By MARINA SACHT
You want to make a chef smile? Forget the cheese! Say farm fresh.
No longer a trend, these days you will find the words “locally sourced”,”sustainable”, “farm to table” on many local eateries from fine dining to your local pub.
The Islanders have always advocated a simpler more natural life and they enjoyed the rural lifestyle long before it became hip. So it’s no surprise that we are blessed with an abundance of small farm growers. Farm markets and farm co-ops where young farmers nurture themselves along with feeding us.
The joys of all this means that we don’t have to be born with a green thumb to enjoy all that good taste!
“It’s really gratifying to be able to use the freshest produce possible when it comes from my own garden,” says Stephen Wilson chef at the Mahle House Restaurant. You will find fresh produce featured prominently here.
“I get a huge sense of satisfaction putting produce on the plates that I know I was involved in every step of the way – from prepping the beds for planting, putting seeds in the ground, watering, weeding, harvesting and then repeating the cycle. Same with the pork I produce.” Wilson says there’s a sense of pride that the animals were raised in a humane and healthy environment.
Wilson has carried on the tradition of the Mahle House garden which was originally located behind the restaurant, and now has upwards of 2000 sq. ft. of growing beds producing carrots, beets, Hakurei turnips, kale, romaine, butter lettuce, party pan and other summer squash, easter egg and French Breakfast radishes, mizuna, beans, kohlrabi, herbs, various microgreens, tomatoes, potatoes and leaf lettuce.
We also raise pigs for use in the restaurant.
Most of the vegetables go on the plates as dinner vegetables but of course we make lots of salads from various lettuces as well. The micros are used for garnish and the herbs are used in multiple applications. The pork is used as main entrees but more importantly it features highly on our charcuterie boards, various terrines, rillettes, sausage and pate. I also just yesterday made my own smoked jowl bacon.
“I love that I can provide the freshest, most local and healthiest ingredients to my customers and that my efforts might positively impact their experience in my restaurant.
Lauren Cartmel, chef at Ma Maison is also passionate about farm fresh at her Saltair restaurant and takes advantage of seasonal local produce.
“We use lots of local produce. Lettuce is from Wicklow farms, raspberries for our pie and jam is Cowichan Bay Raspberries,” says Cartmel. She also uses True Grain flours from Cowichan Bay.
Cartmel will be one of the participants you will see at Averill Creek’s “On this Harvest Moon” a celebration of the Cowichan Valley’s autumn bounty with local farmers on Saturday, Sept. 14.
Dina Stuehler at Ironworks Creperie takes pride in their partnership with local small farms to supply fresh berries, vegetables and organic free-range eggs. “It’s really important sourcing your ingredients as local as I can get.”
Wilson echoes her sentiment.
“I love that I can provide the freshest, most local and healthiest ingredients to my customers and that my efforts might positively impact their experience in my restaurant,” says Wilson.
And we love that experience, right back at ya.