Worldly Style

A new design destination called PUTNAM & MASON showcases the talent of New York designers Robert Passal and Kim Alessi while also serving as a showroom for some local contractors and luxury vendors. “We really wanted to bring an edge to Greenwich,” says Robert, of this atelier, which feels more like an impeccably furnished loft with pieces collected from around the world: a striking vintage Murano glass chandelier, a ’70s cashmere-covered Jansen sofa and a seventeeth-century Italian painted chest, among other exclusive finds. Contemporary art by Hendrik Kerstens and photos of Cuba by Robert Polidori pop against the deep peacock blue walls. “We wanted to bring a worldly presence to town. Clients enter our space and feel as though they’ve been transported to a luxe, sexy, sophisticated home that’s all sensory, mood lighting and personalized,” he says.A new design destination called putnam & mason showcases the talent of New York designers Robert Passal and Kim Alessi while also serving as a showroom for some local contractors and luxury vendors. “We really wanted to bring an edge to Greenwich,” says Robert, of this atelier, which feels more like an impeccably furnished loft with pieces collected from around the world: a striking vintage Murano glass chandelier, a ’70s cashmere-covered Jansen sofa and a seventeeth-century Italian painted chest, among other exclusive finds. Contemporary art by Hendrik Kerstens and photos of Cuba by Robert Polidori pop against the deep peacock blue walls. “We wanted to bring a worldly presence to town. Clients enter our space and feel as though they’ve been transported to a luxe, sexy, sophisticated home that’s all sensory, mood lighting and personalized,” he says.

In addition to the custom furnishings, antiques, a revolving art gallery, lighting by Zia Priven and accessories such as Fortuny and Chanel-edged pillows, Putnam & Mason features a full-service kitchen with island and cabinetry by Wheelock Design, one of the vendors using the space as a showroom. Clients can enjoy coffee at the custom island and discuss their kitchen plans with a Wheelock rep. The fireplace surround is by Chesney’s, the custom leather framed mirror above is by KLASP Home and the audio system by Phoenix Audio Video, all available for purchase/install via Putnam & Mason.

Local designers are invited to shop Putnam & Mason, too—instead of trekking to the D&D building in the city—for fabrics, wall coverings, rugs, lighting and accessories at a trade discount. They can take a seat at the “Sample Bar” and scope out fabrics from Holland & Sherry, Kravet, Loro Piana and Romo to name a few. The location inspired the name for the design space: It’s at the corner of East Putnam Avenue and Mason Street.


PUTNAM & MASON

34 East Putnam Avenue
203-900-1414
putnammason.com

 

 

Home Base

The historic circa-1928 house located on prime downtown property has gas lanterns flanking its entry, a kitchen with custom cabinetry, antique leaded glass doors leading into a gathering space and a lower-level rec room with Ping-Pong table, vintage bar cart and garage doors opening to a landscaped bluestone terrace. A cavapoo named Rugby wanders from room to room, nosing up to visitors. Yet no one lives at this beautifully restored shingle-style house. Instead, the renovated West Elm Street address is the cool new office of Douglas VanderHorn Architects.

Celebrating thirty years as an architect in town this year, Doug purchased the old house—which had been converted into rental units—and transformed it into a custom office that’s fitting for a firm focused on creating homes with timeless style. “The character of the building was right for our practice, a residential practice. Having our office in a really nice old house is a good thing,” says Doug, who notes that the very convenient location, a block from the Avenue and close to the train, also attracted him to the property. “Over the years we’ve been able to work on quality older homes and that led me to the theme of the firm—designing classic homes, homes that you can’t pigeonhole into a period.” He notes that the 4,400- square-foot office, which is equipped with a state-of-the-art conference room with a rounded TV, special modeling systems and many other features, was completed in record time (five and a half months with Peerless Construction as the general contractor) and required special approvals from the historic district commission.

All in the Details

Doug is well-versed in the town’s building regulations and in overseeing a project from design stage through to completion. The son of a builder, he learned carpentry from his father, and he’s happy to roll up his sleeves to get a job done. Early in his career, which started in 1987 in town, he worked primarily on updating and expanding older houses.

Doing all that renovation work, I learned how old houses were put together and how the detailing was done. I use those lessons to make new homes look like they weren’t built currently,” he says, pointing to large glossy photos of a waterfront Shingle-style and an English Tudor that hang on the wall in his new conference room. “My hope has always been that people can’t tell that the homes weren’t built during the heyday of that particular style. I try to keep the work contextual and timeless.”

