Category Archives: Eateries

Pig. Farmer. Chef. Guest.


We were all there in the kitchen at the same time.

Salt of the Earth restaurant

Chef Matthew demonstrates how to butcher a pig as farmer Darrell and a class attendee observe.

I recently had the opportunity to learn more about butchering. And what could be a better place than one of Bill’s and my favorite local restaurants?

Salt of the Earth, in Fennville, Michigan, offers cooking classes throughout the year. What I liked about “The Whole Hog: Butchering 101” was how it brings me (Guest) closer to the animal (Pig) through the direction of the butcher (Chef Matthew Pietsch). And Darrell (Farmer) is a critical part of the experience, too.

The Berkshire hogs came from local farmers Darrell and Conni at Coach Stop Farm. So while Chef Matthew explained the various cuts of the animal and how to “break down a hog,” Darrell talked about the breed and how his happy, pastured pigs differ from those confined in factory farms.

Bill and I already buy only happy meat from local farmers but I enjoyed the discussion during the demonstration that night, along with the wine….and did I mention dinner followed? Pork, of course! Thank you, Salt of the Earth, for providing this educational venue to help us all–pig, farmer, chef, guest–develop more understand about how we are all so connected and dependent upon each other.

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The only question I forgot to ask is: What is the photo of Christopher Walken doing on the walk-in door?

P.S. – Check out this post over on EatGR.com, which included Life Is Fare in its Monday Mingle (Blogger Link Up) on July 14, 2014.

 

In Brooklyn: The Farm on Adderley


The Farm on AdderleyWhile on a recent trip to NYC, Bill and I had the opportunity to try a restaurant in Brooklyn that’s right up our alley: The Farm on Adderley. The restaurant aims “to bring thoughtfully produced food and ingredients to our community in a totally accessible way. Much of the way The Farm has evolved has been to pursue the principles of supporting local farmers, artisans, entrepreneurs as much as possible, making delicious food from that, and serving it in a completely honest way.” Those are the principles we like to eat by, at a place that lists its purveyors who supply the food for its ever-changing menu.

We were there after Daylight Savings Time ended, so it was dark. And this photo doesn’t do it justice.
The Farm on Adderley

The Farm on Adderley, Brooklyn, New York

I had the fluke (on the right) and we shared a green bean salad (on the left). Yummy, fresh, and low-key. We felt like we were having dinner at a neighbor’s home.

Located in a narrow old commercial building on Cortelyou Road in Ditmas Park, its hidden gem is an outdoor garden in the back. Even on a chilly October evening, it was comfortable and pleasant.

Farmhouse Deli: A Good Option for Homemade


Farmhouse Deli, Douglas, Michigan

Bill and I are lucky to live near several farm-to-table restaurants here in West Michigan. And we do love to cook at home. But sometimes you just want to pick something up quickly to have for lunch or dinner when you don’t have stuff on hand.

The Farmhouse Deli in Douglas, Michigan, is a quick trip down the road for us and the perfect place to get homemade food created from fresh, local ingredients. It’s owned by our friend Chris Ferris, a fabulous chef who catered our wedding reception. The daily soup and specials are frequently posted on Facebook so “like” their page if you live in the area and you’ll be enticed to drop in. The food is irresistible.

I was enticed enough one day to get the Egg Salad artisan sandwich–on a ciabatta roll. OMG, it’s a must-try.

Egg Salad Artisan Sandwich, Farmhouse Deli

Check out the menu to make your mouth water. And stop in for lunch or dinner sometime.

The Perennial Plate: Episode 83


Here’s Daniel Klein’s tribute to Prune Restaurant on 1st Street in NYC via video montage. This was just another stop on Klein’s Real Food Road Trip. (Okay, it was two summers ago, but I’m still catching up on these episodes!)

Potager Restaurant: Simple Cooking, Simple Eating


Potager Restaurant, Denver, Colorado

“A good kitchen respects its sources and chooses ingredients that are sound, seasonal, and local whenever possible.” That’s why the menu at Potager Restaurant in Denver, Colorado, changes monthly, adapting to the seasons.

Potager Restaurant, Denver, Colorado

Run by Teri Rippeto and her father, Tom, who believe the best tasting food is organically grown, and harvested in ways that are ecologically sound by people who take care of the land, the restaurant’s ingredients are sourced from a network of like-minded suppliers they know personally and trust. I love it when restaurants list their sources on the menu!

