Inside Job

This summer Laura Michaels moved her interior design studio from Armonk to the spot in Glenville that Finch’s Pharmacy called home for forty years. The totally renovated 1,800-square-foot space showcases her hip, glam, yet very approachable design aesthetic. When so many designers think small, Laura goes big, maximizing design to scale, a concept she says the restaurant and hotel industries execute so well.

Her goal is to make the design process exciting and pleasurable. “People don’t realize that interior design can be fun. They think it has to be so serious. I am out to change that,” she says. You know you’re in for a treat as soon as you step inside the studio and retail space where soothing grays and whites serve as the backdrop. Here, customers can pop in, look around, peruse the furniture, grab a hostess gift—easily done since items start at $20—or an accessory for their home.

Walk through the store and up a step into the studio, where the design magic happens. Laura works in both residential and commercial spaces and does it all—from creating custom-made furniture manufactured in the U.S. to designing tile tableaus you’ll never see in your neighbor’s home. (Ask to see her metal-stud tiles.)

“I connect easily with my clients. They inspire me and I draw from that to create designs that fit their personalities,” she says.

3 Riversville Road, 203-531-7047; lauramichaelsdesign.com


5 WAYS TO REFRESH FOR LAURA MICHAELS, DESIGN IS IN THE DETAILS. HERE, SHE OFFERS EASY WAYS TO GIVE YOUR SPACE A NEW LOOK.

1  PAINT
“People tend to use safe colors, usually in lighter shades,” Laura says. She suggests choosing one room—or maybe just a wall—and paint it a dense, dark color in a glossy paint that will reflect light. Want to kick it up a tad? “Lacquer a wall or a ceiling. Heaven!” she says.

2  DECLUTTER
Get rid of all the little stuff in your home, like figurines or vases. “Small doesn’t make a statement, but many people are afraid of large scale and are comfortable with small,” she says. “Think of a coffee table, with three small items on it. Instead, add one large piece and people will notice.”

3  ART
For clients looking for serious art that will increase in value, Laura works with a curator. If you’re on a budget, she suggests coffee table art, reproductions that add charm and character.

4  PILLOWS
A selection of pillows can change the feel of any room. Often, they add just the pop of color your room needs.

5  LIGHTING
Laura suggests finding the smallest fixture you have. Then buy a substitute that will take up as much room as possible. That’s how you make a statement!

 

 

The Art of Design

Gilles and Aida Clement recognized Fairfield County needed a gallery that showcased the contemporary, adventurous art offered in Chelsea—New York City’s premier contemporary art district. They also knew they possessed the pedigrees and knowledge to create such a daring, exciting undertaking.

Three years ago, they established the Gilles Clement Gallery in Westport and last December opened its sister at 45 East Putnam Avenue in Greenwich. Most recently they added to the family in July with a new unique design studio located at 120 East Putnam Avenue.

The studio, Gilles Clement Designs, specializes in European transitional design that focuses on elegance and comfort while pushing artistic boundaries—a style that makes Gilles feel most comfortable. Raised in Paris, his artistic parents were always on the move, and the young Gilles felt equally at home in Geneva, Switzerland, Monte Carlo and at their Westport country house. “It was the seventies, and I lived a very extravagant and very sophisticated life surrounded by celebrities, art and artists,” he says.

This influence has fostered an aesthetic that is now seen in some of the chicest homes in Fairfield County. His designs are bold, original and creative, incorporating the unexpected into a base of elegance and refinement. “We understand our clients’ vision and carefully guide them through each step in the design process,” he says.

Of the gallery just down the road, Gilles says, “We have created spaces featuring an international collection of artists that you would traditionally not find outside of a main city. Our clients are telling us that they have never seen so many pieces in one gallery. We are raising the bar, creating something that is a novelty.”

