Lovocarism is here to stay – and why shouldn’t it?

By Valerie Silva

At a time when trends catch on like wild fire, farm-to-table dining has become about something other than its humble, local roots. Like hippiedom in the 70s and celebrity feminism today, the integrity of the local food movement has been obfuscated—more appropriately used as a marketing tool or as a smoke screen for bad food. Even fast food giant McDonald’s has ostensibly adopted the farm-to-table mentality, releasing a series of ads that cast the “real” farmers from which they acquire their produce. Is proving that food originates in a(ny) farm really the point? Doesn’t nearly all food originate in a farm? The pioneers of the movement focus, instead, on shortening the distance travelled from farm to table. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recognizes “locally grown” food as that which originates within 50 kilometres from where it is sold and served. Benefits of local food sourcing practices include: supporting small local farms, ensuring the safety of food supply, avoiding genetically modified foods, encouraging the diversity of regional ecologies, and decreasing the carbon footprint caused by factory farms and international food distribution. And so, even if the frozen fries that McDonald’s’ employees throw into vats of oil were once potatoes picked in farms, they do not necessarily adhere to the strict standards delineated by farm-to-table advocates. Unfortunately, eating locally produced, sustainable, and non-genetically modified food is no longer the goal—instead bragging rights and increased profits are.

 

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With that said, there is no reason to eschew the gastronimical trend just yet. Like denim overalls and braided pigtails, some people really do pull it off! The key to successful farm-to-table cuisine is balance; it is not only the chefs (or, ahem, fast food chains) that dictate the menu but also the land on which they stand. Rather than import from a farm in South America or use genetically engineered produce, chefs adapt to a regional ecology. The result: a regional cuisine. As chef and author Dan Barber puts it, “We decide what we want, and then we demand that the land produce it. When in fact it should really work the other way around.” The goal is to let the land guide our palate. And, why isn’t that still a noble pursuit? Should we be over farm-to-table just because its message has been diluted? Or, should we stand proud behind the title and let the land set the standard? Of course, you know where I stand. What better way to celebrate the harvesting season than to pay tribute to culinary establishments that do the same? These restaurants toot the farm-to-table moniker for good reason. Check out the following spots that are still doing local the right way.

 

The Wolf in the Fog – Tofino, British Columbia

The Wolf in Fog, enRoute’s best new restaurant in Canada for 2014, showcases local ingredients with an emphasis on sustainable sea fare. Be prepared to feast on Pacific oysters, Humboldt squid, and fresh salmon. Chef Nick Nutting explains, “We get all our fish from a dock that’s one block away from the restaurant. You can literally see the boats coming in.” Even the mushrooms that appear in many of the dishes are foraged in nearby forests on Vancouver Island. How’s that for fresh?

150 Fourth Street, Tofino, British Columbia.

 

 

Café Belong – Toronto, Ontario

The restaurant’s website opens with a reference to its name: “to belong: an awareness of our environment, how it nourishes us, and what we must do to have this relationship continue.” Chef Brad Long’s seasonal menu and daily adjustments bear witness to the community of people, animals, and environments that inform each of his culinary creations. A mandate of sustainability is applied not only to his ingredients, but also to this complex network of relationships. The restaurant’s communal servings, stone soup, and maple sugar crème caramel are sure to keep you feeling cozy on a crisp autumn day.

550 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Ontario.

 

Les 400 coups – Montreal, Quebec

Arctic Char from Gaspésie, Québec Pecans, Montmorency cherries, and duck marget from La Canardière Farm are just some of the local ingredients featured on the menu at Les 400 coups. Chef Guillaume Cantin is not only committed to local ingredients but also to regional history, which he meticulously weaves into his carefully conceptualized dishes. The young Chef explains, “I work with a culinary historian to find out about old Quebec recipes and forgotten ingredients that deserve to be known once again.” And, there is no better place to discover them then at this Old Montreal mainstay.

400 Notre-Dame East, Montreal, Quebec.

 

 

Fleur de Sel Restaurant – Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Lunenburg’s maritime history—it was a major centre for offshore banks fishery and a shipbuilding mecca in the 19th century—lives on in each dish served at Fleur de Sel. Chef Martin Ruiz Salvador fuses classical French techniques with locally sourced produce; think whipped Nova Scotia feta, sustainably caught albacore tuna, and scallops from Adams & Knickle, a century-old waterfront establishment. Housed in a traditional 19th century Lunenburg construction, Fleur de Sel is the ideal spot to revel in a time past. Be sure to sample from Martin’s repertoire of homemade goods, which includes house-cured charcuterie, smoked fish, and artisanal breads. Bon appétit!

53 Montague Street, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

 

 

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