Nothing quite exudes sensations of spring on the palate like the lavender madeleines I discovered in the bakery café at The Kitchen. These treats are one of many that catch my eye in this gem of an eatery located in one of Hartford Connecticut’s most challenged neighborhoods.
About the size of lady finger and very springy to the bite, these melt-in-your-mouth morsels are coated in a light glaze of vanilla frosting embedded with lavender. The herbal essence didn’t overpower the cookie sweetness so as not to forget that I was eating dessert. Other lunch items and main entrees are made using farm-to-table ingredients whenever possible including vegetables and herbs directly from an on-site garden during the summer.
The best part is that all this fresh made daily goodness is a product of Billings Forge Community Works, an organization that has heavily invested in a neighborhood where 90% of residents live below the poverty line. This organization’s farm-to-table catering business employs real people behind these statistics giving them job skills and chances at meaningful employment. Under the direction of an Executive Chef, Pastry Chef, and Catering Manager, all staff members are trainees getting paid culinary training in kitchen and baking skills essential for food service industry work. In addition to this hands-on approach, The Kitchen staff also provide job readiness training, access to computer learning, and professional resume coaching.
So it all comes back to these tiny flavorful lavender madeleines which in my mind signify the arrival of spring….finally…and new hope to change doggedly persistent statistics of failure on the part of our society. Now, folks who live in the suburbs but work in the neighborhood are brought into contact with local residents in a meaningful way…to share a love of food and increasing access to healthy and more sustainable eating options…something that we all can identify with….rich or poor.
photo courtesy of Steve Mirsky