Expect to find an impressive array of pop and street art from up-and-coming and established American and international artists. Gilles also works with other galleries to provide works for his clients from artists outside his stable. gclementdesigns.com; gclementgallery.com


THREE RULES TO BUY BY
GILLES CLEMENT’S ADVICE TO ART COLLECTORS IS SIMPLE:

1 BUY WHAT YOU LOVE
“You will never go wrong if you follow this simple advice.”

2 DON’T THINK OF ART AS AN INVESTMENT
“Every time someone makes an amazing investment in art, it is because they love it. It all comes back to love.”

3 DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR ADVICE
No worries if you can’t make up your mind. Gilles says he often goes into a prospective client’s home to understand their style and then points them in the direction of artists he feels are in line with who they are.

 

 

Cooking Up Something New

Louis Van Leeuwen would often drive by the old Town and Country building on Mianus Pond and think, “What a dump.” But as owner of Greenwich Construction, he knew he could do something about it.

Last year he bought the building, restored it to its original architectural beauty, and today it serves as the headquarters for his two businesses, the construction company and Curry & Kingston Cabinetry. Although kitchen and bath projects have always been integral to his business, the new headquarters—an ultra-chic industrial space—is the perfect backdrop for a retail design showroom headed by Curry & Kingston’s partner and director of design, Kathy Currie. Van Leeuwen calls her the “brains behind the business.”

The showroom offers high-end cabinetry, and although it doesn’t compete with big-box stores, he says his customers are often surprised how competitive his prices are. He credits the company’s success to a combination of design talent, price and quality.

“There are a lot of architects and designers that don’t listen to the customer. Before they even talk to them, they decide what they want to design. Kathy is a super-talented designer who listens very carefully to what the customer wants, then takes that information and interprets their wants and needs into a design that works for them. The result is always functional and quite beautiful.”

He adds that no job is too small—or big—for his company to handle. “Come in, look around, and see what we can do for you,” he suggests.


Curry & Kingston
209 River Road Extension, Cos Cob, 203-900-1121; curryandkingston.com

 

 

Mangia Tutti!

There are many reasons to head to Table 104. First, al fresco on the patio, a warm-weather go-to spot that invites with its wood-slat floor, lots of umbrellas and sails to keep the sun off your face, comfy blue-and-white striped cushions on the benches, and sturdy granite-topped tables. Relaxing and lovely. Indoors, its modern yet still homey, with lots of wood and soft lighting that add to its cozy and welcoming ambiance. Then there is its location on the lower Long Ridge Road, that area of town between downtown and the country. Plenty of parking means easy access; always a plus in Stamford.

But the real reason is the food, which is consistently top notch. Authentic? You bet. It reminded us of dinners we enjoyed in Tuscany, minus the hills.

Everyone begins with a basket of bread. Yes, we know many skip the bread to save calories, but our advice is to dig in. Half of the slices are plain, the other half crusted with wheat berries and seeds, but no matter which you choose, know that this bread is worth a few extra minutes on the treadmill. And the accompanying olive oil is perfection—buttery and rich, with a slight pepper kick at the end.

The best place to begin ordering is from the top of the menu, the section titled “Boards,” all served with sautéed mushrooms, a mustard-fruit relish and grilled crostini. We picked two: a sweet and delicate prosciutto di Parma that proved to be an exquisite complement to the mozzarella di bufala, with its thin outside skin and creamy core.

We always judge a restaurant by its calamari, and Table 104’s was faultless. Not a rubbery bite in the batch, this calamari is tender and sweet. The batter is light, letting the baby calamari’s flavor shine through; the accompanying arrabbiata sauce gave it just the right amount of seasoning. We also ordered the meatballs, three good-sized globes of meat—not a filler in sight—that would be enough to make a lovely light dinner with a salad on the side.

But we were here to eat, so on to the pizza. There are six to choose from, but when one is named Hell, our choice was simple. We wished our crust was a little crispier, although it did have a wonderful flavor, more like a bread than a pizza crust. As for the toppings? Amazing!

The Hell pizza, with a serving of 104 Meatballs

We knew the pizza was living up to its name when the braver soul in our party took his first bite and his eyes started watering. He had hit a long hot pepper on the first bite, and he loved every spicy minute. Hell also features soppressata and tomatoes, and that wonderful buffalo mozzarella making a repeat appearance. We all agreed that “heaven” would have been a better title for this pizza, but we bet Hell gets far more takers.

