Rail-Bikes, the Latest Hit Attraction for the Valley Railroad Company in Essex

The Valley Railroad Company in Essex has halted operation of its popular Essex Stream Train and Riverboat rides while the state adjusts to life with COVID-19, but is instead offering, for a limited number of dates this summer, a novel rail-bike experience along the scenic lower Connecticut River. “The rail-bikes were going to be one of our season opening events, but it was originally slated to just be in an addition to the things we’re already doing,” said Valley Railroad Company Vice President Rob Bradway. “It was never anticipated that the rail-bikes would be the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat

More

New Haven-based Therapist Launches Online Dungeons & Dragons for the Young and Autistic

Talking to Daniel Allen, a 37-year-old recreational therapist with a short but remarkable history of working with children, in Ethiopia in the Peace Corps, for Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang and at Yale New Haven, you pretty immediately understand that this is a person who loves the offbeat imaginative side of childhood learning. A self-described “proud nerd,” Allen took the leap from part-time work at Yale New Haven’s Child Psychiatric Inpatient Unit to start Dragon Haven, a new online service that uses games like Dungeons & Dragons to help children build social skills and cope with anxiety. “I

More

The Garde Arts Center Launches Virtual Screenings for Audiences in Southeast Connecticut

NEW LONDON — The giant screen of its movie house went dark mid-March, but the Garde Arts Center is now offering a virtual program that lets audiences screen specially curated films at home. Steve Sigel, executive director of the Garde, said that the new Garde Virtual Cinema is an unusual arrangement benefiting both the venue screening the film and the studio that made the film. “There are a number of studios that are partnering with movie theatres and art houses, who share the proceeds,” he said. “Magnolia Pictures contacted us. We’ve done screenings of their films in our theatre so

More

Penny Lane Pub Owner Alex Foulkes Receives Architectural Approval for Post Road Restaurant “Maple & Main”

/

OLD SAYBROOK — The Town of Old Saybrook Architectural Review Board approved the design proposal for a new restaurant, “Maple & Main” on Boston Post Road. Alex Foulkes, owner of the Penny Lane Pub on Main Street, has proposed converting an existing one-story commercial office building, located at 813 Boston Post Road, into a restaurant serving breakfast and lunch with occasional banquet services after normal business hours, according to the application materials. Foulkes requested approval for 75 seats, including 63 seats in the main interior dining room, seven seats under the front covered porch and five additional outdoor seats. The

More

Music at the Red Door Hosts an Intimate Pop-up Recital with Christa Rakich on Harpsichord

In a stirring noontime pop-up concert on a recent Wednesday, Christa Rakich performed Johann Sebastian Bach’s French Suite #5 in G, BWV 816 on the harpsichord as part of Music at the Red Door, a series of online performances hosted by St. John’s Episcopal Church in West Hartford, CT. Rakich, a masterful interpreter of J. S. Bach’s work on a variety of keyboard instruments, has a lifetime of experience performing this piece. Rakich first learned it as a high school student. “It is a very old and very dear friend,” Rakich says. “Having grown up with it, it has revealed

More

The Holy Grail of Backyard Pizza

On my fourth go – with supermarket dough no less – I had achieved (or at least glimpsed) the Holy Grail of backyard pizza, a Neapolitan-style pizza in just under 90 seconds, telltale leopard-spotting on the cornicione, a bit of char on the undercarriage. As a personal expression, I was turning out in these first attempts pizza competitive with the best in the state. After twenty years of pizza making and all sorts of stoves and stones and grills – none actually better than a cheap grad school Magic Chef that melted the kitchen linoleum each time it came up

More

Gathering Online for Dance at New Haven’s Neighborhood Music School

With a click, you put yourself on-screen. There you are, in a square in your home. The squares begin to multiply. One by one, people enter, two or five or a dozen squares. Each person springs up in a basement, living room, dining room, bedroom… You greet each other from your boxes, a little shyly, you’re still getting used to this private-public fishbowl. The teacher greets everyone. She waits a few minutes for stragglers, then begins. You stand with a hand on a makeshift barre. Feet in rotated first position, arms rounded in low fifth position. The accompanist’s keyboard tinkles

