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V

V Bar, Westport

1460 Post Road East, Westport

When asked what she did for fun, a recent acquaintance of mine responded, “I go to the V bar on Wednesday nights for cosmos and free pizza.” 8 PM the next Wednesday found me and my new friend glued to a barstool, licking dry our near-empty martini glasses, and marveling at how three hours could fly by so quickly.

Robin’s note: They boast a selection of 21 wines by the glass, but their generous cosmo made me forget about the wine… and almost everything else.

Who drinks here: At happy hour, single people between 25-40. Later in the evening, couples 35-60 years old waiting for a table at the restaurant.

Their specialty: Wines by the glass.

What you should drink: Wednesday cosmo, baby!

What you may not know but should:
  1. They offer cosmos every night, but the hump day barkeep shakes it best.
  2. If your belly’s not at the bar, you’re not zoned for free pizza.

Bars + Baristas     Westport    
Monday, January 31, 2011 • Permalink

Balducci’s

Balducci's, Westport

1050 East Putnam Avenue, Greenwich
1385 Post Road East, Westport

Balducci’s is best known for being expensive. But did you know they have a nice café? You can settle down with a large cup of coffee and a scone, sushi, or sandwich. Actually, you can buy a dozen farm-raised littleneck clams and a pound of swiss cheese and eat it here; the cashier will ring up anything in the store you’d like with your beverage of choice.

Robin’s note: If you focus on your caffeine, you can almost imagine you’re in a quaint coffeeshop…. until some brown-suited wahoo squeezes through the tables with a cart full of groceries, holding up the coffee line for 15 minutes. Honestly—why?

Who you’ll see eating here: Local employees and women 40-60 years old meeting a friend for coffee.

Their specialty: Pre-made and made-to-order sandwiches, such as brie/ham on a baguette and mozzarella/sundried tomato.

What you should order: I love their scones.

What you may not but should: They have plenty of outdoor seating which, yes, is by Post Road, but set back far enough your snack is unscathed by flying debris and diesel fumes.
http://www.balduccis.com

Bars + Baristas     Greenwich     Westport    

Taco Loco

Taco Loco, Bridgeport

3170 Fairfield Avenue, Bridgeport

Yes, gentle readers, it’s named the “Crazy Taco” (or, according to Google Translate, “Crazy Plug”… yeah. Gross.) There’s very little “crazy” going on at this fabulous Mexican spot, where the food is fantastic but no one cares because the margaritas are AMAZING.

My faithful readers know of my undying quest for the best marg in FC and, ooh baby, it’s at this wacky, loony taco spot. They use Cuervo Silver tequila and Grand Marnier—no strange plastic-bottled tequila for these slushies!

The restaurant exterior blossoms with colorful flowers and the décor evokes an authentic Mexican cantina as envisioned by a Connecticut resident.

Robin’s note: They have a lovely wrap-around porch upon which we partook of our meal and marg(s), enjoying the waning summer evening sky while the hard iron chairs engraved a cross-hatch pattern onto my numbed butt.

Their specialty: While the staff has difficulty committing to one specialty, we were able to drag out of them that their fajitas are quite popular.

What you should order: Fajitas. Oh, and margaritas.

What you may not know but should: They’ve received a million awards for their food and drinks, so none of what you just read is news.
http://www.tacoloco.com

Dining     Fairfield    
Friday, January 28, 2011 • Permalink

Millie Rae’s

Millie Rae's, Westport

1799 Post Road East, Westport

A home décor boutique curiously located in a strip mall across from the Super Stop & Shop, Millie Rae’s belies its hokey name by stocking a lovely collection of new and antique furniture and decorative accessories. When I entered, the owner, Cheryl, was busily slapping 50% off stickers on a bunch of things, none of which included my purchases. Bummer.

The walls and most of the furnishings and accessories are white, with pops of light blues and greens, lending it a sort of “cottage on the seashore that’s not quite formal but definitely not casual” feel. I got a Queen Anne/18th century vibe from the furniture, much of which was artfully distressed to make it look, you know, used (or as if she had young children.)

