Banging the Drum for Fresh, Local Food

Earlier this week, I enjoyed a terrific lunch hosted by Garden at the Cellar and sponsored by the Chef’s Collaborative. If you haven’t heard of the CC, it’s a national (Boston-based) organization that promotes sustainable cuisine by connecting chefs with local farms, hosting educational workshops, etc. If you haven’t heard of Garden at the Cellar, it’s a great spot in Cambridge’s Central Square for delicious, affordable, seasonal fare. Its chef, Will Gilson, is a young talent to watch.

The idea for the event was to bring together chefs, farmers, purveyors, and assorted hangers-on to talk about the challenges of local/seasonal eating in our short-season climate. About 40 people showed up, including chefs Tony Maws (Craigie Street), Michael Leviton (Lumiere and the soon-to-open Persephone), Tim Weichmann (T.W. Food), Rebecca Newell (Beehive), and Carolyn Johnson (Rialto), among others.

The discussion was off the record, but I can report on the dominant theme: Boston needs better-organized channels to connect time-pressed chefs with time-pressed farmers. Otherwise, the relationships are just too tenuous. Local farms are missing out on key business channels, and the dining public is missing out on a whole bunch of fresh fruit, produce, meat, and dairy. And farms are going out of business.

So here comes a rather obvious lesson for you: The infrastructure won’t develop until consumers create more demand for local foods. So support the local restaurants that support local farmers. In addition to the places listed above, I’d add Oleana, Harvest, Icarus, EVOO, Henrietta’s Table, Stone Hearth Pizza, Hammersley’s Bistro, Ashmont Grill, Ten Tables, The Fireplace, Rendezvous, Tomasso Trattoria, and Grill 23. Most are CC members.

As a former hippie once told me, “I eventually figured out that I have very little power as a citizen anymore, but I have a lot of power as a consumer. So I try to make those choices count.”

Ok, enough preaching. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll tell you all about the two fantastic local cheeses we sampled. You’ve probably never heard of them, but you’re going to love them.

p.s. Did we miss any noteworthy restaurants? Please let us know…