Remember when the family gathered together on Sunday night, sharing dinner while listening to a drama or musical on the radio?
Neither do I.
But Westporters — and anyone else with an internet connection — can enjoy evenings in the coming weeks. Staples Players presents 3 radio shows.
And 3 local restaurants are offering special meal deals, to spice up the fun.
This Sunday (October 25, 6 p.m.), tune in to “The Wizard of Oz.” Little Barn has created a special menu including Wicked Witch Wings, Tin Man Tacos, Munchkin Burger (kid-size), Emerald City Cocktails and more.
Click here and choose “Order later” for October 25. Scroll down to the “Wizard of Oz” menu (after “Entrees”). NOTE: Glinda the Good Witch says you can order from the whole menu if you like!
Little Barn is not in Kansas anymore. Then again, it never was.
On November 8 (6 p.m.), listen to “Pride and Prejudice” whilst dining on Pemberley’s prime rib dinner, complete with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and sticky toffee pudding. It’s all courtesy of (of course) Fairfield’s Gruel Brittania.
Gruel Brittania’s sticky toffee pudding.
Then on November 22, gather round the hearth for the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The comes from a classic Westport spot: Dunville’s.
Call or text Dunville’s owner Steve Carpentieri (203-247-3113) with your order for:
George Bailey’s Yankee pot roast dinner for 4 (potatoes, carrots, celery, pearl onions. mixed greens salad)
Uncle Billy’s smoked St Louis ribs with fries and coleslaw
Mary Hatch’s seafood stuffed sole with mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables and hollandaise sauce
Mr. Potter’s New Bedford day boat sea scallops with sautéed spinach, white beans, garlic, extra virgin olive oil.
Dunville’s Yankee pot roast.
Menus are available on the restaurants’ websites within a week of each show. Order ahead; quantities are limited.
(The 3 radio shows can be heard on WWPT, 90.3 FM. For the livestream, click on www.wwptfm.org.)
If you’ve passed by Dunville’s recently, you might have seen its smoker smoking away in the parking lot.
Sure, the popular Saugatuck Avenue restaurant is open for curbside pickup and delivery.
But the great meats and more it’s long been known for now feed grateful stomachs far beyond the usual customer base.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, owner Steve Carpentieri and Daniel Sullivan — owner and chef of Big Dimps BBQ in Norwalk — have partnered to feed a host of heroes.
The smoker crew (from left): Conor McMorrow, Daniel Sullivan, Steve Carpentieri. Kneeling: Dan Hoose.
Aided by friends in the industry who were laid off — or are still working, but offer to help — Steve and Daniel prepare and package amazing meals on site. Inside, the once-busy restaurant has been turned into a staging area.
The menu is mouth-watering: St. Louis ribs, chicken, pulled pork, smoked chicken quesadillas, double beef burgers with applewood smoked bacon, broccoli slaw, garden salads, baked beans, brownies and chocolate chip cookies.
Dunville’s does it right.
An army of volunteers delivers the meals to all kinds of front line personnel and first responders. Recipients so far include hospitals (Norwalk, Stamford, Griffin Hospital, Vassar); police departments (Westport, Norwalk, Wilton, Fairfield, Stamford); fire departments (Westport, Norwalk Stamford); Orange County Regional Medical Center; Bridgeport Boys & Girls Clubs, and 911 operators and dispatch.
This week they’ll serve Norwalk’s Autumn Lake Healthcare, a rehabilitation facility and more police departments. They’re already planning next week’s schedule.
A delivery to the Fairfield Police Department.
They’ve done it all thanks to support from the community. Social media brings in some donations; others come from people driving by. They see the big smoker, stop to see what’s going on, and make donations.
The rest of the cost is borne by Carpentieri, Sullivan and their crews. “We have the facility — which I’m paying for anyway — and the volunteers to make this happen,” the Dunville’s owner (a 1983 Staples High School graduate) says.
“It would have been a shame to let this opportunity pass us by.”
They’re closing in on 3,000 meals served. Take that, McDonald’s!
As the coronavirus sweeps across America, nursing homes have become synonymous with death.
A Westport family has a different story to tell.
Barbara Clouser — mother of Karen, Karla and Stacy — died Tuesday. She spent the past 6 years at Autumn Lake Healthcare in Norwalk.
“They treated her like gold,” says Stacy Clouser Shaw. “They are gutted.”
The nursing home was always beautifully decorated, and cheerful. When Barbara’s daughters visited they were greeted kindly, and treated well. The director made sure to stop by, and say hello to Barbara and her guests.