One of the ways he achieves this is by salvaging and repurposing original elements from older homes (the leaded glass doors leading to his new conference room were salvaged from a waterfront Victorian in Nyack, New York). From that same older house on the Hudson River—which was in too much disrepair to renovate—Doug’s team was able to save old plumbing fixtures, doors, windows, decorative brackets and a mantel that will be used in the new house, giving it the flavor of the original.

Luxury House Rules

Though Doug still handles renovations and enjoys the “happy accidents” they inspire (creative solutions for preexisting conditions), more of his clients are requesting new builds. “Fewer people are ready for the challenges and time involved in a complex renovation. They are just as expensive if not more expensive than building new.” So what do clients who are building high-end homes today seek in new construction? The wish lists are long and may include energy efficient materials, geothermal heating/cooling systems as well as lots of amenities—especially features for outdoor living, such as backyard kitchens, pools and spas.

In his new office, Doug has cutting-edge technology to help present ideas and designs to clients. The conference room features a curved wall and a flat-screen display that fits into the rounded space. He grabs a remote and plays a video that simulates a “fly-through” of a home he’s working on in Field Point Circle. It gives a sense of what it would feel like to stand in the space and move from room to room. Along with these 3-D digital models, the team also has the capability to create laser-cut models of houses. And from these high-tech tools come high-tech homes.

Says Doug, “Even though our homes look like classics, in terms of technology and energy savings, they’re leading edge.”


Snapshot
A look at the architecture of Doug’s career 

Doug VanderHorn

 

First Project
A major renovation of a home in Belle Haven in 1987.

Geography Club
Current projects are located in several states, from a house on the Hudson River in Nyack, New York to waterfront homes in Belle Haven, Darien, Essex and Watch Hill, Rhode Island. “We’re lucky to be working in a broad area, up the coast.”

Architectural Styles
As the practice has evolved, so has the diversity of its projects. Recently the firm has been designing houses that are French Normandy, Shingle-style, Federal- style, English Tudor, French eclectic barns, English Georgian and even English country cottages.

Family Ties
When he was a teen, Doug worked for his builder father learning the crafts of the trade, and today his own son, Colin, has joined the firm.

Game Plans
Doug is quick to credit his team of fourteen, including his associate partner, William Malmstedt, and office manager, Deb Biondolillo, among others, for their contributions to the firm’s success. His employees like to hang out in the new office rec room for lunchtime Ping-Pong matches and Friday afternoon happy hours.

When Not at Work…
Doug can be found playing tennis or cruising on Long Island Sound in his Grady-White. “I love to be on my boat, sometimes fishing and other times just cruising around looking for nice old houses. There’s a special dialogue between boaters and waterfront homeowners.”

Musically Inclined

Photographs by Thomas Mcgovern
Above: Brioche French toast with apples, calvados and dried fruit

What is it that people love about brunch? Of course, there’s the crowd-pleasing variety inherent in the meal: Breakfast fans dig into eggs Benedict and blueberry pancakes, while the lunch team takes on cheeseburgers and Cobb salads, and everyone’s happy. So maybe it’s the balance of sweet and savory? The abundance of bacon? The permission to indulge in champagne before noon? Or the endless coffee and bottomless bloody Marys (or both)? Or the vague timing of it all, with that leisurely feeling that the meal lends to a weekend—even after you’ve finished eating, there’s still a whole day ahead? In some cases, the social vibe mixes with a sophisticated locale and an opportunity to hear live music; but if a friend mentions plans to go to a jazz brunch, I assume she’s talking about a drive-into-Manhattan excursion. However, Z Hospitality Group and Executive Chef Albert DeAngelis are bringing a city staple closer to home with the addition of live jazz music at brunch at East End on the Avenue and at Mediterraneo in White Plains and Norwalk.

Left: Blueberry buttermilk pancakes with New York state maple syrup
Right: Mushroom toast with fried egg, chili oil, and fresh mint

On a recent Sunday, a jazz duo was well into a set when we walked into Eastend and grabbed a high-top table next to the marble bar. This spot turned out to be ideal for people watching and checking out the musicians, who were stationed just beyond the hostess table, allowing the bar crowd and those seated in the main dining room to hear and see them equally well. Our table by the window overlooked the sidewalk, where the café tables were occupied by a trio of twentysomething ladies and a family of four along with their Malamute puppy. Because we went for brunch on a hot summer morning, I was expecting a light crowd, imagining that most people were either at Tod’s, out on the Sound or in Nantucket but all of the high-top tables were filled, as were most of the bar stools and a decent number of dining room tables, not to mention the outdoor seating.

