The vegetable-centric tacos and pizzas served at The Commons cafe are mostly grown in a community garden on-site at Grace Farms in New Canaan.
The Commons is inside the River Building and used as a community central gathering place. It has long communal tables and serves lunch every day except Monday.
From there you can see the meandering landscape that slopes gently upwards to the top of the building which looks like a river.
The cafe is open every day except Monday for a "quick bite" or lunch menu. You order at the counter and pick up your food.
Area workers can be in and out within a one-hour lunch.
The cafe's head chef, pastry and sous chefs are an all-women team, said Grace Farms Director of Operations Adam Thatcher.
The leaders and other kitchen staff put much thought into creating a "macro menu" that changes seasonally.
Overseen by Chef Neena Perez, the staff each propose various dishes they want to try, then each team member is asked to sample the dish and give feedback.
They might suggest "add some crunch or citrus" or other ideas to improve the taste, Thatcher said.
Popular staples on the menu include The Common Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup.
"The cheese comes from a Pound Ridge cheese shop," he noted. The sandwich is a blend of three different kinds of cheese with apples and bacon.
Other choices include vegetable soup. There are a variety of pastries and croissants as well. There is a salad of mixed greens, lemon vinaigrette, avocado, apples, and non-GMO, free-range chicken, another popular item, Thatcher said.
Seasonal dishes might incorporate heartier root vegetables, greens like kale in winter, and transition to many more varieties in summer.
Beef has almost been entirely removed from the menu because "the beef industry contributes almost more than 10 percent of greenhouse gases," Thatcher said.
"We replaced our beef with plant-based meat options so we have the "Vegan Burger." It features the Impossible Burger.
In early 2010, Grace Farms Foundation selected SANAA, a Tokyo-based architectural firm, to execute its vision for a vibrant place and multi-purpose building where visitors could experience nature, encounter the arts, pursue justice, foster community, and explore faith.
SANAA’s design for the facility, known as the River building, was the first U.S. building designed by the architectural firm after they were awarded the Pritzker Prize.
Structurally, the building of glass, concrete, steel, and wood is, in essence, a single long roof, which seems to float above the surface of the ground as it twists and turns across the landscape.
The Commons is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 3 p.m. Beverages including cappuccino and snacks are available until 5 p.m.
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