Category Archives: Locavore and farm-to-table

2nd Inseason Opening in Louisville This Weekend

Super-local grocer branches out

When Inseason Local Market opened in Denver’s Highlands neighborhood last January, I simultaneously admired their courage and doubted their wisdom. It opened with a promise to carry only foods sourced from a 250-mile radius. Its locavore slogan is, “If it’s not from here, it’s not in here.” That’s the admirable part butwas  also the part that may me skeptical. After all — 250 miles? In Colorado? In the middle of winter?

But the store’s success proved me wrong, and a second Inseason Local Market is opening in downtown Louisville on Saturday, November 6. The weather is unseasonably warm, but the owners couldn’t have known that November would dawn this way when they signed the lease and set the date. I still admire them, but I no longer question their tactics, and I’m glad to have this market just one town from Boulder.

Like the mother ship in Denver, the second market will offer naturally grown, sustainable and traceable food including ethically raised meat and poultry, dairy products, produce, juices and ciders, breads, sweets, preserves and home and body care products. The new store is at 924 Main Street, Louisville; 303-325-7614.

Local Farmers Market on Top 10 List

Boulder County Farmers’ Market cited as one of the best in the US

The Boulder County Farmers’ Market is one of the city’s real treasures, for cooks seeking the freshest ingredients from local farmers, ranchers and other purveyors and willing to pay top dollar for these find goods. Its food court attracts to those wanting a day away from the stove and also those who can barely boil water. And visitors love it as well.

Bon Appetit recently named Boulder “America’s Foodiest Town,” and now the block-long farmers market has made it onto another national list: livability.com’s slection of  “America’s Best Farmers Markets: 10 Amazing Local Markets.”  Sharp-eyed locals might notice that the Boulder paragraph was accompanied by a closeup of blueberries and raspberries — not peaches, corn, salad greens, peppers or tomatoes like those below, but blueberries and raspberries. What’s that all about? 

John Ellis, vice president of the board of the Boulder County Farmers’ Markets, has concerns beyond which produce is depicted on a website spotlighting the local market. ” Such recognition is great, but the Boulder market is so popular already that it can’t handle much more in the way of customers or vendors,” Ellis told the BCBR.com (the daily E-report by the Boulder County Business Report,   “It’s cool, [but] we’ve maxed out Boulder. We’ve run out of space. We can’t get more vendors in, and there’s no more convenient parking.”

The county farmers market group, which also operates the market in Longmont at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, plans enhance that venue next year with a 40-foot-round tent. There is also talk around town that the Boulder market is looking to go year-round. What a treat that would be!

The BCBR continued, “Santa Fe, New Mexico, topped Livability’s national farmers market list, which focuses on fresh produce, and education on sustainability, recycling and waste reduction. Many of the markets chosen across the country for the list also offer assistance for low-income families, Livability said in a statement. Santa Fe was followed by Kansas City, Missouri; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Ocala, Florida; Portland, Oregon; Burlington, Vermont; Boulder; Greensboro, North Carolina; Santa Cruz, California; Tucson, Arizona; and Gainesville, Florida.”

Sangria and Hors d’Oeuvres at The Fort

Beautiful setting and a fabulous early-evening spread

Yesterday evening was one of those charmed summer nights — clear skies, comfortable temperatures, excellent company in an excellent place. The local chapter of the Les Dames d’Escoffier gathered on the terrace of The Fort, south of downtown Morrison for a sunset gathering.

Along with sangria served in Mason jars came a fine spread of nibbles from their appetizer menu: fabulous barbecued duck quesadillas, crunchy chips with salsa and guac’, peanut butter-stuffed jalapeños, Acapulco shrimp ceviche, escabeche, bison eggs (similar to Scotch eggs but with quail eggs and ground bison meat, bison sausage called “boudies,” and braised bison tongue on toast with caper aioli, one of The Fort’s many heritage dishes that simply aren’t served anyplace else. I’m not sure why we didn’t take food closeups this time, but I’m afraid we didn’t.

The hostess was Holly Arnold Kinney (below in a traditional beaded deerskin dress), The Fort’s owner and a past chair of LDEI’s local chapter. She told the amazing story of the food-safety detective work that went into identifying the Iowa poultry farms that are culpable in the recent salmonella-tainted egg problem that prompted a massive recall and made headlines. I can’t begin to repeat it, but suffice it to say that The Fort played an identifiable role in ferreting out the culprit farms. She also showed us a spiral-bound proof of her forthcoming book, Shinin’ Times at The Fort, a cookbook and family memoir that will be out in November. Even in proof form, it’s a beautify, with photos by Lois Ellen Frank, a gifted food photographer who works and lives on Red Mesa near Santa Fe.

On the way out, we stopped to look at Sissy Bear’s Garden, planted this year in The Fort’s courtyard and used by the chefs to supplement the organic produce that the restaurant buys. You can see from the cut stems that veggies were recently harvested. I wrote about the new garden in a profile I did in edibleFront Range magazine, but I had interviewed Holly and the chefs last winter, so I hadn’t seen it until now. The statue guarding the garden is of Sissy Bear, a Canadian black bear that was an Arnold family pet when Holly was growing up.
Tempted as we had been to stay for dinner, we pulled ourselves away and headed home. We were glad that we did, because as we were heading north on Highway 93, we spotted such a magnificent harvest moon rising over Denver that we pulled over to admire and photograph it.