Potager Restauran, Denver, Colorado

In April, Bill and I enjoyed a dinner at Potager with family members and were not disappointed.

Menu, April 13, Poteger Restaurant, Denver, Colorado

Because so many dishes on the menu looked enticing, I ordered several appetizers to appease my curiosity: White Bean and Spring Greens Soup, Oxford Farm Kale Salad, and Home-made Beef and Pork Sausage. (Ordering a variety of small plates seems to be a trend for me lately! I did the same thing at Five Bistro in St. Louis.)

White Bean and Spring Greens Soup, Potager Restaurant, Denver, Colorado

Oxford Farm Kale Salad, Poteger Restaurant, Denver, Colorado

Home-made Beef and Pork Sausage, Poteger Restaurant, Denver, Colorado

Bill ordered the Triple M Bar Ranch Grass-fed Red Wine and Thyme-Braised Lamb Shanks. Like many high-quality locavore restaurants, they were able to accommodate his wheat allergy by substituting the accompanying couscous with roasted potatoes.

Grass-Fed Thyme-Braised Lamb Shanks, Poteger Restaurant, Denver, Colorado

I tried a bite of niece Kristin’s pizza. It was wood-fired and covered in arugula– and so flavorful from the goat cheese. Delish!

Pizza

At Potager, they believe the meal is “the center of human existence.” And the table is where “we are nourished, put in touch with the source of life, and reconnected to traditions.” It’s simple cooking and simple eating, honoring the season and honoring the people that grow, raise, and harvest the food.

Poteger Restaurant, Denver, Colorado

Check it out next time you’re in Denver!

Potager Restaurant, Denver, Colorado

Five Bistro: An Experience for All Five of Your Senses


Five Bistro Restaurant, St. Louis, Missouri

When Bill and I travel, food is a primary focus. So when we planned a road trip to the Plains with a stop in St. Louis, we looked for a farm-to-table restaurant for our dinner. And we hit the gold mine at Five Bistro, where “Chef Devoti and his staff are committed to providing a memorable dining experience that evokes all five of your senses.”

Five Bistro Restaurant, St. Louis, Missouri

One of my favorite attributes about locavore restaurants is when they cite the sources (i.e., farms) for their food. Another is when they align their menu offering with the season. That’s why the menu changes daily.

Five Bistro menu April 9, 2013

After an amuse bouche of arancini (fried risotto ball), we began with the house-made charcuterie, which was excellent and included sausages, rabbit confit, cured meats, pates, pickles, a smoked chicken egg (!), shitake mushrooms, mustard, and cherry jam. It’s flavorful and filling.

Arancini

House-made charcuterie at Five Bistro

That’s why I opted for a soup and salad approach for dinner. There were so many great things to choose from but I didn’t want to over-eat. So I got the potato soup-puree and farm salad with local field greens and lamb pastrami.

Potato soup-puree

Farmers salad with local field greens and lamb pastrami

Bill got the half chicken (with stinging nettles….yum!).

Roasted chicken

And for dessert? What could be happier than cheesecake made with goat cheese and topped with a strawberry compote?

Goat cheese cheesecake

Our meal really did appeal to all five senses. We had a wonderful seat at the front window of the restaurant, which is located in The Hill district of St. Louis. The food tasted and smelled delicious, and it felt wonderful in our mouths. The background music provided an ambience without being disruptive.

And, I’d like to add a special thanks to our server, who we appreciated for her knowledge about the menu, the restaurant’s philosophy, and food issues in general. It’s always a great experience when the staff is as involved in the food experience as the chef. Five Bistro is a must-do for locavores in St. Louis.

Five Bistsro Restaurant, St. Louis, Missouri

Know Thy Customer


One of my top-five favorite restaurants in the country is Blue Hill at Stone Barns, up the hill from Tarrytown, New York. For me living in Michigan it’s like a pilgrimage to go there because executive chef Dan Barber is more than a creative culinary artist. He’s an inspiration for home cooks and anyone who eats (that’s everyone!) by creating consciousness around everyday food choices. Three years ago I made the pilgrimage to Stone Barns with my friend and fellow home-chef, Cathy. When we visited this year, we brought Bill.

Arriving at our table we found a Field and Pasture Four Season Journal that lists the potential harvest by month. I loved reading the list and anticipating what we might be eating that night.

