winter, many senior citizens need help.

The Department of Human Services hopes that seniors (in high school) — and juniors, sophomores and freshmen, plus middle schoolers — can help.

The DHS is compiling a list of students willing to help with outdoor chores. The suggested rate is $12 an hour.

Students interested in helping seniors (and earning money) should call 203-341-1050, or email humansrv@westportct.gov. Seniors needing assistance should also call 203-341-1050.

Need help bagging leaves? Human Services have kids for hire.

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Irene Backalenick turned 100 in August.

The former New York Times theater critic celebrated by publishing 143 of her reviews of Broadway and Off-Broadway productions.

The collection spans the last 11 years of her career (2004 to 2015). Her final Broadway review was “Hamilton.”

Click here to order “In the Theater World.”

Irene Backalenick

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Caryl Beatus is one of “06880”‘s most avid readers — and frequent, insightful contributors.

She’s also a longtime golfer. Yesterday the Longshore Women’s Golf Association honored the founding (and 61-year) member, at the annual event named for her.

Caryl hit the ceremonial first shot. Fore!

Caryl Beatus was — as the golf cart says — Longshore’s “Queen for a Day.” (Photo/Mark Farrell)

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Bill Taibe is CRAzy.

Or at least, the owner of The Whelk, Don Memo and Kawa Ni is the 2021 Restaurateur of the Year, according to the Connecticut Restaurant Association. The organization — “CRA” — will present it’s “CRAzy Award” on December 6.

Taibe was chosen by a panel of more than 2 dozen food writers, critics, social media influencers and bloggers.

Meanwhile, the public can vote for other honors. Among the nominees: Taibe’s own Don Memo (Newcomer of the Year), and OKO (Restaurant of the Year, Fairfield and Litchfield Counties). Click here to see all nominations, and cast a ballot.

Bill Taibe

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For the second time this year, a Staples High School swim and dive team record fell.

The meet with Westhill came down to the final event. The 400 meter freestyle relay would determine the outcome. The Wreckers won in 4:10.46, earning the very tight 93-92 win.

The record-setting swim came from freshman Annam Olasewere. Her 26.15 time in the 50 meter free beat her previous record of 26.48, set just last week. She also won the 100 meter free.

The Wreckers are now 3-2. They’re in action next on Friday, vs. Greenwich (4 p.m., Staples).

Annam Olasewere (far left) earlier this month, with her 400 meter freestyle relay team (from left): Ayaan Olasewere , Ella Alpert, Jessica Qi,

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Susan Fehlinger is the Westport Book Shop’s guest artist this month. She’s an oil painter. The exhibit includes 12 coastal paintings. It’s open during business hours, at the popular used bookstore on Jesup Green.

Susan Fehlinger, at the Westport Book Shop.

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Halloween comes a day early to the Westport Country Playhouse.

The historic theater presents “Spectres and Spirits” — an original, 30-minute radio play – on October 30 (12 p.m., WSHU-FM).

It’s the work of frequent Playhouse collaborator (and macabre-minded) Richard R. Henry. John Gromada contributes clever sound design. To learn more and listen, click here.

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The other day, “Westport … Naturally” featured a monarch butterfly being eaten by a praying mantis.

Here’s one that lived:

(Photo/Tammy Barry)

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And finally … Long before Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff, Millie Small put Jamaica on the musical map. She was born today in 1947. She died May 5, 2020, at 72.

“06880” Podcast: Bill Taibe

Hungry to learn about Westport’s dining scene?

The other day, Bill Taibe sat down for our “06880” podcast, at the Westport Library’s Verso Studios.

The owner of The Whelk, Kawa Ni and Don Memo talked about his passion for food; how he opens a new restaurant; staffing and supply issues, and Westport’s dining scene.

So where does one of the town’s premier restaurateurs go when he eats out? Click here, for the full interview.

Bill Taibe

 

Roundup: Sunday Beach Service, Henry Wynne, Cannons …

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Summer Sunday beach services return tomorrow (June 27).

