Nuggets by Judy Henderson

You’re going to dig these guys.

Because these are the guys who will come and dig up that overgrown tangle of a garden spanning your entire yard — or the dreadful lawn you couldn’t see for all the snow when you bought your new house last winter. They’re the guys who will dig out that crumbling concrete sidewalk leading from the parking lot to your beautiful new offices — or reclaim all of that wasted space along your store’s stunning glass façade, now choked with old mulch, leftover gravel, and weeds.

And when these guys are through doing their digging, they will replant that massive garden. Regrade, seed, and fertilize your entire lawn to make it every bit as lovely as your new home. Lay hard-pack gravel and sand along that new walkway to your office before adding the cobblestone pavers that will welcome clients properly. They will even design and build a beguiling little terrace featuring perennials along your store’s exterior approach, inviting window shoppers to do some window shopping before stopping in for a closer look.

But then that’s just some of what these guys, also known as SVL, LLC, do. They’re experts at developing and executing both landscape and hardscape designs — large and small, residential and commercial — all while providing the ongoing lawn, garden, and overall property maintenance required to ensure that each customer’s investment retains its beauty and value for years to come.

And you can dig that, too! — J.H.

369 West Main St., Avon

Hungry? Experience the world of difference just around the corner.

Open since 1995, Tangiers International is certainly not the new kid on the proverbial block — though they did relocate a few streets from the original location a few years back, giving their considerable following momentary heart failure. But the angst abated the instant Tangiers International reopened and it was clear that this exotic little getaway remains everything it has always been — and more! Indeed to this day, everything from their superb little menu of sandwiches, salads, small plates, and complete meals is superb, from their legendary Gyros and Kebabs to their Baba Ghanoush and Baked Kibbee. The heavenly pastries are more aptly named than you can possibly imagine. (Do not leave without trying at least one.) And when you’re full, take a taste of the world home with you by visiting their international market, which features specialty foods for all people — Lebanese, Greek, Turkish, Jewish, Macedonian, Italian, Indian, Moroccan, Egyptian, Bulgarian, French, and Armenian. And after a truly fine meal and some equally fine shopping, you’ll agree that this West End favorite is a West End favorite for very good reason.
— J.H.

Tangiers International
550 Farmington Ave., Hartford

Putting the “Din” in Dinner

There’s only one place we know of where you are guaranteed actual sizzle with your meal, and that’s Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Fact is, Ruth’s Chris Steak House learned a long time ago that broiling the finest cuts of beef to perfection, topping them with a buttery mix of freshly chopped parsley, then serving them on a 500-degree plate so customers can actually hear the savory flavor isn’t simply the way to a man’s (or woman’s) heart. It’s the shortest route. And when they discovered that they could make chicken and chops and seafood deafeningly delectable, it sort of lit a fire under them — and before you knew it, Ruth’s became an international favorite. The good news is there’s one close by in Newington. Where? Just follow your ears. — J.H.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House
2513 Berlin Tpke.

Beauty — and the best.

There’s an old saying: If you are confident, you are beautiful. Truth is, how we feel about how we look affects our appearance dramatically. So don’t just “go get your hair done somewhere.” Go where the best stylists know that feeling one’s best and looking one’s best are totally intertwined. Go to Solo Bella Hair Studio. The name may mean only beauty, but the artists at this popular hair styling studio are keenly aware that confidence that lies at the root (pardon the pun) of all beauty — and they are experts at enhancing both.

Understanding that beautiful hair begins with healthy hair, Solo Bella’s stylists use only the organic L’anza hair color and products that not only seal and protect their clients’ hair but heal it. After all, each client’s hair is their canvas, and only when it is properly prepared can they fully utilize the Salon’s exceptional palette of services to create just the right look.

Among those services are the coloring and conditioning that refresh hair, including Faceframe Highlight, Partial Highlighting, and Full Highlighting. Partial and Full Balayage, Root Melt, Gloss/Toner, and Conditioning Treatments. For those longing for curls and body, there are perms. And for those weary of curls, there are relaxers — as well as Solo Bella’s Brazillian Blow Out, which leaves hair free of the frizzies and unbelievably shiny. Then there are Cuts, Blow Drying — with or without curls and with or without a flat iron, Formal Hair Design, and Men’s Hair Cuts, too.

So don’t just “go get your hair done somewhere.” Call Solo Bella Hair Studio and make an appointment to refresh your confidence. Then relax and think of nothing but how amazing you are going to look. Think only beauty.
Think Solo Bella. — J.H.

Solo Bella Hair Studio
898 Main St., South Glastonbury


Sizing up a real
little gem.

Conveniently located on Main Street in South Glastonbury, Char Koon is a small restaurant with a very big reputation.

Colorfully decorated in a crisp crimson and white motif, every detail of every elegantly set table is attended to with obvious care. And the menu? Well, Char Koon is Zagat rated as “authentic, high-quality” Pacific Rim cuisine that is ‘always served fresh,’ which is high praise, indeed. But my favorite review came from a customer who nailed it when she wrote quite simply that “this small, quaint, quiet restaurant…offers big bold flavors.” And in addition to how superb the food is, their offerings are both wide-ranging and beautifully plated, which makes one feel confident that dining here is a truly special experience.

