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moosnsqrl
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A couple of us started a discussion on this thread that kind of drifted off the original topic but I would like to continue the dialog and hope some of the midwestern chefs will join in with anecdotes about how they may have tried to incorporate local, seasonal items on the menu and how those attempts sold versus the FedExd exotics on the same menu. I'm also curious if customers comment to you or staff about the diversity of offerings, both pro and con.

For those who don't want to dredge through the old thread, here are the last two entries from IML and myself:

QUOTE(IML @ Dec 17 2006, 10:24 PM)

The question of buying local versus sticker shock just doesn't hold up for me.  I've worked in the high-end food industry for some time, and I can honestly say that FedExing a rare ingredient (say, the fish any expensive KS restaurant uses) will always be more expensive than trying to find a creative, tasty way of serving a local turnip in-season.  The question then becomes:  What's more desirable between a "luxury" item flown in to optimize its freshness, or building relationships with local purveyors to grow or rear food whose origin you can readily trace and attest to?  The first is the easier of the two (and more expensive), while the second takes years of commitment, patience, and shitloads of hard work.

I wouldn't disagree but people will pay $30 for fish/seafood, knowing we're short on saltwater around here - not sure how high they'll go for a turnip, however creatively or lovingly it is prepared.  It's an educational process. 

I worked in an office largely populated with CA transplants and they couldn't understand why some of the locals considered shrimp cocktail a must-have for a client appreciation event.  This was ~20  years ago before all of the farm-raised product drove prices (and quality) down and made it quite commonplace.  It's just a mindset from the days when getting anything fresh from the coasts was a luxury, I think.  Conversely, turnips (which I personally love) are still thought of as plebian, as are most root vegetables.  When I was a produce buyer for a natural food store, I always tried to stock humble root vegetables (parsnips, rutabagas and the like) and we couldn't give them away but now I see them in mainstream stores, so they appear to be making a comeback.

I'm talking in generalities, of course.  I don't mean to paint a bad picture of midwesterners.  I just don't think most people are ready for humble ingredients elevated to star status at fine dining restaurants yet.  The increasing appearance of offal on local menus is, IMHO, a sign that we're turning the corner on that front.  I'm sure my grandparents would find it amusing that the humble cuts of meat they ate out of necessity are appearing on chic menus.

ETA: we've kind of wandered from the original Lawrence context but I think this is interesting.  I'll start a thread and hope that Big Country, Chef CAG, Tim D and others will join in the discussion.  I know they all try very hard to use local stuff (to the extent of forcing their parents to buy acreage and toil from sunup to sundown in one extreme case :laugh:).

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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I'm not a chef; hope I can still comment. :smile:

As a diner, I gravitate toward restaurants that have a focus on using locally grown or raised ingredients which are treated with creativity and love. With the more "exotic" stuff becoming more and more available to Midwest Joe and Midwest Jane consumer (chance are whatever saltwater fish the KC restaurants get, you can also get), I can have that when I want and don't need it dolled up as much as I may need a turnip dolled up. And I trust myself to do a better job cooking a good piece of fish than doing a creative turn on a turnip.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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I'm not a chef; hope I can still comment.  :smile:

As a diner, I gravitate toward restaurants that have a focus on using locally grown or raised ingredients which are treated with creativity and love.  With the more "exotic" stuff becoming more and more available to Midwest Joe and Midwest Jane consumer (chance are whatever saltwater fish the KC restaurants get, you can also get), I can have that when I want and don't need it dolled up as much as I may need a turnip dolled up.  And I trust myself to do a better job cooking a good piece of fish than doing a creative turn on a turnip.

But of course - any and all comments welcome.

I imagine most people who care enough about food to be reading this agree with you (although thinking of a dolled up turnip is little troubling :wacko:). I just wonder if the market, as a whole, bears this out. I suspect some of the local chefs would feature different dishes if people would try them. That's why I was hoping they'd chime-in and let me know if that's the case or I'm way off-base (as usual).

