Tag Archives: John Hooper

800 People At A Pancake Breakfast? WTF!

On Sunday morning, the Wakeman Town Farm folks planned on 200 people for their fundraising pancake breakfast.

Okay, they hoped for 200 people.

Be careful what you wish for.

Starting early, crowds poured across the lawn.  They were hungry for pancakes.

Mike Aitkenhead (left) addresses the overflow crowd at Wakeman Town Farm.

Hungry to say hi to Mike and Carrie Aitkenhead, the once and future farm stewards.

Hungry to experience the farm on a gorgeous fall morning.

John Hooper — owner of Christie’s Country Store just down the road apiece — had been cooking since 5 a.m.  He’d hired extra staff.

His 1st batch — for 60 people — went quickly.

Then another.  And another.  And another.

The WTF’s runner flew back and forth.  It was like the fish and loaves.

The Town Farm organizers loved it — but grew worried.

John never stopped cooking.

Finally — there is only so much pancake batter in the world — John ran out.  The last people waiting in line said, well, “WTF.”  They offered to let the Town Farm folks keep the money as a donation.

And then — another miracle! — John sent over the final pancakes.

Two of the 800 happy pancake breakfast eaters.

It was successful.  It was incredible.  It was a great tribute to the new group running Wakeman Town Farm; to the Aitkenheads; to everyone who believes in community agriculture.

And it never would have happened without John and Renee Hooper, who cooked, hired help, donated condiments, time and love.

Of course, there comes a time to pay the piper food provider.

That time came yesterday.

John had offered to cook up to 200 breakfasts free.  The Town Farm group would cover anything over that, at cost.

Monday afternoon, John sent over his bill.

Uh-oh.

Are you ready?

It was…$0.

Zero.  Nothing.  Nada.

Yes,  Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

His name is John Hooper.

And he lives just an apple’s toss away from Wakeman Town Farm, on Cross Highway.

No matter where you live in Westport, feel free to wander over.

And say, “Howdy, neighbor.  Thanks!

Not Just Another Farmer’s Market

Christie’s is 85 years young this year.

To celebrate, the country market returns to its (ho ho) roots.

Every Sunday through November, the rustic store on residential Cross Highway hosts a farmer’s market.  Like the popular market itself, it’s both funky and fun.

And get this:  Christie’s owners John and Renee Hooper don’t charge the farmers or other vendors a cent.

Nor do they ask for any percentage of sales.

“We’re just trying to serve the community,” Renee says.

They’re doing more than trying.  They’re succeeding.

A small part of the large bounty at Christie's farmer's market.

This past Sunday, delighted customers — many with young kids — wandered among the dozen or so stalls.  Of course there’s the usual fruits and veggies:  cucumbers, peas, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, berries, Swiss chard, arugula and more.

It’s all Connecticut grown.  The farmer from Smith’s Acres in Niantic says everything is fresh picked:  “Last thing last night, or early this morning.”  It doesn’t get fresher than that.

But there’s more.  One vendor offers beef, pork and salmon.  Nothin’ But Foods sells ginger lemon cashew snack bars, and honey-sweetened granola.

There’s honey, goat soaps, maple syrup, hot and cool pickles.  Mirabelle —  most recently on Main Street — is at Christie’s, selling cheeses out of a mobile unit.

Plus candles and art cards.  And a pair of singer/guitar players, Dave Allen and Mark Ehmann, whose soft music  lends just the right background to the market.

The duo plays next to Frosty Bear, the ice cream gazebo that gives new meaning to coconut chocolate chip and other amazing flavors.

“Families love this,” Renee says proudly.  “And the farmers are thrilled.”

Frank and his olive oils.

“People are so nice,” says Frank, of the Olive Oil Factory.  “Everyone is friendly, and the owners are very easy-going.

“There are no hassles.  Most places like this have all these silly rules.”

And, Frank adds, “I appreciate that they don’t use plastic bags.”

Back in the day — 1926, to be exact — Christie’s started out as a market for goods grown on the farm surrounding it.  It was a true “farmer’s market.”

Today it hosts a 2011 version of that same idea.  The goat soap and granola may be new — but if Christie Masiello magically returned to Cross Highway, she’d definitely recognize the place.

And the peas and beans.

(Christie’s farmer’s market hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Coming this fall:  harvest goods — and wine.)

Christie’s Continues

From its founding in 1926 through the end of the 20th century, Christie’s Country Store had strong Westport roots.  The Masiello family — first Christie herself, then her nephew Don — owned the Cross Highway landmark, for nearly 7 decades.

Christie’s is still around — and its Westport roots are deeper than ever.

John Hooper — who bought the place this fall — has a family deed dating back to the Indians.  He’s kept the Jazz Age Masiello photos on the wall — and added a genealogy chart of the Nash’s, 1 of Westport’s founding families.  An old chest bears the name Sipplerley — another famed local name.

Amy Violette poses with chef Dan Renzulli's creations.

New chef Dan Renzulli — how’s that for another old-time Westport family? — laid out a great spread last night, introducing guests to the catering menu.  There was tempura scallop and spring onion with lemon cilantro cream; crab and asparagus beignet with orange beurre blanc; grilled tenderloin of lamb with arugula and peppercorn demi-glace; smoked salmon napoleon, and more.

But don’t worry — Christie’s hasn’t gone all frou-frou.  You can still buy sandwiches, burgers, salads and burritos.  There’s a breakfast menu — hey, the tables might make a great spot to hang out and drink coffee! — and on weekends, a flat-screen TV shows cartoons for kids while parents shop and schmooze.

“We want to give people more than they expect,” John’s wife Renee Hooper said last night.

They do.  The Hoopers, Nashes and Sipperleys of the 1600s might not understand bagels.  But they would be proud.