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The Café at Thistle Farms

After a renovation, The Café at Thistle Farms opens up with open arms.

Written By:  Nancy Vienneau

Photographers:  Jenn Davis

The guiding words “Love Heals” imbue all of Thistle Farms’ social enterprises, and, at their Charlotte Avenue café, that love could come in the form of a warming bowl of soup or a fragrant pot of tea. After months of extensive renovations, which include an expanded dining space, events room, and a much-needed commercial kitchen, The Café at Thistle Farms now offers more ways to feel the love.

Decorated in a modern farmhouse motif, the café is light and tranquil. Framed botanical drawings of the thistle hang on the walls. In the adjacent hospitality room, one wall is transformed by a photograph-mural of blooming thistle fields in patterns of spring green and dusty purple. Elements of the café’s first incarnation as The Thistle Stop have been retained, yet repurposed. The hewn wood floors sourced from Al Gore Sr.’s barn are now cozy booth enclosures; the teacup chandeliers have been remade into a sculpture that ripples across the ceiling. Each cup holds its own story, and the installation speaks to the collective memories watching over the café.

The most significant change comes with the hiring of chef Martha Stamps as culinary director. In her singular style, she has designed menus for breakfast, brunch, and lunch that display global flair using locally sourced ingredients. Her Farmhouse breakfast bowl with sunny eggs, Broadbent bacon, and a sauté of spinach, onions, peppers, and tomatoes over home fries (served with housemade ketchup!) is both hearty and healthy. Her specialty tartines, like the roasted seasonal vegetable with feta, pickled onions, and carrot-turmeric drizzle on toasted sourdough, are beautiful in presentation and a pleasure to eat. Lemon-thyme vinaigrette brightens the arugula-quinoa salad, folded with pepitas, shaved beets, radishes, and carrots. Soups, such as butternut squash, are spiced with confidence.

It’s worth noting that The Café offers a sophisticated afternoon tea, by reservation. Serving a pot steeped with your choice of tea, accompanied by milk, lemon, and rock sugar, and a tiered tray of petite sweet and savory treats, it follows English tradition. Choose a blend to suit your mood (the honeysuckle-scented Himalayan Mountain green tea is especially soothing), and enjoy the array of beautiful bites. Offerings can include Stamps’ chicken salad in puff pastry, curried avocado on cucumber slice, dilled egg salad-smoked salmon finger sandwich, bergamot shortbread, scones and clotted cream, and a cinnamon brownie square.

It’s not just the delicious, healthful food and drink that make a visit to The Café worthwhile, but the good work it supports. Women who have graduated from the Magdalene House two-year program are working both front and back of the house positions, making The Café a warm and nurturing place. That’s healing love in action.

5122 Charlotte Ave, 615-953-6440; thecafeatthistlefarms.org

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