The Howard – Foodie Friday – An Autumn Visit to Isaac’s Bagel Cafe

Today is Friday, October 15th 2021- we are in the midst of Autumn. Where is Howard this beautiful October day you ask? I am in the hometown, the beautiful hamlet of Bloomfield- the future metropolis of New England. On this sunshiny day, oh so beautiful with leaves gently parachuting down- I am visiting my friend, everyone’s friend, the one and only Mr. Isaac Suttar other wise known in our hamlet as the “nicest person whom you will ever meet”!

As many of you know, Isaac is the owner of one of the busiest “local hotspots in town – Isaac’s Bagel Cafe, situated at 16-b Mountain Avenue in Bloomfield, Connecticut. Delicious food, a homey atmosphere, and friends amongst friends abound within the Bagel Cafe. On this visit the ever busy eatery is adorned with the tapestry of Autumn and the celebration of Halloween. 

Issac is adding to his extensive menu- with “pumpkin-potpourri” a myriad of Autumn favorites, including pumpkin muffins, bagels, waffles, and please don’t forget all those favorites such as, home style breakfasts, soups, salads, sandwiches and on a cool Autumn day a nice steaming cup of hot chocolate.

On this very day I meet a woman who had moved to the hamlet about six years ago and this was her very first time at the popular eatery. She and her friend were sitting outside of Isaacs, in the award winning Isaac garden patio, and she remarked, “I’m a bit ashamed, I’ve lived here for 6 years, I go by every day and I wondered why it was so busy here, out of curiosity I stopped by today. I had a delicious omelette, I’m taking home a bag of fresh bagels, and believe you me, now that I know the way – I will definitely be back- the food is wonderful and Isaac is a wonderful host”.

 In fact, many folks drop by each day just to say a Hearty Hello to Isaac Suttar. He’s definitely one popular guy in Bloomfield. During my visit, I join others in the queue and order my personal fave during the week, a fried egg sandwich on a toasted buttered hard roll,  however, during the week-end, its the “Isaac Special” – a veggie omelette with a side of red bliss home style potatoes. Isaac always stops by to check on me and my meal and yes – we chat away like the good  friends we have become over the years.

For a hot coffee, a fresh bagel and a welcoming greeting this Autumn- please stop at Isaac’s Bagel Cafe, situated at 16-b Mountain Avenue in Bloomfield, Connecticut. Enjoy!

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The Howard – Theater Review – Nunsense with a Twist – Seven Angels

Reviewer:       Howard Steven Frydman aka “The Howard”

Production:          NUNSENSE – With A Twist

Theater:                Seven Angels Theatre

Playwright:            Dan Goggin

Music/Lyrics:         Dan Goggin                                                                         

Directors:                Jimmy Donohue & Semina DeLaurentis

The Howard’s Exhale – “Nunsense – The Angels Are Among Us!

Overture, curtains, lights, This is it, the night of nights – my friends, I have not been in a live theater in over a year and half- so here I sit in the majestic Seven Angels Theater, in Waterbury, Connecticut, and as they say “On with the show this is it”! The show – the musical comedy – Nunsense – “With a Twist”. Well get thee to a nunnery!

My first journey has brought me to the house of Semina DeLaurentis- yes “the one and only” Semina- let me state for the record – that the legendary Miss Semina is a treasure – a national and state treasure- Connecticut’s First Lady of Stage! We are so rightly proud of her theater and to be able to see this well renowned actress up close, performing on stage in the production and the role of Sister Mary Amnesia, that she originated and has been associated with for over 35 years. We now assemble our heavenly angelic stars – ahem – those surviving “Little Sisters of Hoboken”- our additional cast includes; Tom Chute as Sister Mary Regina, Jimmy Donohue as Sister Mary Hubert, Marissa Follo Perry as Sister Mary Leo, Mandy Leigh Thompson as Sister Robert Anne, and lastly and not be forgotten, Sister Mary Annette. Book, music and lyrics by Dan Goggins, and co-directed by Jimmy Donohue & Semina DeLaurentis.

So here I humbly sit with a joyous full audience in attendance. Seven Angels Theater is alive again. The “Good Story” according to Goggins – come meet five of the 19 surviving Little Sisters of Hoboken, New Jersey. A tragedy has once again befallen the sisterly order, – oy vey – a tale of woe – what could it be?! Originally a missionary order that ran a leper colony in the south of France, ahem, I mean on an island south of France (please take note of this important fact) until the sisters themselves started to physically fall apart and they returned back to the good ol’ USA. 

Tom Chute as Reverend Mother/Sister Mary Regina

Holy Mal De Mer! Yet now another act of Armageddon has occurred among the sisters – a culinary disaster of the most biblical proportions-  Chef Sister Julia, Child of God (ahem) has unfortunately prepared her infamous vichyssoise for a final last supper, tainted and oh-so deadly, that 52 of the sisters are heaven-sent. The Little Sisters of Hoboken, have only enough funds to bury 48 of the 52 sisters – Sister Mary Regina/Reverend Mother (the most exalted Tom Chute) has spent the extra funds needed for burial on a brand new HD 4K Television- what to do – WHAT TO DO?! Why put on a musical, comedy, laugh out loud variety show, what else! 

