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  • Abigail DesVergnes

A Rhode Island Breakfast place is serving up farm-to-table meals

Updated: May 1, 2019

By: Abigail DesVergnes




Poaching an egg properly all comes down to timing.


The water needs to simmer just below boiling, whisked in a clockwise direction, and each egg needs to be cracked ever-so perfectly into the swirling water until it forms into a cloud-like consistency that is then set on top of an English muffin and dressed in a buttery hollandaise.


As elaborate as the process may seem, Pawtucket R.I. resident and restaurant owner, Tiffany Barrera, seems to have the process perfected.


While chatting over a cup of a tea at The Rhody Hen Café, the restaurant Barrera owns with her husband, Antonio, I learned all about the process of poaching an egg—and what it takes to open and run a new restaurant.


In December, Barrera and Antonio celebrated the grand opening of The Rhody Hen Café. Ever since, the power couple has gone above and beyond to bring farm-to-table freshness to their community.


Their menu features breakfast items including varieties of eggs Benedict, omelets, homemade hash, Belgian waffles, pancakes, and more; the lunch menu offers an assortment of salads, sandwiches, soups, and burgers.


Although the items may sound basic, Barrera and her husband Antonio, add their own flair of love and freshness to every dish they serve.


Every week, Barrera and Antonio look forward the most to using their creativity to craft their specials featured on the menu during the weekends. Specials range from funky egg Benedicts, crepes, and as of recent she even did a twist on the latest trend of avocado toast putting street corn and eggs right on the top.


“We basically created the menu that we like to eat,” Barrera said. “If we don’t absolutely love it, it won’t be on the menu.”


Barrera and her husband designed their restaurant — which used to be a pizza joint — to have a chic country-rustics vibe. Mason jars are used for beverages and pictures of farm scenes are scattered on the walls.


With a long line of farmers in her family and farm-to-table cooking being one of her main goals for the café, Barrera thought the design would suit The Rhody Hen perfectly.


Barrera and her husband, Antonio, had much experience in the culinary industry before becoming restaurant owners. As a young boy, Antonio worked at a restaurant in El Salvador before he moved to Boston where he worked for the Back Bay Restaurant Group — a restaurant company headquartered in Boston.


Barrera took part in the culinary arts program at her high school, went on to attain her bachelor’s degree in food service management with a concentration in wine and spirits, and worked in restaurants throughout southeastern Massachusetts.


“Growing up, every family celebration in my life revolved around food, so I thought, ‘Why not turn my love of food into a career?’”


In college, Barrera interned at a restaurant in a small surfing and golf village in Lahinch, Ireland. At the restaurant, she learned to cook every recipe on the menu from scratch, serving up feature items like lamb, mackerel, and sea bass.


“Everything was local, which was a big influence on my cooking style,” Barrera said. “As well, there were no mass-production farms, so every egg I cracked open had a beautiful orange yolk on the inside.” Barrera brought the local-as-possible ethic back home with her.


“For me, it’s all about supporting small businesses and farmers,” Barrera said. “They put their life into their work and that’s what I like to support.”


According to Barrera, running a restaurant isn’t always easy. Most of the time she and her husband find it difficult to separate their work life from family life since their restaurant is open daily for breakfast and lunch from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.


Every day the couple wakes up at the crack of dawn to open the kitchen, start the sauces, and fire up the oven and stove tops before the first customer walks through the door. Then, they cook almost everything to order and focus their time on making connections, Barrera said.


After closing, Barrera and Antonio clean, pick up their youngest daughter at school, and take a short break before they prep everything the night before so everything is ready in the morning. On top of the food prep, she also is in charge of sourcing her food products from food vendors in the area.


“As difficult as it may sound, this kind of lifestyle is in my blood,” Barrera said. “There’s really nothing else I would want to do.”


The cafe’s corned beef hash is Barrera’s favorite item on the menu as it follows their “labor of love” motto, she said. “It’s homemade and delicious,” she said. “You can see on a plate if your food was made with passion or if the chef just made it to make it -- you can tell we make it with passion.”


Recently, Barrera and Antonio attained a liquor license for the café and are delving into the process of fermenting their own liquors such as a grapefruit-cello (like limoncello) and creating their own Bloody Mary mixtures topped with pickled veggies.


“One of the best parts about being a restaurant owner is that you get to use your creativity all the time, from designing the restaurant, the food, uniforms, the menu -- whatever it may be, you can always be creative.”


“My goal is that I want the first bite to be amazing for my customers every time,” she added. “But most importantly, we just want everyone to be happy.”


The Rhody Hen Café is located on 350 Prospect St, Pawtucket, RI 02860.


Pineapple Coconut French Toast Casserole -- The Rhody Hen Café original

Course: Breakfast, Brunch

Servings: 12


Ingredients

2-3 large loaves of Portuguese Sweet Bread

6-8 eggs (depending on size)

1 1/2 cups milk

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

2 1/2 cup Fresh Pineapple, chopped finely

1 cup shredded coconut

1 cup Toasted Pecans, chopped finely

Brown Sugar Topping

1 cup flour

1 cup brown sugar

8 Tbsp butter, cold and cubed

1/3 cup shredded coconut

Toppings

Extra Pineapple

Extra Coconut

Extra Pecans

Maple Syrup

Powdered Sugar


Instructions

1. Spray a large baking dish (8x11 or 9x13) with baking spray.

2. Tear the sweet bread in small pieces. Spread half of the bread over the bottom of the casserole dish.

3. Sprinkle in the pineapple, coconut, and pecans

4. Spread the remainder of the bread on top, in an even layer.

5. In a blender, blend milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and almond extract together. Pour the mixture evenly over the casserole.

6. Cover the casserole and refrigerate overnight (or at least 6 hours).

7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

8. In a small bowl, mix brown sugar and flour together. With a fork or pastry cutter, mix butter into the flour

mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add in coconut.

9. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the top of the casserole.

10. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the casserole is golden brown on top and set in the center. At about the 35 minute mark, tent foil over the casserole. This keeps the top of the casserole from getting too dark.

11. Serve with maple syrup or other toppings.

12. Enjoy & refrigerate leftovers.

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