The farm to table trend continues to be hot for restaurants, placing only behind locally sourced meats and seafood, according to a 2015 survey by the National Restaurant Association (NRA). What the survey called “hyperlocal sourcing” placed seventh on the list. Yes, hyperlocal sourcing, which includes restaurant gardens, is just what a few Portland restaurants do best. When restaurants have their own farms or gardens for chefs to choose from, their menu ingredients can be just that much fresher and seasonal. It also means they have the flexibility to grow a wide variety of heirlooms most home gardeners might not take a chance on.
Fresh-picked produce not only has better taste and appearance, but it packs more nutrients than produce that was picked earlier. Here are two Portland restaurants that feature “hyperlocal” produce.
“One way to make sure you’re cooking with the freshest ingredients is to grow them yourself,” boasts Meriwether’s website. And Meriwether’s does just that at its Skyline Farm, a five-acre garden that is 12 miles away from the restaurant on Skyline Boulevard. There, Chef Dolan Lane lets the seasonal harvest — along with his use of local meats, cheeses and seafood — determine his menu.
In addition to flowers, strawberries and fresh herbs, the Meriwether’s farm produces salad greens year-round as well as fennel, beets, leeks, turnips, parsnips, celery root, cabbages and onions and a bounty of other organics. Heirloom peppers, tomatoes and green spelt (toasted to make the restaurant’s popular frikeh) also come straight from Skyline Farm.
A bounty of summer veggies, such as asparagus and zucchini, provide pickles for the rest of the year. With varieties like Bora King Radishes, Italiko Rosso Dandelions, and Flashy Trouts Back Romaine, meal service is pure artistry for the chef and guaranteed eye candy for the guest.
1111 E. Burnside
With its own 3,000-foot rooftop organic garden, the produce could not be fresher than at Noble Rot. Often battling Portland’s wet and windy weather, the restaurant’s intrepid rooftop gardener, Marc Boucher-Colbert, begins bringing starts up in late winter. Soon tender spring greens including chives, tarragon and chervil, and asparagus emerge. In the summer, the garden boasts greens, rhubarb, strawberries, peas, beans, cucumbers, radishes, carrots and turnips. Mediterranean vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes and eggplant are highlights of the fall. Root vegetables and hardy herbs such thyme and rosemary are part of the early winter harvest. Besides what is on the plate, patrons can relish the interplay between garden and bar when herbs and fruits play together in Noble Rot’s signature cocktails.
Now in it’s 15th year of operation, Noble Rot’s current 4th floor location in the Burnside Rocket Building on Eleventh and Burnside puts Oregon native Chef and Co-owner Leather Storrs that much closer to his “estate grown” food. With that, the culinary team (and diners) have the assurance that everything used in the kitchen has been grown only under the best possible conditions and hasn’t been contaminated with chemicals.
What are the other advantages for a restaurant of having its own organic gardens? First, a restaurant growing its own food enables the chef to better plan the freshest menu options. Additionally, the wait staff is able to answer more fully any diner’s questions about the origins, treatment and freshness of the food that is served.“Diners want to know as much as they can about what they’re eating, especially when they’re at restaurants,” said Jeff Clark, director of the NRA’s Conserve sustainability program, in an interview on the NRA website. “They want to understand everything – from the way a certain food tastes to how the farmer grew it to how far it traveled to get to the plate.“Chefs and operators know this and are more engaged in telling their stories and acting in environmentally friendly ways. Our survey bears this out. The industry and its customers are seeking out foods that are not only flavorful, but also minimally impact the environment.”
Noble Rot and Meriwether restaurants…leading the seasonal eating movement.