More

Friday Marks Start of Ramadan for Muslims Across Coastline Connecticut

Muslims across Connecticut begin fasting for Ramadan with sunrise on Friday, and congregations, communities, and businesses around the state are grappling with how to celebrate a holy month imbued with a communal spirit at at time when mosques and most other public spaces are closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. “This will be the most unique Ramadan of our lifetimes because none of us have lived through this and we hope that we don’t have to again,” said Imam Omer Bajwa, Muslim chaplain for Yale University. Abdul-Rehman Malik, a journalist and guest lecturer in Islamic Studies at Yale

More

McAloon’s Debut Paints Nature in Chords and Complex Harmony

Singer-songwriter Octavia McAloon paints sweeping scenes of natural phenomena — think mountain skylines, rocky stream beds, starlit nighttime skies. “If the aurora borealis could get in not only through your eyes, but through your ears, what would it sound like?” she asks. “Two triads, that kind of go with each other, but that fade in and out against each other, which I think has the aurora’s effect of lights appearing and disappearing,” she answers, in chords. On her debut album, “With Breath of Wind,” set to drop Friday, McAloon supplies her own personal choir for lead vocals — some songs

More

High Hurdles as Restaurants are Forced to Adapt to an Uncertain Future

As the restaurants struggle to stay open and adapt to an uncharted future social landscape and uncertain timeline, the state-mandated closure of full-service dining rooms has decimated much of the food service industry.   Since March 16, when Gov. Lamont’s ordered a halt to eat-in service at restaurants across the state, restaurants without a substantial preexisting takeout business have seen a drop in sales of between 70 and 90 percent, said Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association by phone Monday. Dolch said that in Connecticut 8,500 restaurants employing about 160,000 workers make up 10 percent of the

More

Easter Orders… Flowers, Roasts, Sweets, and Hot Cross Buns

OLD LYME — “It’s a way for them to connect and say hello and happy Easter and still feel like the holiday is still coming,” said Barbara Crowley, owner of the Chocolate Shell, who is providing a customized, shippable “Easter basket in a box” as well as regular Easter baskets this coming week.  “I fill the boxes as if it were an Easter basket. I put the grass in there and everything. I try to give the person what they’re asking for and they give me a price range to work within and I fill it depending on roughly the

More

‘Tis the Season: The Original Sazerac

/

The earliest American cocktails, or most of them, cobblers, old-fashioneds, juleps, sazeracs — all dating to some time prior to the Civil War — combine a base spirit, often brandy or whiskey, a bit of sweetener in the form of simple syrup or a sugar cube, herbal bitters, and more or less garnish. 3 oz rye whiskey, a sugar cube soaked with angostura bitters, muddled with a bit of fruit, built with enough additional ice so that it no longer floats, and you have an classic old-fashioned. With a copious fruit garnish, you have a cobbler. Drop the fruit garnish,

More

Turkey for Thanksgiving, Lamb for Easter

With Easter rapidly approaching many of us are planning a holiday feast and deciding whether to serve a ham, roast beef, or salmon… there are so many choices. Growing up in a Catholic family, we ate leg of lamb, roasted, usually well done, with a little pink meat close to the bone, always served with lots of mint jelly. At some point in my childhood my Aunt Maria and Uncle Alfred Zambelli grew tired “schlepping” all the way out to Riverside — an hour by train — and our family, my three sisters, my parents and I, would make the

More

Chad Browne-Springer Gives “Intimate, Extraordinary” Performance Across COVID-19 Isolation

So much has erupted out of music and performance in the last two weeks, as we come to grips with a surreal world of COVID-19 isolation. Live-streamed shows, multi-voice and instrumental pieces recorded and assembled remotely, and improvisational jams via Zoom. After a time, we’ll all be able to sit together in one place and play and listen to music again. But even so, there will be a new normal. I’ve been tuning in to The Quarantined Series, organized by Sarah B. Golley to highlight original Connecticut musicians, live-streamed from their homes. Last week I got a chance to hear