I truly admit, I’ve seen Nunsense performed at other theatrical venues, but never with Semina DeLaurentis in performance- my friends she is a gem, a dynamo, a master of comedy, a literal ball of energy – a hoot and a half! I was thrilled when she began the “act” where she gentle but firmly quizzes the audience. Question one – “and the leper colony was established on an island south of ? I quickly raised my hand and retorted “France” and received my genuine St. Christopher Motorist Prayer Card from Sister Mary Amnesia. Believe you me, I was thrilled to receive the card, and that throughout the show she acknowledged pointedly that I was the “card collector guy”.  Another not to be missed Semina moment is when now accompanied by the bawdy, but oh so lovable hand-puppet, Sister Mary Annette – belts out ”So You Want To Be A Nun” – an unforgettable fun-tastic moment!

As they say a great cast is worth repeating, Miss DeLaurentis, is surrounded by an “oh so” satisfying sisterly assemblage. Tom Chute –  the longtime WATR morning host, portrays Sister Mary Regina, the Reverend Mother,  you sir were extraordinary – truly exceptional on stage, singing, dancing, a wonderfully playful tongue in cheek performance! Thank you Tom! We told you about Jimmy Donohue when we reviewed “Elf The Musical” at Seven Angels – our opinion of him remains the same I’m afraid- “this future Tony/Academy/Emmy/Grammy star is Mr. Jimmy Donohue – this is “star” quality – I want you to remember his name, Jimmy Donohue”. Jimmy ya did good as Sister Mary Hubert- you are a Star! -‘nuff said! Marissa Follo Perry as Sister Mary Leo – we also saw her last in playwright Jacques Lamarre’s “Love and Spumoni” – as usual you are simply radiant on stage-a true triple treat to the eyes and ears. Miss Mandy Leigh Thompson portrays Sister Anne, I have not had the previous opportunity to see you perform- but throughout the show you simply soar on stage! What a voice on you -clear crisp precise- Outstanding talent on stage! Miss Thompson, you also deserve to receive the coveted “Howard Noticed You” Award – great job! Nunsense at Seven Angels is an Outstanding opportunity to see greatness on stage that is not to be missed! Enjoy!

Marissa Follo Perry as Sister Mary Leo

Evening and matinee shows available. Tickets are $30. Call the Seven Angels Theatre box office at 203-757-4676, online at sevenangelstheatre.org, or stop in on Plank Road in Waterbury. Bring your friends for a great night out. Doors and Devil’s Corner Bar open 1 hour before curtain. Free Parking. Minutes off I-84.

Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at TheHoward24@gmail.com.

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The Howard – Theater Review – Nunsense with a Twist

Reviewer:             Howard Steven Frydman aka “The Howard”

Production:                      NUNSENSE – With A Twist

Theater:                            Seven Angels Theatre

Playwright:                        Dan Goggin

Music/Lyrics:                     Dan Goggin                                                                         

Directors:                           Jimmy Donohue & Semina DeLaurentis

The Howard’s Exhale – “Nunsense – The Angels Are Among Us!

Overture, curtains, lights, This is it, the night of nights – my friends, I have not been in a live theater in over a year and a half- so here I sit in the majestic Seven Angels Theater, in Waterbury, Connecticut, and as they say “On with the show this is it”! The show – the musical comedy – Nunsense – “With a Twist”. Well get thee to a nunnery!

My first journey has brought me to the house of Semina DeLaurentis- yes “the one and only” Semina- let me state for the record – that the legendary Miss Semina is a treasure – a national and state treasure- Connecticut’s First Lady of Stage! We are so rightly proud of her theater and to be able to see this well renowned actress up close, performing on stage in the production and the role of Sister Mary Amnesia, that she originated and has been associated with for over 35 years. We now assemble our heavenly angelic stars – ahem – those surviving “Little Sisters of Hoboken”- our additional cast includes; Tom Chute as Sister Mary Regina, Jimmy Donohue as Sister Mary Hubert, Marissa Follo Perry as Sister Mary Leo, Mandy Leigh Thompson as Sister Robert Anne, and lastly and not to be forgotten, Sister Mary Annette. Book, music and lyrics by Dan Goggins, and co-directed by Jimmy Donohue & Semina DeLaurentis.

So here I humbly sit with a joyous full audience in attendance. Seven Angels Theater is alive again. The “Good Story” according to Goggins – come meet five of the 19 surviving Little Sisters of Hoboken, New Jersey. A tragedy has once again befallen the sisterly order, – oy vey – a tale of woe – what could it be?! Originally a missionary order that ran a leper colony in the south of France, ahem, I mean on an island south of France (please take note of this important fact) until the sisters themselves started to physically fall apart and they returned back to the good ol’ USA. 

