Connecting Farmers and Chefs

October 3, 2008

annie_sarahWhen it came time to formulate an appetizer made with at least one Ferry Plaza Farmers Market ingredient for the 2009 Sunday Supper reception, Chef Annie Somerville of Greens Restaurant took the task to heart. In fact, she plans to to stuff Knoll Farms figs with Andante Dairy goat cheese and Lagier Ranches almonds roasted in Allstar Organics lavender salt.

“Our menus [at Greens] are based on buying direct from farms,” says Somerville. She can be spotted at the market just about every Tuesday and Saturday, but she has the majority of the restaurant’s produce delivered directly. “What I do at the market is buy from people who don’t deliver to me,” she adds, “as well as farmers I’ve just come to have a really great relationship with and feel personally very connected to.” Like John Lagier, for example.

“I have a personal addiction to his almonds,” says Somerville. “I also like to support him. He’s covering a lot of bases with his farming enterprises, so I make my pilgrimage to his stand probably every other week.”

edPicking a farmer to partner with for the reception appetizer wasn’t hard for Danny Guerrini either. This is the eighth year the Executive Chef at EOS Restaurant and Wine Bar has been buying produce from Ed George at The Peach Farm. EOS is just outside The Peach Farm’s delivery area, so, like Somerville, Guerrini treks to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market most Saturdays to buy from George and other farmers―a routine he enjoys.

“I’ll usually stay and talk with Ed for half an hour or so,” says Guerrini. On occasion, when George needs to step away from the stand, he’ll ask Guerrini to cover for him. In return for being a trustworthy stand-in, Guerrini gets to hand-pick the highest quality heirloom tomatoes, peppers and melons from George’s farm to use for the week. So it’s only natural that Guerrini’s contribution to the Sunday Supper will highlight George’s peppers―in a relish with roasted eggplant, served on a cumin and lemon zest-scented Sardinian flatbread.

Many of the hors d’oeuvres and entrees that will be served next Sunday are born out of these kinds of lasting relationships. Alex Ong, of Betelnut, has been using asparagus from Zuckerman’s Farm for years in his restaurant, and when he chose to make Fijian Ceviche with Crispy Potato for the reception, Zuckerman’s potatoes were a natural fit.

david_winsburgDaniel Clayton of the Pleasant Hill-based Nibblers’ Eatery and Wine Bar is another good example. The farmer he’ll be partnering with for his supper contribution, a squash blossom frittata, is David Winsberg of Happy Quail Farms. He’s been basing menu items around Winsberg’s produce for years and says that building relationships with farmers is crucial to his peace of mind; he likes knowing that he can ask questions about the sustainability of their practices. He can also count on consistently high-quality, flavorful ingredients from farmers like Winsberg.

On the flip side, a face-to-face relationship with a chef can be good for farmers, too. Most farmers are much more likely to grow a diverse array of crops when they work with chefs who are willing to experiment. “Knowing that one of their chef partners will be able to take their recommendation on a new item is important,” adds Clayton.

Pictured above, from top to bottom: Annie Somerville, with Sara Tashker of Green Gulch Farm; Ed George of The Peach Farm; David Winsberg of Happy Quail Farms.

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