Monday, June 7, 2010
Brooklyn, Connecticut: Katie Bogert at the Golden Lamb Buttery
"In 2000, my mom married Jim, my stepdad, which is the Booth son. I was a senior in high school. We just lived in the next town over and I was working here before that. My mom waitressed here before I did. I started at 13 as a coat girl."
"My grandparents, they're both 87. They're currently in a nursing home, but my grandmother Jimmie, she cooked for 42 of the 47 years, so really till they were 83 or 84 they were running it. Then there's my stepdad, and then there's only one other son, and he helps where he can, but the rest of the extended family, no one lives around here. And actually, in three weeks...we have a family reunion every five years...so we have about 60 people coming in from all around the country: California, Seattle, Montana, and then like North Carolina, Atlanta, everywhere."
I took a break from doing the project while we were in Connecticut so that I could soak up being with my family, and I am so grateful I had that time. I ended up being part of 2 of the interviews and my mom actually accompanied us to one of them, the Golden Lamb Buttery, a restaurant in Brooklyn, CT.
She had first taken us there at Christmastime when we visited, and it is in what Connecticut refers to as the "quiet corner"- the northwest section that consists of a lot of farmland and countryside. My mom and her partner Rena were considering having their union ceremony at the Golden Lamb, but thought that too many of their friends wouldn't be able to make the trip out there as it is far off the beaten path.
We spoke to Katie Bogert, who let us know that people do actually travel for many miles to get to the Golden Lamb. It was her grandfather, a gentleman farmer, who bought the property in the '40's and kept sheep there. On the property there was a weaver and a clothing shop that took the wool and made very fashionable suits for men and dresses for ladies. Katie showed us a photograph album that had plenty of pictures of her grandmother, Jimmie, looking like a model in fantastic dresses and matching hats.
"The farm has been in the family since...it was Bob's father who bought it in the early 40's and years ago they sold the development rights to the government, so if the family were to ever sell the farm it would always remain a farm; it couldn't be a golf course or condominiums or a development. Right now there's about 1000 acres left. When he first bought it it was about 1800."
"Well, Hill and Dale Handweavers closed in the 70's when wool went out and synthetics came in...financial reasons...no one in the family wanting to do it. And even though we've always had cattle and sheep it has always been more of a gentleman's farm than a real, true 1000-acre working farm. So, my great grandfather, when he bought it he lived in the city and wanted something out here, found it, fell in love with it, found out it was in 'Brooklyn' and didn't want to go back and tell his Manhattan buddies he bought a farm in Brooklyn, so he bought 50 adjacent acres in Pomfret and the restaurant had a PO Box in Pomfret for years so we could say we were from Pomfret, not Brooklyn."
It is no longer an actively farmed property, other than haying on some of the main fields. The restaurant, with its dinners and events, is the attraction. They started serving meals in 1963.
The Buttery still has some animals. Out in back there are rolling pastures where 5 donkeys who were somewhat rescued graze and frolic. There are cows as well,though not for production. There are still some sheep, but they are ornamental and the dress/suit shop is long since gone. Katie lives in the old weavers' building.
"So, Hill and Dale Handweavers...men and women were coming from all over to get these suitjackets and suits made; they were custom, no two were the same. In that time it was growing in popularity but there was nowhere for them to eat. So they opened, just light lunches, very simple, in '63 and it was about 10 years later when dinners started and then it sort of evolved from there."
"At this point we just hay the fields; the major fields are hayed, and then the animals are just pets. We have 5 donkeys, you can see them, blending into the scenery over there. Of the donkeys, Boomer is pushing 40. So, we had Boomer and we had a Shetland pony, and then came Muffin; Muffin's the one who's walking away. She has the donkey body with the horse's face. Since Boomer's kind of getting up there I wanted to have someone for Muffin...there was an ad in the local paper, 'donkey family for sale.' I called and thought 'I can't believe I'm responding to this.' So we went and saw them and, long story short, a couple days later they were her. So now we have Bandit, Sassy, and Nestle."
Eventually the farm transitioned into an upscale restaurant, with most of the existing buildings used for that purpose. The barn is now the dining room and kitchen; you walk in the big double doors and down a hallway that has wooden benches and quilts hanging on the walls, as well as framed newspaper write-ups and family reunion pictures. Continue through the small kitchen to get to the seating in the main area of the barn where beautiful, rustic wooden tables and chairs (mismatched in traditional farm fashion) await you. The Buttery serves as much local food as possible, and the quality of ingredients as well as skill of the chef are highly valued there.
"We have our garden, greenhouse, raised beds across the street and that does the majority of our herbs and produce. And I buy local as much as I can, but we've never raised cows for...I mean, when we used to have sheep, people would be like, 'please tell me that's not my lamb!' So we don't raise the meat for here, it's more vegetables."
"Right now I can do vegetables, I can do herbs, but in terms of meats and everything...I can't get anything consistently. And it has to be consistent. So I would like to see more collaboration with farmers and restaurants. Somewhere where I can go and get these things and not need to talk to seventeen different farmers to get seventeen different things and drive to seventeen different places, because that kind of defeats the purpose. So I would like to see more collaboration. "
"You want to be able to use local foods, but again, you've got to be able to get it easily and it's got to be consistent. And right now, around here, we just don't have that."
The Buttery is only open for lunch for 2ish hours from Tuesday to Thursday, and dinner is Thursday through Saturday, reservations are advised. The way it works is people pay a flat fee of 75 dollars per person and get an experience as well as dinner. The evening includes a hay ride, dinner and live music, and no tables are turned over so patrons are welcome to stay with no pressure to hurry along.
Posted by Trav Williams at 10:15 AM