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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This is a very interesting subject. I most certainly understand IML stance on using all local ingredients but it is very difficult. Especially in late January and February when the only thing available in season are root vegetables. Despite what anyone might think it’s a little tough to crank out a 12 course meal with turnips and potatoes. And it has little to do with talent. There has to be diversity in menu. I agree that we live in amazing place where agriculture is as it is but we aren’t in California. I would love to experience the growing seasons and product availability that some on like Alice Waters or Michael Bras has.

There are many chef’s out there and some in KC who’s main focus is only to serve organic, natural, local sustainable products. Great! That’s their focus. My focus is cuisine first. I will try feverishly to use only local and I think with Dave’s family farm we go far and above the call of duty on that. But at the end of the day we need more depth in our product repertoire to not only compete locally but nationally too, and very few farmers are catering to chef’s in this region. Some do. But if I want anything exotic I have to get it from Dave’s family or FedEx. The local farmers are not going to grow stuff for us that they can’t sell at the market and I don’t blame them. Farming is still to this day a tough freakn job and the need every cent they can get. As for fish there is no question…..Believe it or not my customers demand certain things and I have to keep up to stay in business…period.

"Sous Vide Crappie, Missouri Pecans, Braised Turnips, Local Potato Puree" :huh:

“Nobody can be so amusingly arrogant as a young man who has just discovered an old idea and thinks it is his own." - Sydney J. Harris

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I have to say as a consumer, I look for 'emphasis on' not 'sole dedication to', for many of the reasons Colby just outlined. Frankly, tuna and salmon are not indigenous to the Missouri or the Kaw rivers, and yet I like them, so yes, I look for a restaurant which is not completely dedicated to only local, only in season. At the same time, I believe in seasonality, and I either don't patronize places that have 'heirloom tomatoes' prominently on the menu in December (cough Colby update your website you've still got the September menu up cough) or avoid those dishes like the plague, sure that the tomatoes are slightly wooly and flown in from Chile or somesuch.

That said, given the ordering choice between a local turnip and a flown in scallop....scallop wins, no matter how lovingly tarted up the turnip is.

What do you mean I shouldn't feed the baby sushi?

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I'll throw my hat in as well. This from a small local organic farmers perspective as well as a chefs.

1. Kansas tomatoes are the best. Please don't argue with me on this one.

2. There is not enough demand for small farm organic produce in Kansas City. The chefs that want the product almost always have to supplement with fedex not just for exotic items, but for interesting organic vegetables that could be grown here but aren't due to lack of demand.(except when they force their parents to buy acreage and farm organically :wink: ) Every year farmers we know have to cut back on farming and go find "regular" jobs because they can not make ends meet on farming alone. Farmers want to farm, restaurants want to buy, but not enough to keep enough farmers in business to supply even a small restaurants needs. WE NEED MORE PEOPLE ASKING FOR LOCAL PRODUCTS ON RESTAURANT MENUS. As I said at the growing growers forum, until the guest that sits down in the restaurant demands it, most restaurants will not supply it.

3. Organic farming in the mid-west is an uphill battle. Most of the government programs designed to help small, organic or family farms in MO have been cut (thank you Mr. Blunt). Kansas on the other hand belives that Monsanto seed was created by god and doesn't even require us to teach the theory of organic farming :wink: .

4. We need a centralized distribution system for our local farmers. Who, where, how and when are questions local farmers and restauranteurs have been asking for years.

David Crum

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So here's a question for you then, Dave. What can I as a consumer do? I already patronize the restaurants that do local sourcing and tend not to patronize those that don't. We belong to a CSA and hit the organic famer's market in season.

Short of wearing a sandwich board at my kid's school touting local ag...

Actually, that hooks in with something else, as I've been trying to figure out if I could even approach tackling a Rethinking School Lunch program here.

What do you mean I shouldn't feed the baby sushi?

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1.  Kansas tomatoes are the best.  Please don't argue with me on this one.

I have to agree but there are a few states' tomatoes I've yet to taste so I'm trying to remain open minded.

3.  Organic farming in the mid-west is an uphill battle.  Most of the government programs designed to help small, organic or family farms in MO have been cut (thank you Mr. Blunt).  Kansas on the other hand belives that Monsanto seed was created by god and doesn't even require us to teach the theory of organic farming :wink: .

