Under a breezy summer evening sky and strings of twinkling lights, Hartford's Trinity Street was transformed into an open-air dinner party for about 200 guests Saturday, as the annual Farm to Street event returned for its second year.
The unique "bring your own dinner" gathering (with appetizer and dessert courses catered by ON20) was presented by Hartford Steam Boiler and hosted by Hartford Prints! and Hartford Food System. Event proceeds will benefit Hartford Food System, an organization dedicated to urban food policies.
That setup not only keeps ticket prices affordable, said Callie Heilmann of Hartford Prints!, who, with her sisters Addy and Rory Gale, owns the retail store featuring handmade goods and gifts. It also "speaks to the spirit of what we're trying to do."
"The idea behind that is really to get community to the table, to think about food as culture, think about how when we eat together...what are we sharing," she said.
Guests dined at long picnic tables stretching underneath the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Arch, which opened for tours during cocktail hour. In 2015, the inaugural dinner took place on Pratt Street, and the 2016 event on Trinity allowed for about 30 additional guests, said Heilmann.
"To move the event back and forth might end up being part of the mission. You're activating a new street in a way that people get to experience it," she said. "I think it also calls attention to the need for more pedestrian-only streets in Hartford."
ON20 provided the first course, a loaded potato with roasted Starlight Gardens vegetables, and a seasonal charlotte dessert with Rose's Berry Farm strawberries, Vietnamese coffee ladyfingers and Munson's white chocolate. Executive chef Jeffrey Lizotte said he was thrilled to be a part of the event again.
"I think it’s the coolest thing I do all year, without a doubt," he said. "Having the opportunity to do this, to be in a city that thirsts for it, to have the support of Hartford Steam Boiler and have all the folks involved, it’s great. I couldn’t ask for a better assortment of hands to be part of it."
During the entree portion of the meal, guests passed platters and bowls of roasted chicken, pasta salads, nachos, sandwiches, cheeses and breads. Diners Edyta Tereda, who works for the state's judicial branch, and Margaret Sheridan, a sales representative for a commercial cookware company, brought a goat cheese tart with tomatoes and garden herbs to share with tablemates.
"I love anything that’s going to incorporate local food and people making their own food," said Sheridan, who's worked as a chef. "It's important that people know what’s local in their area, what’s fresh and good, and that more people are cooking at home."
"[Our] ultimate goal is for everyone to mingle and meet people that they might not know, network a little bit, form new relationships, share a meal together, and walk away thinking, 'Wow, I just did all that in Hartford,'" Heilmann said. "We should be proud that we have a community that can put something like this on."