It should be one of the first thoughts we have when dining out, but often — and sadly — it’s the last. Knowing where one’s food is coming from, and beyond that, understanding the local options available at our finger tips is something that’s gaining momentum in the Twin Cities, but there’s still a ways to go.
That’s why a group of high-profile, local chefs are bringing the process full circle. The first annual “Farm in the Cities,” slated for Sunday at Solera, has been coined as “a fundraising event to spotlight local farmers’ foods and the restaurants that serve them.” But at its core, it’s so much more.
Jorge Guzman, executive chef at Solera, said he was approached by Maurice Smith, of DragSmith Farms, with a simple concept.
“He received a grant and he wanted to give back to the chefs and give back to the community,” Guzman said. “The biggest thing is, he wanted to educate people on local farmers, how to use the product, who’s using the product and by doing that, give back to the community, as well. And that’s something that a lot of the chefs feel strongly about.”
What hopes to be the first of a yearly event, “Farm in the Cities” was created with two main features. First, a demonstration by the farmers and chefs involved to help inform the public about where their food is coming from, how to purchase it and the best ways to prepare it.
“It’s almost like when you go to a wine event and kind of mill around and taste little portions of food here and there,” Guzman said.
That first portion of the evening, which runs from 4 to 6 p.m., is also free to the public. Small cash donations and canned food items will be accepted for Second Harvest Heartland at the demonstration, in a “give what you can” format. Fourteen chefs and farmers will set up on the second floor of Solera’s event space with samples, pamphlets and information about where they’re from and what they’re all about.
The second portion of the night aims to raise money for Second Harvest Heartland with a seven-course dinner, including dessert and wine or beer pairings. The dinner will be prepared by the participating chefs, using the locally grown products displayed earlier in the evening.
“The majority of the product we’re using comes from Six Rivers Co-ops, so we’re really emphasizing we’re using local products for everything,” Guzman said. “That’s kind of the important part of the meal. You’re going to have some great food and everything’s going to be local.”
It’s not a new movement by any means, and true, it’s even considered a trendy concept, but as Guzman said, though local efforts are sometimes over saturated, it’s still a really important push.
“Because of where the economy is, when you’re using local, you’re supporting Minneapolis, you’re supporting Minnesota, you’re supporting farmers and you’re growing our economy here in Minnesota,” he said. “And that’s important. You’re supporting the people who deserve it, they really work hard for their product and when we don’t use it and it goes to waste, that’s just awful. That’s not good for anybody.”
Tickets for the dinner are $125 per person, with proceeds going to Second Harvest Heartland. Guzman said when he approached the chefs to see which charity they should give to, everyone was in agreement with Second Harvest because of the great work they do to try and end hunger.
Beyond serving a great meal and giving back to a local charity, Guzman said they really hope the event gets people to think differently when it comes to the kinds of food they’re eating.
“I think people are realizing how badly we eat,” he said. “We’re realizing that we’re going to continue down this path of self-destruction if we don’t change it. I think it’s the responsibility of chefs, if they’re able to, to help people understand and to educate people that hey, you know what, it isn’t as difficult as you may think it is. Here’s how to do it.”
That education obviously doesn’t come overnight but Guzman said they’re hoping to make this an annual event — one that restaurants and their patrons can look forward to each year to help usher in a new generation of locally-focused consumers.
“We want to expose people to this first ‘Farm in the Cities’ dinner and we want them to realize that we’re doing this for a greater cause than ourselves. We want them to come back next year and be excited for it,” he said. “We just want to grow it and do it to the best of our ability.”
“Farm in the Cities” starts at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30 with a demonstration by the local chefs and farmers at Solera, 900 Hennepin Ave. in Minneapolis. The demonstration is free with a donation to Second Harvest Heartland. The seven-course dinner begins at 6 p.m. and costs $125 per person, with proceeds going to Second Harvest Heartland. Reservations can be made by calling Solera’s Jay Viskocil at 612-338-0062. For more information, click here. Or click on the link to find out more about Six Rivers Co-op. WCCO-TV’s Jason DeRusha will emcee the event. Watch for highlights in Sunday’s 10 p.m. newscast.
The full tasting menu:
Jack Riebel/Jim Kyndberg
The Butcher & the Boar/ Crave
Napoleon of Rainbow Trout with Smoked Roe, Peruvian Potatoes & Micro Mustard Greens
Jorge Guzman/Sarah Master
Solera/ Porter & Frye
Charred Beet Salad with Paprika Vinaigrette, Skyr Sheep’s Milk Cheese, Toasted Garlic & Bulls Blood
Wyatt Evans/David Owen Jones
W.A Frost/ The Marsh
Maple Cured Bison Carpaccio, Warm Potato Foam, Pickled Cranberry with Micro Rocket & Toasted Brioche
Jason Blair/Chris Hinrichs
Red Stag Supper Club/ Barbette
Peterson Limousine Tenderloin, Butter Stewed Celeriac, Micro Cress, King Oyster Mushrooms & Marrow Sauce
Matt Paulson/Erick Harcey
The Sample Room/ Victory 44
Banger & Mash: Venison & Celery Sausage with Sun choke Puree
Steven Joel Brown
Braised Beef Cheeks, Chestnut Polenta, Fig & Smoked Wisconsin Pear Mustard
Honey Cake with Vanilla Pannacotta, Sage Honey, Olive Oil Crumbs, Bee Pollen & Minnesota Grape Sorbet