Going on an explore: Wethersfield and Hartford, Connecticut

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Comstock Ferre & Co in Wethersfield on a gorgeous January Sunday morning

Comstock Ferre & Co in Wethersfield on a gorgeous January Sunday morning

The house was quiet because the boys were still sleeping and I was ready to head out to Wethersfield, Connecticut. I decided some alone time was just what the doctor ordered. I was heading to Wethersfield to see if Comstock Ferre & Co. would have the heirloom seeds sitting in my Baker Creek Seeds shopping cart. I preach “buy local” so I was putting my money where my mouth is. That and I wanted to ask lots of questions about when to plant, depth for certain seeds, will they have seed potatoes and herb plants in stock when it is time to plant those crops and more. I was well-rewarded for my trip. Not only was it a beautiful drive, Wethersfield is Connecticut’s largest historic district, a treat for anyone to explore.

Comstock Ferre's winter garden - Wethersfield, CT - January 2014

Comstock Ferre’s winter garden – Wethersfield, CT – January 2014

I found every seed variety I had on my list and many more along with some herb seeds including stevia. I am a very happy gardener. I will be starting some seeds next month.

Next, I wanted to visit one of the few indoor farmer’s markets in Connecticut: Billings Forge located in downtown Hartford, Connecticut. It was only 5.5 miles from my current location; off I went. Cirling around Hart Road I drove right past Hart Seed Co. and hopped onto I-91 north, exited left into downtown Hartford, navigated a wonderful traffic circle (because it was Sunday and there was no one else around), and a couple of turns later I had arrived.

Billings Forge Community Works in Frog Hollow, Hartford, Connecticut

Billings Forge Community Works in the Frog Hollow neighborhood in Hartford, Connecticut

Billings Forge Community Works is a non-profit community center in the Frog Hollow neighborhood less than a mile from Connecticut’s capitol building. It is described as “a driving force for community participation and empowerment in Frog Hollow through promoting access to healthy food; engaging youth; and developing employment opportunities and economically sustainable social enterprises.”

The Kitchen at Billings Forge:  Farm to table job training café, bakery, catering and teaching kitchen.

The Kitchen at Billings Forge: Farm to table job training café, bakery, catering and teaching kitchen.

Everything was closed; when I tried to enter the Fire Box farm to table restaurant I found the door locked. A lovely young lady invited me in even though they were not open yet. She allowed me to ask her questions about the farmer’s market (it is open on Thursdays), about the restaurant (she gave me all four of their menus to take with me), and about the housing located in the complex (non-profit, mixed income housing). I shall be returning on a Thursday soon and will try to visit in the warm months so I can learn about the community garden which I did not see on this trip. Food deserts are common in urban communities, so it does my heart good to see an organization like the Billings Forge Community Works thriving in a community where the median income is just over $17k and the majority of children come from single-parent families.

The Studio at Billings Forge is where the indoor farmer's market is located in the winter and where live music can be found on other occasions as well as classes and community events

The Studio at Billings Forge is where the indoor farmer’s market is located in the winter and where live music can be found on other occasions as well as classes and community events

The Fire Box restaurant, at first glance, doesn’t seem to belong in this humble neighborhood. Fire Box employs local residents (according to their website) and provides a menu filled with classically-prepared foods with the philosophy “that the best food travels the shortest distance from farm to table.” Not only is the food sourced locally but the menus reflect the seasonal nature of fine New England dining. Having a business such as Fire Box Restaurant in a poorer neighborhood can provide economic stimulus for that neighborhood. I can certainly attest to the friendliness of the staff, and the parking lot was filling up for Sunday Brunch as I took photographs of the complex. I’m pretty sure most of the Frog Hollow residents cannot afford to order their $9 Disco Fries, though. My 20-year-old wants the Cato Corner Cheese Plate, a “selection of artisanal raw cow’s milk cheeses.” The brunch menu starts at $6 and offers items up to $16 for an organic chicken pot pie. The dinner menu starts with First Course offerings such as Market Salad for $11 and Main Course offerings such as Arctic Char (sustainably raised in Canada) for $26 and New York Strip (Painted Hills, Oregon) for $35. I would suggest that Fire Box consider offering grass-fed beef from Connecticut instead of bringing meat all the way from the west coast. The Calamari does come from Rhode Island and certainly qualifies as local. I love how the menu items include a little snippet describing where the main ingredient(s) come from.

Fire Box Restaurant at Billings Forge in Hartford, Connecticut, focuses on a farm to table, seasonable menu

Fire Box Restaurant at Billings Forge in Hartford, Connecticut, focuses on a farm to table, seasonable menu

I thoroughly enjoyed my explore today. I hope you get to see something new and wonderful today. Happy Exploring!

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