A round-up of openings, closings, and other news about West Hartford businesses.
By Ronni Newton
I see a bit of blue sky on Sunday afternoon as I write this, but I feel like this month has continued to be ridiculously cold and gray. I know there have been worse (colder) Januarys, but recently I don’t seem to be able to warm up no matter how high I crank the heat in the house.
I actually went out for a run on Saturday morning. I might have been tempted to wimp out, except that I told my running buddy, Laurie, that I would run with her, and we had planned it for late morning when it was *supposed* to have warmed up a bit. The wind, however, was still whipping and it was about 14 degrees, but once we got going it wasn’t too bad and it was a great chance to catch up and get some exercise at the same time.
It’s a good thing I run, and also that I did Body Pump and a few HIIT classes this week, because scroll down to see what I have been eating!
I have always gotten excited about seeing robins in the late winter. I generally notice them in March, maybe late February, and have always believed they are the harbingers of spring. On Thursday morning, while it was still snowing, I spied three or four robins hopping around on the patio outside my home office window, and decided that the bird conundrum needed to be tweeted (bad pun, I know).
Not quite understanding 1. Why there are robins hanging around in January in Connecticut and 2. Why they seem to be having a great time in the snow on my patio. (I should say “were” because the dog just chased them away) #WestHartford #Snow pic.twitter.com/gUjHZNDW3K
— We-Ha.Com (@WeHartford) January 20, 2022
None other than esteemed meteorologist Bob Maxon chimed in, and while I am sad that the sighting of robins will no longer have me eagerly anticipating springtime being right around the corner, this is very interesting information!
Robins are year around residents here in CT, usually along the shoreline! They *might* be having a grand time because the berries they eat for energy may be fermented. Drunk birds are a thing!!
— Bob Maxon (@bobmaxon) January 21, 2022
I had two dinners out last week! A few old friends and I caught up at Union Kitchen on Wednesday. We split the Crispy Brussels Sprouts and salad, and I had the Short Rib Tacos, which were delicious!
Then, on Saturday night, Ted and I had an excellent dinner at Jar + Bar! I hadn’t had dinner there in quite a while, and there is a new chef, Jonathan Leff (locals may recognize his name from City Steam and Cuvée), and a transformation of the menu. There’s still a focus on tapas from around the world, but plenty of new menu items.
An Instagram image (@jarbarct) of the Buffalo Dip was what initially intrigued Ted to want to go there for dinner. And I’ve been taco-obsessed lately, so the chicken taco (pulled chicken, salsa verde, crema, and pico de gallo) appealed to me. Thankfully I had run earlier in the day so I didn’t feel horribly guilty about also sampling the nachos (with beef) and R.I. Calamari (with banana peppers and chipotle aioli).
And then, owner Ermal Caushi brought over a menu special – the Ahi tuna bruschetta – which was delicious. More specials are in the works, he said, including fresh pasta.
We were definitely satiated when Caushi *insisted* that we try the homemade Oreo cheesecake and the raspberry bread pudding, and even though we were already way past being hungry, and felt ready to roll home, we were glad we did!
A universal indoor mask mandate is currently in place in West Hartford. (Click here for the details.) Please comply, and please don’t give our business owners and their staff a hard time about it. Really. Please continue to look out for each other, support our local businesses – and stay safe and healthy.
If you have information to share about local businesses, please provide details in the comments or email Ronni Newton at [email protected].
Here’s this week’s Buzz:
- I first tried Oath Pizza the summer it opened in Nantucket, and was so excited when I first heard the rumor that it would be opening in Blue Back Square in West Hartford! I even snapped a photo of the sign when I was in Nantucket in late December, eagerly awaiting when I could confirm the details about it coming to town. I’m excited to now report that Oath will be taking over the space that was formerly Poke-Man – and temporarily a NoRA Cupcake pop-up – at 67 Memorial Road. There are 17 other locations around the country, many on college campuses, but this is the first in Connecticut. Here’s the statement an Oath spokesperson provided to me: “Oath Pizza is looking forward to opening its newest restaurant in West Hartford, CT this spring. The brand is known for its delicious feel-good pizzas that are crafted on a one-of-a-kind avocado oil crust and topped with real, fresh ingredients. Oath has quickly become the go-to dine-in, take-out, and delivery pizza for foodies and families in New England since opening on Nantucket Island in 2015. The team is thrilled to become a part of and serve the local community. Learn more at oathpizza.com.” The website has lots more information, including about crust options (a fluffier “thick crust” is available, as is the Banza chickpea gluten free crust, kid-sized pizzas, and salads). The pizza is delicious, and the tagline is enough to make me smile: “Island-born pizza that makes every day feel like Friday and every season feel like summer.”
