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West Hartford Business Buzz: February 3, 2020

Pokemoto is now open at 970 Farmington Ave. in West Hartford Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.

By Ronni Newton

I’m writing this on Super Bowl Sunday – earlier in the day than I usually do so that I will be able to watch the game without worrying about working afterward, or during the game.

I definitely would not want to be working during the commercials, because that can be the best part, especially this year when the Patriots aren’t playing and I don’t have a strong feeling about either team. I’ve watched a few of the ads in advance, but would love some feedback in the comments section about your favorites!

Palm trees in Delray Beach. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

I’m also writing this from south Florida, and although I’m only about an hour from Hard Rock Stadium, I’m definitely not here for any reason related to the Super Bowl. My sister and I are visiting our dad, who moved to Delray Beach a few years ago. He was hospitalized in early December and has been in various medical facilities since then, and is currently in rehab where he is getting PT and OT. It’s great to see him, and I am hoping our visit somehow spurs him to regain some of the strength he has lost during this ordeal and perhaps (hopefully) return to his home at some point. It’s incredibly difficult seeing a parent age, but I am so glad we’ve had this time together.

Sunday’s weather was chilly by south Florida standards. As I write this it’s 59 degrees and there is actually a wind chill! But there are palm trees (always good for the soul in my opinion), flowers in bloom, and bright sunshine, and to me it feels delightful. Monday is supposed to be in the mid-70s, and we do plan to spend at least a little bit of time at the beach in between visits to dad, before returning to West Hartford on Tuesday.

I can actually say it feels like Groundhog Day, because as I write this it is Groundhog Day, and I am going to copy the same exact paragraph I wrote last year because the predictions were exactly the same: I was thrilled to hear the prognostications of both Groundhog-in-Chief Punxsutawney Phil and Connecticut’s top groundhog, Chuckles at the Lutz Children’s Museum, both of whom are forecasting an early spring. Cider, the resident groundhog at the Children’s Museum in West Hartford, has some other ideas, but as much as I like keeping it local, I’m hoping the others are correct.

If you have tips about businesses opening or closing, or doing something worth sharing, please provide that information in the comments or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].

Here’s this week’s Buzz:

Hawaiian Bowl from Pokemoto, 970 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

  • A former mortgage office has been fully transformed – and as of Thursday Pokémoto is now open in West Hartford Center! Yes, it’s the town’s fourth poké restaurant, but they are all fairly well spread out (Corbin’s Corner, Bishops Corner, Blue Back, and the Center), and personally I am addicted to poké so I think it’s great to never have one too far away, and each one is a bit different. Pokémoto is a Connecticut-based franchise, and the largest poké franchise in the state, said David Monk, owner of the West Hartford franchise location. Marcus Satavu, a member of Pokémoto’s franchising team who was assisting with the soft opening on Friday, said one of the best things about poké is that you’re getting good quality food, but good quantity, too. “It gives me the energy I need,” Satavu said. If it’s your first time having poké, Savatu recommends trying the Hawaiian Bowl (wild caught ahi tuna, sweet onions and cilantro tossed in spicy mayo, topped with masago, green onions, shredded nori, and crispy onions) – and if you’re not a “tuna head,” he recommends the Miso Salmon Bowl (salmon, sweet onions, diced mangoes, and cilantro tossed in a creamy miso, topped with garlic chips). There are several other signature bowls, as well as “build your poké” options, a housemade miso soup, and a dole whip float. Pokémoto is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. The grand opening will be held soon, Monk said. Pokémoto has approximately 10 employees. See additional photos below.

    Miriam Taylor (left) and Drew Barrymore. Courtesy photo

  • Some very exciting news for Miriam Taylor, owner of Taste by Spellbound, who was chosen to appear on “Beat Bobby Flay”! Being on the show was stressful, and exciting, she said. You are given a “secret ingredient,” she said, and the goal is to use that ingredient in as many ways as possible, and create a dish and clean everything up in 20 minutes. It was a completely new kitchen, Miriam said, and at first she froze and couldn’t even figure out how to put her apron on, or how to use the non-commercial Kitchen Aid mixer. “It was pandemonium,” she said, but added “I just loved the experience.” The judges – in this case actress Drew Barrymore (whom she said is “as sweet as pie”) and chef Michael Voltaggio – taste the creations and choose which of the contestants moves on to the next round, where they are pitted against Bobby Flay. In the second round, Miriam said, contestants get to choose what to make and then Bobby Flay has the opportunity to create his own dish to trump that. Only four episodes a season are dedicated to baking, she said, and even though Bobby Flay is a chef, he still usually beats the contestant because he has such a fabulous ability to combine flavor, she said. “Even being asked to be on the show meant more to me than anything else,” she said. “I’m just self-taught and don’t put my self in those leagues, so having them think I had what it took want a lot.” The show featuring Miriam will be broadcast Feb. 9 at 10 p.m. (on the Food Network). Since it’s so late at night, she said she will probably just watch at home with her parents and sister, because she has to be at the shop at 6 a.m. the next day. She can’t say how she did, or if she moved on to the next round.