Field and Pasture Food Journal

Field and Pasture Food Journal - March

On the restaurant’s website there’s a phrase: Know Thy Farmer. Dan Barber’s philosophy is that great cooking starts with great ingredients. And great ingredients start with great farmers. You can find all the local farms that inspire the menus at both Stone Barns and Blue Hill New York (in Manhattan) by scrolling over a map on their webpage.

But I’d like to offer a new phrase that incorporates both restaurants’ philosophy: Know Thy Customer. The staff goes out of its way to accommodate people with food allergies, like Bill. At Stone Barns, where each meal is a “farmers’ feast” comprised of multi-course tastings from the day’s harvest, no meal is alike. It’s amazing to see how meals are customized for each person. It’s not just about food allergies; it’s about making your experience delightful by being attentive to your preferences–all within the confines of a seasonal harvest.

Here were our preferences for ingredients to avoid:

Bill: Wheat, corn, cow-dairy

Cathy: Mayonnaise

Marcia: Shellfish, mushrooms

We decided upon the 8-course feast, which means a variety of dishes keep coming out over a timespan of two to three hours.

The Vegetables on a Fence was the first to arrive, along with Pickled Asparagus and an egg-yolk dip (that I cannot remember the name of!). We were also given a pot of pea shoots, along with pruning shears (in foreground) with which to cut off the shoots. These were then dragged through the citrus-pepper oil shown on the white ceramic plank.

Vegetables on a Fence and Pickled Asparagus

One of the favorites among the three of us was the “make your own tacos” course served with celery root tortillas. Yes! Tortillas made from celery root! In the center was a nice arrangement of shrimp and mussels, which Cathy and Bill enjoyed. I got to have fresh spinach as a substitute for shellfish.

Make your own tacos

Celery root tortillas

And when Cathy and I were served Red Fife Bread with Marmalade of Greens and Fresh Ricotta, Bill had wedge of roasted rutabaga.

Roasted rutabaga

Because it’s not the time of year for beef, we enjoyed a Parsnip Steak instead, cut  tableside by our server. The way it was prepared, you would have thought you were eating steak. It was so delicious.

Parsnip Steak cut tableside

Parsnip Steak

To see the other courses we enjoyed, check out the slideshow below. We really enjoyed our meal and the excitement of wondering what would be served next.

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Creative, Conscientious Cuisine at Grove


I had already been to Grove, one of the new restaurants in Grand Rapids, Michigan, about three times when I realized I hadn’t blogged about it. Partly because it’s such an enjoyable experience that I want to savor it for what it is rather than worrying about how my photos turn out. But this place is one of Bill’s and my new favorites in town. So I just have to spread the word. Grove brings the earth to table with modern, authentic cuisine featuring fresh, natural, local ingredients.

One of our favorite things to do when we go out to dinner, especially at the end of the week, is to sit at the bar. You rarely need a reservation, the service is great, and you can ask the bartender a lot of questions. (I’m sure they just love the interruption!) Grove has a creative list of unique cocktails, many that include homemade infusions. (Check out the jars on the shelf.)

So last weekend, we started off with drinks at the bar, followed by not one but two of our favorite appetizers there: The Whole Barnyard and Otto’s Crispy Chicken Lyonnaise. I love seeing Michigan wines on their drink menu and I went with M. Lawrence GR from the Leelanau Peninsula, where I’ve spent a lot of time visiting.

After an amuse bouche of seasonal pickled vegetables, the appetizers made their arrival.

The Whole Barnyard is just what it sounds like: a sampling of meat dishes, including Otto’s chicken rillettes, Creswick pork spread, rustic pork terrine, and condiments that accompany these delicious flavors.

The Crispy Chicken Lyonnaise included a slow-cooked egg, greens, beans, and local potatoes all topped with a crispy drumstick.

Grove’s mission is to “responsibly source as many ingredients as are available from local, family and sustainable farms.” As their website attests, “We take great care in the preparation of these ingredients to demonstrate our respect for how our farmers raise or grow these products.” If you want to know the farms they source from , you can see the list on their website. The reason I love this place is because their menu changes daily, based on seasonality.

For dinner, Bill order the S&S Duck Breast while I ordered the Parisian Gnocchi with Zingerman’s goat cheese and local vegetables.

It seems we make it to Grove about every two months—just enough time for the seasons and menu choices to change. Truth is, we’d probably go more often if we lived down the street. Grove is one restaurant in Grand Rapids that’s doing things right with a focus on conscientious, creative cuisine.

