The Farmer's Table serves farm-fresh food
Published 3:38 pm, Wednesday, October 20, 2010
As a little boy growing up in Pound Ridge, N.Y., Robert Ubaldo always enjoyed living around a huge garden where his family could grow and pick their own fresh food.
So it only made sense that when he opened up his own restaurant down the street on New Canaan, he would model it after his favorite place.
"It was kind of like living in a farm in the suburbs," he said. "I got an early appreciation for food and for nature."
In early August, a lifelong dream of his came true when he opened The Farmer's Table at 71 Forest St. The combination gourmet food shop/restaurant prides itself on sourcing all of its items from local growers and producers, and most of the ingredients in food comes either from a huge garden located at Ubaldo's childhood home, where he now lives, or from his brother John's farm in Vermont.
Think freshly made goat cheese, sausages, smokehouse pork, trout, and duck. You'll it find it there in the front cases waiting to be sold. Baskets adorn the front of the store, overflowing with fresh seasonal vegetables such as squash, carrots, and potatoes.
There are six tables in the shop that allow customers to sit and enjoy some of the many lunch and dinner specials that Robert whips up from the fresh ingredients. He said he hopes to begin offering cooking classes as well. On a daily basis, he cooks up specials such as butternut squash soup and fresh roasted corn chowder. The menu changes daily depending on the season and what's fresh, but pan-seared skirt steaks, chicken breast and salads with a fresh-squeezed lime dressing are regular items. Breads such as ciabatta and sourdough sell for $5 a loaf. Soups go for $3.95 a cup and $4.95 for a bowl, and entrees are priced at $10.95 to $15.95. The shop is open from 11:30 a.m. until 10 at night. His fiancée, Lucia, works the front of the restaurant welcoming diners in.
"I absolutely knew this was going to be good," said Ethel Romano, who was visiting from Forest Hills, N.Y. with her husband Elie. The couple had happened upon the Farmer's Table a day earlier and had to come back to try to butternut squash soup, she said. "You could just tell when you walked in the door."
To many foodies in New Canaan, Ubaldo has been a major influence on their culinary scene, as he has been a chef at many New Canaan haunts over the last 10 years or so. After moving back to the New Canaan area following a stint on a farm in Vermont, Ubaldo spent 10 years from 1992 to 2001 perfecting his chef skills at Tequila Mockingbird, The Inn at Pound Ridge, Miche Mache, and The Southwest Café in Ridgefield.
While at those establishments, he prided himself on growing his fresh vegetables in the garden.
"They all used to laugh at me because here I am bringing in my own vegetables," he said. "I grew them myself because I couldn't find really good tomatoes and unusual things like tomatillos and epazote."
He began experimenting with baking his own fresh breads. His brother, who had left a job on Wall Street to buy the family home in Pound Ridge and start an organic farm, started selling fresh eggs, pork, and vegetables at the Scotts Corner farmers market, asked him to sell some loaves of his fresh bread.
"They disappeared immediately, and I said maybe this could be worth it," he said. "Here we are standing outside in November, and people are hounding us for food. I said why not put a roof on it."
The 49-year-old Ubaldo was almost on his way to a career as a scientist. He attended Green Mountain College in Vermont, where he earned a degree in sociology, and then attended Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. and earned a degree in biology and biochemistry.
After college, he took some time off and decided to rent a place at a local farm and ended up staying there for a few years. He really found himself enjoying the idea of the farming life.
"When I would go out to get my food, I'd see a farm stand here and there, and that's when I first got the idea to grow and sell my own food," he said.
But it took some time to become reality. His brother, John, bought the Vermont farm and turned in into John Boy's Farm. Ubaldo moved back home and at some point he worked as an organic chemist for Morton Thiokol, making polyurethane coatings.
He quickly discovered the science world was not exciting him, and he also worried about being exposed to chemicals on a daily basis. He became a cook at a few local restaurants in the Hudson Valley, which was just beginning the "organic foodie" trend, and that's where he started learning how to cook with organic ingredients.
"For me it's not so much a cause as it is about good food," he said. "I think at some point the food in America got bad and now the pendulum is swinging the other way. Now I think we have some of the best food in the world, that's more attached to the earth."