After ordering mimosas, we chatted with our server about his favorite dishes and the most popular items on the menu. The well-edited menu of sixteen dishes splits into an even balance of eight breakfast-esque and eight lunch mains, plus Copp’s Island oysters for $1 each. Beyond the basic fresh squeezed juices, mimosas and bloody Marys (bottomless option available for both), the drinks menu features a Sunday Special with sparkling wine, orange juice and a Stoli O float.

Left: Tagliatelle with Manila clams
Right: Avocado toast, with poached egg, queso fresco and basil

Traditionalists can opt for the blueberry buttermilk pancakes or the spinach, mushroom and goat cheese omelet, but Chef DeAngelis also has some interesting spins on standard brunch fare, including ‘crispy’ egg with pork belly and a potato, apple, onion hash and a lighter smoked salmon version of eggs Benedict with roasted cauliflower, crostini and citrus hollandaise. We had to try the avocado toast, which was very messy to eat due to the thick, crusty bread but very tasty with the addition of shaved radish slices, sunflower seeds, a little pickled onion and ribbons of basil.

It wouldn’t be brunch without some bacon on the table, and we got ours in a pork belly BLT (with both pork belly and Nodine’s bacon) with herb mayo and terrific fries served in a metal cup, each one crispy and delicious. A basic grilled cheese was elevated with a mixture of parmesan, cheddar and mozzarella and paired with a green salad, while brioche French toast gets a boost from Calvados (apple brandy), accentuating the flavor of the apples and dried fruit on the plate.

Right: Copp’s Island oysters

Though we’re certainly not jazz buffs, we enjoyed the smooth sound and chill atmosphere. Even our ten-year-old daughter got into the music; she was moving around to the beat in her seat while slowly finishing her food, prompting my husband to joke with her, “less grooving, more eating.” Whether your tastes run to sweet or savory, classical or jazz, breakfast or lunch, the new brunch option on Sundays at Eastend is well worth a try. I know I’m looking forward to more grooving and more eating.

409 Greenwich Avenue, 203-862-9200; zhospitalitygroup.com


QUICK BITES

JAZZ ACTS
Artists featured will include up-and-coming New York City jazz musicians Margi Gianquinto and Albert Rivera .

COOL SIPS
As a mimosa alternative, try the Spring Spritz with Tito’s, Aperol, sparkling wine, grapefruit and lime juices.

HOURS
Brunch is served Sundays, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

 

 

Two If By Sea

Photographs by Julie Bidwell
Above left: Polvo with parsley whipped potatos and salsa verde; Right: Sea bass with littleneck clams, shrimp, and seasonal vegetables

Those who travel to Portugal rave about the food and wine, especially the stellar seafood and first-rate vintages from Douro, Dão and Alentejo. At one time the country was more of a culinary best-kept secret. Recently, Portugal has been in the limelight, having more restaurants awarded Michelin stars last year than any other country in Europe. So it’s fortunate for Greenwich that we have our own Portuguese chef who now has two restaurants in town. Chef Rui Correia, who is a regular guest on the TODAY show, opened Gaia last year, just a block up the Avenue from Douro, his first restaurant here.

What distinguishes Gaia from its popular big sister, Douro? The seasonal Mediterranean menu has an emphasis on seafood (though meat and vegetarian dishes are represented, too) and it changes regularly. Where Douro is high-energy with a sometimes noisy bar, Gaia is sophisticated and understated—a spot where you can enjoy your dinner conversation. If you’ve ever found yourself shouting, “I can’t hear a thing in this place” and then felt embarrassed for sounding like your mother, you’ll appreciate the acoustics at Gaia, which has a minimalist modern décor with light wood paneling on the walls and long birch logs embedded in the ceiling. This intimate setting was a relaxing place to catch up with friends on a recent Friday night.

Left: Lamb meatballs with yogurt sauce, toasted pignolis and fresh mint
Right: Tomato salad with cucumber relish and feta

As we mulled over the menu, our server brought over an amuse-bouche of cucumber rounds topped with hummus and excellent green olives and feta along with heavenly grilled bread with a hint of garlic. Chef Rui’s creative approach and attention to detail were evident in many of the dishes we tried. A refreshing panzanella salad, for instance, was much less bready than the standard, with bright greens, micro-thin radish slices, chopped cucumber, green olives and very tasty tomatoes for what was early in the season, as well as parmesan crisps and just a few croutons. Octopus has become trendy lately, but the signature polvo appetizer here trumps other versions—super-tender seafood seasoned with pimenton (a smoky paprika) and served over mashed potatoes, and a salsa verde with microgreens dressing up the plate. Lamb meatballs are served in a stainless skillet with a garnish of mint and a sprinkling of pignoli nuts over a bed of yogurt sauce. These savory morsels made us wonder if we should plan a whole meal out of appetizers. In fact, we decided to order another starter, a special that evening, of pickled pork belly. Though tasty, this was our least favorite app because the flavor of the pork belly was eclipsed somewhat by the vinegar.