Robin’s note: I loved the small collection of crystal jewelry, including the Notting Hill line made from antique shoe buckles and notions, and several fabulous, affordable rhinestone antique bracelets and necklaces. The only thing I need more than another necklace is a puncture wound. But I bought one anyway.

Who you’ll see shopping here: Westport and Fairfield women ages 35-70.

Their specialty: White furniture and mercury glass.

What you should buy: Beautiful mirrors, jewelry, and a great chandelier for only $550. I swear I saw the same one in Dovecote (write-up on this site).

What you may not know what should: She sells many items made by local artists and supports local charities.
http://www.millieraes.com

Home + Garden     Westport    
Wednesday, January 26, 2011 • Permalink

Stark Carpet Outlet

Stark Carpet Outlet, Norwalk

17 Butler Street, Norwalk

I have Stark carpeting in my bedrooms and it’s so expensive I’m surprised it hasn’t weaseled its way into rapper lexicon, like “homeboy be flossing his ice wanksta and Stark carpet” but, for whatever reason, it hasn’t. So I should have been excited about a Stark outlet but whenever I try to get there I’m distracted by Loehmann’s (I’m a gold card carrying member) and never make it around the corner.

But a friend of mine knows a woman who drives from Long Island to visit this outlet, so I decided to grit my teeth, tear myself away from the siren song of cut-rate Pradas and look at rugs. Friends, I’m now a rug shopper. The selection and discounts are incredible: as much as 75% off gorgeous woven and needlepoint rugs, many of which I saw in the New York showroom a few years ago. True, some of the large rugs run between $15K-30K, but that’s thousands of dollars less than original price.

The saleswoman let my kids run and run and run in the huge show space and on the rolls of carpeting upstairs (their shoes were clean), and we were all pleasantly exhausted by the time we left.

Robin’s note: Fabric and furniture is available as well. Fabric is sold by the bolt, with gorgeous silks and hand-painted fabrics going for as little as $55/bolt (each bolt may contain several yards, one fabric was originally $845/yard). Bolts run from $5 to $55. There is some Donghia furniture and I spotted a $1,675 mirrored lamp for $275. Remember to bring your fabric and paper swatches: some of the colors are tricky to match.

Their specialty: Woven and needlepoint rugs.

What you should buy: Fabric and needlepoint rugs.

What you may not know but should: Don’t get overly anxious when you see the “Take 50% off all sale prices!” sign. It’s pretty much up year-round.
http://www.starkcarpet.com

Home + Garden     Norwalk    

Mason

Mason, New Canaan

48 Elm Street, New Canaan

An empyrean for mid-century Modernist-philes, this chic boutique stocks a thoughtful selection of delights for decorating (lighting, furniture, accessories) and décolletage (estate costume and fine jewelry, including my favorite Cartier-designed icon: the boneless panther).

Robin’s note: The store, opened in Fall ’09 by gorgeous ex-fashion publicist Courtney Mason and her interior design partner Kristin Gallipoli, caters to the underserved slew of Frank Lloyd Wright homesteaders and enthusiasts.

Their specialty: Original ‘50s chandeliers.

What you should buy: I love the Babe Paley/disco ball chandeliers.

What you may not know but should: Attention Unattached Straight Men: Ms. Mason is single, so ask her out before the SoNo Baking Company hunk snaps her up (if, in fact, he’s single. Which I suspect but haven’t confirmed.)
http://www.masonstyle.net

Home + Garden     New Canaan    
Monday, January 24, 2011 • Permalink

SoNo Baking Company & Café

SoNo Baking Company, South Norwalk

101 South Water Street, South Norwalk

According to nutritionists, we crave carbs because they give us a high. So if carbs are the gourmand’s recreational drug of choice, then SoNo Baking Company is crack-cocaine. Seriously. If Dr. Atkins had consumed even the tiniest of muffin crumbs, he would have burned his books, planted himself next to the cooling racks and gained twenty-five pounds in 3 days.