    From left: Karen Herbert, Mike Mahoney, Kimberly Moster, Jason Jakubowski, AL Marino, Matt Banever, and Barbara Karsky. Courtesy photo

  • This year’s WeCare Card fundraiser, which was held in early November in West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square, raised $8,000 for Foodshare. The check was delivered last week, and the following was posted on Foodshare’s Facebook page: “Did you know? An estimated 10% of people in West Hartford lack consistent access to enough food. Last year, Foodshare distributed over 250,000 meals to West Hartford. We cannot do this work alone. From all of us at Foodshare we say THANK YOU to West Hartford Center Business Association and the West Hartford Property Managers who have been invaluable partners over the years. The WeCare Card program has been an extremely successful fundraiser that not only supports us and the work we do but gets our friends and neighbors out into the community to support our local business owners. The funds raised will help us provide over 42,000 meals of food to those in need!”

    Tyler Anderson (we-ha.com file photo)

  • Tyler Anderson, a West Hartford resident and renowned restaurateur, has announced that Restaurant Porrón, located in the Goodwin Hotel in Hartford (1 Haynes St.), will be closed this week and then reopen Feb. 10 with a new Cal-Italian menu and a new name – Terreno. “Cal-Italian food can be described as Italian inspired cooking using local ingredients, simple presentations and healthy fresh food options,” states a press release. “Restaurant Porrón was inspired by a love of Spanish-style cuisine,” said Anderson in a press release. “And that’s because it was inspired by a trip I took with my wife, and my role as a culinary ambassador to Spain in 2017. Now, after our newlywed year, I continue to be inspired by my family, and look forward to letting the menu reflect that once again. Our team will stay close to our roots with our farm-fresh New England ingredients guiding dishes that evoke the familiarity of my childhood in California and the flavors of my wife’s Sicilian ancestry.” Bar Piña, Porrón’s sister bar – with stylings that pay homage to Connecticut’s colonial publishing heritage – will remain open throughout the restaurant’s rebrand: donuts, unlimited dinner menu and all. Menu items will include a variety of homemade pasta dishes, some pizzette options and Chef-driven comfort food inspired by Italy. Anderson’s team (TandA Restaurant Group) includes Business Partner and Director of Operations, A.J. Aurrichio, well-known for operating some of the state’s most award-winning and talked about restaurants: Millwright’s Restaurant in Simsbury, Square Peg in Glastonbury, and The Cook & The Bear formerly in West Hartford, along with Hamilton Park and High George in New Haven. “I am so excited that Tyler Anderson continues to share his visions and culinary talents with the restaurant, lounge and meeting venues at The Goodwin Hotel,” said Hotelier Randy Salvatore. “This will continue to elevate the dining experience for our guests at The Goodwin, residents of the City and employees from Hartford and all of the surrounding areas.” Anderson’s accolades include: Best Chef Northeast award from The James Beard Foundation for the past seven years (2014-2020), Best Chef in Connecticut by the CT Restaurant Association (2015), Bravo Top Chef Season 15 “Cheftestant.” He has appeared on several Food Network shows, and he and his team give much of their time to charitable causes including Share our Strength (Chef Chair, four years), American Liver Foundation, March of Dimes and many, many others. More information about Terreno can be found online after Feb. 10 at www.terrenorestaurant.com, as well as through Instagram (handle to be announced). Hours will remain the same and gift cards to Restaurant Porrón will be honored forever. Terreno will accept reservations via OpenTable. To contact the restaurant directly use 860-904-3101.
  • Mike Youmans, a West Hartford resident and owner of College Prep Express, has just published “The CommonApp Handbook.” He provided the following details about the book: “For over 30 years, I’ve dedicated my professional career to helping students achieve their academic and collegiate dreams. I wrote The CommonApp Handbook in an effort to capture the insights and strategies I’ve developed and offered to hundreds of college-bound students to help future families realize their college admissions goals without the need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars in consultation fees. The Handbook can hep college-bound students by offering 1) easy, step-by-step instructions to complete college applications in a way that casts them in the best possible light, and 2) strategic advice that plays specifically to what admissions officers are looking for in an era of continuously dwindling admissions rates. It is my fondest wish that the Handbook will help level the playing field for students of all backgrounds and create more opportunities for every student to have their college dreams come true. It took me over 5 years to write, but I am delighted with the outcome and would say it was time well spent. The paperback Handbook is on sale at Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/CommonApp-Handbook-selective-dwindling-admissions/dp/1085801268.