All season long, parishioners and clergy from 4 Congregational churches (Saugatuck, Greens Farms Congregational, Norfield and Wilton), plus United Methodist Church, gather on Sundays at 8:30 a.m., at Compo Beach near the cannons.

It’s BYOC (bring your own chair). You don’t need a beach sticker — just tell the gate attendant you’re attending the service. Dress code is casual; flip-flops and nice shorts are fine. (Hat tip: Karen Como)

Sunday morning service at Compo Beach. (Photo courtesy of Saugatuck Congregational Church)

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Henry Wynne stumbled in the Olympic Trials 1500 meter race. But the 2013 Staples High School and 2017 University of Virginia graduate — now sponsored by Brooks Running — qualified for the finals nonetheless.

The big race is tomorrow (Sunday, June 27, 7:40 p.m. EDT). NBC Sports airs it live. Westporters will be tuning it, to watch Henry reach his Tokyo dreams.

Henry Wynne (Photo/Will Hoffman for Runner’s World)

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Every 2 years, Art Committee members conduct a town- and school-wide inventory of every object in the Westport Public Art Collections.

This year is the most comprehensive yet. They’re not only updating locations, but also measuring every object in the database and cared for by the town.

Including the Compo Beach cannons!

(From left) Eve Potts and her sister Marion Morra take the measure of the Compo cannons. (Photo/Kathie Motes Bennewitz)

Can guess the width, length and depth of the entire monument? Click “Comments: below.

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Aspetuck Land Trust is about to get more land.

On July 1, the non-profit organization — currently focused on Westport, Weston, Easton and Fairfield — merges with the Monroe Land Trust and Tree Conservancy.

That adds another 20 acres to ALT. They will own or manage more than 2,000 acres of conserved land, with a total membership of over 1,700 people.

Land trusts preserve land through purchase, conservation easements or donations of property. Preserved properties are important habitats for plants and wildlife. They protect water quality, agricultural land, and scenic and historic places. For more information, click here.

Aspetuck River, at the Newman-Poses Preserve (Photo/Seth Schachter)

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The Planning & Zoning Commission has some interesting proposals to consider.

On Wednesday (June 30, 12 noon), the Regulation Review Subcommittee will discuss possible changes related to improved recreational opportunities and amenities, to complement the Senior Center.

They’ll also talk about expanded outdoor dining regulation impacts, in consideration of creating more permanent rules. Click here for more information.

On July 8 (6 p.m.), they’ll review a text amendment and application to redevelop 1460 Post Road East — the current site of Julian’s Pizza, BevMax and more — to accommodate a new medical office tenant. The existing medical marijuana dispensary would remain. Click here for more information.

1460 Post Road East. Rio Bravo restaurant closed last summer.

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Tomorrow (Sunday, June 27) is National Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day. To raise awareness, Westport’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 399 is supporting a 10-mile march.

It begins at 8:30 a.m. at Darien VFW Post 6933, and ends at the Westport VFW Post on Riverside Avenue. Click here to donate.

VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399.

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This week’s #FridayFlowers project has special resonance for the Westport Garden Club.

Their latest work, at the Nevada Hitchcock Park on the corner of Cross Highway and Weston Road, includes perennials from members’ gardens. The flowers promote pollination — and the park commemorates Nevada Hitchcock, a founding member of the club.

#FridayFlowers at Nevada Hitchcock Park.

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“The Breakfast Club” is the quintessential high school film. More than 35 years after its release, it still nails the experience.

Of course, some things have changed since 1985. You can learn how on Monday. The classic movie is Monday’s (June 28, 8:45 p.m.) Remarkable Theater feature. It will be preceded by a short video starring 12 graduates from Staples High School’s Class of 2021. Click here for tickets, and more information.

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On Thursday, MoCA Westport hosted a reception for its summer exhibitions: “Love Wins” (a mural created in conjunction with Westport Pride), “Unfit for Print” (including Staples High School graduate Noah Fox), and “Élan Vital” (with the works of 11 artists selected by Staples alum Max Teicher and Emily White). Works of the Congressional Art Competition are also on view.

