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Fresh From The Cozy Kitchen At Billings Forge

Café At Hartford Complex Offers A Range Of Options, From Catering To Eat-In And Takeout


March 24, 2011

Good things do come in small packages and small places. And when it comes to good food, the cozy café at The Kitchen at Billings Forge in Hartford's Frog Hollow neighborhood is delivering some tasty surprises.

The Kitchen is part of the community-based cooperative in the former factory at 559 Broad St., which includes housing, an arts facility, the Firebox Restaurant, a community garden, a farmers market and more.

It not only offers farm-to-table catering but several months ago added the breakfast and lunch café, which provides job training and employment opportunities for residents and a lot of good food for customers, whether they decide to sit, grab lunch for the office or something for dinner.

"It is a showcase for the catering business, a kind of a little Firebox, but more casual," says executive chef Julie Carrion. "It's a great alternative to a traditional restaurant."

The cafe has several small tables, a more social community table, some cushioned chairs and a huge chalkboard menu on one of the original brick walls.

In the morning, the display case and counter are filled with freshly made granola parfaits, sticky buns, breakfast pizza, scones and muffins, and in the afternoon, specials like apple tart tatin, flatbreads, roasted vegetables, rosemary chicken and beef pies.

There also are a host of standard sandwiches and quiches — made better by the staff's creativity and farm-fresh meats and produce. Curry chicken salad with mango chutney, grilled cheese on homemade bread with caramelized onions and dried tomatoes, and fancy turkey with fresh cranberry-orange relish are signature choices.

Artisanal breads are baked daily, as are an assortment of desserts, including bars and brownies, shortbread and cookies. Artisanal beverages include Bean & Leaf coffee, Harney & Son teas, and Hosmer Mountain Soda and seltzers are also on the menu. Food displays, including apothecary jars full of sweet baked goods, are hard to resist, even if you are just stopping by for coffee.

Such local farms as Urban Oaks, Chaplin Farms, Starlight Farms and Farm-to-Hearth are tapped for the fresh ingredients.

"It is hard to find local and seasonal foods at this price point," says Carrion of the menu, which ranges from $4 for a bowl of homemade soup of the day to $8 for a sandwich with side choices such as fresh pickled beets or zucchini and tomato gratin.

Open at 7 a.m., The Kitchen also offers assorted dinners-to-go for those who don't have time or energy to cook at the end of the workday.

"We are more than just a lunch place," says Carrion, who looks forward to someday expanding the café, either via a downtown food cart or by adding other locations.

Al fresco dining near a soon-to be-planted herb garden is planned for the warm-weather months.

"And it will be a treat to have the herb garden close to the kitchen door," says Carrion. "It will be easier to pick the lavender for our lavender lemonade.

For more information: 860-727-8066 or http://www.billingsforgeworks.org.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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