Farm-to-Table: What Does It Mean?

by Anne Maxfield on June 6, 2016

Accidental Locavore Flock of SheepWhen you hear the term farm-to-table what comes to mind? A bucolic farm somewhere in the countryside, with humanely raised animals and Instagram-worthy red barns? Farmers in denim overalls sending perfect food to a local restaurant, just like the first episode of Portlandia? Yeah, me too.

Maybe we’d be better calling it fresh off the (local) farm.

Here’s why: I recently got an invite from a Meetup group to an Alaskan King Crab dinner at a local restaurant. Nothing terribly out of the ordinary but…the restaurant is called Farm to Table Bistro and the closest body of water is the Hudson River (not exactly King Crab territory).

When I mentioned the irony of that to Frank, he said “it doesn’t say where the farm is.” Chalk one up for Frank.

Then isn’t everything we eat (with the exception of some seafood) actually farm-to-table? Or more properly, farms-to-tables? Even though you may picture chefs making the rounds of local farms and farmers’ markets, picking up the best of the best, the reality for most people is that the food we’re being served in restaurants could be coming from anywhere.

Alaskan King Crab has to be one of the most dubious farm-to-table foods because so far, farming king crab has had little success. Not to mention that quite a bit of it comes not from Alaska but from that place Sarah Palin can see from her house.

I don’t mean to single out Farm to Table Bistro, they’re supposed to have great food and if it wasn’t a bit of a schlep we’d have been there by now – just pointing out the irony of a restaurant whose homepage declares “The word ‘local’ gets thrown out there very often without any concept of what it really means. For instance, we shake hands every Tuesday with the man who makes our fresh hot dogs (Peter’s Meat Market), we drink espresso corretto with one of the local farmers we use for produce (Taliaferro’s Farm) and we are only a hop-skip away from one of the best cheese makers in the area with whom we are proud to purchase many of our cheeses from (Sprout Creek Farm).”

Then click to the events page – Alaskan King Crab Night, every Thursday…

Accidental Locavore Blue Bowl With TomatoesLet’s enjoy our crab legs and realize that not everything has to be or can be local and fresh. Do search it out when it is – and delight in succulent June strawberries from a local farm and perfect heirloom tomatoes in August from down the road. But if it starts to get too precious, just remember that Portlandia episode!



Pot au Feu: Where Everyone Knows Your Name

by Anne Maxfield on October 14, 2013

Accidental Locavore WaterfireHow many times have you just wandered into a restaurant and felt immediately at home? Rarely, and hardly ever when you’re travelling solo, but that’s what happened when the Accidental Locavore wandered into Pot au Feu in Providence, recently. Gary, the manager at the Biltmore recommended it and I was immediately attracted to it (besides my weakness for anything French) because it was at the end of the route of Waterfire, an almost magical event where they light the river in Providence.

I wandered in and found a seat at the bar. It’s lovely, with beautiful blonde wood and art nouveau liquor cabinets (look on their website as my photos were terrible). Gary asked me to give his regards to Bob (the owner)and as it turned out, that’s who was tending bar that night. We immediately got to chatting and in the small-world, category, it turns out that we both knew the other Pot au Feu–Le Roi de Pot au Feu–in Paris. Bob said he had given them his aprons the last time he was there. Before long, as the bar started to fill up, he was giving me the low-down and introducing me to anyone and everyone who stopped by.

Accidental Locavore Broiled OystersWhile I was enjoying some amazing oysters broiled with a horseradish cream sauce, Bob was telling very funny and terribly politically-incorrect jokes that even more incredibly, were paired with the food I was eating.

Accidental Locavore CrepesAs I moved onto that evening’s special, savory crepes with blue cheese, chicken tomatoes and olives, Bob was telling me that the restaurant is actually the oldest bistro in the US and showing me photos and documents from the early days. In between that he was mixing drinks for all the regulars, which was everyone (including me) and showing off his bartending finesse. You know there’s that horrible trend now to consider anyone who can mix two alcoholic ingredients together and add ice, a mixologist. Well, Bob is most definitely not a mixologist, he’s a classic (and classy) bartender. Ask him for his signature Sazerac and hear the history of America’s first cocktail and how the New York Times messed up the recipe.

Unfortunately for me, I had been eating all day (ok, all weekend, ok, all week) and didn’t have the appetite to conquer a major meal like pot au feu. I’m sure in a place like that, it would be just perfect. I’ll just have to go back with a big appetite, perch at the bar, say hi to my new buddies and indulge while Bob mixes up more Sazerac’s.