Upcycled Yard Clippings and a Can-Do Attitude: How to Make the Holidays Happen in New Canaan [VIDEO]



It would be undoubtedly easy to order our town’s holiday decorations from a big box store or, gasp, the Internet. Surely there’s an iPhone app somewhere where one can pick a look, pay through the nose for rush installation, and find oneself walking through a ready-made winter wonderland. Santa in an Uber, and all that. 

But isn’t it reassuring to know that New Canaan will never do it that way? 

In early December, for the past five decades, the New Canaan Beautification League and the New Canaan Garden Club have partnered to hold our town’s Holiday Greens Workshop at the Nature Center. Several dozen volunteers from both clubs make many of our town’s holiday decorations from scratch, upcycling pruned branches and clippings into the extra-large bespoke wreaths you’ll spot on our town’s municipal buildings throughout December. Trees and shrubs like white pine, holly, ilex, juniper, and spruce can benefit from pruning at this time of year, so generous members, private tree services, and our town’s Parks department gather and donate a bounty that befits New Canaan’s holiday spirit.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus: New Canaan Eats

Last Saturday night, which, as we all know, was precisely seven years ago in terms of both temporal and emotional distance, I had an idea. We had cancelled plans with friends because the whole Coronavirus thing was getting a bit too real, so I thought I’d ask my husband on a date to our dining room. We called up Elm, ordered three courses, and I put on a fancy dress and dusty high heels while my husband drove into town to pick our dinner up. 

The service at Chez Ault, our hot new dining room restaurant, is terrible. That’s because the service is me. There are dogs underfoot and no butter for the bread and the courses are poorly paced while I check my phone for the latest, exponentially terrible news of COVID-19.

Dazzle Me the Old-Fashioned Way: Review of Farmer’s Table

At some point in the last 20 years, we’ve all dined in a restaurant that was painstakingly designed to astonish its guests, or at least watched a Netflix show about one. Maybe it has a single wall made from 60,000 bottles of Pellegrino or it serves a nest of moss atop a puff of woodsmoke you’re then meant to wash down with an infusion of summer wind. These establishments deserve their ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’, and it’s all very Instagrammable, until you see that there’s a $1,200 dessert on the menu or get hopelessly lost on your way to the spooky coed bathroom. At which point, all the theatrics and architecture and molecular gastronomy in the world can’t distract you from the single most important question to ask about any restaurant: Is the food good? New Canaan is pleasantly devoid of restaurants where function follows form.

‘Abundant Menu of Flavorful, Nicely Balanced Rolls’: Hashi Sushi Restaurant

Let me get this out of the way: if you haven’t tried Hashi Sushi yet, which appeared on the Forest Street dining scene back in late 2017, just go, immediately, and read this later. 

***

“I’m from California.” 

These are the three most irritating three words you’ll ever from a dining companion, and yet they’re my actual truth. I’ve been told that my biography comes off as a holier-than-thou mantra, the words of a keen initiate raised within swiping distance of the Pacific Ocean, Alice Waters, and some truly exceptional Japanese food. Being a Californian means a whole lot of things, like having sub-par snow driving skills, saying “the” before “95” or any numbered highway, and internalizing a pretty rigorous set of standards for sushi. The second word I ever said as an infant was ‘avocado,’ and you can call my mom to verify that. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a sushi snob, because I find that phrase faintly irritating, but I don’t suffer sushi fools gladly, either.

‘Uniquely and Carefully Realized’: Chef Prasad Restaurant

Takeout Indian food can definitely hit the spot, especially for HBO-and-athleisure nights, but today I want to make a case for the undeniable magic of dining in. 

American diners in big cities tend to relegate a lot of Asian (including Indian) food to delivery and takeout nights, never stopping into a restaurant enough to know the waitstaff, the artwork, and the soul of the place. GrubHub and Uber Eats make it easy enough (at an unfortunate cost to the restaurant) to never set foot on the block where you get your Pad Thai. 

In the case of restaurants as uniquely and carefully realized as New Canaan’s Chef Prasad, this is where we all go wrong. 

When Andrew and I first moved here four years ago, we were tipped off by our real estate agent that Thali, Chef Prasad’s first New Canaan restaurant, was excellent. Coming from Manhattan, we weren’t sure if she was just painting an extra-glowing picture of this darling small town’s restaurants like any good real estate agent should, or if this really was the real deal. We ordered in from Thali, and upon tasting the glorious Saag Paneer, we realized that the real deal was actually here, in an unprepossessing former bank building. What chance!