Fort on Urbanspoon

Locavore Lives at Spago

Chefs muscle out landscapers and plant Herb and veggie gardens at Beaver Creek’s Ritz Carlton

You know that the locavore movement is firmly entrenched in Colorado when lush flower beds at the super-luxe Ritz Carlton, Bachelor Gulch at Beaver Creek are being replaced by herb and vegetable gardens. But that’s the transformation that has occurred right outside Spago,  the hotel’s big-name restaurant.

Executive chef Mark Ferguson, chef de cuisine Steve Maline and others on their staff selected the plants, put them in the ground, have weeded the bed and nurtured their bounty through the high country’s short summer and are harvesting the bounty. Late afternoon showers are welcome by the gardeners, if not by guests who would enjoy cocktails on the terrace. The elevation also spares the plants from theFront Range’s searing heat. Obviously, The Spago staff can’t grow everything they need, but they grow everything they can and buy as much of the rest as locally as possible.
It goes without saying that the watchwords are “organic” and “natural.” They’ve planted their first bed with Italian and Thai basil, mint, parsley, fava beans, Yukon gold potatoes, Swiss chard and more than I could write down as Ferguson was talking. Instead of floral cascades, big tubs are sprouting tomato cascades. Ferguson and others told me that guests are really responsive to seeing things grow and being tended that will appear on their plates.
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The chefs love being able to use fresh-from-garden herbs and some bevvies and are already planning for next summer. They’re composting vegetable scraps plus mesquite and pine chips and mesquite cinders from the wood oven. And they’re eying the bed on the other side of the patio for next year.

Traverse City’s Burgeoning Food Scene

Locavore movement strong on the shores of Lake Michigan

Many years ago, I spent several days in Traverse City, a prosperous tourist center on the northern section of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. I was on a ski assignment, so there was snow on the ground and nothing green other than the conifers and the traffic lights. As I drove northward around the east side of Grand Traverse Bay to Shanty Creek Resort southward toward Crystal Mountain, I passed dormant orchards and acres of frozen farmland. The small towns and wooden homes reminded me of New England, but with only smaller hills in the region.

In the dim reaches of my mind, I seem to remember that the Traverse City-Petoskey belt was once famous for its maraschino cherries, but that goes back even before my winter visit. I don’t recall where I ate or what I ate then, and the words “locavore” and “sustainable” and the phrase “farm to table” had not yet entered the foodie vocabulary.In factm I’m not even sure that “foodie” had been coined. If I had a crystal ball then, however, I could have foreseen that Traverse City could become a culinary destination once people began exploring the country in search of good local food.

My friend Mike Norton of the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau, whose job, of course, is to promote what’s new and what’s good in his town, sent me the following illuminating communique indicating that indeed, local chefs and bakers are using good, fresh, locally grown products. Here’s what he wrote:

Almost overnight, it seems, this bustling resort town on the shore of Lake Michigan has acquired an aura as one of the country’s up-and-coming “foodie towns.”

Food writers, chefs and lovers of tasty food have been flocking here to sample the area’s fabled cuisine. For two years in a row, Midwest Living magazine has listed Traverse City among its Five Top Food Towns — and this spring Livability.com gave it first-place billing among 200 American cities in its Top 10 list of Surprising Foodie Towns.

Traverse City cuisine is an eclectic, relatively recent movement that borrows freely from other regional styles and relies heavily on imagination, boldness and spunk. But if it has one defining characteristic, that would be a generous use of fresh ingredients from nearby farms, forests, waters and orchards.

From appetizers to dessert, local restaurateurs seem to be on a mission to showcase the best of what the area has to offer. Paul and Amanda Danielson, owners of the fashionable Trattoria Stella restaurant in the Grand Traverse Commons, are leaders in the so-called “slow food” movement, which is all about using fresh local ingredients wherever possible.

Janice Benson, marketing director for Taste the Local Difference, a nonprofit group that serves as a go-between for farmers, restaurants and grocers, says that many chefs now routinely buy from nearby farms and orchards instead of ordering produce that has to be trucked in from hundreds of miles away.

“And this isn’t just folks who look for local strawberries when they’re in season, but who are making a year-round efforts to shop for farm-fresh meat, milk, cheese and other items,” she says. “We have so much wonderful food here that it’s really not hard to do.”

It goes without saying, of course, that many chefs have always relied on the region’s abundance of fresh fruits. Mike and Denise Busley, owners of the Grand Traverse Pie Company, have been featured on the Food Network and earned fans all across the United States, but they know their popular bakery/café wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the fresh ingredients they find all around them.

“We wouldn’t be doing this if we had to send to Washington for our apples or cherries,” says Mike. “When people come to this area, they want to sample what the locals enjoy, and our job is to deliver that service. Can you imagine what would happen if we didn’t use the best, local, fresh cherries or apples in our pies?”