“Mom looked great. Her hair was done, and the room was immaculate,” Stacy says. “She had 3 meals a day, in a lovely dining hall. It was very calming to the soul.”
The staff did not know Barbara before she suffered from dementia. But thanks to their care and compassion, she smiled until the end.
“They have been so gracious,” Stacy says. “They made sure we could say goodbye. They held her hand until we all called. Because of this place, we were able to live our lives without fear for her. We lost her, but there is no blame.”
The Clouser family is paying it forward. On Tuesday, Dunville’s owner Steve Carpentieri, staff, and co-provider Big Dimps BBQ with chef Daniel Sullivan will deliver 95 boxed lunches to Autumn Lake Healthcare. It’s the daughters’ way of saying thank you, for all that the nursing home did for their beloved mother.
Match Burger Lobster was one of two double winners. From left: Matthew Mandell, director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce; restaurant owner Matt Storch, and Ira Bloom of Berchem Moses, contest sponsor.
Best Veggie Burger: Little Barn
Best Non-beef Burger (fish, turkey, lamb…): Little Barn
Best Fast Food Burger: Shake Shack
Best Slider: Dunville’s
Honorable Mention: Rothbard and Parker Mansion
Vegans: Eat your hearts out!
In more Westport Weston Chamber news, the 5th Supper & Soul event takes place on Saturday (April 6).
One $75 ticket buys 3 great entertainment elements: a 3-course dinner at 6 p.m., a concert with Head for the Hills, and happy hour prices for drinks after the show.
Participating restaurants are 190 Main, Amis, Jesup Hall, Rothbard Ale + Larder, Spotted Horse, Tavern on Main and Wafu. All are located within a couple of blocks of Seabury Center, where the concert takes place.
Head for the Hills has been together for 15 years. They mix rock, folk, R&B and bluegrass. Mandell says, “If you like Mumford & Sons, you’ll love this band.” (Check out the video below — you’ll agree!)
Click here for tickets. A limited number of concert-only tickets are available too.
The 6th annual Slice of Saugatuck was the best yet.
Perfect late-summer weather; a record number of 50-plus restaurants and businesses, and a large, relaxed crowd enjoyed an afternoon of strolling, eating, music, eating, shopping, eating, kids’ activities, and eating.
A decade ago, the need for a new kitchen brought Reed Collyer to Westport.
The Stamford-based caterer found a great spot on Saugatuck Avenue, in the same plaza as Dunville’s. Five years later, she added 1,000 more square feet.
She opened a retail area too, for farm-to-table client dinners and wine tastings.
Westport was good to Reed. Her work ranged from a big holiday party for Terex at the Westport Country Playhouse, to an intimate wedding at Compo Beach.
Reed’s clients quickly became friends — and admirers. One day, Betsy Phillips posted on Facebook that she was “feeling crummy.” Reed immediately sent 3 pints of fresh soup to Betsy’s door.
Reed has loved working alongside her husband, Mark Sharon — he’s the chef. But with 3 kids — ages 15, 13 and 10 — the demands of life have become “hard to synchronize” with a business whose busiest times are nights and weekends.
So Reed is closing her business. She’s changing the name from Collyer Catering to Collyer Events. She’ll focus 90% on event planning and decor. The 10% that is food will come out of a satellite kitchen. Clients — er, friends — say they will miss her Saugatuck location dearly.
She has to vacate her space by Sunday. Anyone interested in purchasing her kitchen equipment can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The back cover of Flesh & Wires — a new science fiction book just published by Jackie Hatton — reads:
Following a failed alien invasion the world is left sparsely populated with psychologically scarred survivors, some of them technologically-enhanced women. Lo, leader of the small safe haven of Saugatuck,…
Whoa! Does our little town star in a very intriguing work by that rare species: a female science fiction writer?
Hatton — an Australian who grew up in Tasmania, earned a master’s in American history in Melbourne, and a Ph.D. in the same subject at Cornell — landed here when her husband got a job in Stamford. They knew Westport was a beautiful town, and heard it was “open-minded and open-hearted.” They bought their 1st house on Treadwell Avenue in 1998, attracted by the nearby water.
Hatton was a freelance writer, which worked well. She wrote all morning, then had lunch on the beach. She wrote again in the afternoon, and grabbed dinner somewhere in the neighborhood. Some days, she gardened — and thought.
She and her husband planted a small apple orchard. She calls it “a charmed and charming period” in their lives.
