By Curt Peterson
Editor’s note: This is the fourth of the Covid Survival Series by reporter Curt Peterson about area restaurants and their adaptations during and plans post-Covid.
There are very few people who are as genuinely optimistic as Cathy Emmons, co-owner with her husband, Bill Emmons, of Cloudland Farm in North Pomfret.
When asked about her impression of running a fine dining restaurant during a pandemic, Cathy said, “I wouldn’t say we made a killing, but we survived.”
Some of it was the luck of circumstance. Cloudland is a working farm in addition to a very nice restaurant. Emmons told the Mountain Times she and Bill close the eatery for a month every March, so when the Covid shut-down was announced mid-month, Cloudland was closed anyway.
From that point on, Emmons felt they were reacting about two weeks behind Governor Scott’s Covid control mandates. During April and May, for instance, they provided just take-out meals for curb-pickup — not their regular fare, she said, “Mostly quiches and other very nice take-out food made from our products and others from local farms.”
The restaurant currently serves 65 diners, inside and outside combined, using the establishment’s large porch. This allows for adequate spacing, which Emmons believes customers find more comfortable.
Weather is a big factor — if it’s windy, or chilly, or raining, she calls customers who have made outdoor reservations and gives them four choices: “They can convert to indoor dining, if we have space available, they can cancel the reservations and reschedule, they can chance it and eat on the porch anyway, or we will pack up the prix fixe meal for curbside take-out and they can eat it at home.”
Cloudland did not take advantage of any of the state or federal Covid support forgivable loans or grants, even though they kept their chef, Mike Borraccio, on full salary for the duration.
“We didn’t want our kids to have to pay for it one way or another,” Emmons said. “We wanted to make it work without the help, and we did, although it was extremely stressful at times.”
But the family atmosphere and striking views at Cloudland haven’t made the farm-to-table enterprise immune to the staffing problems post-pandemic restau- rants are suffering throughout the region.
“I stopped placing ads for servers because no one responded,” Emmons said.
She had seven servers on Saturday, but could have used eight, she said. She has held back on the allowable number of reservations because she feels the limited staff would diminish the quality of service for more diners. That may be part of the reason Cloudland is booked solid for three to four weeks.
The Emmonses have three kids in their 20s who help out both on the farm and in the restaurant when needed.
“I also have a list of 14 very good friends who are reluctantly willing to come and help out when we’re in a bind,” Cathy Emmons said. “You know, on an ‘only when you absolutely need me’ basis.”
The farm, originally 2,000 acres, has been in the Em- mons family since 1908. The restaurant has no “sup- ply problems,” Cathy said. They raise their own black Angus beef, have laying hens, Cornish-cross meat birds, turkeys, Berkshire pigs and raise much of the greens they serve. Other ingredients of their dishes come from local farms.
This September the restaurant will celebrate its 11th year of being open.
For diners only, there is an indoor “farmers’ market,” selling steak, burger, roasts, sausages, jerky, pork, pickles, local syrup, cheese, tea, sodas, goat milk soap and beautiful pottery made by Cloudland’s former chef’s wife, Laura White.
The impressive property is 4 miles up Cloudland Road, or, Emmons said, one can walk there on the Appalachian Trail, which crosses through the farm.
Emmons is the eternal optimist. It was hard to draw her back to the pandemic experience.
“It was most stressful because we couldn’t plan ahead,” she said. “We had to do everything one-week-at- a-time, to just do what we had to do.”
Now with eyes focused toward the future, the Emmonses look forward to enjoying and sharing the summer’s harvest.