Eat Local Challenge – Today!

Today is our second annual Eat Local Challenge. Last year’s Challenge was a huge success but this year’s menus are unbelievable. Our chefs have really gone above and beyond.

The event requires each cafe to serve a meal made completely of local ingredients. EVERYTHING must be from within 150 miles of the kitchen. That means to make a sandwich, the chef not only has to find a local baker (or make the bread him/herself), the wheat has to be grown locally, the yeast must be local, etc. Then, if they want to use mayo, they’ve got to find local eggs and oil. You get the picture. The only exception is salt.

Just scanning the menus, I’ve already learned things about the local bounty in different areas. For example, Bon Appetit at Duke University is serving local mahi mahi. I had no idea that mahi mahi can be caught off the coast of North Carolina. Similarly, Duke Diet and Fitness Center is serving local wahoo.

Continuing the theme of interesting seafood offerings, the Bon Appetit team at Oberlin College has found local shrimp! Yes, there is shrimp being grown in Ohio. We asked the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch team to check out the aquaculture practices being used and, while they don’t "approve" individual farms, they did say the practices appear to be environmentally sound. Turns out our chefs have also found local shrimp in North Carolina and Arizona.

Distibution is always a stumbling block – getting the product from the farm to the cafe is never as easy as it sounds. Chef Ingrid Rohrer from Cisco Systems in San Jose, CA drove out to Marin Sun Farms to pick up some of Dave Evans’ grass fed beef. While the farm is within 150 miles of San Jose, Point Reyes Station, CA is pretty remote and Dave said he thought she’d be grumpy from the long drive by the time she got there. To the contrary, Ingrid emerged from her car excited to have some amazing beef to share with her guests. Also interesting, while I was talking to Dave he mentioned some of our cafes will be using his eggs but they are in short supply. Turns out the chickens are on the farm for pest control (instead of using pesticides) and the eggs are just a by-product. That’s why the supply is so limited.

At MIT they did find local wheat and are using it to make pasta and crepes. That sounds great but if I were an MIT student, I might skip the entree and go right for the Apple Berry Crumble with House-Made Honey Maple Ice Cream. That certainly proves that politically-correct eating can taste great!

At Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL they are serving an alligator saute. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me but I am curious as to what alligator tastes like. I know, I know, it probably tastes like chicken.

Wheaton College is consistently ranked in the top five on the Princeton Review’s list of great campus food (in fact they’ve twice been listed as number one). I haven’t had a chance to dine at their cafe so was interested to see what types of things they serve that make their students so happy. Once I saw the menu, I understood the high satisfaction ratings…

Fresh & Crisp Salad Selections from Nichols Farm featuring a Variety of Summer Vegetables & Lettuces:
Red Leaf Lettuce, Lollo Rosso, Bibb Lettuce & Radicchio
With Local Apple Cider – Wild Raspberry Vinaigrette 
and Creamy Organic Buttermilk Ranch Dressing from Oak Groove Organic Dairy Farm
Fresh Hen Consommé with Nichols Farm 
Fresh Summer Root Vegetables & Homemade Red Beet Noodles 
Non Alcoholic Dickman’s Free Range Chicken “Coq au Vin”
With Nicholson Farm Sautéed Heirloom Potato Mélange & Herb Butter
Fresh Green Beans & Basil – Tomato Ragout
Moore’s Farm Roast Pork with Nichols Farm Apples and Lorences Local Wild Flower Honey Glaze 
with Nichols Farm Haricot Verts and Heirloom Potato Gratin 
Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs from Heartland Meats Farm 
With Fresh Garlic & Thyme served with Whipped Carrots & Beets 
A Vegetable Medley of Broccoli & Cauliflower 
Gigantic Organic Apple Cake made with Whole Wheat Flour from Moore’s Farm,
Linden Honey from Lorences Farm Bee Haven and Apples from Nichols Farm topped with Honey Streusel 


Those are just a few of the things that caught my eye. Everyone around the country has amazing meals planned. It’s really a great day to be part of Bon Appetit!