I recently received an invite to attend the grand opening of Kitchen, a cafe at Hartford Public Library. I was informed that its a farm-to-table cafe serving up “Food for Good” – a part of the Billings Forge Community Project. At first glance, I could not understand why this is such a special occasion that a food blogger all the way from Fairfield County is getting invited to it. Naturally I was curious.
So, I googled “Billings Forge” and “Kitchen”…. and what I discovered just blew me away. Billings Forge is a wonderful initiative started a few years ago in this section of Hartford, called Frog Hollow – which was desperately in need of help and nurturing. With a high percentage of low income and single parent households, this was an area that needed a radical solution. A solution that does not just begin and end with a charitable donation to this community. Instead, a solution that is mindful of its residents’ need for self respect or their sense of independence and sustenance.
Billings Forge is a perfect model for many communities (all over our country as well as the world) in need. Jobs are being created and people are being empowered and enabled to aspire towards successful careers. Here the idea was to use food as a solution. It’s based on a strong belief that everyone deserves access to healthy food. It introduced the concept of farm to table cooking to the residents of this community and brought Hartford’s largest Farmer’s Market right to their doorstep. A beautiful park and garden is set up where children and adults in the neighborhood are encouraged to come together and participate in planting various vegetables and herbs. The idea is to instill in the young, the understanding and simplicity of eating healthy.
Kitchen is a casual farm-to-table cafe and bakery where young adults are trained in the culinary arts. They learn the art of cooking, serving and running a restaurant. They are given the tools and knowledge to go out into the world and work in the culinary industry. And many of the graduates are already doing so. The best part is that, highly accomplished, professional chefs are the ones training these aspiring young adults. Like executive chef Julie Carrion, who spent her first year cooking with Top Chef Master Anita Lo. She has also worked at Daniel in NYC.
Award winning Firebox, is a farm-to-table fine dining restaurant – also in the Billings Forge complex. We has brunch there today. What a very trendy, cheerful, fun place to be! The servers and staff were all so well trained and professional. I noticed pride and huge smiles on their faces. So infectious that the diners couldn’t help but be caught up by it as well. We asked for a tour of the complex and two different servers eagerly offered to show us around whenever we were ready. This is quite a testament to the success that is Billings Forge.
The food was delicious, creative, and superbly executed. Like the house made Melon Soda. So fresh and so refreshing. I was surprised that I have never had anything like this before. What a genius idea!
I really enjoyed the Roasted Corn Chowder Soup with Basil Oil, Cornbread Croutons and Smoked Bluefish. The flavors were familiar yet with a surprising twist of the basil oil and smoked bluefish. It was quite a delightful experience.
As recommended by our server, I tried the Pulled Pork Sandwich with Duck Fat Peppers, Red Onions, Roasted Pepper Vinegar and Aioli. It was delish. The Pulled Pork is smoked in-house and it was deeply flavorful and really moist.
The Eggs Benny come with a choice between Salmon or Pastrami. We tried the Pastrami version and were so happy with our choice.
There is a comprehensive list of wines and other alcoholic beverages to choose from. Lunch, brunch and dinner menus all look mouthwatering. There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating (on a charming patio). All in all, I’d say this is a restaurant I’d like to visit every time I am in Hartford area.
The Kitchen at Billings Forge also offers catering services as well as cooking classes for visitors. I encourage you to visit their website. I am confident that you will be inspired by what is going on at Billings Forge. I hope you support this great effort with your patronage – what you will get in return is a wonderful dining experience.
Billings Forge, Hartford | http://billingsforgeworks.org