Their appetizers include 14 different selections — two on the spicy side, including a Flounder Fritter and Szechwan Wonton. However, the Veggie Spring Roll or the Satay Chicken are equally tasty. But save room, because following the appetizers are soups; many poultry, pork, beef, and seafood dishes; even more main courses under “The Southeast Asian Corner” and “Traditional Favorites;” a special section just for some mouthwatering vegetarian dishes; pastas, including the perfectly delectable Mee Laut (braised angel hair noodles with shredded pea pod, carrot, jumbo shrimp and sea scallops in Malay blue ginger sauce); steamed entrees; and finally a nice vriety of Lo Mein noodles and Fried Rice.

The luncheon menu is equally abundant (including my favorite — the Chicken with Cashew Nuts) and makes taking a break at mid-day quite compelling and uniquely pleasurable.

And to top it all off, there are Red and White Wine lists, as well as a Beer list that includes ales, a lager, and an IPA that should keep those wishing to imbibe a little quite satisfied.

So! That’s about the size of it. While small in size, Char Koon is huge in stature. And it’s easy to see why. — J.H.

Char Koon Restaurant
882 Main St., South Glastonbury

Gotta hankerin’
for some farm
fresh flavor?

Then head directly for Gotta’s Farm and Cider Mill, where the Gotta family has been planting and harvesting for four generations — and the farm itself has been growing, too.

Here, you’ll find fresh-from-the-fields veggies and fruits — featuring already-harvested produce as well as pick-your-own strawberries, peaches, pears, and apples. And don’t worry if you get hooked on both the freshness of all that farm-to-table produce, because Gotta’s is also a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm and has been for the past five years. Become a Gotta’s shareholder, and between early July and early October, you can pick stop by weekly for your own box of just-harvested vegetables and fruits for healthier, tastier eating made simple.

Gotta’s also has their own bakery, turning out 20 (yes, 20!) different kinds of fresh baked pies every day, including Apple, Apple Raspberry, Dutch Apple, Apple Caramel Nut, Blueberry, Blueberry Krunch, Fruit of the Forest, Pumpkin, Pecan, Peach, Peachberry, Strawberry Rhubarb, and Mincemeat — as well as their frozen cream pies, including Chocolate Cream, Lemon Meringue, Oreo Cookie Cream, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cream, and Swiss Almond Chocolate Cream, with their seasonal Pumpkin Chiffon pie is a must as soon as fall arrives.

And Gotta’s Garden Center is second to none, with its spacious greenhouse and vast inventory. Indeed, this is the place to go in the spring and summer for your annuals, no less than 24 sun and 13 shade perennials, a host of lush hanging baskets, herbs, vegetable plants, soil, and mulch — and as August wanes your mums. Their excellent selection of both evergreen and flowering shrubs is available year round. And when the holidays arrive, stop by and pick out your Christmas tree. They don’t come any prettier.

Finally, you’ll be relieved to know that all the stuff you just gotta have from Gotta’s is available at two locations in Portland, and each is open daily. Just check the web site for their hours. Then make a list. It would be a shame if you gotta home and forgotta something…
— J.H.

Gotta’s Farm and Cider Mill
661 Glastonbury Tpke., Portland, 860-342-1844
QP Farm Market, Rte. 66, Portland, 860-342-5030

Game. Set.

Want to know why tennis buffs love this place? It’s because Racquet Koop beats everyone when it comes to having it all and doing it all for their tennis buffs.

Let’s start with the racquets — a whole wall of them, in fact, featuring a large inventory of all the major brands, like Babolat, Dunlop, Head, Prince, Wilson, Yonex and Volkl — all of which you can try out. And for a small fee (which is applied to your final purchase), you can even test-drive your favorite racquet. And they have a nice selection of smaller, pre-strung racquets for the junior crowd, too.

Need Shoes? Take your pick. Their stock of shoes includes light-weight breathables, such as Nike, Babalot, Wilson, and New Balance, as well as the heavier, more durable, more laterally supportive shoes designed by Adidas, K-Swiss, Prince, and Head.

An ever-changing selection of apparel for both adults and juniors is aimed at making sure you look and feel your best as one season yields to the next and popular styles come and go.

And there’s another wall you’ll want to peruse, featuring just about anything your tennis game might need, from replacement grips and overgrips to sweatbands, sport socks, vibration dampeners, and ball clips. There are tennis elbow aids and supportive insoles and Oakley and Bolle sunglass in different frame variations and lens colors. And balls? The selection includes all different kinds of ProPenn, Wilson, Prince, and Dunlop — including low and high altitude balls and pressureless balls — along with ball hoppers for a quick and easy pick-up.

Of course, they string and restring racquets, in addition to replacing broken strings for those with a great forehand, a wicked backhand, or who just got frustrated with their serve and whacked something on the way to the car. And since string matters, Racquet Koop carries everything from very soft, playable, multifilament string to the very durable single filament polyester kind. Take your pick.

Finally, they not only install grips but recommend you treat yourself to one that’s wrapped professionally, so you won’t have to deal with the lumps and bumps of DIY grips — and the blisters they cause. Racquet Koop’s grips come in different colors, with a feel for every preference, including rubber slip-on grips for racquetball racquets.

Think you can beat that line of tennis products and services? We doubt it. This place is a winner. — J.H.

Racquet Koop
908 Whalley Ave., New Haven


Nuggets copyright Judy Henderson