Robin’s note: The café in SoNo is an immaculate white space with large plate glass windows through which you can watch the bakers. And by “bakers” I mean “performers”: it was riveting theatre. And it kept the kids entertained while we ate.

Who you’ll see eating here: Local yuppies (are we still using that word?) and young families.

Their specialty: Baked goods, especially bread.

What you should order: Chocolate croissant (two bars of chocolate!)

What you may not know but should:
  1. Muffins go quickly, so arrive early if you want one.
  2. Don’t order the fruit salad. It has apples and some other hard fruit.
  3. John Barricelli, the owner, is young, handsome, and will invite you into the kitchen to take a photo of your children looking through a plate glass window. No word on marital status.
http://www.sonobaking.com

Dining     Bars + Baristas     Norwalk    

L’Armoire

image

102 Park Street, New Canaan

I’ve shopped 95% of the clothing stores in Fairfield County. Which, admittedly, tap-dances the fine line between commitment to my profession and soft addiction. Be that as it may, I’m always thrilled to discover something different, such as L’Armoire.

L’Armoire is a fabulous wardrobe full of everything one needs to, say, tour the Pacific Rim for 6 days with one duffel bag and an itinerary full of hiking and black tie*. Diane, the owner (whose forearms sparkle with antique bracelets), and her associates create outfits for special occasions and assemble chic seasonal wardrobes for busy executives (and their lucky, lucky daughters). The wardrobes can include everytyhing from a winter scarf to the enormous antique diamond chandelier earrings I desperately want. She regularly dispatches associates to the city to find the perfect estate jewelry for clients and was currently dressing an unnamed (despite my prying) producer for the Emmys.

Christian Siriano swings happily from the same rack as Gossip and Gerard Darel with price points from ~$100-1,500 (or more for the swishy duds) but don’t fret: they’re tactfully sensitive to clients’ budgets.

Robin’s note: While I was there, a woman wandered in, looking for a sophisticated mother-of-the-bride dress while bemoaning the couple’s choice of groomsmen attire. Diane listened and offered her sympathies as well as attire suggestions, turning the experience into a sort of shopping excursion-cum-therapy-session. The perfect person, I realized, to help me with my shopping addiction.

Click to read the rest ... "L’Armoire"

Fashion     New Canaan    
Friday, January 21, 2011 • Permalink

Connecticut Braille Association

Connecticut Braille Association, Westport

44 Imperial Avenue, Westport

Robin’s note: File this under “Unsung Heroes”: the only Braille association in Connecticut is all volunteers (save one), and often outsources work to prisoners, with commendable results.

Who they are: CBA, with only one paid employee (director Micki McCabe), consists of a small number of committed folks with extensive experience and freelancers around the country. While Braille literacy is down, its proponents insist literacy is an integral part of education and communication for the vision-impaired. Currently, there are 100 Braille readers in Connecticut.

What they provide: The workers translate texts—from Harry Potter to science textbook—into Braille, using computer programs and those proficient in Braille. A small group of them work each day in the basement of their Westport headquarters.

Approximate number of employees: 1, and many volunteers.
(203) 227-5243‎

Give     Westport    

LF

LF, Westport, Greenwich

26 Main Street, Westport
319 Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich

A trendy teen’s fantasy store, to complement their fantasy bank account (sized accordingly).

Robin’s note: The well-intentioned salesgirls will say you look great in the micro mini-dress: don’t listen to them.

Who’ll you’ll see shopping here: Teens to women pushing 40 who wish they weren’t.

What’s their specialty: Anything taken to some sort of extreme: short, slashed, frills, or gauzy.

What you should buy: Cute (often revealing) day dresses and hip leather boots.

What you may not know but should: Great sales, twice a year.
http://www.lfstores.com

Fashion     Greenwich     Westport    
Thursday, January 20, 2011 • Permalink

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