More

After a Decade of Explosive Growth, Small Breweries in Connecticut Take Stock

/

“Breweries are destinations, they are really experiences. But of even more pressing significance is to support local and drinking local. It’s easy to go to your grocery store and pick up a macro-brand beer but that’s not going to help anybody in Connecticut,” said Phil Pappas, executive director of the Connecticut Brewers Guild by phone on Wednesday.  In less than 10 years, the craft brewing industry has grown exponentially to over 100 breweries and about 6,000 jobs across Connecticut. Prior to 2012, there were only about 12 to 15 breweries in the state, Pappas said.  “These are all relatively new

More

New-Haven-based Sarah Golley Sparks Online Music Event — The Quarantined Series

Every gig got cancelled. Then, a short pause. Then, online live shows began bubbling up and over the lid of the internet. Now a veritable phenomenon, examples of coordinated and impromptu performance are everywhere on social media: story book hours, dance-a-days, video projects of apartment-bound academics on sabbatical in Spain. Musicians are finding new ways to jam, to create, and to perform. NPR is curating a list of live music shows for artists around the country. Here in Connecticut, songwriter and New-Haven based performer Sarah B. Golley organized an ongoing local event,  “The Quarantined Series: A Series of Online Shows

More

Fear, Stigma, Blame — UConn Prof Considers the Novel Virus

There are human tendencies in times of a epidemic that drive people to fear, bogus medical advice, and casting blame on society’s most vulnerable, said University of Connecticut Professor of English Thomas Long, who studies social reactions to epidemics in culture and literature. “Epidemics have often, not always, but often been described as having a kind of dramatic arc with an initial first act moving into rising complication, catastrophe, and climax and then a denouement at the end. There’s a sort of dramatic arc to epidemics and hopefully we will see that soon — that it will pass quickly.” As

More

Connecticut Fly Fishing on “The Dirty”

Mina and I stepped into a prime bit of trout-holding water, offering catch and release fishing all winter, on a small stream we call “The Dirty.” Running through an industrial town in the Naugatuck Valley, filled with abandoned factories, its banks dotted with homeless encampments, the river is for many the most unlikely place to fly fish. On her second cast Mina has hooked her first fish of the day. Moments later I have a fish on. This is predominantly a Rainbow trout fishery and we both release the chunky and surprisingly feisty fish. Usually trout are sluggish when the

More

Poignant Show by Singer-Songwriter Aiofe O’Donovan at Old Saybrook’s Kate

/

Irish-American singer-songwriter Aiofe O’Donovan summons all the whirring, humming, soaring, straining sounds of the cosmos in her latest solo project, Bull Frogs Croon (And Other Songs). The swoop and plumb of the strings, the poetry in the lyrics, left palpable vibrations in the air in her live performance at The Kate in Old Saybrook on a mid-March Wednesday night, in a set that drew from European classical repertoire, through bluegrass, through O’Donovan’s own compositions. It was a poignant show. The first event of O’Donovan’s U.S. and world tour, the audience responded enthusiastically to a generous set of songs. It could

More

James Merrill House Poet Keith Wilson Shares a Poem — to Read on March 28 in Stonington

Keith S. Wilson’s recently released book, Fieldnotes on Ordinary Love, is a kind of “catalog” of his questions about science and love.   “It’s sort of a metaphor for a kind of obsession with wonder that I have,” Wilson said. “In many ways, that’s what drives science — wondering what’s the universe made out of… how does energy work… all these different really huge questions. And I think the humanities have the same kinds of questions about people and emotions and truth.”  Wilson is a poet, editor and game designer. He is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts

More

Local Farms Are Planning Crops, Signing up CSA Shareholders for Summer Season

//

The New England landscape may appear cold and desolate, but small farmers across the region are growing seedlings in hoop houses and planning summer harvests.  As a means of obtaining “seed” money, many of these farms set up CSA –Community Supported Agriculture — programs that allow customers to invest in a share of the business in advance of the growing season. Farmers then use the invested money in the winter and early spring months to buy seeds, supplies and equipment. In exchange for sharing the upfront costs, shareholders later receive produce during the summer and fall months.  Now is the

More

Irish Soda Bread… the Quickest of Quick Breads (and One of the Best)

Irish soda bread, like most recipes attributed by Americans to Ireland, has lean bones — in this case just flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. It’s a quick bread of the sort that became popular in the mid-19th century in America with the commercial availability baking soda and when half of all immigrants to the United States came from Ireland, many fleeing the potato famines that cost the lives of perhaps a million people. And like most things American, this austerity is supplemented with modest luxury, here dried fruit and caraway. The dough comes together in a less than 10

