Commentary on morning visits to two sustainable-food restaurants
Community Table and Green Granary
The sign said:
It was fall, and I was speeding up north on Route 202 either to go to Massachusetts, or to visit the Litchfield farmer’s market, or both. Down closer to the road was another sign:
8:00 – 11:00″
I’d already passed the place by, but here you have it, a white house with a porch, a small parking lot, and me wondering what this meant, along this desolate patch of nothing much else but trees turning with the season. There didn’t seem to be any vehicles in the parking lot.
The next time I went up to Litchfield, or Massachusetts, or both, I whizzed past it again. Or, actually it was nearly 11 am, and so if it really was a restaurant cropping out of nowhere, serving time was nearly over.
Third time’s a charm. I actively started looking for it, deciding breakfast might be interesting. Usually when I go up to my land in western Massachusetts, I stop at the Farmington River Diner, in Otis. It’s a diner that serves breakfast and lunch, except when they are un-announcedly closed, and what they serve is unpretentious hearty fare, including the southern-style biscuits with gravy that a traveling companion once insisted I try, since I’d never eaten such before. (They were good, but far too heavy, and I’ve stuck with omelets there since then. They make a good omelet: no pouring faux eggs from cartons for them!)
But pulling into Community Table that day: just from the name I envisioned locally-sourced, perhaps sustainable food. I could find out. Today, there were other cars.
The restaurant is most likely a converted house. Simple lines, clean white interior, furnishings obviously not mass-produced in China. The style felt almost Arts and Crafts, almost Shaker — for a blurred split-second I wondered if I’d fallen into a minor but pleasant cult, especially when the hostess/waitress asked me if I wanted to sit at the community table, which would be shared with others who might want to talk with strangers. I said that would be fine (those of us who frequently inhabit sushi joints and like to sit at the sushi bar are familiar with talking to strangers while out dining).
They provide loaner books on farming, locavore foods, and other related items that one can peruse while waiting for the meal. In this breakfast incarnation (more on which later) the menu was fairly standardized. They’re not open for lunch, but they do open for dinner, five days a week (not Tuesdays, not Wednesdays). The biggest breakfast seller appeared to be the Scandinavian breakfast board: home-made sausages made from local meats, a soft cooked egg (could be made hard on request), a slab of hard cheese, a slice of prime bread from the Bantam Bread Company. And the coffee comes in French Press.
Headline: They don’t do breakfasts any more. They now, however, do Sunday brunch from 10 am to 2 pm. I wish they’d kept at least the Saturdays up, as that is when the Litchfield farmer’s market runs. But I can drop in on my way to Massachusetts if I go up there on Sundays. On the other hand, the menu has expanded. A few weeks ago, the recipes featured ramps, ramps, ramps, those delicate yet pungent denizens of slightly swampy eastern wildlands. They house-grind sausage meats out of the finest ingredients.
Two weekend ago: the ramps were gone, gone back to earth where they will wait out another year. Instead, I had rabbit cordon bleu, with home-smoked ham, perched on a small piece of toast, with a sunny-side-up egg balanced above, and a pile of fresh greens including some tiny wildcrafted flower whose name I do not know but meant to ask about. Awesome!
Some day I am going to have to dragoon a couple of friends here for dinner. I’ve read the menus, which change each night, and I’m HOOKED. Prices, by the way, are reasonable. The chef is Joel Viehland, and he is decidedly skilled.
Sequel: The farmer’s market in New Milford. Open season began last weekend, on a Saturday. Due to a couple other things happening on the New Milford Green, and the lateness of my arrival, I was forced to park a short hike away. I passed by a new eatery named Green Granary. By the time I’d finished shopping at the market, I’d determined to at the very least look inside.
It’s a high carbohydrate place, as evidenced from the name, and from the decorative sheafs of wheat along the walls. Pastries and scones dominate the food counter. I guess they continue to believe the USDA or something. That’s fine, I’ll eat a few carbs and grains if they are quality carbs and grains, and this is definitely a green and locavore enterprise, with quality grains (though I will steer far away from pastries). I ordered the special of the day quiche: bacon, spinach, carmelized onion, guereyere cheese, served alongside salad filled with baby lettuces and fetal sprouts of lettuces. This was so lightly dusted with vinaigrette that it was awesome.
Theres also a soup of the day (potato leek the day I was there), and I believe they will often have chili.
The chief chef, Sandra Stetson, plans to expand her enterprise to provide more breakfast protein, and perhaps even to provide convenient takeout service with fresh, attention-to-detail cooking. To date, I have had only the one opportunity to eat here, but am anticipating a repeat performance sometime soon. It is a great location with promise for major expansion as they settle in.
For those who do gluten-free, this is not currently on either menu, but once when I was at Community Table, a woman came in with her own bread which the chef gladly toasted for her. It probably would not hurt to ask at the Green Granary, too.
Both highly recommended.