The exhibitions run through August 21. Click here for details.

Noah Fox, with his work. (Photo/Maddy Martin)

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There are 3 days left in Pride Month. And 3 days left to buy Pride products, like hoodies and coffee cups, from Finding Westport.

10% of all proceeds are donated to Westport Pride. Click here to see what’s available, and order.

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Happy 1st anniversary to Don Memo!

Owner Bill Taibe took a risk — opening a new restaurant in the midst of a pandemic — but it’s paid off. His fun, creative take on Mexican fare packs in crowds every night next to Barnes & Noble. (Or, as much older Westporters remember it, in “the old Town Hall”).

There’s plenty of room for outdoor dining. Plenty of music. And plenty of great food!

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Lauri Weiser calls today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo “Lurking in the Grasses.” How much wildlife can you spot?

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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And finally … happy 78th birthday to the great British jazz/rock/R&B musician Georgie Fame. He’s still performing, with the likes of Van Morrison, Bill Wyman and Alan Price.

He’s probably best known for his “Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde.” But my favorite is this 1964 classic, “Yeh Yeh”:

PS: Yeh, yeh, it’s hard to hear the lyrics. Here you go:

Every evening, when all my day’s work is through
I call my baby, and ask her what shall we do
I mention movies, but she don’t seem to dig that
And then she asks me, why don’t I come to her flat
And have some supper and let the evening pass by
By playing records besides a groovy hi-fi
I say yeh yeh, and that’s what I say
I say yeh yeh

My baby loves me, she gets a feeling so fine
And when she love me, she makes me know that she’s mine
And when she kisses, I feel the fire get hot
She never misses, she gives it all that she’s got
And when she asks me if everything is okay
I got my answer, the only thing I can say
I say yeh yeh, that’s what I say
I say yeh yeh

We’ll play a melody and
Turn the lights down low so that none can see
We gotta do that, we gotta do that
We gotta do that, we gotta do that
And there’ll be no one else alive
In all the world ‘cept you and me
Yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh
Yeh yeh, yeh yeh

Pretty baby, I never knew such a thrill
Just thought I’d tell you, because I’m trembling still
But pretty baby, I want you all for my own
I think I’m ready to leave those others alone
Don’t need to ask me if everything is OK
I got my answer, the only thing I can say
I say yeh yeh, that’s what I say
I say yeh yeh, that’s what I say
I say yeh yeh

We’ll play a melody and
Turn the lights down low so that none can see
We gotta do that, we gotta do that
We gotta do that, we gotta do that
And there’ll be no one else alive
In all the world ‘cept you and me
Yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh yeh, yeh yeh

Oh pretty baby, I never knew such a thrill
Just thought I’d tell you, because I’m trembling still
But pretty baby, I want you all for my own
I think I’m ready to leave those others alone
Don’t need to ask me if everything is okay
I got my answer, the only thing I can say
I say yeh yeh, that’s what I say
I say yeh yeh, that’s what I say
I say yeh yeh, that’s what I say
I say yeh yeh
That’s what I say, I say yeh yeh
That’s what I say, I say yeh yeh
That’s what I say, yeah

JC Martin’s Westport

As spring’s wonders linger in Westport, JC Martin grabbed his camera.

The talented photographer documented this gorgeous season — its natural beauty, and some of the folks enjoying it. 

Here are his images, from the past few days.

Parker Harding Plaza blossoms.

Parker Harding, by the Saugatuck River.

Another view of downtown.

Musicians at Don Memo …

… and in front of the restaurant.

Last summer, Homes with Hope youngsters painted this mural on Compo Road South.

The vest pocket park, on the walking path to Compo Cove.

