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Seasonally fresh items star at Hartford

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When life as an art educator hands you job prospects that look like lemons, what do you do? If you are Sarah Hartford, you make lemon poppy seed scones at your newly opened restaurant called Hartford Square.

Tucked into a roomy ground-floor rectangle at the Belvedere Urban Courtyard condos just north of the old Albuquerque High School, Hartford Square has been a dream for Hartford for many years; it’s a welcome addition to the takeout-heavy Downtown breakfast and lunch scene.

Hartford’s commitment is to the ingredients, so the menu changes each week, often drastically — any specific foods mentioned here could be revised or completely gone in just a few weeks’ time. Visit often to enjoy new dishes in their seasonal glory.

Just after dawn when the doors open, the menu starts with a featured scone flavor, such as chocolate chip or lemon poppy seed ($2.25), coffee from Michael Thomas and breakfast foods from Herb Scrambled Eggs ($6) to berry smoothies ($5).

An astonishing number of ingredients come from local producers: Ironwood Farms, Old Windmill Dairy, Bosque Baking Company, the Downtown Growers’ Market and more as supplies shift through the year. Hartford plans to keep expanding her relationships with local farmers for the best produce, and continuing to supply her miniature market shelves with locally made preserves, granola, chocolate and kitchen gadgets.

By late morning, the prepared food case is brimming with foods ready to eat, cool or warmed up. Composed salads are highly recommended, especially when based on tasty grains like quinoa or farro. I enjoyed a beet-studded quinoa salad ($5) recently, pink pervading the whole plate.

A warm slab of Beef Brisket Enchilada ($9) enjoyed plentiful beef to the rather skimpy red chile sauce. It came solo but can be turned into a takeout meal with two sides for $13.50. Fish Tacos ($9) were the light alternative, offering tangy slaw and big chunks of whitefish in the soft corn tortillas.

One issue seemed woven throughout most of the foods I’ve tried — under-seasoning. Each dish multiplied in flavor with a gentle shake of salt. Because this issue is easy to correct, I remain a big fan of the fun flavor combinations and look forward to that simple tweak.

We finished our meal with a slab of salted caramel brownie ($2.50) and a comparatively petite crustless cheesecake ($3). Each proved a perfect conclusion to the experience — and had the bonus feature of not requiring any salt.