    Kevin Sullivan. Submitted photo

  • Congrats to West Hartford resident Kevin Sullivan, who has been named to the Board of Directors of Chrysalis Center, Inc., an organization for which he has been a long-time friend and supporter. A news release from Chrysalis Center states: “Former Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services, Sullivan served as Connecticut’s 106th Lieutenant Governor, President Pro Tempore in the State Senate and Mayor of West Hartford. Known for his advocacy work in community, Commissioner Sullivan has served on numerous college and nonprofit boards, including Chair of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Partnership for Strong Communities, a statewide nonprofit policy and advocacy organization dedicated to ending homeless and expanding affordable housing. He received his BA from Trinity College and JD from UConn School of Law and resides in West Hartford with his wife Carolyn Thornberry.”
  • Kate Farrar of West Hartford, who has announced her candidacy for the 20th District House seat, will will step down from her position as executive director of the nonprofit Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF) in May to pursue her election bid, the Hartford Business Journal reported last week.
  • Congratulations to West Hartford resident Nicholas M. Sheridan, who has been named chair of the Professional Advisory Committee (PAC) at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the community foundation serving the 29-town Greater Hartford region. The Foundation announced the following a news release last week: “Sheridan is a financial planner for Lindberg & Ripple, an independent advisory firm. With more than 12 years of professional experience and several professional certifications, Sheridan provides personalized financial planning through a process of listening, understanding, transparency and attention to detail. He began volunteering with the Foundation’s PAC in 2018, and was a Hartford Business Journal “40 Under 40″ recipient in 2019. Sheridan is also a board member of the Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective and is involved with the Bushnell Young Professionals. In his personal life, he enjoys do-it-yourself projects on his cars and home, maintaining a fitness routine, playing golf, and making people laugh. Sheridan is a 2007 graduate of the University of Connecticut. He works and lives in West Hartford with his wife Jennifer.”

    Courtesy Hartford Baking Company

  • It hasn’t been a horribly cold winter thus far, but February has just begun and we are bound to get some more wintry weather. There’s not much better to combat winter chill than hot chocolate, and February is once again hot chocolate month at Hartford Baking Company. From a news release: “Luckily for us, February is a leap year month. That gives us one extra day to order and enjoy a fresh, house made hot chocolate (NOT to be confused with hot cocoa). Celebrate all month long at both cafes (limited supplies daily) with the following line up: Week of Feb. 1: Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate; Week of Feb. 10: Dark Dark Hot Chocolate; Week of Feb. 17: Vegan Coconut Hot Chocolate; Week of Feb. 24: Unicorn Hot Chocolate. Marshmallow lovers can also enjoy house-made heart-shaped marshmallows during the week of Feb. 10 – just in time for Valentine’s Day.”
  • ICYMI, the latest Experience We-Ha podcast feature an interview with Grace Napolitano regarding coaching women in business. Click here to listen.

Remember, if you have any business news to share, add it in the comments section below or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].

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Hawaiian Bowl from Pokemoto, 970 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Dole Whip Float at Pokemoto, 970 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Pokemoto, 970 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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  • Hi Ronnie
    I thought that you only advertised people’s deals, as you have done for the Hartford Baking Company, if it was related to a fundraiser or such. Has your venue changed and people can pay to advertise there weekly /monthly specials in your weekly column ? Seems confusing as Hartford Baking is a regular in your column as to what they sell without anything else attached to it. Thanks. Mike

    • Hi Mike! Nothing has changed, but I just happen to like hot chocolate, and I got a press release about this and decided to include it. I do it from time to time if I think it will appeal to people. I typically will include menu revamps or new operations. We don’t advertise sales, however, unless it’s a paid ad or as part of a post about a business closing. ~Ronni

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