When it comes to fine dining, Joel Viehland is no stranger. The former Executive Chef for Community Table in Washington, CT is known for his award winning, creative dishes and commitment to local farmers and food producers. So it might surprise some of his fans to hear that his newest venture is The Pine Leaf, a breakfast and lunch cafe with a casual atmosphere. What won’t surprise anyone is his continuing commitment to excellent and high-quality food, as well as locally sourced ingredients.
Part of what inspired Chef Viehland to open The Pine Leaf is his interest in simple, accessible food made at the highest level. “It’s personal,” he says of their developing menu. “I love the creativity and experimental nature of fine dining and dinner cuisine, but that isn’t what most of us eat on a day-to-day basis. And there’s no reason why the simpler things we eat every day – whether it’s salads or sandwiches or soups – can’t also be as delicious and rewarding to enjoy as a five-star dinner.”
With that in mind, The Pine Leaf offers a small breakfast as well as a traditional lunch menu, but Viehland makes them with the highest quality ingredients he can find, and many of the core parts of the menu are made in-house. This includes an assortment of pastries and other house-made baked goods, as well as many of the breads for their sandwiches.
The Pine Leaf’s lunch menu is filled with satisfying and accessible choices, like their “farm-to-pot” homestyle chicken soup with kale and lemon, or any of their handful of salads, made with lettuce greens and seasonal vegetables from Wild Carrot Farm in Bantam. “We’re dedicated to sourcing both organic and sustainably-grown ingredients,” says Viehland, “and we’re always going to have organic and local ingredients on the menu.”
But when it come to lunch at The Pine Leaf, the sandwiches are the real stars of the show. The PLC BLT is a decadent take on a classic with double-smoked bacon and cured, smoked duck breast from Bella Bella Gourmet Foods (representing a collection of small farms in Sullivan County, NY that raise heirloom poultry breeds), but equally tempting is The Pine Leaf cubano, made with slow-cooked pork, ham, creole mustard, Swiss cheese, and Pine Leaf’s house-made pickles.
True to its cafe setting, The Pine Leaf also serves a variety of coffees, espressos, lattes, teas, and more, always with an eye toward acquiring the highest quality ingredients. Both Cafe Grumpy Coffee (roasted in New York City) and Zero Prophet Coffee (roasted in Washington, CT) are on the menu.
The Pine Leaf is situated on Route 202 in New Milford, and as the warm days of summer approach, diners will be able to enjoy food and drink on the restaurant’s open deck, overlooking the quietly flowing East Aspetuck River. Diners interested in acquiring something for their spring or summer garden will be happy to hear that part of The Pine Leaf’s space is shared with The Green Spot, a nursery and gardening store owned by long-time local landscaper, Chris Bruzzi. He and Viehland are utilizing part of The Pine Leaf’s interior as retail space for craft gardening accessories and country décor. Viehland also intends to use The Pine Leaf as a space for “pop-up” events, including guest chef dinners and experimental menu tastings being prepared for Viehland’s other new venture, a restaurant slated to open this winter in Kent.
Joel Viehland is an acclaimed chef who has been nominated for three James Beard awards (“Best New Restaurant in America” for Community Table and twice for “Best Chef: New England”), and has won Cooking Light’s “2014 Best Small Town Chef in America” award, as well as Yankee’s “2014 Best Locavore Restaurant in New England” for Community Table.
The Pine Leaf is open Mon, Wed-Sat 8am-4pm, and Sun 9am-1pm. Closed on Tues.
> The Pine Leaf: 354 Litchfield Road, New Milford; thepineleafct.com