Al fresco at Arezzo. (Photos/JC Martin)

 

Pics Of The Day #1481

Nature’s confetti, outside Don Memo … (Photo/Jenae Weinbrenner)

… and nature’s canopy, a few yards away outside Gillespie Center. (Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

Pic Of The Day #1387

Cleanup begins (Photo/Amy Schneider)

Roundup: Inauguration, Staples Sports, Restaurant News, More

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Tuesday night’s COVID remembrance at the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool will be remembered for its somber, stunning 400 lights. Each represents 1,000 Americans killed by the coronavirus.

Staples High School 2009 graduate Andrew Lott — a former Staples Players lighting director — played a major role in the event. He also helped light last night’s Biden/Harris inauguration show, featuring musical performances, fireworks, and tributes to Americans affected by the pandemic.

Lott — a University of Michigan alumnus — has worked with the Spoleto and Williamstown Theatre Festivals, Public Theatre, Shakespeare in the Park and Lincoln Center.

He spent 2 years as lighting director for “CNN Tonight.” He now works nationally on a wide variety of events.

Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and their spouses admire 400 lights, at the Lincoln Center reflecting pool.

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Meanwhile, there were no protests — in Washington, state capitals or Westport — yesterday, as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as America’s new leaders.

But Westporters Rex Fowler and Dodie Pettit — aka Aztec Two-Step — headed to the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge to celebrate.

A few people asked why Fowler was wearing a red hat.

“We are All Americans today,” Pettit explained. “We didn’t think about the color when we went out of the house. Maybe that’s the point!”

Rex Fowler, with flag. (Photo/Dodie Pettit)

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Last Sunday, author Layla F. Saad honored Martin Luther King Day with a  compelling discussion based on her book, “Me and White Supremacy.”

Two days later a panel of local leaders explored how to undertake Saad’s self-guided 28-day process of self-reflection.

It was an important talk. If you missed it — or want to see it again — click below.

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Winter sports practices have begun at Staples High School.

The usual date is around Thanksgiving. The pandemic delayed the start nearly 2 months; the first competition will now be in early February.

For the boys basketball team (shown below), along with girls basketball; boys and girls indoor track, ice hockey and skiing, and boys swimming and diving, it was one small step toward normalcy — though masks are required at all times, and spectators are not allowed.

Wrestling and competitive cheer are still prohibited.

(Photo/Dylan Goodman)

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I got a nice surprise this week with my takeout (fantastic lamb dan dan) from Kawa Ni.

The Japanese/pan-Asian restaurant has partnered with 2 others also owned by Bill Taibe — Don Memo and The Whelk — in a game. Every time you order from one, you get a letter (mine was “E”). When you have enough to spell out the name of one of those restaurants, you can post it to social media (with a tag) and win prizes (a family meal for 4, takeout up to $75, or a cocktail to go).

There are instant prizes too: guac and chips, fried oyster deviled eggs and crab rangoon.

It’s great food fun. And a lot better than a toy with a Happy Meal.

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Noted chef Matthew Redington died unexpectedly earlier this month in New York. He was 40 years old.

The Westport native learned his craft at Acqua restaurant on Main Street under Christian Bertrand, formerly of Lutèce. Matt graduated from New England Culinary Institute where at age 19 he was the youngest person offered a spot in the Advanced Placement Program.

Matt and went on to top chef positions at Jean-George Vongerichten’s Spice Market in New York, Clio in Boston and Tengda in Greenwich (a co-creation of his). At Paul Newman’s The Dressing Room next to the Westport Country Playhouse, he helped Michel Nischan create the groundbreaking farm-to-table menu.

Most recently Matt ran a consultancy, creating culinary themes, concepts and menus for new and re-launched restaurants in New York and Connecticut.

Matt also enjoyed yoga, snowboarding, and innovative art and graphics.

He is survived by his father Thomas of Colebrook; sister Jessica Redington-Jones of Taylors, South Carolina; 3 nieces, 7 aunts, 6 uncles and numerous cousins.

A memorial celebration of Matt’s life will be held at a later date. Donations may be made to the New England Culinary Institute Scholarship Fund, 7 School Street, Montpelier, VT 05602. To leave online condolences, click here.

Matthew Redington

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And finally … Happy 71st birthday to Billy Ocean!