Milwaukee chefs embrace trend of buying, planning locally
For better or for worse, factory farming has largely taken the "local" out of grocery shopping. If you're not visiting the farmers markets, it's a good bet your produce hails from all over the country, and in some cases, all over the world.
The same goes for dining out. Restaurants, local or chain, buy their supplies based on a number of decisions, including price and availability. But some executive chefs also make a point to buy and plan their menus taking locally-grown ingredients into consideration. It's a growing trend that Wisconsin suppliers and diners can readily sink their teeth into.
Robert Ash, the executive chef at Kil@Wat, 139 E. Kilbourn Ave., uses apples, lettuces and cheeses from local operations like Roth Käse (Monroe) and Crave Brothers Farmstead Classics (Waterloo), Widmer's Cheese Cellars (Theresa) and Carr Valley Cheese Company (La Valle).
Jason Gorman, the chef at Dream Dance at Potawatomi Casino, 1712 W. Canal St., also uses food from local farms. He points to the lamb he buys from Pinn-Oak Ridge Farm in Delavan.
"They have fantastic products for domestic lambs," he says. "They actually found me, but I was so impressed with the quality they had, and being local, we've been using them exclusively for two or three years."
Like Ash, Gorman also has a great relationship with Carr Valley. And when it comes to cooking with beer, he uses Sprecher.
"I've always had an affinity to the underdog -- the hands-on quality of products that aren't mass produced," says Gorman. "My mission is to elevate the quality of Wisconsin cuisines."
Adam Lucks of Comet Café's, 1947 N. Farwell Ave., puts an emphasis on buying locally, too.
"Right now the trend seems to be using organic foods, growing your own food and supporting your community by buying seasonal produce from local farmers and supporting renewable sustainable agriculture versus buying from a large factory farm in Mexico," says Lucks.
"If tomatoes aren't fresh in December, don't buy tomatoes in December. Roots is doing it, Barossa was doing stuff like that. We try our best to buy as much stuff from food distributors that are in Milwaukee and get all our produce delivered fresh daily, as opposed to in bulk."
Buying locally is also good for the environment, eliminating the need for costly and polluting refrigerated transportation.
Adam Lamb, the chef at Bayshore's new IPic, 5900 N. Port Washington Rd., also follows the trend of what he calls "regional American." He says 30 percent of the food, beer and wine on his menu hails from Milwaukee and Wisconsin: Usinger's sausage, Sprecher soda, New Glarus on tap, Lake Superior white fin, Door County cherries -- a lot of things people in Milwaukee will "get," Lamb says.
Says Lamb, "When you become a regional American company, you really get to invest in the area, so in the summertime we're going to get the kitchen crew out to the farms in the area and connect with producers."
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Fresh is the key. I also don't like farm-raised fish; too bland. It is hard to find good Walleye these days in SE Wisc.
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