Ten years ago, Bethel's Robin Grubard opened Daily Fare at the Bethel Train Station. I had the opportunity to chat with Robin about why she does what she does, the secret behind those amazing granola bars, and the extended lunch offerings at one of Bethel's landmark eateries.
Brad: So, you just had your 10th anniversary. How was that?
Robin: It was lots of fun,
I have to say, it was exciting to do something new and different in the town. Hopefully we raised some awareness as to who we are and what we're doing. It was a lot of fun.
Brad: So 10 years ago you opened this. Tell me about that. What what did you want to achieve?
Robin: Ten years ago we were very different actually. Ten years ago we did dinners to go.
And we weren't really fully a bakery. But then the dinners to go really weren't selling so we had to re-evaluate and the baked goods were really taking off in the morning commuters, so, gosh, about eight years ago we revamped and started doing lunches and breakfasts and bakery. So ten years ago we were really like that name Daily Fare was really about picking up dinner every day when you get off the train and we were open until 7:00, 7:30. But then that just didn't make sense as people weren't buying dinners. Bethel's a sleepy little town. I guess people don't buy dinner that way.
Brad: So you made that switch over and now you're also doing wholesale.
Robin: Yes, we're doing a lot of wholesale. I sell at Molten Java and O'Neill's both in Bethel. And we wholesale to several places in Danbury. We wholesale to Rumors European Cafe which is on Mill Plain Road, and Barristers which is on Main Street and just opened a second location in New Milford. In Brookfield we sell to Jesters and in Woodbury we sell to New Morning Market. In Ridgefield and Wilton we sell to Tuscan Cup. And Butchers Best in Newtown just picked up their first order today.
Brad: So, what do you love about doing this?
Robin: I love cooking. I love working with my hands and making things that other people like. I like owning my own business. And I love the customers because we have a lot of really amazing, amazing! customers that come in on a regular basis. We have morning commuters that absolutely rely on us every day for a scone and a cup of coffee to the point where, you know, they walk in the door and we're pouring their coffee as soon as we see them. And then we have lunch people that, you know, come all the time for lunch.
Brad: So for lunch you have pastys?
Robin: Yes, pastys. We also do egg sandwiches all day but the pastys are really the thing that we would love people to know about because they're different. Like we're the only place in Connecticut that makes them. And we have 10 kinds of pastys which is also unusual.
Brad: Wow. So, tell me a bit about them.
Robin: Ten kinds. And the good thing about them is that they're ready to go.
So a lot of people are buying them now to bring home and have for dinner, which is great. Because they can keep them frozen for a long period of time. The Cornish is the traditional English one.
Brad: So tell me a bit about your background.
Robin: I'm a chef. I went to culinary school, the Baltimore Culinary College. I met my husband Rob wile I was down there. When we lived in Baltimore, when I graduated culinary school I worked at a five star hotel in their kitchen and I did that for several for a couple of years.
That was a great job, it was a fun job but it's a very high stress job and it's an all weekends and evenings job. You know you don't even get Christmas off. I liked it but I wanted a different sort of pace. I wanted to be able to have a life. So I took a job as a teaching chef, an instructor, which was a lot of fun.
Brad: So what brought you to Bethel?
Robin: We decided to move to Connecticut because we wanted to start a family and we wanted to get out of the city. We looked all over the area because Rob had found a job in the City and we wanted to be on a train line. We fell in love with downtown Bethel, the charm of it. And I kind of had to reinvent myself because there really weren't any culinary schools close enough where I could work, so I became a personal chef which I did for eight years. My husband was a commuter at the time. He heard that this space was available. He recommended I look into it.
Brad: And you opened Daily Fare?
Robin: Yes. I opened here with a partner who only lasted two years.
Brad: So, I don't exaggerate when I say you are renowned for your skills. And your granola bars. I have a great story about your granola bars. I was in the Toy Room chatting with some local folks and the conversation somehow landed on granola bars. One of them mentioned that they had discovered your granola bars, and the way they mentioned it was like it was an almost religious experience.
Brad: And then other people agreed that they are terrific. So I chimed in and asked if they were serious because all the granola bars I've ever had taste like cardboard, and they looked at me with the sad look that you use for someone who hasn't tasted something really good. So, tell me about the granola bars.
Robin: Someone hired me for a catering job and wanted healthy breakfast items. So I kind of had to come up with some healthy breakfast items because they wanted it as like something that was going to sit out all day and be available to anyone who wanted to try. So I found a recipe for granola bars. And I made those with that exact recipe for that particular event. And people loved them. They tasted really good. But they weren't perfect. So they were made in a sheet. You had to cut them.
And I couldn't get them even and couldn't get them to look good. So I manipulated that recipe quite a bit including now making them in the pans that give them their shape so I don't have to cut them. Adjusting the amounts of sugar, adding more oats changing the flavor like what fruits and nuts go in them. So that recipe I can really proudly say is mine because I took something someone else made and really did create it. I'm very proud of that recipe. And they just they became so well received that I had to figure out a way to make them, you know, in bulk and everything else. But they're still all handmade. They're mixed by hand by us, and we shape them so that they're consistent. So, they're a labor of love.
Brad: So how did you come to make pastys?
Robin: So my husband Rob's family is originally from the mountains of Pennsylvania, which is really very much coal mining country, although they weren't miners -- a little weird pocket of Pennsylvania where they eat pastys because that was originally a coal miners meal. They were always Rob's favorite food because they're like nostalgia food for him.
So when I switched from doing "dinners to go" I started doing open faced sandwiches on savory scones.
They were good, and people would get them but they weren't that popular.
So at one point I decided I really needed to streamline this business. And if people see us as a bakery they're not seeing us as a lunch place. I want them to see us as a lunch place, too. How do I do that? So how do I make something that is lunch and fits with the bakery? So, the pasty came to me. I felt that by doing pastys it fits in with with the concept of being a bakery and with having food that's available to go or to eat here but also great for the commuters on the train because they can be hand-held. So I kind of introduced pastys as, like, Let's try it.
Robin: They seem to be catching on and popular more and more which is great.
Brad: So what else would you like our readers to know?
Robin: That's a good question. I guess I would like them first to know that we're here. Because they don't all always know that. I would like them to know that we try to sort of bend over backwards for our customers to make them happy. So if they have a special order we try to fill that. If they can't get to us during our hours, we'll try to work with them on that, too.
You know pick up something later. I want you to know that if they can't get here they can get our things other places. And I'd like them to know that parking is free and easy. And I'm going to add something new. I'm going to add a meal prep class for adults so that they can come in and put together meals. I'll give them the recipes and I'll do a lot of the hard work, the chopping and such. And then people can come in and follow my directions and bring home meals. So that's coming soon very soon.
Brad: Thank you, Robin.
Robin: Thank you.
13 Durant Avenue
Bethel, CT 06801