Daily Fare: Down To Earth Gourmet To-Go

Amy Kundrat

Being greeted with a cup of locally roasted coffee and the promise of a healthy prepared meal each day may be the only foolproof way to overcome the indignity that is a Metro North train commute. Located inside the Bethel train station, Daily Fare offers a nourishing and caffeinated segue into the freneticism of a work day and the welcome flexibility of a healthy prepared take-home meal for lunch or dinner.

This coffee shop-meets-gourmet-to-go is not just for commuters. For many of us faced with the daily demands and dwindling hours of busy schedules, Daily Fare affords us hungry and time-crunched souls the luxury of well balanced meals instead of shopping, cooking and preparing a meal. For many of us who like to cook, it can be a much-needed respite. For others who can't cook or don't want to, it's like having your own personal chef without having to foot the bill.

Looking for the flexibility to manage their families while launching a business around their love of "real food" Robin Grubard and Karen Isaac joined forces to launch Daily Fare in 2008. Robin explains their ongoing inspiration as "High quality, fresh, seasonal ingredients. We're drawn to prepare meals and create menus that we are proud to serve to our own families."

Robin Grubard trained at the Baltimore International Culinary College and went on to serve as executive chef of Baltimore's One World Cafe and the Hampton Harbor Court Hotel as well as a culinary instructor and managing her own personal chef business in Bethel for seven years. Karen Isaac is a self-taught chef who produced trade shows and events before embracing her passion for food by becoming a personal chef. 

Each morning, Karen rises around 4 am to arrive well before the first train leaves the station to serve coffee and breakfast to grateful and bleary-eyed commuters.  Quietly cheerful, she seems to know instinctually who can form sentences before 6 am and who is essentially sleep walking with a briefcase.  

Daily Fare offers an eponymous roast, blended and roasted by Bill O'Keefe of nearby Redding Roasters located just down the street. Armed with a fresh cup of "Daily Fare" you can also indulge that first and most important meal of the day before you board the train, including freshly baked rolls, bagels and muffins baked locally as well as breakfast sandwiches, oatmeal, fruit or enjoy one of Daily Fare's signature scones baked on premises. 

Their scone is my pick for the morning Bethel commuter and a daily reminder that your unforgiving commute can be soothed momentarily by baked goods. The Daily Fare scone is a light and fluffy affair and comes in a variety of different fruit and nut combinations such as peach/pistachio, cherry/walnut, cinnamon/chocolate, blueberry/lemon as well as tea flavors including the red chai with raisin. I tried the cinnamon/chocolate and as you can see this beauty barely left the parking lot as I drove off. I dare you to make a scone last more than one station stop. And if you are as addicted as I am, they also sell them pre-baked so you can recreate the experience at home and lull house guests or sleeping children from their slumber.

In addition to easing weary travelers into their long treks down-county, Daily Fare also provides "return service" in the form of prepared meals for those who need a healthy meal to take home for themselves or their families. Their seasonal menu, which changes constantly (call for the latest menu) always includes salads and soups, entrees and sides.

The Spring 2010 menu includes customer favorites such as the walnut-crusted salmon, a traditional mac & cheese and Mediterranean lasagna stuffed with artichoke hearts, feta and spinach. I tried the meatloaf which is prepared in muffin tins resulting in the perfect portion of meat, moist and bursting with vegetables. The sesame noodles and carrot slaw, easily  accompany a heartier entree. As for soups, on a recent day they included a scallop chowder and mushroom soup. The latter was bright and flavorful with distinct flavors, and thankfully devoid of cream. 

Order in the morning and pick-up in the evening, or grab something out of the stocked deli case on your way back through the station. Chefs Robin and Karen call their food "down to earth, gourmet to go." I like to think of Daily Fare as my own personal chef with a healthy locavore conscience. During the growing season, much of the produce that makes it onto the Daily Fare menu is sourced from Holbrook Farm and Stone's Throw Farm, both located in Bethel. Their seasonal menu reflects local produce with an eye towards healthy preparation that takes the guilt out of any take-out meal.

An attempt to achieve a better work/life balance is the impetus for both the business as well as the niche they aim to fill for their customers. "With three kids and conflicting schedules, my husband and I always aim to find time to eat together, and that is what we aim to provide for our customers," said Karen on my recent morning visit. 

We all need something to look forward to and chances are it is not our alarm clock, daily commute or frenetic schedules. Thankfully Robin and Karen's Daily Fare reminds us that good food can help us overcome all obstacles, even the dreaded commute. 

Located at the Bethel Railroad Station 13 Durant Ave. Daily Fare is open Monday through Friday from 5 am to 7 pm. Information: (203)743-7300 www.dailyfare.net info@dailyfare.net