Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bull City Locovores

Living in Durham, North Carolina I can tell you, there is some yummy yummy food in this city.

"... hundreds of outlying acres of rich Piedmont soil have 'transitioned' from tobacco, and now sprout peas, strawberries, fennel, artichokes and lettuce. Animals also thrive in the gentle climate, giving chefs access to local milk, cheese, eggs, pigs, chickens, quail, lambs and rabbits."
"... a drive around town might yield the smell of clams from the coastal town of Snead’s Ferry, steaming in white wine, mustard and shallots at Piedmont restaurant; pungent spice and sweet fennel from the 'lamby joe' sandwich at Six Plates; and seared mushrooms and fresh asparagus turned in a pan with spring garlic at Watts Grocery."
A lot of that food is obtained locally by many of the most popular restaurants in the area. A new(ish) article in The New York Times highlighted Durham's shift to local foods. This shift is particularly intriguing considering that not all that long ago the area and its farms was focused on the growing, harvesting, selling, and manufacture of tobacco. Many of those tobacco farms have switched to produce or livestock such as cattle and sheep.

"There are still plenty of good places for a barbecue plate, excellent French bistros like Vin Rouge and Rue Cler, and some white-tablecloth dining rooms, both traditional and modern."

"But the most intriguing cooks here have a few things in common: an understanding of how to give a menu a sense of place; a true love of pork and greens in all their forms; and a lack of interest in linens and glassware. Watts Grocery, for example, looks like an upscale sports bar, but it tastes like a Southern-artisanal Union Square Cafe."
Chefs take advantage of the locally grown products by visiting farms and farmers markets. This allows the restaurants and chefs to serve fresh, often organic, foods at very affordable prices.

"The food at Neal’s Deli is resolutely everyday and American — like breakfast biscuits stuffed with egg and sausage — but the eggs are steamed tender with a touch of pepper and parsley, and the wide, crisp biscuits are mixed from high-fat local buttermilk and organic flour from a nearby mill that’s been held by the same family for nine generations. The sausage patty is from Cane Creek
Farm in Alamance County, where Eliza MacLean, an owner of the farm and a former veterinarian, advises farmers across the state on the transition from tobacco to pork. Every bit of that care comes through in the flavor of the finished product, a stunning bargain at $3.25."

Farmers are also benefiting from this local food movement:

"Mr. Brinkley, [a] farmer, says that his family’s farm, and many others, might not have made it through the loss of the tobacco cash crop without the lucky coincidence of the rise in the local food movement. Now, chefs compete over his lady peas, pink-eyed peas and butternut squash — a relatively exotic vegetable here, he said, where the sweet potato was once the king of the winter table."
Read more here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/21/dining/21carolina.html?8dpc

(image from visitsouth.com)
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