An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
May 1, 2014
01:16 PMThe Connecticut Table
Connecticut Fresh Tastes Great at The Farmer’s Cow Calfé & Creamery
By now everyone knows the story of The Farmer’s Cow, the group of six Connecticut family dairy farms working together to produce milk, half and half, eggs, coffee, cider, summer beverages, ice cream sandwiches and ice cream. The cooperative’s black-and-white heifer appears on milk cartons in grocery stores across the state.
But this isn’t about the milk. This story is about the café, which you probably aren’t familiar with.
A café associated with a dairy brand? Tacked onto the end of an unremarkable strip mall? Painted an electric green color?
These aspects and others surely prompt hungry passersby to ask, “What is this place?”
The overarching answer is: Delicious.
Opened in August 2012, The Farmer’s Cow Calfé and Creamery in Mansfield (right) is part eatery with a locally-source ingredients ethos, part ice cream parlor, part refrigerated grocery store. When you cross the outdoor patio lined with wrought iron furniture and enter the small store, it all makes sense.
“It really puts a face on The Farmer’s Cow,” says Managing Member Robin Chesmer.
A large counter where orders are taken and ice cream is served sits along the left wall, next to four refrigerated cases holding all The Farmer’s Cow products. Tables fill the right side of the restaurant, creating a perfect nook for a quick breakfast or lunch.
The Calfé and Creamery has the family-friendly vibe of an ice cream parlor—it’s painted in various shades of light green, the walls are covered with pictures of cows and the finishing touch is a green-and-purple checkerboard floor. The original idea was to open an ice cream shop featuring the many flavors of The Farmer’s Cow ice cream.
As the story goes (it’s written on the back of the menus) one of The Farmer’s Cow partners suggested that they should sell eggs and coffee too. If they were going to go that far, the thought was, they might as well serve lunch and dinner because “just serving eggs and ice cream would be a little weird.”
Like the generously portioned Egg-cellent Vegetable Panini—fluffy Farmer’s Cow eggs mixed with veggies on buttery flatbread (right).
Other breakfast options include The Farmhand Breakfast Sandwich and the Good Life Belgian Waffle, served until 11 a.m. daily.
For lunch or dinner you could indulge on the sweet and creamy Grilly Goat Panini—goat cheese, spinach, fig and honey preserves on flatbread.
Or maybe the Traditional English Ploughman’s Lunch—an open-faced ciabatta with a wedge of Cabot aged sharp cheddar and Boar’s Head ham, with pickled onions, lettuce, tomato, a Branston pickle and The Farmer’s Cow hard-boiled egg.
There are plenty of salads, sandwiches, wraps and paninis to entice all types of customers.
(Quiche with a side salad, left.)
“Everywhere we could we use local ingredients,” says Store Manager Justeen Bligh. “We’re supportive of farmland and also small business.”
The breads come from New Haven’s Chabaso Bakery, the goat cheese is from Beltane Farm in Lebanon and the fresh mozzarella comes from Luizzi’s in Hamden, among others. The Calfé sells Hosmer Mountain Soda, made in Willimantic, and Currant Affair Juices from Preston.
The milk, cream, eggs and coffee are all their own, and the famers have come up with creative ways to highlight their products.
For example, consider the Milk Bar (right): The Farmer’s Cow has concocted 30 different varieties of flavored milk–everything from the customary chocolate to root beer to lemon.
If your stomach turns at the thought (my own face scrunched at the mention of lime flavored milk), you have to try it. Each is gently infused with the flavoring. The root beer milk, which I tried on my visit, tastes like a root beer float minus the heavy ice cream.
“Where some restaurants would have a soda bar, we have a milk bar,” says Bligh.
It’s perfect for children, and the manager has many stories of kids coming in with their parents who were more excited about the flavored milk than the ice cream (though that shouldn’t be missed either.)
For the adults, any of the flavored milks can be steamed and frothed into a delicious warm beverage. Bligh says the Milk Bar Steamers are very popular throughout the colder months.
(Chocolate fest sundae, left.)
There’s a lot to love at this one-of-a-kind Calfé and Creamery, though it may not be the only Farmer’s Cow eatery for long. Chesner says the group is looking into expanding to other locations, but nothing is settled.
For now, The Farmer’s Cow Calfé and Creamery is open Monday through Sunday, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, it stays open an extra hour to scoop ice cream.
For the full The Farmer’s Cow story and information on farm tours, visit the website at TheFarmersCow.com.