The Farm-to-Table approach in dining is becoming a rising trend in restaurants around the country. For those unfamiliar with this idea, a chef will partner with farmers or growers and buy directly from them instead of a produce company that sources their products from a variety of large commercial operations, possibly all over the world.

When we started our Market Meal last year, I didn’t know that what we were doing had a name attached to it. I just thought it was good business. If I could buy superior asparagus from a woman I know, who raised it on her land and that it makes a mouth watering salad or entrée that makes you say, “You know, I’ve never liked asparagus, but this I love!” Why would I not do this?

Ours is a young, growing market. The Chef/Farmer/Grower networks in other parts of the country are miles ahead of us. One guy I know in the Kansas City area even sources his rice from a local farmer in Missouri. I don’t have a large number of people from which to get locally raised products, but I am doing what I can with what is available. I like to think we are blazing a trail here in Nebraska to take us back to our agricultural heritage in a way that is profitable and preferable.

Here’s how planning a Market Meal works:

Tuesday: A quick call to three of my favorite growers to find out what they have that looks good and what they might be bringing.

Thursday: Take inventory of the proteins that I have available. I usually order certain cuts ahead of time, since the quantity may not be in stock.

Friday:

10:30pm

  • Decide on proteins we will serve.
  • List seasonal items we know will likely be available
  • Talk through preliminary menu ideas with assistant chef.
  • Finalize preliminary menu

Saturday:

8:00am

Wander through Market and survey what folks have brought. See if there is anything unusual worth trying. Find Stinging Nettles. Make immediate decision to buy all of them and make soup. First change of plan

8:45am

Come back with armload of asparagus, bacon, spring onions, garlic shoots, beautiful heads of baby lettuce, morel mushrooms, sunflower & pea sprouts, feta cheese, flat leaf parsley and other fresh herbs

9:00am

Finalize and print out evening menu. Post online to website, send to Facebook and email list. Return to vendors with a printed menu listing the ingredient I purchased from them and how I will be using it that night.

10:00am

Display fresh produce on ice out on my counter for all to see what we are working with. Set prep list for myself and assistants. Begin braising. Brace for lunch.

2:00pm

Recover from lunch crowd. Nearly depleted all our bread, so prepare a second backup batch of dough. Watch dishroom get piled high. Say a short prayer for the evening dish guy.

3:00pm

Understand where stinging nettles get its name. Wrist has been itching for 30 min after brushing against it accidentally during prep. What guy looked at that weed and said to himself, “I’m gonna eat that.” Probably same guy who figured out cow brains were OK.

3:30pm

Temper dark chocolate for Chocolate Bacon dessert tonight. Is it just me, or am I off my rocker with this one?

5:15pm

Temp lamb roast; consider closing doors and just sitting down to eat it myself. This is why you buy local.

5:45pm

Front of the house begs me to begin selling courses. Not til 6pm.

5:50pm

Final check of all mise en place. Taste test items with staff. Thumbs up. Good to go.

6:00pm

Ready to serve, orders start in

7:40pm

A quick walk through the dining room. A woman tells me she never had morel mushrooms before and can’t believe what she is eating is so memorable. Another reminder to buy from folks I know.

8:30pm

Customer asks me where the idea for Chocolate Bacon came from; wasn’t sure he knew what to think about it, but said he enjoyed it anyway.

9:30pm

Service slows enough I can take off the apron and sit down and call it a day. Any lamb left? Beer Pastor brings me an IPA. I like it when she preaches.

9:45pm

First time customer stops to say thanks, tells me the food was excellent and looks forward to coming back. I love my job.

How We Plan a Market Meal

One thought on “How We Plan a Market Meal

  • October 22, 2009 at 9:34 am
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