Since we had tried and loved cataplana during a vacation to Portugal, we had to order it here. Chef Rui’s modern take on the seafood broth-based entrée involves lots of colorful vegetables and South American shrimp, a hearty portion of sea bass and a few snippets of little neckclams (I wanted more of them, but that’s a personal preference). Seafood bolognese is a must-order, an unusual dish with a slightly sweet sauce made of ground octopus, calamari and shrimp as well as celery, carrots, onion and garlic all over a torchio, shell-shaped pasta; a half order with a salad would make a perfect weeknight supper. The other table favorite was the chef’s spin on Surf and Turf, with short ribs, grilled octopus and shrimp and a polenta cake with pineapple salsa, a bold departure from the average meat and seafood pairing. Even the salmon entrée managed to surprise us; it’s paired with zucchini spirals, crispy chickpeas and sweet cured tomatoes and a smattering of feta.

Portions here were plenty hearty, and we really had no business ordering dessert. However, we succumbed to the siren call of affogato, a blend of ice cream, cookies and chocolate mixed together in a low-ball cocktail glass and paired with a shot of espresso to pour on top. The indulgent dessert of Valrhona brownie and fried banana and Nutella also made it to the table. We ended our dinner beyond sated and in agreement that the food was top-notch. The restaurant seems to echo the homeland of its chef: a gem that’s well worth exploring.

355 Greenwich Avenue, 203-900-2234; dourogroup.com

Left: Affogato: Hazelnut ice cream and biscotti topped with a shot of espresso
Right: Chef Rui Correia


QUICK BITES

CAN’T-MISS COCKTAIL
The Port & Tonic is the hot drink right now at Portuguese resorts and Gaia’s take with white port, tonic, fresh mint, lime and orange makes the perfect aperitif.

FAVORITE ENTREES
Though the menu changes frequently, some of the most popular mains include the seafood bolognese, grilled dorado with roasted cauliflower puree and crispy vegetable, Portuguese fried chicken (made with tempura) and Mar, a mix of lightly charred seafood with roasted potatoes and a squid ink sauce.

FOODIE TRAVEL
Every fall Chef Rui and his wife, Dana, offer guided food and wine tours of Northern Portugal where travelers meet winemakers and local chefs and visit some amazing restaurants.


HOURS

Dinner
Tuesday – Thursday: 5–10 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: 5–10:30 p.m.
Sunday: 5 – 9 p.m.

Brunch
Saturday & Sunday: 12 –4 p.m.

 

 

Dancing with a Star

Above: Billy Blanks Jr. – Photograph: Lora Karam

Popular TV shows have made it clear: Dancing whips people into incredible shape. Billy Blanks Jr. has known this instinctively from a young age. Growing up with Billy Blanks—creator of the popular martial arts-based Tae Bo workout—as his dad, Billy Jr. was always involved in fitness and drawn to dance. After years of working as a professional dancer, performing in videos for Madonna and Paula Abdul among others, Billy Jr. created his own fitness program, “Dance It Out,” and debuted it nationally on Shark Tank. Today he has 1,000 teachers in the United States, 1,200 in Japan and others around the world. Recently he and his thirteen-year-old son have moved to town, where he’s opened Blanks Studios at Arthur Murray in Greenwich; he has also taken a lead role at the Wall Street Theater in Norwalk and cocreated a fitness network called MoveTube. We caught up with him to talk about his latest moves.


WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO GREENWICH?

I was born on the East Coast and grew up in Boston. I’ve been in LA ever since, working and performing, and I always wanted to get back here. I love the East Coast, love the people. I’ve been coming for the past two years for the Stamford Health, Wellness & Sports Expo [put on by Tammi Ketler] as the fitness celebrity for the event. Every time I’ve been here, she’s had me stay in Greenwich. Then when I met Chris Georgopulo at Arthur Murray and she said, ‘I’d love to have you come in with your program and open Blanks Studios’, I couldn’t wait to start building on the East Coast—I wanted to be here in person. That’s also when the Wall Street Theater was looking for an artistic director and I said, perfect timing, I’m going to move.

DO YOU TEACH CLASSES YOURSELF? WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE EXPECT AT THE STUDIO?
Absolutely. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays I teach [at 10:30 a.m.], and I have other teachers who work with me. Most people who have a gym membership and like to do dance and fitness classes never use the gym. They walk right by the gym to take classes. Blanks Studios gives you that fitness room without having that huge membership, you take as many classes as you like. We have everything from my program Dance It Out, Dance It Out Sculpting, Dance It Out Cardio, and we’ll have Zumba, Bally Ex, Yoga. I brought in the top instructors in Connecticut so you can get a variety of classes.

