Monday, March 10, 2014


Recently Chris and I have been watching a documentary series on PBS called "A Chef's Life". This series is about a woman and her husband and how they open their own restaurant called 'Chef and the Farmer'. It's a really neat story of how just after opening their restaurant it burns to the ground and they need to start over. I can guess that it would be pretty tough, but it could also be quite a miracle. If you think about it, just after opening a restaurant there would be a long list of what went wrong. You could right what you didn't get the first time around. And it reinforce what you already had in place, overall creating a twice as strong restaurant.

Chef Vivian from 'Chef and the Farmer' on a corn excursion! 

We really enjoy the show, not only because it is a spouse team that is building their dream restaurant together but because each program they feature a different farm to table ingredient. Whether the focus be on tomatoes, oysters, corn, or pigs, the program takes us to the farm, we get to  meet the farmer and see the stages of growth. Then Chef Vivian shows how she processes the ingredients and then features them in their restaurant. 

These are heirloom tomatoes, grown from seeds that have been around for 100 years. There are so many varieties of heirloom tomatoes some of which may not look the most appealing but most often the ugly tomatoes are the best! Those that look overgrown or cracked are packed with flavor. Try new varieties of tomatoes and I promise you won't be disappointed.

Of course everyone has recognized that the farm to table movement is entirely in vogue, but I think the more chefs advocate for it, the faster it will trickle down to the general population, as it should. My newest favorite book is one that I bought for Christopher by John Besh- "My New Orleans". In the same manner, it dissects the local ingredients used in his restaurants. He not only emphasizes the difference in taste for example between Creole tomatoes and refrigerator tomatoes, but he attributes it to terroir. Terroir is the notion that a certain region, soil, and growing conditions are the reason a certain ingredient tastes the way it does. In Europe they have something that is called a Protected Designation of Origin which protects the products grown or produced in a certain area so that no other producer can claim that their product is of the same high quality as that of the Protected Designation of Origin. John Besh goes to great lengths explaining that some of the farmers who provide his vegetables should have these protection because that's how good they are. He also works with the local farmers so that they are producing primarily for the flavors he is looking to highlight.
John Besh dissects each ingredient and promotes buying not only locally and supporting New Orleans. He mentions that   sometimes the best product is right outside your back door! 

Chris and I decided to be part of a CSA this year. A CSA is a local farm that sells it's produce directly to members who buy a share of their product; it stands for Community Sharing Agriculture. Last year, I traveled to the farm with the caterer I work for in order to gather her share, and also take advantage of the U-pick program. The U-pick allows you to go into the fields yourself and harvest some of the excess vegetables that are not included in each weeks share. Chris and I really had fun when we visited the farm last year and so we decided to buy half a share for ourselves. Buying half of a share means that instead of going every week to pick up a basket of vegetables, we travel to the farm every other week to pick up our basket. It's not only farm fresh but more value for the price. Our half share will cost 340$ for 10 "baskets"of vegetables, fruits, herbs, all you can pick! I encourage you to find a CSA near you. It's quite a great feeling to know that the food has only been touched by two or three hands before it meets your mouth. And with the U-pick section, maybe even one person- me pick! me wash! me cook! me eat!

These are both sample shares from our CSA! 

If chefs introduce us to these wonderful local flavors through the dishes they prepare in restaurants, maybe more people will support their local farms and make their own dinners with the freshest ingredients possible. Join the movement! Bring the farm to your table.

Here I am walking amongst the stalks of the CSA, picking the finest cobs! 

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