Tag Archive | "725Green"

Restaurant With a Green Sensibility

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Kazutomo Matsuoka wanted his son to learn the restaurant business from the bottom on up, literally.

“I had to sweep the basement,” said Tora Matsuoka of his first summer in the business at the age of 13. “Washing dishes was too good for me.”

Some 14 years later, the younger Matsuoka’s hard work has paid off as Tora is now the co-owner of Sen, the same Sag Harbor Japanese restaurant and East End sushi mainstay he once swept clean. Earlier this year, the 27-year-old also opened Phao Thai Kitchen, with business partner Jeffrey Resnick, who founded Sen with Matsuoka’s father.

Phao Thai Kitchen takes the place of Sen Spice, an Indian restaurant opened next door to Sen last year. Phao was originally located across the street from Sen, but closed in 2002.

“Jeff and I felt people wanted a faster, more affordable, sexier cuisine and Thai food is that,” said Tora of the decision to close Sen Spice and resurrect one of Sag Harbor’s most popular restaurants. “It’s a faster preparation, and more appealing to people during the hot, summer months when we are our busiest.”

Phao opened its doors in the beginning of April.

“The response was incredible,” said Tora. “We are so grateful for the support of our friends, family and clientele. We opened to a much bigger crowd than we expected, which proved people were looking for something a little different.”

Phao Thai Kitchen offers a number of mainstay Thai dishes, like chicken satay with peanut dipping sauce, fresh shrimp and vegetable summer rolls, wok charred squid with garlic chili sauce and sweet basil, Tom Kha Gai soup, Pad Thai, a crispy Tamarind duck, pineapple fried rice and several curries.

“I love to eat, so it is hard to pick a favorite, but the drunken noodles is a great dish not originally found on the Phao menu,” said Tora. Phao Drunken Noodles with Shrimp is a rice noodle dish with onions, peppers, sweet basil and chilies in a brown sauce that Tora noted packs just enough of a spicy punch without overwhelming the senses.

The company has also used the new launch to expand the catering leg of their business, incorporating a street food theme into their menu.

“A lot of great ethnic cuisine started out as street food,” said Tora, who said the catering business will offer carts and wok stations to their clients this summer featuring food from both Sen and Phao.

While just recently opened, Phao Thai Kitchen has become a place for the environmentally friendly to gather, the site of a Green Drinks event last Thursday, and this Saturday the meeting place for 725-GREEN, an organization of Sag Harbor residents interesting in pooling their resources towards creating a more sustainable village.

“My interest in this is we have been a part of this community for over 15 years now and we are not going anywhere any time soon,” said Tora. “The 725-GREEN movement is serious – the world should be more serious about this, and Gigi [Morris] has done a great job organizing people. If they need a venue to make this happen, we want to offer our services.”

On Saturday, May 9 at 4 p.m. Morris will host the green forum, which will focus on what the initiative has begun to accomplish towards making Sag Harbor a more environmentally friendly, and conscious place. An offshoot of Mayor Greg Ferraris’s municipal greening committee, 725-GREEN is aiming to tackle issues such as the inclusion of solar panels and other renewable energy resources in a historic village, recycling, the creation of bike lanes and educating the citizenry on the perils of pesticides, to name a few. Morris will speak, as will Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island and Russell Diamond of Solution Capital Partners.

For Tora, the focus on sustainability does not stop at offering meeting space to like-minded organizations. On Tuesday, he noted the restaurants are doing everything they can to reduce the amount of waste they produce – a problem he sees as widespread in the industry – by trying to recycle and reuse as much as possible, and use locally produced food products. Both are not without challenges, he said.

“Where we live there are not enough resources to do what we need to do with our recyclable materials,” noted Tora. “I see a lot of waste when it comes to restaurants so when Gigi brought this group up I wanted to jump in and help as much as I can, even though I know it is not enough.”

The restaurants work with a company that provides biodegradable bags for Sen’s significant take-out business in an effort to reduce waste, and Tora said they attempt to get as many local ingredients on both menus when possible.

“Really, the only reason we can’t always buy locally is if they can’t produce enough of what we need,” he noted. “We do support our local fish companies and farmers. We are also talking to some North Fork farms about growing some specific products like edamame for us.”

Phao Thai Kitchen is located at 26 Main Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call 725 4546.