Tom Chute portrays Sister Mary Regina/Reverend Mother

Holy Mal De Mer! Yet now another act of Armageddon has occurred among the sisters – a culinary disaster of the most biblical proportions-  Chef Sister Julia, Child of God (ahem) has unfortunately prepared her infamous vichyssoise for a final last supper, tainted and oh-so deadly, that 52 of the sisters are heaven-sent. The Little Sisters of Hoboken, have only enough funds to bury 48 of the 52 sisters – Sister Mary Regina/Reverend Mother (the most exalted Tom Chute) has spent the extra funds needed for burial on a brand new HD 4K Television- what to do – WHAT TO DO?! Why put on a musical, comedy, laugh out loud variety show, what else! 

I truly admit, I’ve seen Nunsense performed at other theatrical venues, but never with Semina DeLaurentis in performance- my friends she is a gem, a dynamo, a master of comedy, a literal ball of energy – a hoot and a half! I was thrilled when she began the “act” where she gentle but firmly quizzes the audience. Question one – “and the leper colony was established on an island south of ? I quickly raised my hand and retorted “France” and received my genuine St. Christopher Motorist Prayer Card from Sister Mary Amnesia. Believe you me, I was thrilled to receive the card, and that throughout the show she acknowledged pointedly that I was the “card collector guy”.  Another not to be missed Semina moment is when now accompanied by the bawdy, but oh so lovable hand-puppet, Sister Mary Annette – belts out ”So You Want To Be A Nun” – an unforgettable fun-tastic moment!

As they say a great cast is worth repeating, Miss DeLaurentis, is surrounded by an “oh so” satisfying sisterly assemblage. Tom Chute –  the longtime WATR morning host, portrays Sister Mary Regina, the Reverend Mother,  you sir were extraordinary – truly exceptional on stage, singing, dancing, a wonderfully playful tongue in cheek performance! Thank you Tom! We told you about Jimmy Donohue when we reviewed “Elf The Musical” at Seven Angels – our opinion of him remains the same I’m afraid- “this future Tony/Academy/Emmy/Grammy star is Mr. Jimmy Donohue – this is “star” quality – I want you to remember his name, Jimmy Donohue”. Jimmy ya did good as Sister Mary Hubert- you are a Star! -‘nuff said! Marissa Follo Perry as Sister Mary Leo – we also saw her last in playwright Jacques Lamarre’s “Love and Spumoni” – as usual you are simply radiant on stage-a true triple treat to the eyes and ears. Miss Mandy Leigh Thompson portrays Sister Anne, I have not had the previous opportunity to see you perform- but throughout the show you simply soar on stage! What a voice on you -clear crisp precise- Outstanding talent on stage! Miss Thompson, you also deserve to receive the coveted “Howard Noticed You” Award – great job! Nunsense at Seven Angels is an Outstanding opportunity to see greatness on stage that is not to be missed! Enjoy!

Evening and matinee shows available. Tickets are $30. Call the Seven Angels Theatre box office at 203-757-4676, online at sevenangelstheatre.org, or stop in on Plank Road in Waterbury. Bring your friends for a great night out. Doors and Devil’s Corner Bar open 1 hour before curtain. Free Parking. Minutes off I-84.

Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at TheHoward24@gmail.com.

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The Howard – Passticceria Italia Bakery – Bloomfield, CT

The Howard – Howard Steven Frydman

Chef Emiddio Botta, owner of Passticceria Italia Bakery, situated in the beautiful Hamlet of Bloomfield, Connecticut, is proudly celebrating 25 years this August of continuous service throughout New England.

Emiddio Botta’s dedication, passion and hard work in providing the finest in baked goods, artisan pastries, and gourmet taste treats is truly inspiring and the reason for his long continued success as the premiere baker not only in Bloomfield, but throughout New England. Chef Emiddio Botta has additionally achieved celebrity status as one of the premiere pastry chefs here in Connecticut with his bakery “Pasticceria Italia” designated as “number one” of the top ten owner-owned bakeries here in Connecticut.

State Representative Bobby Gibson, who serves the 15th District – Bloomfield and Windsor CT, sent the following congratulatory remarks; “To Chef Emiddio Botta, owner of Passticceria Italia on your 25th Anniversary in business. Congratulations and thank you for your delicious treats and service to the Bloomfield Community. May your next 25 years be just as wonderful! Salute!”

