The Hilltop Café and Roam Café in Wilton
These two local businesses bring good food and community to rural living
For all its charms, country living can be dismal — remote areas with no real focus and a long drive for a decent cup of coffee. Sure, the scenery is pretty, but what is life without a place to socialize? Christie Reed of Wilton, and former resident of Portland, Ore., saw the need. If you’ve ever seen “Portlandia” on TV, you’ll understand the yearning for a community-centered gathering spot with a focus on healthy and organic foods. Reed says “some of that show is an exaggeration,” but confesses “a lot of it is true.”
At the same time Lincoln Geiger of the Temple-Wilton Community Farm thought a restaurant would be a perfect fit for the farmhouse attached to the farm. Now the lovely 18th-century farmhouse is home for the Hilltop Café, and Christie Reed and her husband Ben both cook and manage the operation. And the best part, a good deal of the produce, yogurt and eggs come from a share in the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) of the Community Farm. The milk in the lattes comes from the cows seen grazing out the window. And the eggs in the omelet were collected from hens running free across the road. It’s a pretty sweet set-up. All the customers, mostly locals, even look like a cast of characters from “Portlandia,” including healthy, happy children from the nearby Pine Hill Waldorf School.
Christie is a baker by trade and her croissants have become the go-to breakfast item. She even makes croissant French toast drizzled with local maple syrup or laden with fresh berries. Several breakfast items look like standard fare, but are anything but. The polenta bowl is topped with two over-easy eggs, caramelized red onion, cilantro, avocado, tomato dressing and feta cheese. Wow. Breakfast soups are a chicken with red miso and scallion or a more traditional miso soup. They actually counterbalance the egg croissant in some ethereal fashion. Crêpes are also a popular breakfast item. How can you not like banana Nutella served with whipped cream from that local cow?
In addition to breakfast and lunch, Hilltop Café has started to offer a brunch on Sundays, and Christie plans occasional dinners and musical evenings.
Down from the hill on Main Street in Wilton, former town native Cheryl Schaefer has opened Roam Café. It’s a cheerful place with the inspirational motto on the wall: “Where ever you roam, you always come home.”
As the name implies, the inspiration and menu come from her travels.
Breakfast croissant with chicken with red miso and scallion soup from the Hilltop Café.
Photo by Susan Laughlin
Schaefer moved to southern Utah with her husband and grew to love the land. She says, “Actually, the area is pretty sophisticated and offers a wide variety of cuisine— after all, California is only five hours away.” She has traveled to 41 states and also lived in Florida and New Jersey before returning to Utah after a divorce. That was in 2008 and, with jobs in sales and marketing at a low ebb, she followed her passion to culinary training. With top honors from school and experience in the field, she came back home last year.
Wanting to “stay true to herself,” Schaefer does not offer burgers and fries at Roam Café. Besides avoiding all the smoke and grease, she is more interested in preparing foods that are more about the flavor than just a plate of empty calories. Her mantra is “do it right,” and indeed, everything has her special touch. The home fries have seven spices, the homemade bread is served with fresh uncooked jams, and Southern biscuits and gravy are smothered with a home-spiced sausage gravy. And that’s just breakfast.
Every lunch item or dinner entrée has a geographic name, some just because, but most because the region or town is the source of inspiration. Her Minnetonka wienerschnitzel is a well-loved version of the classic. Other dishes are Mexican-inspired, like the El Norte fish tacos, where the fish is grilled and not fried for a lighter touch. Entrées cover a wide territory from Memphis baby back ribs to scallops Colima to, well, New England clam chowder.
Schaefer throws herself into themed dinners as in the recent Cinco de Mayo offering where the entire menu was upended for a Mexican feel. On July 24 she is planning a special Pioneer Day menu with loads of Dutch oven cooking, including chili, braised pork ribs and even cherry cobbler, all cooked in cast iron pots. I am sure Food Network’s Pioneer Woman would be proud.
Both Christie Reed and Cheryl Schaefer are travelers who rode into town with a mission. Their journey is now the destination. Both Hilltop Café and Roam Café are worthy of the trip. Travel on.