More

Old Saybrook High School Drama Club Stages “Thoroughly Modern Millie” Opening March 12

/

OLD SAYBROOK — Old Saybrook Senior High School students have been practicing their tap dancing and hair bobs for a production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” a musical set in the Jazz Age, opening March 12. “The story itself is pretty traditional musical theater… naive young girl comes to New York hoping to find a man and her goal is to marry the boss,” said director Lenore Grunko, an adjunct theater lecturer at Eastern Connecticut State University. “And then there’s a subplot that gets very convoluted where she’s staying in a hotel with a hotel owner who’s running a white slavery ring

More

HannaH’s Field Warms up Essex with Rasta Folk Performance at Earth & Fire

ESSEX — On the eve of a February leap year, with the barest sliver of a moon hanging in the chill night sky, HannaH’s Field from Farmington gave an intimate studio performance at The Earth & Fire Art Studio & Gallery in Essex, CT. The space is located right on Main Street in Essex and serves as a community gathering place for art and artists of all kinds. Visual art, photography, woodworking, ceramics, jewelry are all displayed. Julie Tigner Bonilla, artist and owner, said this is exactly why she created the studio. “I wanted a place for people to be

More

New London Artist Kat Murphy Lights Up Downtown

NEW LONDON — Thursday was too windy for artist Kat Murphy to place her “pop-up shop” sandwich board out on the sidewalk, but for the last month that’s what she’s done when she’s in her studio. “Just having the sign out, I’ve had people say they say they see it and they drove over,” said Murphy, of opening her combination gallery and workspace at 94 Golden Street in New London to the public.  With its tall windows, Murphy’s studio is a presence on the street and in the neighborhood — and people are noticing.  “I have a timer on the

More

With Stores Opening in Darien and South Windsor, Pasta Vita Feeds Families, Fosters Community

/

OLD SAYBROOK — In 1992, Rich Cersosimo, a new IBM retiree, and Lou Castanho , a chef just four years out of culinary school decided to work together to make and sell wholesale ravioli. They named their venture Pasta Vita. Four years later, they began catering to the retail market and Cersosimo and Castanho haven’t looked back. “We were producing all this pasta in Old Saybrook and yet loading it on trucks, shipping it away and we couldn’t feed any of the people here,” Castanho said. “We had people coming to the back door and asking for dishes to take

More

Jane Eyre, Williamson’s “Best Piece of Theater” at Hartford Stage

Creating a stage adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” has been a passion project for Hartford Stage’s Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Williamson and with a final product now on stage, adapted and directed by her, it is evident that her efforts and dedication to it has paid off. This is the best piece of theater that Williamson has directed at Hartford Stage.  Her work as an adaptor of the novel is great. The language is adapted with care, the key characters are properly developed, and it isn’t overly long for an adaptation of a book that is almost 600 pages.

More

Benny Benack Plays for Love at the Side Door

/

OLD LYME — Benny Benack III sang all the sweetheart songs you could wish for on a Valentine’s Day engagement at the Side Door in Old Lyme. He announced, “We’ll fit in as much Great American Songbook as we can here tonight!” With Sinatra-inspired vocals and a great band of friends and contemporaries, he delivered standards like “My Funny Valentine,” “Unforgettable” and “Home is Where the Heart Is” to an audience of Valentine’s couples. Several of his own song compositions followed this swinging nostalgic mode – “Irrepressible,” as well as the up-tempo “A Lot of Livin’ to Do,” the title

More

Yale’s Paul Berry Continues Popular Lecture Series on Basic Building Blocks of Beethoven

OLD LYME — “If you asked people to name one composer representative of the summit of western notated tradition, many would choose Beethoven,” according to Yale School of Music Professor Paul Berry. More the reason to take apart the idea of Beethoven as the towering genius — a notion that can overshadow the listener experience of the music, explained Berry about his upcoming lecture, the second in a three-lecture series, examining musical phrases in Beethoven’s work as well as the relationship between his biography and music.   Berry’s lectures complement the 29th season of Musical Masterworks, which will include all of

More