The Honorable Sydney Schulman, former Mayor of Bloomfield states, “Good Morning Everyone, I am thrilled to congratulate Chef Emiddio Botta on the celebration of his 25 years of providing the BEST Italian pastry and baked goods in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts. I have talked to people from New Hampshire who have tasted his preparations at the Big E in Springfield and couldn’t wait to taste more. He is a shining jewel in Bloomfield’s restaurant and bakery establishments.  But, this jewel, like a fine diamond, shines outside the confines of Bloomfield to all over Connecticut and Western Massachusetts. A deep secret that should not be kept is his ability to serve Italian pasta meals at the restaurant also. If you want a taste of Heaven, try his pastries, Italian bread, etc.”

“It all started with a cannollie”, states Howard Steven Frydman, “it was during one of my first food reviews in 2008 for the Bloomfield Messenger, that Emiddio introduced me to one of his freshly made cannollies and I was hooked. I learned that he creates over 5000 cannolis each month and I’m sure I’ve eaten my share of them. Around ten years later Emiddio provided the grand cake for my 30th Anniversary Party as General Manager of BATV- the the three layer chocolate mousse cream cake was the hit of the celebration. In fact, during Thanksgiving, it has been a family tradition in my home to have one of Emiddio’s freshly made chocolate cream pies each and every year. Emiddio is one special person in our town, and I wish him a glorious anniversary and another 25 years of successful business here in Bloomfield.”

Emiddio, along with wife Carmen, son Giovanni and his entire dedicated bakery staff, arrives at the bakery at 5am, and off they go, turning out besides everyone’s favorite Cannolis and stogliatellas, aka Lobster Tails, but freshly made pies, breads, cakes and cookies and so much more. The ever busy bakery located at the Wintonbury Mall is a historic “Must Visit” destination stop for anyone visiting the charming hamlet of Bloomfield, CT. No matter what time of day, year, or even holiday – Christmas, Easter, Valentines Day, or even Halloween, throngs of folks can be found in queue awaiting a freshly made baked artisan pastry treat, a hot from the oven pizza or even ordering their multi tiered weddings, anniversary or birthday cakes from Emiddio- the Maestro of marzipan.

Visitors always take note that the pastry shop’s glass showcases are always brimming with such freshly made baked goods, including, Whip Cream Cakes, Ricotta Cakes, Chocolate Mousse Cakes,Tiramisu Cakes, German Chocolate Cakes, Napoleon Cakes, Rum Cakes, Cappuccino Cakes, Strawberry Cheese Cakes-, and pies galore- Apple, Chocolate and Banana Cream, Pecan, Yam and Sweet Potato Pie, and there is so much more- and we have not even started on the myriad of Italian cookies, home made soups and sandwiches.

Chef Botta states, “I am ever so proud of my family and staff for what they have achieved in the past 25 years. In honor of our Anniversary, anyone who can bring in a photo of one of our Wedding, Anniversary or Birthday cakes that was purchased and created here at Passticceria Italia will receive a 10% discount on one of our special event cake creations purchased during our anniversary month”.

Paticceria Italia Bakery is located at the Wintonbury Mall, Bloomfield, Connecticut. For information of how to order your freshly make baked goods, please contact Chef Emiddio Botta at (860) 242-3440. Please remember to wear your face mask and social distancing is required when visiting the bakery.

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The Howard – “Why Serve Steak – When you can Serve Salisbury” – Cooking Recipe

Why serve Steak – when you can serve Salisbury”!

Salisbury Steak Dinner

Dear  Foodie Fans,

I know many of you know me as the “local Food Critic” – hobnobbing with famous chefs, noshing at local eateries, such as my favs, Isaac’s Bagel Cafe, and Bloomfield Village Pizza, and giving you a fork to spoon report on my visit to a local eatery!

Well, sad to say, I have not done a restaurant review in now over a year. Like so many, I am still housebound, which gave me “food for thought” – what a great time to share with you some of my favorite “All Time – Comfort Foods” and my “Secret Recipe” on how to prepare them – first up – delicious, moist SALISBURY STEAKS!

Salisbury Steak, Potato Mash, steamed honey carrots. Photo by Harvey Leon Frydman

SALISBURY STEAKS- They are basically mini meatloafs that you make in a frying pan – easy peasy!  By the way History Fans – it was James Henry Salisbury, M.D. (January 12, 1823 – September 23, 1905) a 19th-century American physician, who was the inventor of the famous Salisbury Steak in 1888 – ground beef, flavored with onion and seasoning, broiled and covered with mushroom or brown gravy –  and in its day was touted as a popular health food!

Though I have never made the steak Salisbury, I am following a recipe that I found on line – that stated- “Why serve Steak – when you can serve Salisbury”! 

I’ve included the recipe for you intrepid Saturday Afternoon Chefs and connoisseurs of ground beef. BTW- I will be using fresh 85% ground beef – and the key word is “fresh”! As usual, my fresh ground beef comes from Geisslers- the finest supermarket in Connecticut. I so dislike, purchasing ground beef and coming home and finding the inside of the beef all grey – don’t you? At Geisslers, I have found it’s always fresh fresh fresh and please don’t be shy- ring the bell at the meat department and just ask them to prepare it the way you would like.