For the entrées, we tried the rigatoni, served with Cajun chicken, borlotti beans and broccoli; and although everything was cooked exactly as it should be, we thought the chicken needed more spice to live up to its Cajun label. Out of curiosity, we also tried the whole wheat spaghetti because honestly, none of us have ever tasted a whole wheat spaghetti that we didn’t think was gummy.

Whole wheat spaghetti with zucchini, pistachios, and pecorino.

Based on our calamari experience, we thought we would give Table 104 another challenge, and this dish made us converts. It was excellent and served al dente with a sweet, rich olive oil sauce, zucchini and our favorite nut, pistachios. We need that recipe!

The Montauk fried calamari with arrabbiata

The grilled hanger steak was impeccably done. If not cooked properly, this cut can be tough, but that was not the case here. It is cut on the bias, served with a subtle parsley chimichurri and a warm potato salad with wilted greens. This is truly an impressive, delightful meal.

Grilled hanger steak with parsley chimichurri, warm potato salad and seasonal greens

We usually save room for dessert, but not this day. We were beyond stuffed, and took home lots of goody bags that made a meal the next day.

Guess you will have to head to Table 104 to sample the desserts for yourself. We’ve vowed to leave room for the next visit.

A server prepares for the dinner rush

Quick Bites

1. Social Hour:
Tue.–Fri.
4–6:30 p.m.
half off selected appetizers, pizza, well drinks, beer and house wines

2. Monday Nights:
50 percent off bottles of wine

3. Sunday Brunch:
Bottomless mimosas and mango bellinis, $14


Table 104 Osteria  & Bar
299 Long Ridge Road
203-388-8898
table104stamford.com

Cuisine:
Tuscan

Hours:
Mon.–Thu. 
11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.

Fri.–Sat.
11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m.

Sun. 
11:30 a.m.–9 p.m

Wine Not?

Wine cellars have long been all the rage. But why not let someone else do the cooking and throw a culinary celebration for all the oenophiles in your life? Here are four terrific private wine rooms where you can turn any occasion into something extraordinary.

GM-TN-WineNot-2
GABRIELE’S
The lighting in the wine room of GABRIELE’S STEAKHOUSE is magical, gently illuminating the onyx dining table and floor-to-ceiling wine racks lining the walls. Customize your own food and wine event, or choose one of the six party menus for a night to remember with up to twenty-eight guests. Gabriele’s offers four- or five-course wine dinners throughout the year.

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NAPA & CO.
Back in the day, Napa & Co. of Stamford included a tiny wine store, which was soon converted to the WINE CLOSET, an engaging spot where groups of two to ten eat at an antique pine table surrounded by racks of wine. There are minimums for the room—breakfast, $75; lunch, $200; dinner, $500—and you can either order off the menu or create a special tasting of your own.

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WASHINGTON PRIME
Washington Prime’s PARTY ROOM in Norwalk offers a gorgeous view of the water and the Maritime Aquarium, plus a seventy-inch flatscreen that is WiFi-, AppleTV- and Smart TV-ready, making it the perfect vehicle for presentations, photo collages and videos. The room capacity is twenty-four seated, thirty-five standing, and tables and the menu can be configured to meet your needs.

GM-TN-WineNot-5
VALBELLA
More than 10,000 wine bottles encased in mahogany racks embellish the walls of VALBELLA’S WINE ROOM, making this a mecca for wine lovers. But there’s more: A roaring fireplace and heated granite dining table ensure a party here will be memorable. You and your guests can order from the menu or design a customized dinner to appeal to your party of six to sixteen.

Photographs: corks by istockphoto.com © Luso; madonia by Katie Lauricella; others courtesy of restaurants

 

Cool Comfort

There are a number of reasons to love Del Frisco’s Grille, one of Stamford’s newest restaurants. Begin with its location, smack in the heart of downtown. Add to that a great vibe, comfy seating, its “Meat Up” menu with catchy food categories, and its coconut cream pie—hold that thought—to name a few.

