Do You Know the Veggies in Your Neighborhood?
How Regional Produce Shines on Menus from Coast to Coast
The country’s regional cuisines beautifully illustrate the importance of produce in the development of each distinctive culinary style. What was cultivated in the different regions of the country reflected the background and cultures of the immigrants who settled there, as well as native plants. Some people brought seeds from their native lands to propagate in America. Heirloom varieties, for example, are cherished today more than ever.
Perceptive and innovative chefs are the catalysts in spreading the word that vegetables and fruits from other parts of the country are wonderful delights just waiting to be discovered. Perhaps your customers would enjoy a bit of culinary adventure focused on produce that is new to your neck of the woods.
Daily menu specials in South, East Coast get extra special treatment with local produce
The East Coast has long had an abundance of beautiful apples, pumpkins, grapes and other fruits; and restaurateurs tempt diners with fruit pies, cobblers and crisps. At Gramercy Tavern in New York, the dessert menu is a veritable fruit salad of goodies, from apple drop doughnuts to a caramel quince tart. On the savory side, pickled grapes accompany the beef tartare. Brussels sprouts and baked beans are just two of the vegetable varieties from the East Coast that have penetrated all regions. Whether north, south, east or west, apple pie ala mode makes a fine comfort dessert.
At Magnolia in Charleston, a prized appetizer is fried green tomatoes with caramelized onion and white cheddar cheese – one of the most iconic Southern dishes. The restaurant also features artichokes au gratin laced with spinach, which illustrates the point that chefs love to introduce diners to innovation. Black-eyed peas (also known as “cowboy caviar”) and collard greens are traditionally eaten throughout the South on New Year’s Day to promote good luck, and are popular sides the year round. Sweet potato yaya, deep-fried okra and fresh peach pie may not be a big deal in Georgia, but seeing these dishes on the menu would seem special and intriguing to many Northerners.
West Coast staples artichokes, avocados, kale continue to dominate
Those three West Coast denizens – artichokes, avocados and kale – are still spreading across all regions. Artichokes are favorites atop pizza, in pastas and sandwiches. Whole chokes make a great first course with aioli for dipping. Avocados made their mark first in Mexican restaurants, and are now mainstream in everything from avocado toast to entrée salads. Kale has become a true nutritional superstar nationwide.
At Redbird in downtown Los Angeles, the avocado salad sits atop little gem lettuce. Smoked bacon and buttermilk blue cheese vinaigrette complete the dish. California citrus is wildly popular right now. The baby red beet salad at the Screen Door in Portland, Ore., makes one feel healthier just reading the ingredients, which include frisee lettuce, pickled kohlrabi, grapefruit, cara cara and blood oranges, and a goat cheese and avocado spread. It’s tossed in a charred Meyer lemon vinaigrette and sprinkled with toasted pistachios.
For a change of pace, consider delighting your patrons with produce headliners from different regions of the country.
Revolutionary and Exciting News
There is currently a lot of buzz around a revolutionary and exciting growing concept called “aquaponics,” which is the symbiotic relationship among fish, beneficial bacteria and plants. Superior Fresh, the largest aquaponics facility in the world, opened last year in Northfield, Wis. This amazing 720-acre farm is an efficient ecosystem operating year-round. In the 123,000-square-foot glass greenhouse, which is fully operational, premium produce is harvested 365 days a year to the tune of 1.8 million pounds of leafy greens. These include several varieties of head lettuce and baby greens. The 40,000-square-foot steel fish house has the capability to produce 160,000 pounds of fish. First quarter 2018 will see the first crop of rainbow trout reach maturity, and Atlantic salmon will follow in the second quarter. Distributors pick up fresh product directly from the facility. The chart below illustrates how the operation works. For more information, visit superiorfresh.com.