A Passionate Way of Life

 

 

 

Dining Out for Life®

 

Subaru partner Dining Out For Life holds an annual event that raises money for AIDS service organizations. Every April for the past 22 years, more than 3,000 restaurants in 60 cities around the country – from coast to coast – commit a percentage of their proceeds to assist those in their communities living with AIDS and HIV.

 

Go to diningoutforlife.com for more information, dates, and specific cities.

The biggest challenge to any farm to table devotee is finding reliable, small, local purveyors who can provide steady quantity and quality.

 

Other restaurants rely on large national food companies to provide regular deliveries of everything they need from paper towels to produce. When they want tomatoes, no matter the time of year, a crate of tomatoes can be delivered. That makes planning menus a breeze.

 

Restaurants committed to farm to table principles have to forgo that convenience and predictability. But in exchange they reap other rewards.

 

“We don’t get food deliveries from big companies, so we don’t always know what we will be getting in or what we’ll be cooking,” said Olexy. “When a farmer drops off a bunch of sweet potatoes, we know we will be making something with sweet potatoes that day.”

 

Gathering the freshest local ingredients can be a labor-intensive job, but it is one that these chefs relish.

 

The Brandywine Valley, where Talula’s Table is located, is known as the mushroom capital of the world, and every week Olexy drives herself to local pickers to load up her car.

 

“I love the aroma in my car driving back to the restaurant,” she noted. “With mushrooms this fresh, all we do in the kitchen is give them a bit of salt and pepper and maybe olive oil, so people can experience what a mushroom should really taste like.”

 

Similarly, twice a week, McCollow hits the farmers markets in Oakland. Although her basic menu is fixed, side dishes and toppings change based on what’s available. “For instance, with my pork chop, I serve a fruit salsa. Depending on what I find at the farmers market, I’ll swap out apples for figs, figs for pears,” she explained.

 

Most recently, McCollow began growing her own produce. Nido has a container garden out front and is in the process of planning a rooftop garden so the kitchen will be able to source many of the menu’s ingredients on site.

 

Table & Main contracts with the local community supported agricultural group, which delivers farm-fresh vegetables and fruits each day. The contents of that delivery are the basis for specials and the daily vegetable plate, like grilled eggplant and local collard greens with house-cured bacon and local Vidalia onions.

 

Farm to table food isn’t limited to produce. Meat, fish, and cheese also can be locally sourced. For instance, at Nido the majority of meat comes from small family farms in California, and the shrimp comes from Monterey Fish Market in nearby San Francisco. In Pennsylvania, Olexy contracts with local farmers to raise lamb especially for her restaurants.

 

The key for any owner of a successful and rewarding farm to table restaurant is the way he or she cultivates strong community relationships. Mutual respect, passion for the land and what it produces, and pride in their creations tie this community together.

 

 

Andrea Poe is a writer whose work has appeared in hundreds of publications, including The Washington Post, Town & Country, and Marie Claire®.

 

 

 

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