Field Report: Church Goes Local with Allandale Farms
Menus left and right claim loyalty to local farms. But how easy is it, really, for a restaurant to stay true to local sources–and still offer an affordable menu? To find out, we tagged along with chef Jon Gilman during a recent visit to Brookline’s Allandale Farm. Gilman, who is now behind the stove at Church, a restaurant/rock club tucked behind Fenway Park, has set to the task of creating a menu that takes local seriously and does so at a reasonable price (only two dishes there hit the $20 mark). His spring menu debuted a few weeks back featuring local greens, beef from a whole cow that Gilman purchased from New Beginnings Farm in Townsend, and eggs from Allandale. He’ll start adding more items once the weather warms up–something he was amped about after seeing first hand how many items the staff at Allandale has already planted for the season.
Farm manager Jim Buckle, whose arms are decorated with tattoos of carrots and radishes, walked us through the seedling house and then out back to a field of garlic (above). This year, they’re growing nine varieties, two of which Buckle smuggled over from Italy to cultivate. Further down the way, we saw where they’ll be planting a slew of heirloom tomatoes and several thousand heads of lettuce for the season (they’ll go through about 3,500 to 4,000 heads this summer alone) and just past the chicken coop (their 175 Rhode Island Reds produce around 500 eggs per week), we watched as the farm crew finished planting several rows of salad greens. Buckle told us that they’re always looking to add new produce to their lineup–besides thousands of pounds of greens, tomatoes, squashes, cucumbers, peas, and potatoes, this year they’ll add ginger, shiitake mushrooms, and herbal teas to the mix.
For Gilman (most recently of Cambridge Brewing Company) partnering with Allandale and other local farms was a simple decision. “We’re trying to remove that sense that local food is somehow elitist or has to be expensive,” he says. Being steps away from Fenway helps his cause: Legions of Red Sox fans will come in for Gilman’s burger or chicken and waffles this spring and while only a few will understand the efforts he’s made to source from local farms, they’ll all get the message that flavor and value can come from right outside their backdoor, he says.
Watch Church’s website for news of upcoming farm-to-table dinners (dates to be posted soon). And if you can make your way into the one featuring Allandale, be sure to spend some time chatting up Buckle (you won’t miss him–he’s the one with the bushy beard) to learn more about the city’s last working farm.
Church, 69 Kilmarnock St., Boston, 617-236-7600, churchofboston.com.