Don't get me started!

4.  We need a centralized distribution system for our local farmers.  Who, where, how and when are questions local farmers and restauranteurs have been asking for years.

Since June I traveled thousands of miles and spent countless hours visiting with people from one coast to the other and many points between trying to figure out how to tackle this. While you were speaking at Growing Growers, I was listening to some very interesting people (not meaning to imply that you weren't interesting, of course :wink:) discussing this challenge. Fortunately for all of us, there are much brighter people than I addressing the problem. I expect our friendly neighborhood Rhodes Scholar will finish his PhD, get his grant and have the whole thing sorted out by April. OK, maybe not quite that soon, but I do have greater hope now than when I thought it was going to be up to one old woman in a Mini. :laugh:

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Take the turnip allegorically. As long as you view it as an either/or (succulent scallop versus dirty tuber), it will always be so.

Kansas isn't so far north that it cannot support greater produce diversity, with an extended growing season that could offer the same range one might find in, say, Portland, Maine, a town smaller than Lawrence but with greater agricultural wealth. Taken as a controlled experiment, one has to ask: Why does a predominantly working-class town with an inhospitable climate have an abundance of locally-owned and -operated farms, while the other does not? Or Austin, Texas? Or Madison, Wisconsin? It does not begin with demand, but developing local infrastructure, which is an arduous, collaborative effort that effectively loses money in the short-term (maybe even short long-term). I think this is practically truism by now, and I'm certainly not finger-pointing. I'm just fearful -- fearful I'm always going to eat New York in Kansas, and everywhere else for that matter. High-end restaurants, for the most part, are moving locality toward a bland universalism, and away from what it means to be at one particular place at one particular time.

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Take the turnip allegorically. As long as you view it as an either/or (succulent scallop versus dirty tuber), it will always be so.

I think my post made it rather clear I do not view it as an either or. I'm just a whore for scallops, and won't eschew them to patronize a strictly local-sourced only restaurant. The scallops, in a way, were allegorical as well; we're in a place not exactly rockin the seafood, yo, and so there are limits to how local one can go and still produce a quality meal that attracts paying customers (to Colby's point)

High-end restaurants, for the most part, are moving locality toward a bland universalism, and away from what it means to be at one particular place at one particular time.

Given my experiences in KC, I'd have to respectfully disagree with this- are there specific places you're thinking of? Because Bluestem, Starker's, 40 Sardines...all of them have been very active in educating their patrons about the joys of local sourcing and seasonal cooking.

What do you mean I shouldn't feed the baby sushi?

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  It does not begin with demand, but developing local infrastructure, which is an arduous, collaborative effort that effectively loses money in the short-term (maybe even short long-term).  I think this is practically truism by now, and I'm certainly not finger-pointing. 

I would disagree with this statement. I have worked with the local farmers here in the Tulsa and until they know that there is a market for something they tend to not venture to grow it. It is ecomomics for them, they need to sell what they grow for it to be worth their time and effort. For example, when I first moved here, the choices in locally grown tomatoes was limited, now in the summer time, we have growers who are known for the varitey of tomatos they have available. The same with other produce. There has to be a market before the demand can be met. The growers are more than glad to try something new if they know they can sell that produce. The market for local meats is also growing.

I was living in San Francisco when Alice Waters was first starting and she had to develope her growers, they didn't just already exist. At the time I lived there, there was no farmers market in the city, and that was in the late 70s. Not all that long ago.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Take the turnip allegorically.  As long as you view it as an either/or (succulent scallop versus dirty tuber), it will always be so.

Kansas isn't so far north that it cannot support greater produce diversity, with an extended growing season that could offer the same range one might find in, say, Portland, Maine, a town smaller than Lawrence but with greater agricultural wealth.  Taken as a controlled experiment, one has to ask:  Why does a predominantly working-class town with an inhospitable climate have an abundance of locally-owned and -operated farms, while the other does not?  Or Austin, Texas?  Or Madison, Wisconsin?  It does not begin with demand, but developing local infrastructure, which is an arduous, collaborative effort that effectively loses money in the short-term (maybe even short long-term).  I think this is practically truism by now, and I'm certainly not finger-pointing.  I'm just fearful -- fearful I'm always going to eat New York in Kansas, and everywhere else for that matter.  High-end restaurants, for the most part, are moving locality toward a bland universalism, and away from what it means to be at one particular place at one particular time.

