Admit it: you didn’t move to New Canaan for the nightlife. At whatever point you opted to put down roots in this charming (and evidently snowless) Yankee snowglobe, your first thought probably wasn’t, “but whither the superstar guest DJ, and whence the exclusive popup collabs?”
All the same, the choice to live here isn’t necessarily lights-out for your evening calendar.
You’ve surely discovered your rotation of date night restaurants, pizza Friday stalwarts, and places with sports on the TV and cold beer on tap. But if, like me, you yearn to stretch your legs beyond a well-trodden routine, particularly now that the Sweatpants Years are finally in the rearview, know that events are firing back up into full swing for spring ‘23, and we’d all be remiss to miss them.
If you don’t yet know about Chef Prasad’s collaborative dinner parties, let’s change that. During COVID, Chef Prasad Chirnomula and his team renovated the dining room at 62 Main St. to serve as a teaching and communal kitchen instead. Daily service is now predominantly takeout, with bar seating available on weekends. I was initially sad to hear it; the dining room’s hand-painted tree of life murals are lovely, and it was a great spot for a festive dinner with friends. But festivity reigns supreme at these collaborative dinners, where Prasad partners with a rotating cast of notable local chefs to develop a five-course, one-night-only menu. In January, it was Chef Emily Mingrone of New Haven’s Fair Haven Oyster Co. and Tavern on State. This week, it was Westport’s Chef Matt Storch of Match Burger Lobster. I won’t frustrate you by elaborating on the details of dinners that, without time travel, you’ll never get to enjoy. Just understand that every bite is deliciously transcendent. Chef Prasad’s nuanced, beautiful Indian flavors impart liveliness and joy into each partnership, and the camaraderie of the room’s communal tables is like nothing else in New Canaan.
One recent evening, we found ourselves seated next to new-ish neighbors whose house paint color choices we’ve admired across our backyard pond for ages. We spent the evening getting to know them and gossiping about all the neighborhood… wildlife. Where else would this ever happen? Communal tables at a restaurant can feel like an imposition. At Chef Prasad’s new space, they feel like a freshman year mixer, where everyone’s cool and nobody’s an actual freshman. Prasad’s team works hard to create a lovely vibe, and the ephemeral nature of the evening just makes it all the more extraordinary.
Another one-night-only event is Soul-Fête, Stand Together Against Racism’s celebration of the Black culinary journey at the Carriage Barn on March 2. As of this writing, there are still tickets available. S.T.A.R. is bringing together local Black chefs and live music for a
culturally immersive evening featuring a juried mac ‘n’ cheese tasting. Note to self: how do I qualify for mac ‘n’ cheese jury duty? A few recent events I’ve heard about serve as a reminder that supporting inclusion in New Canaan is imperative for our path forward as a town, and S.T.A.R. is a guiding resource for all of us to do so more actively. Plus, a tasting! And dancing! I can’t wait.
March 2nd will be a slam-dunk evening for culture in New Canaan, as New Canaan Chamber Music gets to christen the (glorious!) New Canaan Library’s Jim & Dede Bartlett Auditorium for its first 2023 performance. The event is sold out, but if you’d like to be added to the waitlist, you can email them and cross your fingers. NCCM’s performances are unbelievably powerful in person; in a setting as intimate as a living room, you experience classical music worthy of the world’s most glittering stages. Artistic director, concert pianist, and New Canaan High
School grad Andrew Armstrong brings together classical virtuosi from every corner of the globe here to perform. For a few hours, our quiet little ‘burb makes some exceedingly elegant noise. The upcoming program includes selections from Handel, Beethoven, and Florence Price, the world’s first recognized Black woman symphonic composer. I can’t wait for that, either, and if anyone knows of a secret tunnel between the new library and the Carriage Barn, please let me know.
The Carriage Barn has been our town’s unofficial family room for some time, it seems. I love that the Carriage Barn Arts Center team thoughtfully programs it all year, with timely and relevant shows. Even if you’re in the building for a birthday beer bash, you are still *technically* Doing A Culture if you take a peek around at the walls. Plus, the vintage Charles Saxon bathroom doors (now preserved and framed on a wall nearby) are the ne plus ultra of casual bathroom scribblings.
The Carriage Barn will also host a special evening on February 25: dinner and a performance of Ordinary People by the Town Players of New Canaan, benefitting New Canaan’s Urgent Assessment Program. I was deeply moved when I learned that the Town Players of New Canaan had selected Ordinary People for its midwinter drama; it feels like a responsive, proactive answer to the need for substantive conversations about mental health in our community, and so brave to (finally!) center some real discussion around The Things We Don’t Like to Talk About in a place where pretending to have a postcard-perfect life can sometimes be the norm.
Saturday night’s dinner at the Carriage Barn will be catered by our friends at Walter Stewart’s, followed by a walk up the hill to take in the performance at the Powerhouse Theatre. The Urgent Assessment Program, for those who don’t know (I didn’t, either!), is a resource that connects individuals in crisis with a free, timely mental health assessment and a tailored plan for their care. It’s run jointly by the town and Silver Hill Hospital, and I’m dropping the link here for anyone who would like to make a note of it.
The Town Players team has done extraordinary work to ensure that this theatrical run is relevant and helpful to our town, and the show runs through March 5th. You can pick up your ticket and browse other performances here.
Also, coming up at the Carriage Barn (I swear, just hang around that place and you’ll never want for something to do) is a very welcome harbinger of warmer days to come: the New Canaan Farmer’s Market is celebrating 25 years with a Farm-to-Barn brunch that promises to be a bit of a meta (note the lowercase m) experience. Their prepared food purveyors are creating special menus with ingredients from their farm partners. To give you one delicious example: Carrot Top Kitchens (who I’ve been fondly thinking of as Gazpacho Guy for years) is making a hash with sweet potatoes sourced from Smith’s Acres farm and chicken sausage from Ox Hollow Farm. Mama Hu’s Kitchen will make curry lamb dumplings with Henny Penny Farm lamb. There will be at least a dozen such dishes, each a delicious, one-morning-only collaboration between a farmer and a chef. It may not be bottle service at _____________ (honestly, I’m just too old to effectively name-check a Hot Clerb in the City), but that’s not why any of us are here, is it?
Enjoy your triumphant return to the swing of things, New Canaan.
Just don’t dare tell me that nothing ever happens here.