HOW DOES DANCE IT OUT COMPARE WITH ZUMBA?
What makes us different are two things: One, we have so many different styles of dance incorporated. If you go to Zumba, it’s 90 percent Latin. With Dance It Out, you’ll get everything from Broadway to hip hop to decades [‘70s, ’80s, ’90s], salsa, all the ballroom styles, even a little Irish and country line dancing. The second thing that sets us apart is our teaching method. A lot of people are afraid to take a dance fitness class. They think, oh I’m not a dancer. In some classes by the time they get the routine, the song’s over and they missed out. I wanted to make it so that people learn what they’re doing and actually get a chance to do it. It’s for all levels. Mr. T takes my class; he’s not a dancer.

Dr. Oz takes my class; he’s not a dancer. My oldest student Ida is ninety-six and takes a class in the same room as a professional dancer for Lady Gaga. I designed the workout so that you have fun and go at your own pace.

WHAT DO PEOPLE LIKE MOST ABOUT DANCE IT OUT?
You burn from 700 to 1,000 calories per class. I’ve had people lose all kinds of weight, but the biggest compliment I’ve gotten is that our class is the most supportive workout. It’s not about fighting over spots or being the perfect dancer. It’s about having fun. If you’re not perfect, who cares. People will say, ‘This class is like therapy. I feel good, I can have a great week now.’

HOW DID YOU GET INTO DANCE AND CHOREOGRAPHY?
I’ve been in fitness since I was eleven years old. My dad created Tae Bo, and at age twelve or thirteen I taught my first class, but I was into dancing more. I would teach with my dad and I would be doing the punching and kicking, and then I’d get fifteen minutes into class and hear a disco song or something funky and I’d start dancing and people would follow me. At the time, dancing wasn’t considered a workout. So my dad would say ‘stop kidding around.’ I didn’t get it. I thought, I’m sweating, why isn’t this a workout? Fast-forward and everybody now knows some of the best athletes are dancers.

WHAT LED YOU TO CREATE A DANCE-BASED EXERCISE PROGRAM?
I have such a love for dance and I see some people are afraid of it. I want to show how they can have movement. When I was about seventeen or eighteen, my dad was on Oprah for five days in a row; she did the workout every day and then on the last day she quit on air. She said, ‘This is too hard for me; this is not fun.’ I’m like her—I want to have fun when I’m working out. I like to feel like I’m having a good time. That really inspired me. How do I create something for someone like Oprah? That became my mission.

IS THE WORKOUT FOR KIDS TOO?
Yes, working out with kids is one of my favorite things. My son used to be glued to my leg. Now I’ll be teaching a class and turn to him and he’ll start leading the group. When I first started doing this in schools, I did some huge events with 1,000 kids at one time. I tailor the music to the group, to the younger crowd. High school students are a harder audience to win over. I did a huge event for Van Nuys High School for about 2,000 kids. They were standing there like typical high school students, arms folded, like what are we doing here? I got up and started the music and not one of them would move—they’re trying to be cool. I turned off the music and said, ‘Listen, I got you out of class and I hope you’ll dance with me; if you don’t want to dance, you can go back to class.’ Then the first three rows started moving and the next ten rows and eventually the whole room erupted into cheers and dancing. It was incredible.

WHO INSPIRED YOU?
Paula Abdul is like a big sister and mentor to me. She would come to my father’s studio. She would bring me on the set of her dance videos and I had a natural love for it. Paula taught me how to have attitude and confidence. I started working and getting videos with Madonna and Babyface and Paula. Eventually I starred in Fame on Broadway and we toured throughout Europe and America.

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON FOR THE WALL STREET THEATER IN NORWALK?
It’s a 100-year-old theater that’s reopening after a $50-million renovation. I’m the artistic director, so I’m in charge of programming and directing shows with local talent. Our first show was “8” A Night with Broadway’s Best, with eight Broadway stars performing the songs they made famous and knock-it-out-of-the-park Broadway songs. We’re also getting acts like Macy Gray and local performers. I’m working on a three-week residency with Paula Abdul this summer, and she’ll be helping to create some original shows for the theater.

AND YOU OWN A NETWORK TOO?
I also own a fitness and lifestyle network with my mom, Gayle Blanks, called MoveTube for people who can’t get out to a live class. We have forty to fifty fitness celebrities, body builders, every type of fitness you can imagine. It’s free workouts, inspirational stories. The idea was to create a network that would move you physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.

