It's Always a Party @ Sugar & Olives, Norwalk

Sarah Green

Wish you could throw a party in your own home, where people could meander from room to room to avoid that stuffy, restaurant feel? Hate being stuck at some long, rectangular table where the only person you are speaking to is the one right next to you? (You know, the one that you had been trying NOT to get stuck with.) Want to be relaxed and enjoy the food with your guests while someone else prepares, serves, and cleans up? Want to stop worrying about the red wine spilling on your white sofas? Tired of stressing about the fancy gadgets in your medicine cabinet that people might discover while they “powder” and snoop? Have your (organic) cake and eat it too at Jennifer Balin’s eclectic and fabulous “space” in Norwalk. SUGAR and OLIVES is the name and quirky and sensational is the game!

The address, not surprisingly is 21 ½ Lois Street in Norwalk. Why the half? Why not?!? This space is ½ Restaurant ½ Living Room. At the same time it’s ½  cooking school and ½  story-time  destination for little ones and their moms/caregivers. The owner? Not ½ anything, but completely Jennifer Balin. This full-time mom, caterer, and cooking instructor opened her loft space this summer and it is the coolest, most attractive culinary destination to hit Fairfield County in ages! The décor is sparse yet comfortable with white leather sofas, low coffee tables, orange hues, local artists' works on the walls, and stainless steel appliances behind the island/bar which looks into the kitchen. Sugar and Olives is eccentric, unique, and simply-cool.

Throw a dinner party in the comfort of a home - just not your own!  That’s the feeling I had the other night when I was invited to a birthday party at Sugar and Olives. Imagine this: a salad of Arugula to start, with Balin’s home-made dressing- a semi balsamic/red-wine reduction. Along with the salad, a mini vegetable square made of finely chopped peppers in fall colors - red, orange, and green. A beautiful autumn palette and the perfect vehicle to whet one’s appetite.  Next, organic salmon for 40! Easy to keep it moist? A daunting task if you are the cook and the hostess!  Yet Balin and her staff vini’d vidi’d and vici’d! With a granola and honey crunch on top, roasted fingerling potatoes and green beans on the side, this was a dinner to die for. And for dessert? Home-made, extraordinary cupcakes, elegantly displayed on a tiered platter. Too full? Balin boxed them for the light-weights (no pun intended) in adorable take-home goody boxes

Then, there are the classes- Balin offers the best in cooking classes for adults and children.  For the grown-ups, a mix of interesting and scrumptious menu ideas with courses that teach both “how to” and “why” without being overwhelming. For kids, she arranges the classes into single-month sessions, with four weekly classes. She hopes that by doing this, a parent can find an “off month” from activities where a child can learn to cook fabulously delish and secretly healthy meals with items that include names like “salsa and butterfiles,” “ I scream sundaes,” and “sweet not sour soup” to name a few.  Check it out on line at for the latest and most up-to-date schedules. 

And as for her parties? Well, you already read about the grown-up version. (For more details, give her a call at 454-3663.) The price depends on what you are serving - from just drinks and apps to a many-coursed dinner extravaganza!) For kids parties, Balin has been coming to people’s homes for years. Now she has her own space to host a party, even better! The kids cook their own food, decorate chefs’ hats, bake, slice, dice, and consume! Again, menus can accommodate everyone from the pickiest eater to those with food allergies, etc. The price? For $55 per child, you get everything - invitations, decorations, party favors (including personalized aprons and nostalgic candy), and food - with NO MESS and NO CLEAN-UP! Maximum number of kids -16. Of course at $55 a person, you may want to keep your party intimate. (The only thing not included in the price is the cake.) 

But what really makes Sugar and Olives special is Balin’s ability to serve the finest, healthiest meals in town, organic down to the vanilla sugar! And she serves with grace and style. Everything is whole-grain and without trans-fats. The dairy and produce come from local, family-run farms. What’s on the menu? What ever is fresh so call and find out! (again, 454-3663) This place serves home-made crepes, both sweet and savory. The coffee? The freshest beans are Gorilla Brand only, roasted in Brooklyn, and pressed slowly, the Italian way. (Even our coffee guru, David Webster approves!) 

Sugar and Olives is open from 8 “til we run out of food - usually around 4pm” Tuesdays -Saturdays. Late night on the town? Need a destination before relieving the baby-sitter? Sugar and Olives is open from 9:30pm-midnight on Saturdays for late-night snacks and coffee. And the bonus? Balin was recently granted her liquor license so she is now able to serve organic wines and hard alcohol, including her famous ginger and bourbon where the ginger ale, naturally, is freshly made. 

This place has it all. Come on over and check it out. Sugar and Olives? YUM- and ½!

Sugar & Olives 21 1/2 Lois Street, Norwalk. 203.454.3663