THE RECIPE:

Ingredients- 

1 pound ground beef – (85% lean –  more flavorful taste and moist)

1/4 cup dry bread crumps – (I like to use Progresso Italian Style bread crumbs- (don’t forget we are building flavor)

1 Egg (beaten)

1 (11.4 ounce) packaged dry onion soup mix (such as Lipton’s Dry soup mix)

2 Tablespoons water – fresh from the tap is fine.

1 jar Heinz Gravy, Mushroom (or Beef), Homestyle – 12 oz

Extra secret ingredients-

I actually add the following for flavor: 

1 dollop of Ketchup

1 dash of Worcestershire sauce and or A1 Sauce

Sliced green peppers and mushrooms 

Instructions: 

The fun part- Mix together the ground beef, Italian bread crumbs, french onion soup mix, beaten egg and water, a bit of the ketchup and Worcestershire sauce/A1 Sauce.

Now shape your Salisbury Steak mixture into oblong-shaped patties – should be able to make about 7-8 patties – not to thick.

Take your favorite skillet, add some vegetables oil to pan and begin to heat the pan – medium – 

Add your Salisbury Steak patties to the heated skillet. Cook the patties on each side for about 5 minutes till lightly brown, drain the excess grease.

Add your Heinz Jared Gravy on top of the Salisbury Steak patties. 

Add your additional secret ingredients- sliced fresh peppers and mushrooms.

Cook the Salisbury Steaks, covered,  in their bath of gravy for about 15-20 minutes – let it bubble a bit.

As stated, the recipe calls for the dry French onion soup mix as well -the mix does not make the Salisbury steaks too salty. As noted, I will not be making home made style gravy, but for quickness have chosen the Heinz jarred beef gravy, sans mushrooms- You cannot eat mushrooms with gout! Please note- as of this writing, I have made this Salisbury Steak recipe twice – believe you me they are absolutely delicious, moist and flavorful- in fact, leftovers made perfect midnight “raid the fridge” Sandwiches.

As a complete dinner, I will be serving the Salisbury Steaks with fresh baked Russet Potatoes, also from Geisslers, which I have prepared by washing, pat dry, making small slits in the potato, drizzled over with a bit of vegetable oil and have slid into the oven at 425 degrees for about 55 minutes – easy peasy! I do top my baked potatoes with Land O Lakes salted butter and a dollop of Breakstone Sour Cream. The veggie served is Green Giant Brand “French style Green Beans”, but I would also suggest using fresh asparagus spears on the side with a pat of butter.

Well that’s it in a nutshell my friends – the baked potatoes are currently cozily cuddled in the oven-  I will start preparing the Salisbury Steak process in a few myself and will have a delicious Salisbury Steak dinner – I hope you will join me and please let me know how your meal came out. Have a great cooking day everyone!

Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96. Feel free to share  your cooking recipes with Mr. Frydman at TheHoward24@gmail.com.

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The Howard ~ Celebrate both SuperBowl 55 and Valentines Day at Bloomfield Village Pizza.

Two  big event weekends – two fab food treats- Pizza and WINGS! ! One outstanding Bloomfield restaurant! It’s February and that can only mean it’s a time for romance and football – who knew they go hand in hand- SuperBowl 55 and Valentines Day. Well they do if your celebration includes great home styled food that can only be found in the hamlet of Bloomfield’s premier restaurant- Bloomfield Village Pizza.

Super Bowl 55, will be held on Sunday, February 7th, the Chiefs vs Buccaneers, while Valentines Day will be held a week later on Sunday, February 14th. Are you getting hungry?

Forget about all those Super Bowl commercials- cause folks in the know are already making their in-house plans for both occasions by preordering from Bloomfield Village Pizza their fresh from the oven Pizzas, finger licking BBQ wings, colossal hot and cold Sub Sandwiches, pasta and seafood dinners and so much more from their extensive menu. 

Howard Steven Frydman and Chef Maria Rosu

For the seventh year – the “Empress of Pizza” – Chef Maria Rosu- owner of the famed Bloomfield Village Pizza is readying her kitchen, for not only Super Bowl 55, but in honor of Valentine’s Day — known in Italy as “La Festa Degli Innamorati-  she is cordially inviting  “lovers of all ages” to celebrate the holiday de amour by providing authentic “Cabo dell ‘amore” –  “food of love”. Customers are once again invited to order their “Valentines Day” Heart shaped pizzas- to give to loved ones all “Valentines” week long. In fact, it has been a local custom for those who are soon to wed to preorder a heart shaped pizza emblazoned with “I Love You”, “Be Mine” or Maria’s famous “Pepperoni Proposal Pizza” – a large cheese pizza emblazoned with a pepperoni heart. Chef Maria states, “by the way – besides our fresh pizzas, we will have plenty of plump BBQ wings awaiting all hungry football fans on Super Bowl Sunday”!