What’s also striking are the acoustics and the ambiance. As you walk in, you register inviting music and the murmur of happy chatter—the place does draw a high-energy crowd—but it does not overwhelm, and once seated you can speak in normal tones. We love, love, love this because all too often we wake the next morning with a sore throat from shouting at our companions just to be heard. The décor, too, is calming: dark wood tones, flattering yellow lighting and a semi-industrial ceiling softened by barn-board wood panels that we suspect are key to the softening acoustics. And on each table is the coolest salt and pepper shaker.

Ahi Tacos
Ahi Tacos

Now, onto the food, beginning with “Food to Fight Over,” which tops the menu. We commend the chef who developed Cheesesteak Egg Rolls. The mastermind took Philadelphia’s favorite beef-and-cheese classic, neatly stuffed it into the crispiest egg roll, and set it on a plate with a perfect blend of sweet-and-spicy chili sauce. Get an order for everyone at the table; you won’t want to share. The Ahi Tacos are also spot-on, crispy and stuffed with a zesty lime-scented tuna tartare that is paired with a spicy citrus mayo, which provides just the right amount of tempered kick. Asian Street Tacos—barbecue pork served with cooling pickled daikon and carrots—is another must-try. (For lunch, you’ll find the same pork mixture served as a Banh Mi.) The only disappointment was the Roasted Corn Bisque, which simply needed more corn.

It’s here you’ll also find Del Frisco’s four flatbread offerings—Roasted Tomato, Wild Mushroom, Sausage and Pepperoni, and Spicy Meatball—any that could be a meal. Same goes for the “Big Greens” salads. The table shared the Kale & Brussels Sprouts; yes, kale is hot now, but when mixed with roasted almonds, a sweet tone of dried cranberries and oranges, shaved Manchego, and a tangy Creole mustard vinaigrette, it really is special.

A word about meat: Del Frisco’s is a chain, and many know its sister restaurants, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House and Sullivan’s Steakhouse. So if meat is your thing, you can’t go wrong. The cheeseburgers feature two double patties with lettuce, tomato, red onion and “Sloppy Sauce,” and are served with an adorable little personal plastic ketchup bottle. And the “Signature Steaks”—filet mignon, New York strip and rib eye—are all served with a choice of hand-mashed potatoes, Sea Salt & Parmesan Frites, Loaded Potato Cakes or shallot-buttered green beans.

Simply Roasted Chicken
Simply Roasted Chicken

Non-meat eaters take heart. There are other offerings, including the Bay of Fundy Salmon offered with chilled Brussels sprouts and quinoa salad. We tried the Simply Roasted Chicken, something you will find hard to resist. This version is moist and finger-lickin’ flavorful, bathed in jus that blends nicely with the mashed potatoes and crunchy asparagus also plated.

We skipped the sides but couldn’t help eyeing the Truffled Mac & Cheese. Definitely next time. And bring the family; although there is no printed children’s menu, there are plenty of offerings your server can recommend.

Definitely leave room for dessert, especially the coconut cream pie, one of the best desserts we’ve ever tasted. At its base is a vanilla wafer crust, topped with coconut custard and a huge mound of coconut-scented whipped cream, and garnished with coconut flakes and shaved white chocolate. Sweet-tooth heaven. As is the oh-so-gooey warm chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and the light butterscotch pudding in a jar, which is enticingly coated with a thick layer of soft salted caramel. We ate entirely too much, but it was worth every calorie.

Coconut Cream Pie
Coconut Cream Pie

DEL FRISCO’S GRILLE
101 Broad Street, Stamford
203-890-9601
delfriscosgrille.com

CUISINE:
American

HOURS: 
Monday–Thursday, 11:00 a.m.–10 p.m.;
Friday–Saturday, 11:00 a.m.–11 p.m.;
Sunday, 11:00 a.m.–9 p.m.