An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Aug 29, 2013
02:42 PMThe Connecticut Table
A New Farm-to-Table Café for All, Kitchen at Hartford Public Library
Lindsay Vigue Photography (www.lindsayviguephotography.zenfolio.com)
Cupcakes on display at Kitchen at Hartford Public Library.
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There’s an intriguing new plot line at the Hartford Public Library, where the latest protagonist among the stacks (or at least adjacent to them) is a farm-to-table café called Kitchen at Hartford Public Library, located in the soaring glass-walled atrium along Main Street.
While it’s a stunning new resource for library patrons—one that embodies how completely Connecticut has returned to a local foods ethos—the café also has a street-side public entrance, making it a daytime discovery for folks who might be connecting with the nearby Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art or other capital city historic and cultural amenities.
Open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, serving breakfast, lunch and pastries made from locally grown and sourced ingredients, Kitchen debuted Wednesday with a media event that featured Gov. Dannel Malloy, state Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Hartford Public Library CEO Matt Poland and the star of the presentation, Cary Wheaton, the executive director of Billings Forge Community Works.
The presence of these “supporting characters” wasn’t occasioned simply by the gourmet fare, but because Kitchen is much more than a café. As a partnership between the library and Billings Forge—a driving force for community participation and empowerment—Kitchen is also a jobs training and placement program dressed in the cloak of a fine dining enterprise. (One of those who spoke Wednesday, offering gratitude, was previous job trainee and current Kitchen employee Shavonne Dawson.)
But the theme here is food—see our related bigger-picture story on Kitchen and the library—and when it comes to dining, Hartford, already blessed with a broad range of great options, suddenly has a polished new café on the 500 block of Main Street.
Here, over morning musings, you can nibble on a homemade cinnamon walnut scone ($3.25) alongside a cup of Omar’s coffee, Harney & Sons tea or an espresso-infused latte or cappuccino—or have a “famous” sticky bun ($3.25), a muffin ($2) or a bacon, egg and cheddar sandwich on a cheddar scallion biscuit ($4).
For lunch, there’s a handful of salads, the most intriguing of which are Le Blue (farm greens, blue cheese, walnuts, pickled shallots, smoked bacon and buttermilk Ranch dressing) and El Greco (local greens, spiced chickpeas, herbed feta, green olives, grape tomatoes, cucumbers and lemon oregano vinaigrette). Both are $8.50.
A homemade soup of the day is $4, and an individual quiche or frittata—bacon and cheese, say, or spinach, tomato and cheese—is $5.
The sandwich menu includes the Pilgrim (turkey with apple mayo and cheddar, on a ciabatta roll; $8.50) and the Tuscan (white bean hummus, roasted tomatoes and spinach on a caramelized onion focaccia bread; $7.50). A “carving board” option ($8.50) lets guests design their own sandwiches by choosing a meat, cheese, toppings and bread.