Monday, July 11, 2011

Meatless Monday: Farm-to-Table on the Cape

I was looking for an easy post topic. I knew I’d have writer’s block on my first day back after a restful and fun-filled week on Cape Cod.

My idea sounded simple enough. While I was away a friend had emailed asking for restaurant tips for visitors who wanted to experience New Haven’s Farm-to-Table restaurant scene [more on that in a future post]. That topic would surely make a quick story — not! I expected to find an “official” definition of the Farm-to-Table movement and to move on from there. The best definition I found was at WiseGeek: “A farm-to-table restaurant is a restaurant where the ingredients are sourced as locally as possible…the farm-to-table restaurant trend is part of a larger movement to eat as locally as possible, taking advantage of seasonally available fruits and vegetables and focusing on the environmental and cultural impacts of farming.”

Farm-to-Table has its regional variations. On the Cape it includes fresh seafood brought in by the commercial fishing fleets in Chatham and Provincetown. But the core concept remains the same everywhere: getting fresh local food to the consumer’s table as quickly as possible, in as few steps as possible. 

One of the earliest American Farm-to-Table restaurants is Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, opened in 1971 by Alice Waters. Although Alice did not use the phrase Farm-to-Table, she called for a food economy that is “good, clean, and fair.”  One of the newer faces of the movement is Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan, Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Blue Hill Farm in Great Barrington, MA, who trademarked the phrase “Know thy farmer.” Another is Sam Beall, proprietor of Blackberry Farm in Tennessee.

Farm-to-Table dining in a fine restaurant is a rare indulgence for me. But I am always on the lookout for ways I can enjoy Farm-to-Table at home or in a casual setting. Last week at the Cape it was particularly easy to find some new things to try. In partnership with FoodRoutes Network and with the assistance of the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, merchants on the Cape started the Cape Cod Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign. With access to the internet one could view a website with current member listings. If totally unplugged, a visitor could look for the Cape Cod Buy Local sign in the window or in an ad.

With the help of this campaign, we sampled:
  • Summer squash, grown at the Cape Abilities Farm in Dennis, and sold at the Farm to Table shop on Main Street in Chatham and
  • A growler of India Pale Ale, brewed in Hyannis at Cape Cod Beer, and sold at the Chatham Village Market.
in addition to other local items not part of the official member network:
and, last but not least,
  • World-famous Onion Rings at Liam’s at Nauset Beach in Orleans. A vacation on the Cape would not be complete without them. Liam’s is a clam shack, open only in-season, no web presence. Check out these reviews on yelp to learn more.
Whether or not local food is actually greener is a hot button topic

I know that my last week’s purchases helped support a local economy, undergoing continued strains as Chatham’s days as a fishing community continue to fade into memory. And I can tell you with certainty that local fare tastes great!

Coming soon…more on eating local, wherever you are. Have a great week.

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal  health and the health of our planet.”

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