According to Chef Maria – “both the Super-Bowl and Valentines Days are both very busy days here at Bloomfield Village Pizza. We  are happily creating a festive “Safe” dining experience for the entire family that you can simply enjoy in your own private homes. We at Bloomfield Village Pizza are doing our part in keeping our customers and our community safe and healthy.  All of our drivers and staff wear protective face masks and gloves and patrons can either choose call ahead curbside pickup or fast at home no-contact delivery. 

Chef Maria reminds all to order your Super Bowl and Valentines catering needs early this year. Bloomfield Village Pizza, is located at 34 Tunxis Avenue in Bloomfield, Connecticut. Please visit their website, http://villagepizzabloomfield.net or on Facebook for special discount coupons and fun contests. For information or how to order please contact Chef Maria at Tel: 860-242-3339. Please remember to wear your face-mask and social distancing is required when visiting Bloomfield Village Pizza.

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The Howard ~ Theatér Review – “All is Calm-The Christmas Truce of 1914” Playhouse on Park

Reviewer:             Howard Steven Frydman aka “The Howard”

Production:                      All is Calm – The Christmas Truce of 1914

Theater:                            Playhouse On Park – Streaming 

Playwright:                       Peter Rothstein

Director:                            Sasha Brätt

The Howard’s Exhale – an emotionally charged Yuletide presentation.

It is the eve of our own Christmas 2020, the year has brought upon us so much in learning what strength and courage is and the extending of one’s hand to another be it in peacetime or war. Playhouse on Park, as part of it’s 12th Main Stage Season, has brought fourth an “enduring – emotionally charged” filmed presentation  of “ALL IS CALM: THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE OF 1914. Peter Rothstein’s ALL IS CALM: THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE OF 1914, is Directed by Sasha Brätt, Musical arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach with music direction by Benjamin Rauch. The production is currently available to stream online from December 16, 2020  to January 3, 2021.

Director Sasha Bratt

Told in five parts, the production, actually intended for the stage of Playhouse on Park is made more realistic by its outdoor “men at war” staging. The stories presented, through music and first hand accounts are both heartwarming and filled with pathos in a world at war. These soldiers, though far from home, are not alone, for one brief 24 hours, Allied troops and German soldiers, are compatriots coming together, full of camaraderie, especially as Christmas arrives throughout the war torn trenches, sharing not only their food, drink and song but for one brief moment- becoming brothers.

Starting through part 1, “The Optimistic Departure”, part 2- “The Grim Reality”, part 3- “Christmas”, part 4 -“The Truce” and part 5 “Return to Battle” – we are a witness to these young men’s rebirth and struggles as they take us from their “eager to enlist for King and Country”, to the realities of war- “will the rain never stop”? The production, though filled with insightful recollections and letters, it is the soulful songs throughout the production that gives so much substance to what you are witness too including: “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary“, “Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag”, and a tearful “Silent Night”.

As stated, “this is a film of the play. This play was originally scheduled to be produced by Playhouse Theatre Group, Inc. live at Playhouse on Park. As a result of guidelines put forth by Governor Ned Lamont and out of concern for the safety of POP staff, cast, and crew, the play was filmed outdoors without the presence of a live audience”. We offer kudos to both POP and Director Sasha Brätt, this production still provides any theater goer a story that unabashedly and honestly showcases the “good” in man even in war. Please note, the amazing cinematography as we go from Brightest Day to the darkness of war throughout the production. Under Director Sasha Bratt, “All is Calm” is an absolutely stellar theatrical event not to be missed. We look forward to seeing this production as well as ALL future productions on the actual stage of Playhouse On Park. 

We send applause and appreciation to this stalwart cast of actors and singers including: Lu DeJesus (Actor 1), Niko Touros (Actor 2), Michael Hinton (Actor 3), and Singers – Kevin J. Andersen, Evan Benjamin, Matthew Bridgeman, Spencer Hamlin, Alex Hunt, Ryan Mancini, Michael McAvaney, Zach Reggio, and Jermaine Woodard Jr. Music Direction by Benjamin Rauch. Excellent job all.

Stream-at-home tickets are $20 per stream plus an additional $3 service charge. Online orders are subject to an additional $1.50 processing fee. In person and phone orders do-not have the additional $1.50 fee. All fees are passed on directly to the companies that charge for their services. Upon purchasing a stream, you will receive an email from BoxOffice@PlayhouseTheatreGroup.org. This will include your receipt, your code to view the film and instructions on how to access it. The code is intended for the purchaser only.  You will be able to access the film from December 16th – January 3rd only. For more information on streaming, or to purchase tickets, visit www.PlayhouseOnPark.org. For info contact the  POP box office at 860-523-5900 x10. Playhouse on Park is located at 244 Park Road, West Hartford, CT 06119.

Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at TheHoward24@gmail.com

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The Howard ~ Two Angels On Earth – Sheray McDowell and Michelle Adams – making the holidays bright for all!