I ask myself this a lot - why can people in zones far north of us pull this off? I asked Benno Shirk, originally from PA (where much of their produce is sold in NY as I understand it) but he now runs the cooperatively owned Central MO Produce Auction, why there was little off-season growing going on here. I've wanted to get into business featuring local stuff but decided it seemed a little disingenuous to advertise anything close to local when there are at least 4-5 months of the year that would be impossible to deliver on. His reply was something like 'there are a lot of ways to lose money that are easier than farming in MO in the winter' (not a direct quote but that was the gist). Part of my quest over the last six months has been to identify what the obstacles are that prevent ag from happening here in the winter, when it clearly IS happening in PA, VT, NY, etc. It always comes back to the economics. I think we need an angel investor who can afford to lose money short-term and maybe even short long-term because the farmers - who cooperate in ways unimaginable to overcome the many other curves that nature and the government throw at them - are really not in a position to absorb those losses.

To advance this discussion, let's look at a couple of restaurants there who have a local focus. Ideally they would also have an online menu so we can all check it out without anyone having to do a lot of leg work. Can you suggest a couple for this purpose, ILM?

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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IMO, one of the best restaurants in the midwest to incorporate the majority of his menu from local offerings while still peppering it with consumer preferred items is Vie Restaurant in Western Springs, IL.

In Chicago, Lula's, Blackbird and Avec also do this very well. But it takes a lot of "homework" from both sides. The chefs to do the research and work the markets, as well as asking/pushing the farmers for more variety the next year-even making the investment of buying a whole crop of whatever it may be to reassure the farmer. And then on the farmers part to research and grow it and then bring it to market.

Winter farming is tough, but the people at Snug Haven grow incredible spinach through the winter in hoop houses-it would be an initial financial investment to build and maintain enough to be profitable, but their spinach is $8/pound and the flavor/quality and sustainability are worth it-especially this past year with the ecoli outbreak out of California.

The alternatives are there, they just need to be developed.

Patrick Sheerin

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moosnsqrl: I often look to some of my favorite haunts wherever I've lived, and many are chefs and restauranteurs committed to localism, found in every pocket of North America. Without venturing too far west, which has marchéd (bad pun, I know) to the beat of the "local-organic-seasonal" drum for decades, I've long admired Sharon Hage of York Street in Dallas; Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix; formerly Odessa Piper (now Tori and Traci Miller) of L'Etoile in Madison; Monica Pope of t'afia (formerly Boulevard Bistrot) in Houston; Stuart Scruggs and Mark Paul at wink restaurant (and several others) in Austin; Sam Hayward of Fore Street in Portland, Maine; Chrysa Kaufman of Rancho Pinot in Scottsdale; Dan Barber and the entire team at both Blue Hill locations here in New York; and, of course, Peter Hoffman and his dedicated crew at the Savoy in SoHo (whatever's at the market is invariably on the menu). There are just simply too many to name, and I'm sure everybody else has plenty of suggestions.

I was a regular at Pizzeria Bianco long before local and national media pitched every manner of accolade his way, and so many things Chris told me still stick out in my mind. His forged a relationship with his miller to get a strong, protein-rich flour specifically milled for him that had the necessary elasticity he was looking for at lower dough-hydration levels. He couldn't find a stable, year-round source for excellent mushrooms, so he provided the money (and patience) to an acquaintance who had a passing interest in mycology to grow them for him on South Mountain. And so on he went, adding more locally-produced items year-by-year until he ended up where he is today.

