The ever-growing trend of restaurants sourcing locally grown food to serve to their guests is reaching new heights. And alongside those restaurants are pioneers taking the “eating local” concept a step further by creating their own farms and gardens. Some of them even come complete with a full-time on-site farm staff.
These establishments either own or control their own farms, which shrinks the distance between farm and table to nearly zero. Whether their gardens significantly contribute to the daily menu or provide restaurants with fresh herbs and vegetables, the culinary creativity arising from these endeavors, as well as unparalleled fresh quality, is making heads turn.
Aside from simply limiting the human impact on the environment through less driving, flying and fuel consumption, farm fresh fare is also packed with more nutrients and less chemicals compared with its long haul counterparts.
Eating local began during the 1970s and was centered around Berkeley’s Chez Panisse (founded by “slow food” legend Alice Waters). Today, it has become a full fledged movement, with restaurants in every major US city now cultivating their own crops instead of importing; making messages of their meals and sociological statements with their business practices.
If you value eating well (and saving the planet), joining the farm-to-table movement will surely excite your palate.
Here are some of our favorite restaurants from around the country, all of which promote locally grown vegetables, herbs and fruit, as well as locally raised animals.
Chef David Kinch is constantly changing his menu to accommodate what comes from the Love Apple Farm, which provides 100 percent of the produce for every plate at Manresa, just 13 miles away. Manresa and the Love Apple Farm have a sort of symbiotic relationship, both crucial to the other’s survival. Together they have created a dish called “Into the Vegetable Garden,” which includes the root, leaf, flower and shoot of over 30 herbs and vegetables. It’s even served with edible dirt made from parsnip, potato and roasted chicory root. (320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA; 408-354-4330)
Chef Lee Skawinski, who co-own Cinque Terre with Michelle Mazur-Kary and Dan Kary in Portland, Maine, are so dedicated to the movement that they even take kitchen staff and servers to Italy at least twice a year to meet growers and learn about production methods. The Kary’s own Grandview Farm and supply approximately 40 percent of their ingredients to the restaurant. Everyone who works at Cinque Terre helps plant and harvest the fare and even assists in planning for meals. (36 Wharf St., Portland, ME; 207-347-6154)
Brian Scheehser, executive chef of Trellis restaurant, believes that time is truly of the essence. He decided to get into sustainable farming in order to have more control of the ingredients he used in his cooking and planted his own three-acre sustainable garden. With a seasonal menu in mind, Scheehser pairs the produce he grows with meat, fish, and fowl from local artisan producers.
One of the specialty items on his menu is the Two-Hour Salad — with ingredients that are harvested less than two hours before hitting the plate. (220 Kirkland Ave., Kirkland, WA; 425-284-5900)