Classes are $20 for drop-in, $99 for five-pack or $119 per month unlimited; arthurmurraygreenwich.com; 6 Lewis Street; 203-769-1800; movetubenetwork.com

Photograph by Bob Luckey Jr.

 

 

Hidden Gem

Photographs by Julie Bidwell
Above: Chef Ian Vest • Organic salmon with asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, cannellini bean and basil puree.

Whether you’re a diehard food-stagrammer or you think that snapping your supper is déclassé, you’ll have to admit that the dishes at Back 40 Kitchen come out ready for the paparazzi. The vegetables and fruits starring on the menu here—many sourced from Back 40 Farm up in Washington, Connecticut—dazzle with their color. Even if I wasn’t taking notes, I’d be tempted to sneak a screenshot of the vibrant green fiddleheads nestled against the pink salmon and the strawberries and sorrel mixed into the beet salad. In the hands of Chef Ian Vest, who’s newer to the restaurant, these beautiful ingredients translate to big flavor.

Left: Grass-fed beef with cauliflower and confit potato
Right: Black bean and beet veggie burger with fermented vegetable slaw, hand-cut fries and fresh greens

Since Chef Ian took the helm in the kitchen, he has introduced a six-course tasting menu with an option for wine pairings. It’s a chance for him to connect with guests one on one, first discussing their preferences and dietary restrictions and then turning out a creative meal to suit, working with the freshest ingredients that day. When you’re ordering from the main menu à la carte, as we did on a recent Friday night, everything from drinks to dessert can also be customized to your tastes and needs—whether you’re gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan or you simply don’t like lima beans.

The setting for this personalized, farm-driven restaurant is intimate: a rustic space set on the second floor (main entrance is behind the Avenue) with farmhouse décor, reclaimed wood walls, a giant blackboard mural of vegetables and a cupola ceiling. It’s a spot for lunch or dinner with friends, a date night or a family meal when you want to be able to hear your conversation; there are just twelve individual tables plus bar seating and two communal tables. On the night we went for dinner, seats were filled by around 7 p.m., with a mix of families and couples, including one that brought along a bottle of red (corkage fee is $35). From our table by the window, early evening light flooded in from the skylight and we could spy the old weathervane that tops the building.

Beet salad with strawberries, sorrel, fresh ricotta, spiced pecans in a citrus vinaigrette

Cocktails, like the rest of the menu, reflect the season, and we sipped on a summery white sangria with citrus and lots of apple pieces and The Alpaca, a blend of ginger beer with lime, basil and Barsol Pisco. There’s a nice list of mocktails including a coconut “no”-jito. Every meal begins with warm mini corn bread muffins, and we also ordered a roasted beets salad and charcuterie board to start. That bright and beautiful salad won over a friend who was beet-skeptical; we loved the textures and flavor combination of the lush strawberries, roasted beets and sorrel leaves with creamy ricotta and crunchy pecans. Served on a wooden plank, the charcuterie appetizer includes a mix of hard and soft cheeses, chorizo and a sweeter sausage (both house-made), onion jam, spicy pecans, delicious pickles and toasts—enough to enjoy a taste of cheese but not spoil your appetite.

There’s always at least one vegetarian entrée on the menu, but we gravitated toward the seafood and beef dishes. Pan-roasted salmon was cooked perfectly with that just-right crispy skin and paired with lovely fiddleheads, asparagus and a basil puree that’s like spring on a plate. The grass-fed beef, with its pinkish center, was completely tender and flavorful, accompanied by potatoes, cauliflower and arugula with a hint of Moroccan spice adding interest. I’m a fan of squid-ink pasta, and the slightly spicy spaghetti nero lived up to my craving: the black spaghetti tossed with grilled octopus, roasted peppers, green olives and capers.

Desserts are a definite, whether you sip on a mint-julep milkshake or choose straight-up sweets, as we did. The chocolate chip cookie in a mini cast-iron pan was warm from the oven, gooey and amazing, topped with vanilla ice cream; share if you want just a bite or two, otherwise order your own—it’s that good. I enjoyed the mixture of berries on the Pavlova, but the texture of the meringue was chewier than expected.

Blackberry Smash: Litchfield County Bourbon, muddled blackberry, lemon, bay leaf syrup.
Bees Need Honey: Bar Hill Gin, rose hip, turmeric honey.
Smoky Paloma: mezcales de leyenda, lime, ginger liqueur, grapefruit and smoked paprika popsicle
Right: Pavlova’s Meringue, mixed berries, mint, berry coulis

Whether you end your meal here with a post and hashtags or simply decide to tell a friend, it’s a farm-to-table experience destined to be shared.