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Here’s a paradox I have yet to resolve: Why (or, better yet, how) do so many of the French and Spanish chefs we mimic and study and fawn over stateside have a cuisine imprinted with a particular geographical accent, despite being located in their respective hinterlands? And why is there no American analog in the Midwest? (I was born in the South, and a strong case can be made that it has its own culinary idioms.) Best of all, as one of my great mentors in this industry would ask, what are we doing to do to develop one?

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Here’s a paradox I have yet to resolve:  Why (or, better yet, how) do so many of the French and Spanish chefs we mimic and study and fawn over stateside have a cuisine imprinted with a particular geographical accent, despite being located in their respective hinterlands?  And why is there no American analog in the Midwest? (I was born in the South, and a strong case can be made that it has its own culinary idioms.) Best of all, as one of my great mentors in this industry would ask, what are we doing to do to develop one?

The short (and probably overly) simple answer is subsidies. Most countries in the world have never gotten so far out of sync with nature, seasons and local foodways because they simply cannot afford to. The economics of our food "situation" are propped up in so many ways by the artificially low cost of fuel (for transportation and refrigeration), grants for research to grow so-called 'super foods', paying farmers to let land lie fallow and on and on. If the true costs of all of this were figured in, we'd all be eating very differently. There's another thread somewhere (can't find it right now or I would link) discussing this in greater detail.

Of course I think there's a cultural element there, too. To use your examples of France and Spain, they have food traditions dating back millenia, plus until relatively recently it was common for a person to be born, live and die within a 20k radius. And locals in one village will swear that the [fill in the blank] in their tiny area was far superior to that a few kilometres down the road. About the only thing we (in the US) can work up enough passion to haggle over the superiority of is tomatoes (well, maybe sweet corn and apples)!

I've had 15-year-old males wait on me in markets in Europe and grill me about what I am going to serve a cheese with and when (meaning what time today - not this weekend or next) I intend to serve it so they can pick just the right one. Can you imagine a 15-year old male having that breadth of knowledge or caring about cheese that much here? If I buy produce that doesn't have a PLU or barcode and is more exotic than an apple or a potato I usually have to tell the checker what it is. I wish I were exagerating (and apologies to JWest and the handful of adolescent males in the area who may be exceptions) but I'm not.

Finally, look at the Heritage Foods phenomenon. They started out trying to save some venerable old breed of turkeys, cows and pigs (among others). The end result was that most of their product comes from around here (meaning KS, MO), is processed 45 minutes from where I'm sitting as I type this, and the bulk of it is shipped to the coasts (they could give you exact figures but I think I've heard upwards of 80%). A few restaurants proudly feature their products but most don't because the price point simply would not fly around here. So we're back to the demand-side economics.

Sorry this is dragging on so long but lastly, I attended a session on pricing of produce for area farmers markets and one of the farmers quite literally said that he could not afford to buy his produce at the prices he has to charge at the market to stay in business. That sent chills down my spine.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Take the turnip allegorically.  As long as you view it as an either/or (succulent scallop versus dirty tuber), it will always be so.

Kansas isn't so far north that it cannot support greater produce diversity, with an extended growing season that could offer the same range one might find in, say, Portland, Maine, a town smaller than Lawrence but with greater agricultural wealth.  Taken as a controlled experiment, one has to ask:  Why does a predominantly working-class town with an inhospitable climate have an abundance of locally-owned and -operated farms, while the other does not?  Or Austin, Texas?  Or Madison, Wisconsin?  It does not begin with demand, but developing local infrastructure, which is an arduous, collaborative effort that effectively loses money in the short-term (maybe even short long-term).  I think this is practically truism by now, and I'm certainly not finger-pointing.  I'm just fearful -- fearful I'm always going to eat New York in Kansas, and everywhere else for that matter.  High-end restaurants, for the most part, are moving locality toward a bland universalism, and away from what it means to be at one particular place at one particular time.

The average food minded person will not recognize or even care if the restaurant they dined at last night stayed consistent with local foodstuffs on their menu. Only a small percentage of diners will take notice, embrace it, and demand it. They only care if A) The food tastes good and B) Was it a good overall experience?, so with that being said why should a restaurant take that "short term" risk if all they need to do is fulfill those attributes? Besides for obvious reasons of supporting local farmers but to make those who seek for local foods happy. That's all chefs want to do, just to make people happy. But if the people in Kansas (or wherever the case may be) are not seeking that then don't you think it's going to be hard for farmer's to supply something that isn't be sought out for? Much less, restaurants selling those items?

