Cold winters are little deterrent to staying local.
hefs who live and work in the northern states are overcoming
the challenges they face when they strive to stay true to their mission of serving
local, sustainable ingredients year-round. Whether their restaurants are in Maine,
Utah or other Snow Belt states in between, many dedicated chefs and restaurant owners who
have cultivated local suppliers report that their winter menus have grown much more varied
and include more local and regional ingredients than in the past.
BY CAROLYN WALKUP
“It’s not August, but each winter there is more available,” says Randy Zweiban, chef/owner
of Province in Chicago. “A lot of farmers are using hoop houses and can supply us year-round. For example, we’ve had hydroponic lettuces year-round from Southern Illinois the last
four years or so.”
One winter season dish Virant serves at Perennial Virant is poached Lake Superior whitefish
with braised sauerkraut, bacon or smoked ham, and a pickled relish or chutney. Sometimes
he salts whitefish, pike or other fish to make a brandade. “We pack it in salt, like salt cod. It
will keep indefinitely. Then we soak it to remove the salt,” he explains.
One of Zweiban’s favorite winter salads is beet and blue cheese with local greens and
Wisconsin blue cheese dressing. On the entrée side, he accompanies a sirloin steak with
honey-roasted root vegetables and pepper salsa.
Another Chicago area chef/owner, Paul Virant of Vie and Perennial Virant, combines
three strategies for staying local all winter: buying from farmers with greenhouses and
hoop houses, buying from farmers who store many crops for him until spring, and using
preserved produce from his own pantry. Virant has become known for resurrecting
the time-tested northern climate tradition of canning and freezing crops at their peak
freshness for winter eating.
TOP LEFT, ANTICLOCKWISE TO TOP
RIGHT: Sauteed local braising greens
aigre-doux (sweet and sour) with bacon,
carrots and dried fruits at 50 Local;
Pan-roasted ocean trout, preserved
sweet pepper purée, chow-chow (pickled
in-house) and guanciale at Perennial
Virant; Lobster carbonara with pancetta
and peas at 50 Local; Beet carpaccio
at Beatrice & Woodsley; Lobster roll,
brioche roll, fries and pickles at 50
Local; and Herb/garlic roasted leg of
lamb with rustic ratatouille, sweet
onion soubise and corona bean brodo
at Beatrice & Woodsley.
maine and midwest stay local
Continuing to buy local ingredients in the winter also is important to David Ross, chef of 50
Local in Kennebunk, Maine. “It’s important because these farms are practicing sustainable
methods and are using the latest technology,” he says. “It educates people that it’s not
necessary to go to the supermarket to buy everything.”
A special dish he took great pains to refine from his French-Canadian family members is
tourtiere, a double-crusted deep dish pie filled with a stew of ground meats and potatoes.
The vegetable side can vary, but Ross favors using beets, which he brines, ideally, for 2-3
days. He also uses the pickled beets in a spinach salad with bacon, walnuts and local cheese
dressed with a sesame balsamic vinaigrette.