107 Greenwich Avenue, 203-992-1800; back40kitchen.com


QUICK BITES

CHEF’S SPECIALS
This time of year, one of the chef’s favorite ingredients is morel mushrooms. “He loves the vibrant color of peas and anything green! It’s nice to feature something bright
on the plate,” says General Manager Susan Mason.

FRESH SIPS
Guests can’t get enough of the Farmer in the Jungle cocktail, a mix of Prairie Vodka, hibiscus, mint and lime served in a glass rimmed with pink peppercorn; and the lush Blackberry Smash with muddled blackberry, lemon juice, bay leaf syrup and Litchfield County Bourbon is a summer must-order.

VINO VALUES
If you eat out on Win(e)down Wednesdays, every bottle of wine under $100 is half-price

HOURS
Tuesday–Friday, lunch,  11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.; dinner, 5–9 pm;
Saturday, lunch, 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.; dinner, 5–10 p.m.

 

 

A Gracious Update

We’re all shopping online more than ever before—even putting big-ticket items like rugs and chairs into our virtual carts. Still, there are times when you want to touch and feel something (and learn more about it) before making that purchase. Luxury bedding and bath is one of those categories and that happens to be a specialty of Gracious Home, the New York City housewares store that’s reinventing itself under the guidance of its new CEO, Greenwich’s Rob Morrison.

The retailer reopened its Manhattan store last spring with a smaller 3,000-square-foot footprint, but it’s expanding its online presence and considering a future storefront on Greenwich Avenue. “We have a tremendous number of consumers from Greenwich, whether they have dual homes or they just come into the city to shop,” says Rob, who notes that living in Greenwich helps him stay on the pulse of these core customers and understand their shopping habits. “I ship more to Greenwich than to the rest of Connecticut.”

For customers here and in Manhattan, Gracious Home 2.0 is paring down its selection to focus on the categories that have proven to be its most profitable. “Unless you’re Amazon, you can’t afford to be all things to all people, which we were trying to be, carrying everything from doorknobs to chandeliers,” he says. The store will stock a choice selection of upscale bedding (“sheets that get better with age if you take care of them and last fifteen to twenty years”), high-end bath, table linens as well as lighting and lightbulbs.

Gracious Home also offers a seamless online shopping experience. A new high-tech ordering system lets shoppers access their past purchases and ensures that the throw they’re buying online, for instance, will match the sheets they picked up in the store two months ago. GH also works closely with design professionals. With the new site, designers can log on to their private portals to access purchase history, organize orders for clients and receive a trade discount. But when designers or individual customers prefer to call the store directly and talk to the sales associate who’s been helping them for the past twenty years, they can do that too.

Looking to Refresh your own Abode? These are some of the Timeless Top Sellers

Yves Delorme Palais pillows

 

Kelly Wearstler Halcyon Table Lamp

 

Mike + Ally White Ice Bath Accessories

 

Yves Delorme Athena Bedding Collection

Ride On

A Spanish fashion brand founded by polo patron Oscar Bermudez has opened its first U.S. outpost in Greenwich. At the new MONTEPICAZA shop on the Avenue, the décor reflects the equestrian-inspired attire with illustrated horse wallpaper and window displays featuring polo mallets and balls. Shop here for men’s and women’s sportswear all made in Spain: cool jackets with patterned linings, gorgeous riding boots with tassels and real polo shirts (Bermudez outfits his two polo teams outside of Madrid in Montepicaza). Accessories such as duffle bags and purses with leather trim, bow ties and corded key chains with metal stirrups complete the look.

“Oscar has an eye for detail and wanted to offer what his competitors are not—fine tailoring that you won’t see anywhere else at this price point,” says Ellen Christian-Reed, who with partner Victor del Cerro brought the brand to the States. “Greenwich is a natural launching point for the brand because it aligns with the lifestyle and demographics, classic and elegant,” she says, also noting that there are fifty stores in Spain, and she is looking at Nantucket, The Hamptons and Palm Beach as possible future sites. This summer expect a colorful collection of skirts, dresses and trousers as well as shoes. Montepicaza will also participate in the Polo Family Fun Day on June 18 at Greenwich Polo Club, which will include sale of the collection and a mini fashion show.

371 Greenwich Avenue, 203-542-5360; montepicazausa.com

 

 

Dream Weavers

Above: Elegantly appointed bedrooms are a Togas specialty.

In our quest for the perfect night’s sleep, many of us are no strangers to luxury linens. But even those well-versed in the highest-end brands may find themselves cozying up to something new after scoping out the selection at TOGAS HOUSE OF TEXTILES: Think hand-drawn patterns and fabrics (cashmeres, silks, crisp cottons) that beg to be touched.