I personally feel there's a bigger issue that would impact this issue in a positive way. I strongly feel that it would be almost impossible to find a home in Johnson County, KS who is having dinner with out a single commercialized, mass produced, convienent food item. Yet, it's one of the wealthiest counties in the country but in general the public doesn't seem to have an idea how to cook for themselves nor do they have any idea what they should be buying at the store. If a more diverse and bigger group of people in this area would be more food minded and purchase their food at farmers' markets or purchase good wholesome quality local ingredients at the store then it will be a given that the independent restaurants will exceed expectations. No one ever lowers their standards about the food when they go out to eat at a restaurant. So, if people had higher standards in their own home, wouldn't it be possible that their standards for restaurants will be much higher? With that, restaurants will be out looking for more local foods and those farmers will then be getting the business that they need to expand their horizons. Restaurants like everyone above has mentioned are doing a great job trying to increase the volume of local foods but if not a lot of people are embracing it then there's not going be much of a change.

Yes, restaurants can dictate the way people eat in the area but only to an extent for a small group of people. There's just way too many people buying convienence food products for dinner and going out to the Cheesecake Factory. People have been brainwashed and their palates have been demented by all sorts of factors that they don't understand or have the knowledge about what it means to walk down the market with a baquette in your hand and sack of fresh greens for lunch or on the way home for dinner.

"cuisine is the greatest form of art to touch a human's instinct" - chairman kaga

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Lest anyone think the growers aren't trying for us . . . this program agenda just came across my virtual desktop.

In my naive, non-farmer way, I asked why hoophouses/high tunnels weren't the answer - just too expensive to implement initially or ??? Apparently, although some things will do OK in them, the real cash crops still just need more hours of light per day than they get here in the winter months. I suppose this is mitigated by the $8/lb spinach price but, as many of us have pointed out, the consumers balk at $4/lb heirloom tomatoes so, for now at least, I can't see how this can be viable. The farmers are an inventive lot, though, and as evidenced by the high tunnels program in January, they're working on it.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Our emphasis on local and sustainable ingredients is a mainstay of our restaurant. We've found that not only does it make for fresher, more creative menu items, it is also a fantastic marketing tool. People see me in my chef's coat at the farmer's market, and realize we care about the quality of our ingredients.

That said, we're not crazy, and we don't pretend we can get oranges or olive oil locally. And yes, we have a featured piece of fish every day, but we make sure it adheres to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's guidelines for sustainability. Often it's Lake Superior trout or walleye, which is at least regional if not local.

Then there's the aspect I've mentioned here at eG before, that of food safety. Yes, a foodborne illness outbreak can hapen anywhere, but when it's a small local farm and a small independent restaurant, then not only do you know the source and know & trust the farmer, but when an outbreak does happen, you sicken a dozen people instead of a hundred, or more.

Peace,

kmf

www.KurtFriese.com

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I strongly feel that it would be almost impossible to find a home in Johnson County, KS who is having dinner with out a single commercialized, mass produced, convienent food item.

After my first summer living here, I would have agreed with this statement. But I've seen a really astonishing change at the farmer's market in downtown OP, both on the production and the consumer side. The first few summers, I had to go to both OP and Brookside to get what I wanted- OP for fruit, Brookside for organic and heirloom- the producers at OP by and large focused on 'standard' produce that would sell. But now I see dozens of tomato, apple, and squash varietals, producers who know what kinds of strawberries they're selling- and furthermore, consumers who care and ask. And these are Jonhson county residents!