Gigi Morris

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The chairwoman of “725Green” on free energy surveys, the importance of walking and biking instead of driving, and preaching the gospel of Green


Could you give me a general idea of how 725 Green was created and who initiated the idea?

Over a year ago, the mayor, Greg Ferraris, created a task force to make the municipal buildings more energy efficient and “green.” In the fall, it was decided that we would expand that to include all of Sag Harbor.


How did you become involved in 725 Green and who else is involved?

Some time ago, I tried to put solar heating panels on my house. The ARB opposed the idea, but because of my interest in solar, I was asked to be on the task force. When they asked me to chair the expanded group, I said sure. I love Sag Harbor and I’m happy to help. Although I have to say, I had no idea what a huge project I was taking on!

A lot of people are involved. We have a core group that includes Greg Ferraris, who is incredibly supportive and helpful; Kathleen Mulcahy, who is working with the schools and helping to design a website; Sara Gordon, who really launched this whole effort; Zachary Studenroth, who is working on zoning issues; and Russell Diamond, who worked on a similar group in Connecticut. Then we have dozens of great people working on particular projects and subcommittees.


What do you perceive to be the primary goals of 725 Green and what do you hope will be accomplished in the coming year?

We’re working on so many projects, it’s hard to put them in order. Probably the single most important thing we can do environmentally is to get people to make their homes more energy efficient. We are working with LIGreen, who is making free home visits (see www.ligreen.org/725green). We are also working to increase recycling, to coordinate efforts in the schools and the businesses, to promote biking and walking, to encourage (or allow) alternative energy (solar, wind, geothermal, tidal). We are also interested in being part of the international organization ICLEI, which will help us measure our carbon footprint and identify ways to reduce it. We’d like to get our website up and running. 

Most immediately, I would like to hold a town meeting to hear people’s views on all these issues — solar panels, wind turbines, parking lots, bikes, recycling, and so on, and also to talk about things we, as individuals and as a group, can do to protect Sag Harbor and make it more sustainable.

725 Green’s main purpose to is coordinate the efforts of existing groups and of individuals, to give them muscle, and to be sure that voices are heard and projects move forward. For example, most business owners are concerned about environmental issues, so 725 Green worked with the Sag Harbor Business Alliance to organize a meeting regarding these issues. Now they are looking at the possibility of putting solar panels along the flat roofs on Main Street and restaurant owners are talking about more ‘eco-friendly’ containers and bags, better recycling, etc. 


What have you done since the organization began this past fall, and how has the general public responded?

In addition to the business meeting and some of the other projects I’ve mentioned, we’ve been talking to haulers to improve recycling, started efforts to open Cilli Farm, looked into community composting, worked with the schools. We want to empower the students and teachers because they’re very enthusiastic about it. 

People have been very supportive. I don’t think anyone is opposed to being ‘green.’ I just think we have to balance our historic heritage, the natural beauty of Sag Harbor, and the need to shrink our carbon footprint. Do we want this to be a walking/biking village, or do we want tiers of parking garages? Do solar panels conflict with the wonderful, almost museum-like quality of this village? Would wind turbines be an eyesore? We need to discuss all of this. Keep in mind, we have a windmill in the center of town; wind energy is our heritage. I think historic preservation and environmental sustainability can work perfectly together, and I believe Sag Harbor can be a green model for other historic villages.


How do you think changes in the current political administrations both locally and nationally will affect the environmental concerns of 725?

I think there is a lot of support locally for environmental initiatives. And the switch from Bush to Obama, well, I’m not sure any comment is needed. The Obama administration has talked about creating green industries.


Your organization, 725 Green, began just as the economy plunged into what looks like a long recession right now.  How do you think this will affect environmental issues in general and your program in particular?

The economic downturn works for and against us.  There will be less money to spend on some projects, but on the other hand, when people are economical, they are usually more green. For example, insulating your home is both environmentally and economically beneficial. The mantra of green, is Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Well, when money is short, people are less consumer-oriented, less wasteful, and more apt to reduce and reuse.

What are you hoping for in the future?

Right now, I’m hoping for active volunteers. I need people who don’t just say they care, but who will actually take a few hours, do some legwork, and make a difference. We are so fortunate to live in this beautiful place, but we can’t just depend on someone else to take care of it.