Why should chefs have all the fun visiting farms? Sure, it’s important to know where your food is coming from, but isn’t it as important to know where your food goes? We decided to switch things up on Monday night with a farm-to-restaurant tour. RAFT participants from Drumlin Farm, Brambly Farms, Second Nature Farm, Langwater Farm, and ReVision Urban Farm found out this week what happens behind the scenes at a restaurant, with a little help from the strongly committed sustainable foodies over at Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro in Foxboro, MA.
Executive Chef Matt Maue and his Sous Chef, George, very kindly welcomed us for a backstage pass into the new world at the back of the house. After offering us cheese and some delicious house-made pheasant terrine, Chef Maue started his restaurant tour. First he led us through the backbone of the back of house – the dishwashing area – into the kitchen, where the farm-to-table magic happens. He showed us the tiny space next to the ranges where four chefs work simultaneously to produce anywhere from 50 to 250 covers a night. He talked about his commitment to sourcing sustainable food, and fielded questions from farmers about the costs and benefits of sourcing his ingredients directly from them. Chef Maue had a lot to say about the importance of forming relationships with farms and small food purveyors, and how he builds his menu around it. (To see a video of Chef Maue talking about why he came to Boston instead of Bali and why he chooses to participate in the RAFT project, visit our YouTube channel.)
After a brief look in his walk-in cooler (which hardly contained anything, thanks to the amount of fresh produce sourced by Chef Maue), we walked past the kitchen into a hallway. Leading up to the roof was a terrifyingly steep staircase. We climbed and climbed, and found ourselves in the middle of a tiny roof garden overlooking Gillette Stadium. Chef Maue and his brigade had grown an impressive and hardy-looking herb selection, but the tomatoes seemed to be suffering a little. They took the opportunity to ask farmers what they were doing wrong and received a little advice and encouragement for their labors. Chef Maue mentioned that they might add some new veg varieties next year.
When we headed back down, it was time for the cooking demonstration. Chef Maue voiced his appreciation for Jimmy Nardello peppers, one of the heirloom vegetable varieties being grown in this year’s RAFT project. The first dish he’d make, a twist on bruschetta, would involve these peppers and a chevre topping. He began by heating a generous amount of olive oil (also domestically sourced) in a saute pan. Next, to our surprise, he added an even more generous amount of garlic. When the garlic was golden, he sprinkled in sliced Jimmy Nardellos and softened them. After some salt and pepper, he began piling the pepper mixture onto crostini. Chef George finished the dish with crumbles of fresh chevre. The next dish, gazpacho, had been made ahead of time using RAFT-grown Trophy tomatoes, Jimmy Nardellos, and Wethersfield onions (grown by White Barn Farm). Before handing us the bowls, Chef grated some mozzarella cheese from Narragansett Creamery over the top and drizzled on smoky balsamic vinegars.
Everything was delicious! Thanks to Alida Cantor, RAFT Grow-Out Program Manager, for arranging this trip! For more information on the RAFT program and its participants, visit http://chefscollaborative.org/programs/raft-grow-out/ and for more information or to join us at Chefs Collaborative, visit http://chefscollaborative.org/join-us/.