Do many of them not know their way around a kitchen and they're getting into this because they read about it in a magazine or saw something on food TV or had something wonderful at a restaurant? Yes. But I lost count of how many times this past summer I found myself chatting with a confused suburbanite as to just what they could do with X, and the many ways to cook it, and it was incredible how excited people could get over this. At specialty dinners at 40 (notably the tomato dinner), guests freely admitted that a couple of years ago they had no idea what an heirloom tomato or other ingredient was, but now they sought them out, were growing them, and were cooking with them- a group of people far more used to takeout from Dean and Deluca or going out to dinner than workin the soil with their own two hands.

I realize our household, out of the demographic of my child's school in JoCo, is still the exception (a home cooked meal 5-6 nights a week with no convenience foods), but I am seeing the tide change down here and it's WONDERFUL. Families who used to use convenience or takeout every night of the week are now cooking 1-3 nights a week- that's a huge change. Now, if only I could convince his school that 'tuna cream tater tot casserole' is the work of the gustatory devil...

What do you mean I shouldn't feed the baby sushi?

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It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. So they say. That is why we need to be educating our children today. That is why I gave my time to the "Days of Taste" Program and went to an elementry school and talked to children about food, farmers, how things should taste and so on. I grew up on a farm in Kansas. I grew up growing vegetables in a garden. We need to start educating people about the "right" things to do as far as what to eat and when to eat it.

We also need to get away from the urban areas and out to the farms. These children do not know what they have out there until they leave. I am case and point. If we can get the young ones excited about changing the way of their fathers and making the right choices now we have a chance.

The biggest factor is that it is so hard to make a living on a farm in any capacity. You have to rely on yourself and make decitions to make your farm profitable for your falmily.

But the way, so of the other area arould the country that you were comparing to KS and MO. Apples and Oranges my friend. This area we live in and west has some of the most extreme weather in the world. No the winters do not get as hash as they do in WI or ME, but it does not get 115 degrees there in the summer.

It is easier to change a menu than a growing season.

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moosnsqrl:  I often look to some of my favorite haunts wherever I've lived, and many are chefs and restauranteurs committed to localism, found in every pocket of North America.  Without venturing too far west, which has marchéd (bad pun, I know) to the beat of the "local-organic-seasonal" drum for decades, I've long admired Sharon Hage of York Street in Dallas; Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix; formerly Odessa Piper (now Tori and Traci Miller) of L'Etoile in Madison; Monica Pope of t'afia (formerly Boulevard Bistrot) in Houston; Stuart Scruggs and Mark Paul at wink restaurant (and several others) in Austin; Sam Hayward of Fore Street in Portland, Maine; Chrysa Kaufman of Rancho Pinot in Scottsdale; Dan Barber and the entire team at both Blue Hill locations here in New York; and, of course, Peter Hoffman and his dedicated crew at the Savoy in SoHo (whatever's at the market is invariably on the menu).  There are just simply too many to name, and I'm sure everybody else has plenty of suggestions.

I was a regular at Pizzeria Bianco long before local and national media pitched every manner of accolade his way, and so many things Chris told me still stick out in my mind.  His forged a relationship with his miller to get a strong, protein-rich flour specifically milled for him that had the necessary elasticity he was looking for at lower dough-hydration levels.  He couldn't find a stable, year-round source for excellent mushrooms, so he provided the money (and patience) to an acquaintance who had a passing interest in mycology to grow them for him on South Mountain.  And so on he went, adding more locally-produced items year-by-year until he ended up where he is today.

Well, first of all, thanks for the list of restaurants - definitely some places to check out when we're in the neighborhood.

It appears that many of these (I didn't take time to look at them all and didn't find online menus for some) are doing essentially what our handful of locals are, i.e. doing their best to use local ingredients and the credit them on the menu, but still offering scallops, skatewing and the like to round-out their selections. It does appear that there is more indoor/hoophouse/hothouse growing going on in Madison than these parts and I am jealous.

A few years ago we had a retail/wholesale business, Local Harvest, that provided at least some opportunity to get chefs and farmers (and civilian consumers) together year-round. Sadly it grew too fast and didn't survive; but the concept of being able to find those goods all year is sadly missed and filling that void was one of the goals that started me on my mulit-state odyssey this summer. I am truly coming to the conclusion that the distribution system is the number one problem and if it can be resolved the rest will follow. So back to work.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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