In the search for excellent restaurants, cuisine, ambience, service, creativity, and dedication to quality ingredients often top the list. Seldom in this search, however, do customers truly realize their desires for these attributes, and even less frequently do they find more than one in the same establishment. Thus it was for all of these reasons that my first (of many, many) trips to Hen and Heifer came as such a surprise.
Though nestled just feet from the Guilford Green, Hen and Heifer may just as well transport you to a hybrid patisserie with roots in both Manhattan and France. Located inconspicuously on Water Street in the town’s center, the three-year-old bakery defies classification, but artfully remains true to its diverse influences. From the décor of a French café to a distinctly New England paint scheme in federal blue, Hen and Heifer is perhaps most successful by failing to be any one thing. It is a bakery with the variety of a café, it is professional but not intimidating, luxurious but not overdone. And for a town that prides itself on tradition, there is nothing more appropriate than a modern patisserie that it is true to its origins.
Beyond debate, however, is the ingenuity and taste of their many delectable offerings. Described on their website as an “array of handmade baked goods and sweets uncompromising in ingredient, preparation, and taste,” they change seasonally, but also on the creative whims of owner Whang Suh. Since opening in late 2012, this refreshing approach has more than paid off.
In an interview with the New York Times, Mr. Suh admitted “It’s been an amazing surprise – not only to have so many regulars, but to see people travelling from other towns, and even out of state, to come here.”
While he may not have anticipated such a warm welcome, loyal customers certainly understand the appeal. Lining up on weekend mornings for Heifer’s signature croissants, they brave the heat, cold, and poor weather in order to secure the precious commodity before it runs out (often in less than an hour.)
For those who prefer to sleep in on a Saturday morning, a wide variety of other treats are still available to enjoy after the morning rush. From traditional canelés from the Bordeaux region of France to milk chocolate ginger cookies, Hen and Heifer’s offerings appeal to both the discriminating and traditional palettes. Also highly recommended are their ever-changing macarons; fall flavors include dark chocolate with spiced pear jam, walnut cream cheese with beet jam, and caramel with cinnamon apple jam.
Both hot and iced beverages are held in equally high regard, with resoundingly rich hot chocolate the perfect choice for a cool autumn day. Organic coffee is sourced from Connecticut’s own Ashlawn farm, and house made sodas like matcha green tea and hibiscus are enough to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.
While food and drink certainly draw customers to the establishment, it is the atmosphere that keeps them coming back. Headed by Mr. Suh and co-owner Jeffrey Capone, the Hen and Heifer team does a wonderful job in fostering a sense of community among their diverse clientele. From retirees to young children and everyone in between, each visitor is treated with the same care afforded to their delectable culinary creations.