I know all our NYC friends and clients think we’re out here in Westport, CT designing pastorally… but I contend that if your local stores are The Gap and Pottery Barn, and Shake Shack is your lunch spot… you are definitely not in the country anymore. So I was thrilled that my sister-in-law suggested a road trip up to Washington Depot, CT where you can still stumble on the unexpected and the unique. Driving around the windy streets lined with low stone walls (so you can actually see into people’s yards) and traditionally-scaled homes, we found world-class art, food and recreation.
Here’s the front yard and studio of Philip Grausman. I had seen his work on his website, but it should be experienced in person (even if he didn’t actually invite us to view it). These simplified, painted fiberglass and cast aluminum heads stand boldly and eerily on the landscape. Grounds for Sculpture website calls Philip Grausman “one of the most well-acclaimed portrait sculptors of his time”. His work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY; the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT.
Then we went for lunch at the Pantry. The food was so good! Homemade bread laced with maple syrup; chicken salad you had to cut with a knife; and the Pantry’s own ginger ice cream were just a few of the things we loosened our belt for. We left with a sack full of “take out” so we could repeat that lunch at home.
We discovered a fellow garage-dweller. There in the converted Woodruff garage/gas station was an architecture firm. No one was there from the firm… and why should they be, it was a beautiful Friday afternoon in Washington Depot! But we were greeted by the nicest interior designer who told me that she and her chef husband (Community Table) had moved up recently from New Orleans. The next day my sister-in-law called to tell me this chef was no flash in the pan. I looked him up and sure enough, he had worked in NYC for four years at Gramercy Tavern and Quilty’s with chef Katy Sparks; and after two years in New Orleans working for equally impressive chefs, Joel Viehland (said chef husband) moved to Copenhagen, to work at Noma, a small, two-star Michelin restaurant. While he was there, San Pellegrino’s Top 50 Restaurants in the World served his restaurant up with the ranking of third, and just this year it was awarded the number one position, topping El Bulli. (Hoping next blog post with be “post” dinner at the Community Table)
And as for what you do for fun in Washington Depot.. well, it’s simple, you jump off the downtown bridge into the river and then swim to the rope swing.