Giving back in our community of Bloomfield. The power of two- two Bloomfield residents, Michelle Adams and Sheray McDowell, are both making a powerful difference this holiday season as they organize two very special events, Michelle Adam’s “Feel the Warmth” Blanket Drive –  making sure that our older population have a brand new warm blanket, and Sheray McDowell’s “Annual Toy Drive” which provides Bloomfield children a brand new toy on Christmas Day.

Michelle Adams

“It’s a stressful time for everyone, some have no jobs, many organizations are shut down, some are working from paycheck to paycheck, the demand for toys is huge, it is a hard decision for so many this year, either pay the rent or buy a child a toy” stated “Toy Drive organizer Sheray McDowell. “There is such a greater need this year because of the COVID-19 virus. We will be  distributing hundreds of toys but the demand is so great, we want to make sure every child gets a gift on Christmas morning” remarks Sheray McDowell.

Sheray McDowell

“Feel the Warmth” organizer Michelle Adams observes, “We are pitching in to aid our older neighbors who need our help. Our goal was to collect and distribute over 300 blankets to our “Older Adults”, homeless, veterans and “those in need” in our community. Many of our older population find it so difficult to stay warm during our Connecticut winters, especially those on a fixed income. Exposure to extreme cold temperatures can cause major complications, even death for the elderly. Blankets are a way to provide some control to utility costs, as well as help to maintain normal body temperatures. I feel so blessed to be able to help our Bloomfield residents by providing them a blanket”.

The “Feel the Warmth” Blanket Drive distribution will take place on Sunday, December 20th, 1-4pm at two Bloomfield town locations, Federation Homes and Interfaith Homes. Besides a brand new blanket, gift bags of face masks and sanitizer will also be provided. If you would like to make a donation of a brand new blanket please contact Michelle Adams at 860-209-8553. Recipients must be 65, resident of Bloomfield and show proof of residency.

Sheray McDowell’s Annual “DRIVE THRU”  Toy Drive distribution will be held on Monday, December 21stfrom 12noon to 2pm, Blue Hills Fire Station, Rear parking lot, 1021 Blue Hills Avenue. Bloomfield. The event is for children, birth to 12 years of age. Must be a Bloomfield resident and show proof of residency. Guests must wear masks and stay in their cars. To donate a new unwrapped toy to the Toy Drive please call 860-559-3939.

Sponsors and assistance with both the Blanket and Toy Drive include: State Senator Doug McCrory, State Representative Bobby Gibson, the Honorable Jennifer Marshall-Nealy, the Honorable Ken McClary, Blue Hills Fire Commissioner Chair Sheray McDowell, Blue Hills Fire Commissioner Michelle Adams, Democratic State Central Representative Edwin Garcia and BATV Executive Director – Howard Steven Frydman.

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The Howard ~ Theater Review – “Christmas On The Rocks” at TheaterWorks Hartford

Theater Review Howard Steven Frydman ~ aka “The Howard

Production:                      Christmas On The Rocks

Theater:                            TheaterWorks

Director:                           Rob Ruggiero 

The Howard’s Exhale – “Christmas on the Rocks” – A “Ho Ho Ho” Holiday Happening!-

It has been a lonely eight months since I last wrote a review concerning Connecticut theater.  I so miss the excitement of opening nights, the clatter of wayward “theater folks” navigating to their seats, “theater star dust” dancing off spotlights, a live orchestra in pre-practice exchange, real actors breathing life into a character. Yes, I miss it all – the lights, the action, the actors, the words – the theaters! As we all recognize, it is a different world, a new theater is emerging- a virtual one which we must now embrace and support until the invisible “C. Rains” virus is only a long lost memory. My friends- it is my delight to now introduce you to  a wonderful virtual theater “happening” – “Christmas on the Rocks”, conceived and directed by Producing Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero, radiantly streaming directly into your homes, like “Rudolph’s Red Nose”, from  December 1st through December 31st , 2020, – believe you me this is one perfect “Christmas Cocktail” to get you into the holiday spirit!

Yes – let’s dry up those “Rains”! –  it’s the holidays, indulge in the spirit of the season – and happily tickle your theater “funny bones” be it in the morning, afternoon or evening – it’s your choice –  of the finest “streaming” VOD theater this side of the North Pole as TheaterWorks presents the innovative “Ho Ho Ho” holiday Happening comedy “smash hit”  – “Christmas on the Rocks” now in its 8th year. “Christmas on the Rock” features seven playwrights each adding their own creative “what happen next” spin to a host of favorite holiday characters. A fun aspect of this filmed to stream version, taped on the actual TheaterWorks stage, is that you are actually behind the bar with the “voice” of Isaac the barkeep, (Ted Lange), up close and personal” with each holiday “come to life” character who enters throughout this two hour telecast giving us a rundown of their “grown-up” life”, Oy Vey! Just be careful you don’t get hit by some wayward peanuts or melted snowman.

