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West Hartford Chef Taking Advantage of Fresh Local Bounty for Farm Dinners

Chef Billy Grant at this year's first pop-up farm dinner at Rose's Berry Farm. Courtesy photo

West Hartford resident, chef, and area restauranteur Billy Grant is hosting a series of pop-up farm dinners at Rose’s Berry Farm in Glastonbury.

Chef Billy Grant at this year's first pop-up farm dinner at Rose's Berry Farm. Courtesy photo

Chef Billy Grant at this year’s first pop-up farm dinner at Rose’s Berry Farm. Courtesy photo

By Ronni Newton

Billy Grant has always appreciated quality ingredients, and this year the chef and owner of three highly-successful area restaurants and a catering business has expanded his relationships with local providers to host a series of “pop-up” farm dinners under a tent in the bucolic setting of Rose’s Berry Farm in South Glastonbury.

Grant said that these days people find it comforting to have more knowledge about what they are putting in their bodies. “There’s been a bursting of information. People always want to know what’s ‘in it,'” Grant said.

“Food, for me, has always been a way of pleasing people, the most important piece of hospitality,” said Grant. He said that “buying local” is a huge plus and adds to that sense of community that dining affords.

Grant has a strong connection to West Hartford, where he lives and has owned Grant’s Restaurant and Bar and Restaurant Bricco in West Hartford Center for many years. However, he has been steadily building relationships with area farmers, especially those in Glastonbury where many of his friends and family live, ever since he opened Bricco Trattoria several years ago.

All five of Billy Grant's pop up farm dinners will be held under a tent at Rose's Berry Farm in South Glastonbury. Courtesy photo

All five of Billy Grant’s pop up farm dinners will be held under a tent at Rose’s Berry Farm in South Glastonbury. Courtesy photo

Those connections include strong relationships and friendships with Glastonbury farmers like Cosby Gutt of Gutt Family Farm, Gino Draghi of E. Draghi & Sons, and Sandi Rose of Rose’s Berry Farm. Grant was inspired to experiment with hosting a farm dinner at Rose’s Berry Farm last year, and it was a big hit, he said.

This year Grant has taken the farm dinner concept to the next level, with five dinners built upon seasonal themes and all held under a large tent on the sprawling grounds of Rose’s Berry Farm. “Spring Fling,” held on June 12, featured in-season menu items such as asparagus and spring lamb.

The next dinner, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 17, has the theme “Scales, Shells & Steak.” Grant said that every part of the menu is fresh and seasonal, and as much as possible is caught or grown in the area. “We’re trying to stay as local as well can, but it’s a big commitment to do all local,” he said.

The menu for the five-course dinner, described in fully delectable detail on Grant’s website, will begin with an assortment that includes tuna tartare tacos and hot buttered lobster sliders. Chilled gazpacho is followed by handmade black cavatellli served with assorted seafood and seasoned with bread crumbs. Grilled beef ribeye will be served with local corn and zucchini salad as a main course and the dinner will be topped off by pistachio cake, mascarpone sorbet, and Rose’s Berry Farm fresh blueberries for dessert.

The offerings at all of the farm dinners are inspired by the season as well as what’s available locally and the specialties of the chefs involved. In addition to Grant, Corey Cannon and Eric Sass collaborate on the menus.

Grant said the chefs choose dishes that they believe a large group of people will really enjoy, prepared in the familiar “rustic” style for which Bricco and hid other restaurants have become known. “When you’re designing a menu, cooking for 100 people, you have to keep in mind that if you go too far you will exclude people,” Grant said.

The themes for future dinners are “Summer BBQ” on Thursday, Aug. 20, “Corn and Tomatoes” on Friday, Sept. 18, and “Harvest Game” on Friday, Oct. 16.

“Everyone knows that farming is a difficult industry,” Grant said. However, the food prepared with fresh local ingredients, that have never even hit the refrigerator, is “awesome,” he said.

For complete details on the menu, or for information about making a reservation, visit billygrant.com.

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