“We spent perhaps too many happy hours in Viva’s and Dunville’s,” she laughs. But she volunteered at the Westport Historical Society, and met friends through New Neighbors.
With Turkish friends, they bought a boat and spent every summer weekend on the Sound.
When Hatton and her husband were bored, they played a game: “Looking for Keith Richards.” They’d head to lively bars with great music, like the Georgetown Saloon. They never found him.
Jackie Hatton’s beloved house on Treadwell Avenue.
They moved in 2003 for work reasons — first to a minimalist place in New York City, then to the magical old streets and canals of Amsterdam. They’re still in the Netherlands, but Hatton calls Westport “the most beautiful place I have ever lived.”
The town remained vivid in her mind. Hatton always wanted to set a story here. She began writing a murder mystery, but that genre in a New England setting seemed like a cliche.
One day, rooting around for a more original premise, she recalled the one thing she’d always found strange about Westport: “there are no men there during the day.” Suddenly, she wondered: What if all the men were not just at work in New York?
Then she realized: If the men never came home, the place would still run. Women already maintain the properties, organize the activities and run errands all day long.
They manage many shops, and the small businesses operating out of big homes: freelance consultancies, part-time practices and the like.
Hatton kept thinking: How would women handle a real crisis? So she added aliens.
Despite their circumstances, the women in Flesh & Wires — who have created an oasis of civilization in Saugatuck — still care about home decoration, gardening, cooking, dancing and clothes. She included those details because she believes that making things beautiful can be a way of “dealing with darkness and difficulties.” How women spend their time is a serious thread throughout the book.
Of course, Hatton has a few laughs too. She turns a nail salon into a military training center. She also enjoys demolishing I-95.
Her book includes the cute little 19th-century cottage that was their old house; Saugatuck Rowing Club and Longshore; Mansion Clam House and Peter’s Bridge Market (both now gone).
The Bridge Street bridge — which may or may not be gone long before the apocalypse — serves as a major checkpoint into town. Downtown has been flooded into oblivion. And Cockenoe Island serves as a prison.
The Bridge Street bridge: While Westporters debate its future, Jackie Hatton turns it into a post-apocalyptic checkpoint.
“I’m interested to hear if Westporters find post-apocalyptic Saugatuck beautiful or horrific,” she says. “I love the new park I created, but I hate the idea of living in fear behind fortified walls.”
So what’s next, in the pre-apocalyptic real world?
“My great fantasy is that Hollywood buys the movie rights to Flesh & Wires,” Hatton says. “And then pays me to spend the summer on location in my favorite place in the world.”
More realistically, she hopes that promotional activities bring her back to Westport soon.
“There’s a margarita waiting for me at Viva’s,” she notes. “And a bar stool at Dunville’s with my name on it.”
(Click on www.jackiehatton.net to learn more about the author and her book — including a feature on how she uses Westport settings.)
Kevin Brawley — the easygoing owner of a number of popular Westport restaurants — died this past weekend. He was 59 years old.
Kevin was a wrestler at Bedford Junior High and Staples High School (Class of 1973). Later, he and Danny Horelick opened Dunville’s, on Saugatuck Avenue. It quickly became one of Westport’s favorite gathering spots.
Kevin’s next venture was Tavern on Main. Decades later, little has changed from his original vision.
He later opened the River House on Riverside Avenue.
Kevin worked — and enjoyed — long hours at his businesses. He mentored dozens of employees, who themselves went on to own many local restaurants.
Friend, classmate and former wrestling teammate Chip Stephens says:
Kevin will be remembered for his gravelly voice and infectious laugh, his smile and being a host with the most, his huge circle of friends, and his ability to create and run dining and drinking establishments. Two of them still exist after decades — something very rare today.
If restaurants can have a guest chef, I guess bars can have a guest bartender.
Today (Thursday, November 13, 8 p.m.) Steve Schneider slips into that role at Dunville’s.
It’s a way of celebrating the renovations the popular Saugatuck spot has made. Co-owner Stephen Carpentieri calls it “Dunville’s 2.o.”
“Carpi” and Schneider are no strangers to each other. They co-starred in “Hey Bartender,” the award-winning documentary directed by Doug Tirola and produced by Susan Bedusa. Both are longtime Westporters.
The film examines the 2 Steves — Schneider and Carpentieri — as they try to achieve their dreams through bartending. It’s available on Showtime, Netflix and iTunes.
Since the theatrical release, Schneider has flown to London, Berlin, Russia, Asia and Australia. He’s guest-bartended at the top spots in the world.
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