Ted Lange as the “Voice” of the bartender.

The characters, so beloved they became real – it’s a who’s who – sorry no Cindy Lou Who, but join the likes of; Ralphie Parker – “Scott Farkus Jr. finally shot his eye out”; a zany Zuzu Bailey- so tired of being harassed by “wannabe Angels” seeking aid in gaining their wings; “Hermie the Elf- a toymaker destined to be a dentist; the blonde “pigtailed” Karen- “I brought “Frosty the Snowman” to life but all folks want to know if his first words were really “Happy Birthday”; Bob Cratchit’s kid – “Tiny Tim” from “A Christmas Carol”;  Russian accented Clara from the “Nutcracker” who can still do a full split at her advanced years; and everyone’s favorite- Charlie Brown who finally meets up with his true love – the “Little Red Haired Girl”.

Did I say real actors breathing life into a character? Yes I did, and even on this side of a LED screen I can feel every nuance of these “most excellent troupe” of actors giving it their all- they made me laugh, cry and I  just plainly enjoyed watching them act their hearts out! I rightly stand in applause to them all! Our stalwart performers include: Miss Jenn Harris (Zuzu Bailey Clara, Karen, RH Girl) – Ms. Harris you are a comedic wunderkind- a face like silly puddy, you remind one of Comedy legend Carol Burnett, a most cherished, vibrant performance; Randy Harrison (Tiny Tim and Ralphie)  Harry Bouvy (Charlie Brown) and Matthew Wilkas (Hermey) – Gentlemen – a standing ovation in my “living room” to all – you brought all these characters to life for us to enjoy – but most importantly you brought a smile to our face during these most difficult times – thank you all. 

A simple heartfelt thank you to Mr. Ted Lange as the voice of “The Bartender”. I think it was inevitable that the role of the wise and magical bar tender be offered to none other than the one and only Ted Lange, most famously known for his role as the bartender, Isaac Washington, in the long running. ABC TV series “The Love Boat”. We loved him then – we love him more now in this role- I have always envisioned the persona of the bartender as Santa Claus, seeing who is naughty or nice by hearing “holiday confessions” of these wayward literary tinsel town characters – ya know Ted does look a bit like Santa! Hey Santa Ted, please send a autographed photo my way please!

In the press release TheaterWorks states the production is an “off-beat” collection of twisted holiday tales by seven writers-“balderdash”- nothing off-beat here, just heartfelt childhood memories brought to life – especially when Charlie Brown finds out the Little Red Haired Girl has always loved him. I send heartfelt kudos to the whimsical minds of our seven scribes, bless you for watching everything “holiday” tv  throughout the years – our Playwrights- John Cariani, Jeffrey Hatcher, Jenn Harris & Matthew Wilkas, Jacques Lamarre, Theresa Rebeck and Edwin Sanchez. An excellent Holiday streaming treat for the entire family. Enjoy!

“Christmas on the Rocks“ is currently being produced by TheaterWorks, City Arts on Pearl, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford, CT. Performances: Streaming Video on Demand December 1- December 31st. PRICES: Monthly Memberships (on demand all month + perks) $20.21/month with a one-time $5 startup fee. Annual Memberships: $195 includes 12 plays VOD, Single Ticket Streams (24 hour streams) $25. For info call TheaterWorks at 860.527.7838. 

Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at TheHoward24@gmail.com.

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The Howard – Missionaries of Wellness

State Representative Bobby Gibson and “The Bread Lady” Sheray McDowell

A local “COVID-19 Caring For Others” Missionary Network has been established by Sheray McDowell aka “The Bread Lady” and assisted by State Representative Bobby Gibson – District 15, – both Bloomfield, CT residents.

State Representative Bobby Gibson- 15th District

For over 15 years, Sheray McDowell and her volunteer missionaries- have been traveling throughout the Greater Hartford region assisting local residents, church groups, halfway houses, senior citizen complexes and those in need with various food items. However, during the Covid-19 pandemic the missionaries work has expanded, as their car caravans filled with food items, now daily go street to street and home to home delivering not only needed bread and health aid items, but additionally checking in on the health, wellness, and those increasing concerns of our community members as we all continue to “stay home-stay safe”. 

Head Missionary Sheray McDowell

“The Bread Lady” and Head Missionary –  Sheray McDowell states, “I enjoy taking care of others, and during these difficult times there are just so many more of our citizens that need someone to care for them”. Sheray continues, “my missionaries and I are constantly being contacted for assistance, and we simply cannot say no to anyone in need- be it a simple loaf of bread, or just being there to talk to someone – where-ever there is a need we will be there”.

To become a “Missionary of Wellness” network volunteer,  or to make a donation of food items, Covid 19 face masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer, please contact Head Missionary, Sheray McDowell at 860-559-3939. 

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