This family-owned Greek company, founded in 1926, recently opened its first U.S. store in Greenwich; a boutique on Fifth Avenue will follow later this year. Togas offers a range of coordinating linens, towels and more. “Everything is orchestrated by our creative team in Greece with a sophisticated approach, it’s not matchy-matchy,” says Paula Tovitch, store manager. The patterns represent an eclectic mix of styles, opulent and traditional looks as well as modern silhouettes.

To create bespoke bedding, draperies and upholstery with made-to-measure fabrics, the company’s designers make house calls, helping clients with color palettes and aesthetics. “We’ll sketch three possible versions for a design for a bedroom,” says Paula. Togas also works with interior designers, offering a trade discount. Beyond the bedding, draperies, table linens and accessories, Togas specializes in the nuts and bolts of bedding, the duvets and pillows underneath it all. Choose from Austrian and Mazurian down-filled duvets; cashmere and silk duvets filled with camel hair, which can be beneficial for people with arthritis. There’s even an anti-stress pillow, which features a grid of fine-gauge iron threads, and eco-friendly Lyocell sheeting (made with fibers from eucalyptus trees) that rivals silk in its softness.
51 East Putnam Ave., 203-900-1555; togas.com


STEP INSIDE

Here, just a sampling of the ultra-luxe offerings from togas house. We’re pretty sure you’ll never want to leave the house.


GORGEOUS TABLES
Jardin Tablecloth
Togas’ elegant offerings aren’t just for the bedroom.


SNUGGLE UP
Santorini Bathrobe
It’s perfect for comfy lounging.


MORE THAN A TOWEL
Olympia Gray Towels
Sure, they’ll dry you off, but they’ll also look gorgeous hanging in your bathroom.

 

 

Super Bowls

Photographs by Christian Harder
Above: The urban-Zen vibe is a welcome addition to the Rye dining scene  • Marketbowl of toasted quinoa, wild sockeye salmon, Sicilian cauliflower and spring radish

Our appetite for healthy fast food shows no sign of letting up, and Dig Inn brings a hip, farm-to-counter option to our area. A suburban outpost of the popular New York eatery, Dig Inn opened in the Rye Ridge Shopping Center a few months ago, serving up “vegetable-forward” dishes in a Zen-like open space, all light wood and marble with a completely open kitchen. You watch the cooking happen while you’re ordering, cafeteria/food hall style. Up front there’s a dining area with big communal tables that attracts a quick turnaround lunch crowd, and in back, the seating has more of a café feel with individual tables for people who want to linger over a cup of Counter Culture coffee, MatchaBar matcha or a glass of wine, local beer or cider.

Chic communal tables – Photo courtesy of DIG INN

The menu centers around what’s called a “Marketbowl,” and you pick your base, market sides and protein to create lunch or dinner in a bowl, or to make any meal vegetarian, opt for an extra side or grilled organic tofu as the protein. All calorie counts are listed, as well as what’s vegan and what contains soy, egg, dairy and gluten—helpful for those with restricted diets. The base choices include toasted quinoa with preserved lemon, brown rice and farm greens that change depending on what’s in season. We liked the blend of greens with kale, baby romaine, chervil and mint. Market sides range from seasonal veggies like sautéed broccoli with lemon and crunchy spring radishes to healthy takes on comfort foods such as cauliflower mac n’ cheese and roasted sweet potatoes. When I brought home the cauliflower mac n’ cheese as part of a “family meal” to go, my daughter devoured it as if it were the more sinful all-pasta version.

New sides for summer include tricolor carrots with rosewater vinaigrette, cantaloupe and arugula with lime leaf, roasted
asparagus and baby bok choy with yogurt and ranch. Fruits and vegetables are the stars here and mostly sourced from New York state farms: Burch Farms, Satur Farms, Eden Valley Growers, Red Jacket Orchards and more than a dozen others. Still, we also enjoyed the proteins, in particular the charred chicken—juicy pieces of thigh meat—and the wild sockeye salmon.

Kids dig the Happy Valley Meatballs, and they can order from the Little Digs Menu too, opting for mini marketbowls, crispy quinoa chicken nuggets and almond butter and banana sandwiches, waffle bites and other treats. On the weekends brunch is served with egg sandwiches, quinoa waffles, yogurt parfaits and more to pair with your coffee. Catering is also available for events, parties and office lunches. If you’re eating here for dinner, the prices seem quite reasonable at $9.78 to $12.81 per meal.

Tricolor carrots with rosewater vinaigrette • Artwork with a message

DIG INN
112 South Ridge Street, Rye Brook, NY
914-305-8463; diginn.com