Equally committed to that idea is Dave Denison (above left), owner/chef at Amical, a downtown Traverse City bistro offering French and Italian rustic cooking. Most of the greens, tomatoes, herbs and fruits featured on Amical’s menu are supplied by area farmers, while many of the fish that play such a prominent role on the menu are taken from the waters between Charlevoix and Petoskey. Local wines, from northern Michigan’s red-hot wine scene are featured prominently, as well.

Down the street, chefs Eric Patterson and Jennifer Blakeslee have made fresh local ingredients the mainstay of their tiny restaurant, The Cook’s House, where 90% of the menu is made with local products. The same can be said of other restaurants outside Traverse City, from the Bluebird and the Riverside Inn in Leland, Blu and the Good Harbor Grill in Glen Arbor, Martha’s Leelanau Table and Gusto! Ristorante in Suttons Bay to Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen and Siren Hall in Elk Rapids and The Boathouse and Mission Table at Bower’s Harbor.

Nor is this movement confined strictly to high-end restaurants. Small tavern-style eateries like Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor and the Lil’ Bo in Traverse City have creative chefs who are enthusiastic about fresh local ingredients, while some of the region’s largest kitchens – like those at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa and the Great Wolf Lodge – are among the strongest supporters of the local-food movement.

“Certainly, part of it is supporting the local farms and the local economy — but any good chef will tell you, this is what food is really all about,” says Joseph George, executive chef at the Grand Traverse Resort. “It’s about enhancing and bringing out the pure flavors of the food, as natural and unmanipulated as possible, and that’s why using the freshest ingredients is so important.”

 Thanks, Mike, for catching me up. I’ve been wanting to get out of my recent Rocky Mountain rut and was looking for locavore info from elsewhere.

Brown Palace Installs Rooftop Beehives

Honey from above to be served at high tea in the lobby

A colony of honey bees has checked into Denver’s landmark Brown Palace Hotel and Spa — or rather checked onto its roof. The colony‘s mission is the production honey for the traditional, elegant afternoon tea and hopefully in the future toward signature spa treatments. While past Brown Palace guests have included crowned royalty, the hotel started with its own two resident queen bees supported by a court of 20,000 worker bees that are expected to grow to 140,000 by the end of the summer. The hotel has named this “the Bee Royalty Initiative.”

 

The Brown has long had its own historian, and now it also has hired a dedicated beekeeper, Matt Kentner of Kentner Farms. He removes bees for people who don’t want them and sources beehives to local farmers and ranchers who do want them for essential pollination of their crops. He’s also a “personal beekeeper” and now is working with the Brown’s colony. In the city, the bees buzz around landscaped city avenues and parks dipping into the pollan of flowering trees, bushes and other fblossoms to make honey out of their haul.

Colony collapse, unexpected decrease in bee communities, has been a real concern to growers, and the Brown is doing its part to improve the situation. As Kentner reminds people, “Unfortunately there are a lot of misconceptions about the nature of bees and what crucial roles they play in our food supply and environment. The affects of the decline in bees is extremely alarming and it’s important that we build awareness and do our part to help,”

Toward that held, the Brown Palace has donated two beehives to the Denver Beekeepers Association to assist in establishing hives in the Denver community and has also partnered with Denver Parks & Recreation to plant bee-friendly flowers in the nearby Civic Center Park.

“We’ve worked for years to bring urban beekeeping to fruition in Denver and The Brown Palace has demonstrated a true commitment to fostering these efforts in our community,”  according to Marygael Meister, president of the Denver Beekeepers Association.

The hotel is running a “Name the Hives Contest,” with contributors of the two winning names rewarded with a weekend getaway at The Brown Palace. Enter by going to the Brown’s dedicated Facebook page.

Saturday is Farmers’ Market Day in B-Towns

Boulder and Boise both boast great famers’ markets

Last week, I played hooky from a meeting in Boise and skipped out of the convention center for a couple of hours to explore the city’s fantastic Capital City Public Market. It stretches along North Eighth Street between Bannock Street and the Grove Plaza in front of the convention center and also half-a-block or so in either direction on the cross-streets. The plaza itself invites lingering. A band plays, kids splash in a fountain and it is an upbeat scene. Because I live within a short walk of the Boulder County Farmers’ Market, my farmers’ markets are pretty high, and Boise more than meets them.

It’s a fantastic farmers’ market with fresh produce, flowers and plants, wines, food carts, breads and other baked goods, artisanal cheeses, prepared foods and an outstanding selection of artisans. Among the fruits, berries are sublime right now (or were last week, anyway), and among the many vegetable stands, I was touched by those staffed by refugees from troubled lands. I spoke to a young man from Somalia who made his way to the US via Kenya. His must be a heart-wrenching story, and I hope that it has a happy ending in the fine agriculatural land of western Idaho or eastern Oregon.

The market operates Saturdays from 9:30:a.m. to 1:30 p.m. until sometime in September. Contact information: Capital City Public Market, P.O. Box 2019, Boise, Idaho 83701; 208-345-5928.

Some Farmers’ Market Fotos

Here’s a selection of images from this excellent market: