The big story in food this year may well be the emerging culture of “farm to table.” The movement to bring, or more accurately, bring back the relationship between growers and chefs and home cooks alike as well has matured.
The ingredient or the main dish that a meal is built around is as likely to have come directly from the farm or the farmers market. And it is happening in New England year-round as 12-month farmers markets are opening and growers are forcing early crops in greenhouses.
Chef Barbara Lynch of Menton in Boston was cooking at Ocean House for an international convention of hotel and restaurant owners in April. She had a simmering pot of a seafood stew brimming with clams, lobster and fish.
But the star of the soup was an artisan butter in which the seafood was cooking. She brought the butter from a farm in Vermont where she keeps cows and the farmer makes the butter for her and famed chef Thomas Keller. Chefs at local restaurants and those of us who love to cook but can’t make a living at it alike have access to ingredients like this year-round. Unlike a few years ago when there were no farmers markets from November to April, now there are seven indoor farmers markets open in Rhode Island. The markets are located statewide, from the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket to a church hall in Newport and rehabbed mill buildings in North Kingstown. These markets have become an integral part of the everyday food chain hereabouts, so much so that chefs and home cooks who I talk to casually mention stopping off at the farmers market along with the dry cleaner and the supermarket on their daily to-do list.
Al Forno alumni
I was interviewing a cookbook author on the radio recently who has a national following. Hollis Wilder is a past winner of the Food Network program, “Cupcake Wars.” She has a book out with a clever idea to help home cooks prepare portion-controlled meals. She has developed a book full of recipes for family-favorite foods that can be made in cupcake tins.
Wilder knows her cupcakes and is keeping what could have been just another passing fad at the forefront of food thought and enjoyment. The interview went along pleasantly. She gave some recipes for crowd-pleasing dishes such as pulled pork BBQ tucked into cornbread and lasagna that could be done in ordinary cupcake pans.