This is definitely a food-oriented column today, and I’m very excited to also report that The Russell is opening to the public on Thursday! I’ve been checking up on the progress regularly since I first learned about the plans to open the Jamaican-themed restaurant back in July, and happened to stop by a little over a week ago, found the door open, and had a chance to chat with owner Hugh Russell! There has been quite a transformation of the former Harry’s Pizza space at 39 South Main St., with a large front window adding plenty of light, wood accents replacing the brick, and bright island-themed murals – including a tribute to Bob Marley. I’ll report back after the opening on Thursday with a full feature and plenty of food photos. (Yes, I know that statement will probably serve as an invitation to other reporters, but please check back and know that I’ll have the full story as soon as it’s complete.)
- I may as well stay on the food theme, and while I get very excited about anything that makes me think about summer, hot cocoa is one of the things I like best about winter. West Hartford resident Ali Lazowski, founder of Bare Life, will be doing demos at the Whole Foods location on Raymond Road in Blue Back Square/West Hartford Center on Feb. 5, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Bare Life is made with five naturally simple ingredients and produced by an organic and kosher certified Connecticut-based, woman-owned small business. According to a news release, “Bare Life was founded just a few years ago by Lazowski after being diagnosed with IBS, Hashimoto’s disease, Thyroid cancer, and Lyme disease during her junior year of college. Her chronic conditions inspired a change in her diet. Her frustration regarding the lack of foods available – not only for her, but for the millions of people who live with allergen sensitivities – led her to take matters into her own hands. She created the original hot cocoa recipe in her kitchen, and subsequently launched Bare Life.”
- One more food-related item … the patio renovation is complete and the greenhouses are back at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar. There are four heated structures, each of which can seat four people comfortably (and can fit six a bit more snugly), and are available for two seatings, at 5 and 7:30 p.m., according to Managing Partner Liz Kiyak. To reserve, call 860-676-9463, and for more information, visit the Fleming’s website.
- Congratulations to Adria Giordano, who has been named the Connecticut executive director of the American Heart Association! She most recently worked as director of development and communications at Chrysalis Center. More details to come about her new job – which I learned about when she sent me her latest “One Mom’s View …” blog post (which you can read by clicking here!)
- In another non-food-related item, West Hartford Center based YHB Investment Advisors, Inc. is excited to announce that Diane Daley has recently been promoted to Senior Portfolio Manager. Daley has worked very hard both to serve her clients and support YHB’s fixed income investment effort. In addition to taking on more complex client matters, she has developed an expertise in municipal bonds on which many of us have come to rely. Daley has also spearheaded other efforts to support the firm.
- I’ve got a couple of things on my reading list (actually there are quite a few books that I am planning to read as soon as I make the time to do so), and I’ve now added “How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question” – a book that is coming out this week by Michael Schur, a Hall High School graduate (1992) who has become a household name as a comedy writer (Parks and Rec, The Office, The Good Place, and many more). “In about 300 pages, Schur covers some 2,500 years of Western philosophical thought, breaking down concepts like virtue ethics, deontology, utilitarianism and contractualism, analyzing principles espoused by Aristotle (“a good salesman, and he gets us all excited about his pitch”), Kant (“a pretty rigid dude”) and Camus (“a stone-cold hottie”) …” writes Alexandra Alter in a review in the New York Times on Thursday, where you can read more about Schur’s latest project.
- The Penzey’s store in West Hartford Center has been closed to in-store shopping – reverting to curbside pick-up only – since the beginning of January, but last week the store closed completely, and did so abruptly according to Facebook posts from residents whose spices have been being “held hostage.” I personally tried to call and got a recording, and stopped by Sunday and the store was locked and dark, and there was no sign on the door noting any type of temporary closure. One resident posted an email on Facebook received from a Penzeys employee in retail operations that stated: “Thank you so much for reaching out to us about your pickup order, placed in our Hartford location earlier this week. Unfortunately, due to an unforeseen staffing situation, we had to temporarily close this store. If you’re okay with waiting until next week to pick up your items, no need to respond to this email and we’ll leave your order active in our system. If you would like your items shipped to your home address free of charge, please just reply to this email with a good contact number that our warehouse reps can reach you on and we’ll take it from there.” For those who are missing the spice in their food, hopefully the store will be back open any day. I’ll try to find out more on Monday morning.
- ICYMI, there are a few zoning ordinances being developed for review by the Town Council that will impact business in town. One is related to the retail sale (as well as use) of recreational cannabis (click here) and the other is an update simplifying, and bringing into compliance with state statute, the ordinances related to outdoor dining (click here).
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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