Trillium Haven Heaven


I knew it was coming. There had been plenty of press. But when you get your food locally and hang out with other people who do the same, the word gets around even before the newspapers publish the story.

I had heard of Trillium Haven Farm when it was a CSA (community supported agriculture). Then came rumblings about a farm-to-table restaurant planned for the Eastown neighborhood of Grand Rapids, Michigan. So I added it to my list of must-try eateries. When my friend Sue over at StirThePotGR suggested we go together, voila! We picked a date and went.

The restaurant, owned by Anja Mast and Michael VanderBrug, is located in the Kingsley Building, a  renovation project by Bazzani Associates, which focuses on  sustainable development and building practices–evident as soon as you walk in.

Since I was already a Facebook fan, I took a sneak-peek at the drink and food menus before I arrived. Trillium Haven offers fresh, seasonal produce from their farm and humanely raised grass-fed meats.

Even the drink menu is inspired by the season. It was another hot July day, so my mouth was watering for the Blueberry Spritzer before I got there. Sue had the very refreshing Spicy & Sweet Margarita.

For an appetizer, we tried the Smoked Whitefish Pate. Taking our time over drinks and pate, we eventually ordered–and shared– the Tuscan Kale Caesar (with yummy garlic bread crumbs) and the Tomato Pie, one of the flatbread pizzas on the menu. You can just taste the freshness in every sip and bite.

Trillium Haven is what farm-to-table eating is all about–delightful, fresh flavors that just make you feel good. I can’t wait to see how the menu changes with the seasons!

The Publican: “Pristine Product, Simply Prepared”


Photo credit: Bob Briskey Photography [Photo via The Publican]

“Pristine product, simply prepared.” That’s how Executive Chef Paul Kahan and Chef de Cuisine Brian Huston describe The Publican, a Chicago restaurant designed like a European beer hall and located in the meatpacking district.

I had first read about The Publican in Bon Appetit magazine and put it on my mental list of restaurants to try the next time I went to Chicago. Finally the opportunity arrived so I went this past weekend with my friend Cathy. For some reason, I was thinking it was a locavore spot, but I have to admit I didn’t do my research before going.

The About section on the restaurant’s website describes an “eclectic menu inspired by simple farmhouse fare.” But farmhouse doesn’t always mean your local farmer’s house. Indeed, the menu included sources from as far away as both U.S. coasts, and beyond. That’s where the “pristine product” comes into play. While my philosophy toward food is about local, organic, sustainable, and humane, I know that not everyone has these preferences. Having spent my summers growing up in Rhode Island, I would bet the Rhode Island Skate Wing on the menu was delicious.

A number of meat items came from Slagel Family Farms, which I had seen on Illinois menus before, but nothing was labeled “pastured” or “grassfed” so I asked our server about those products. His answer was that their animals are not grassfed nor pastured, although if you read the Slagel Family Farms website you’ll learn that the cows are fed “a diet of grass, grain and alfalfa, hay and wheat straw.” Their beef products are “natural” but nothing indicates the cows roam on pastures. Same with the chickens. And the pigs, in fact, are raised in “open lots.”*

So, I opted for the Lake Erie lake perch. I’ve got  my own issues with fish as well–that’s another can of worms, so to speak, because of the farmed versus wild debate. I’m not sure consuming fish out of Lake Erie is better than “natural” beef. Still, I was happier eating meat from a fish that was likely freely swimming most of its life as opposed to a cow whose life I know nothing about or a pig raised in an “open lot.”

For dinner, Cathy and I started out with two delicious dishes from the Vegetable menu: the Pea Salad and the Grilled Asparagus.

Along came my fried lake perch, garnished with parmesan, bok choy and fried lemon slices. These were amazing! I had never had fried lemon slices before!

Cathy had the sirloin steak, which was topped with grilled ricotta cheese. (The steak is there somewhere…buried under the lovely salad!)

And who could resist a rhubarb dessert when it’s in season? We shared the Rhubarb Sorbet as well as the Rhubarb Waffle with Honey Butter. The sorbet was refreshing and a perfect finish for the meal. The waffle would have been a great start for breakfast! (But still, we liked it!)

While I’d like to see more “happy” meat on the menu, I was thrilled with the freshness and flavors of the dishes we ordered. There are many reasons to try The Publican—I’d love to hear about your experience!

*Note: While researching information for this blog post after dining at The Publican, I did learn that other pork items on the menu come from Becker Lane Organic Farm in Dyersville, Iowa, where the pigs are pastured.