Homegrown menu

Sheri and Kip Waide, Southwark restaurant owners. At their winter-harvest meal, everything but coffee was grown within 100 miles.
Sheri and Kip Waide, Southwark restaurant owners. At their winter-harvest meal, everything but coffee was grown within 100 miles. (LAURENCE KESTERSON / Staff Photographer)

Serving all local foods isn't easy, and even restaurants rising to the challenge have to make exceptions. (Coffee, anyone?)

Posted: March 01, 2012

The four-course feast featured black-soybean soup with a ceviche of marinated raw beets, turnips, and rutabaga. Next, a salad of hydroponically grown butterhead lettuce with cornmeal croutons tossed in apple cider vinaigrette.

The braised lamb, organically grown and grass fed, came with caramelized onions, sweet potato gratin, wilted greens, and cranberry creme.

Warm apple cake with cheddar cheese ice cream rounded out the meal.

Everything on that farm-to-plate menu was grown within about 100 miles, no easy feat in winter. Everything, that is, except the coffee.

Coffee, tea, sugar, olive oil, lemons, vanilla - some of the ingredients you most expect to see in restaurants - cannot be grown within 100 or 150 miles of here, which is often the accepted definition of "local."

When buying locally isn't an option, what's a chef to do?

"We know we have to serve coffee, customers expect it," says chef Sheri Waide of Southwark restaurant, at Fourth and Bainbridge Streets, which hosted that winter-harvest meal Feb. 22.

Waide co-owns Southwark with her husband/bartender, Kip, and they serve Corsica blend coffee from La Colombe, a locally based importer and roaster with well-established principles of ethical trade.

When she cannot get a product that is grown locally, Waide says, her decisions are still dictated by the values of ethical eating.

That includes concern for the Earth, air, and water; for fair working conditions and wages; and for supporting small farms instead of the large, corporate type - even and especially in Third World countries.

It means dealing with locally based importers, so dollars earned here stay here. It means reducing waste; eating nose to tail by serving less commonly used cuts of meat; supporting antihunger efforts.

And it means making "farm to table" more than a slogan or a mode of decor.

Knowing your grower is as essential as educating customers.

To that end, Southwark schedules special dinners every third Wednesday with menus built around the products of a particular supplier: a grower or brewer, maybe a cheese maker.

For February, the focus was on the guy who drove the truck from the farm to the restaurant.

Mikey Azzara provides fresh produce, eggs, grain, and more, from farms in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania to restaurants and groceries in the region.

He began the business, called Zone 7, five years ago in northern New Jersey and expanded one year ago into Pennsylvania.

On this night, he offers behind-the-scenes stories of winter harvests, demonstrating that purveyors, like chefs and farmers, are values-driven, too.

For Azzara, that means seeking a diversity of crops as well as growers. It means supporting family farms, and eating nose to tail.

"Each year we've had a greater variety of winter produce because more farmers have started using greenhouses and hoop houses to meet the demand."

A Korean farmer whose land is near the New Jersey Turnpike in Hamilton, N.J., grew the black soybeans for the soup on the menu, Azzara says. The fact that these beans were not genetically modified makes them hard to find and especially desirable.

The cranberries were from a Pine Barrens bog worked by generations of one family since the Civil War, Azzara says. And the grass-fed, organic lamb was from Neptune Farm in Salem County, where 60-year-old Torrey Reade only sells her animals whole.

Southwark also buys less commonly requested cuts of beef, which enables farmers to use the whole animal. That means filet mignon is not a menu staple.

"We have calves liver on the menu now," Waide said. "And in the past we've done braised beef tongue."

Across town in the Rittenhouse Square area, Andrew Wood and his pastry-chef wife, Kristin, just opened Russet, another restaurant with a seasonally driven menu primarily sourced from farms and purveyors within roughly 100 miles.

Russet brings additional evidence that the farm-to-table movement, now decades old, is still growing.

Like Waide at Southwark, Wood finds himself ranking priorities with purchases.

"It's important to have a conscience," he said. "The environment for the pickers and growers matters to me. I don't want to buy from a company using slave labor or children.

There may be no substitute for whole fresh lemons for making drinks, Wood says. But for cooking, he plans to experiment with making a vinegar in-house that could be used instead of lemons in some dishes.

"We'd rather be adaptable," Wood says. "If we can get it within 100 miles, we will. All the meat we serve, for example, is local, and almost all of the dairy.

"We will buy some international cheeses just because they're great. A life without parmigiano-reggiano is not worth living," he said, bringing some humor to these otherwise weighty questions.

Seafood must be from known sustainable fisheries, Wood says. And when it comes to olives, he says freshness trumps locale.

"Olives do grow in California, too, so we have a connection with a producer in the Napa Valley, who presses oil once a year," says Wood, who lived in Napa with Kristin while working at Terra and Quince restaurants there.

How important is organic certification?

Wood says he knows how complicated and expensive it can be for a grower to qualify for organic certification. Sometimes, it's enough to know the grower is committed to chemical-free, sustainable practices.

Waide believes in eating chemical-free, too - to the extend that Southwark doesn't stock artificial sweeteners for the coffee and tea she serves.

"Some people tend to have their favorite sweeteners and bring their own," she said.

Waide buys from House of Tea, on Fourth Street in Queen Village. Owner Jessica Litt took over the business in 1997, when her father died.

A Frank Lloyd Wright-trained architect, Cordon Bleu-trained chef, and Ringling-trained clown, Nathaniel Litt was the kind of idiosyncratic character who, in his own way, enhanced the experience of buying local.

"We'd rather support her," Waide said, "than a large dry-goods supplier."

Black Soybean Soup

Makes 4 to 6 servings

For the ceviche:

2 or 3 winter vegetables, to make 2 cups, chopped (turnip, rutabaga, leeks, radish, carrot, and beets are all options)

1 lemon

1 lime

1 orange

1 teaspoon honey

1 to 2 sprigs of tarragon, chopped fine

1 to 2 sprigs of mint, chopped fine

4 chive stems, chopped fine

Salt and pepper to taste

For the soup:

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

1/4 cup white wine

2 cups black soybeans

6 cups vegetable stock

1. Make the ceviche one or two days in advance: Cut vegetables of your choice into small cubes so that you have about two cups total.

2. Juice and zest the lemon, lime, and orange, add honey and fine chopped herbs. Add the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Place in the refrigerator overnight.

3. Make the soup: Dice onion fine and chop garlic rough. Sweat both in grapeseed oil until onions are translucent. Add soybeans and saute for another minute. Add white wine and let reduce, then add vegetable stock. Cook until beans are tender.

4. Carefully puree soybeans and cooking liquid in a blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into individual bowls and top with ceviche.

- From chef Sheri Waide, Southwark restaurant

Per serving: 344 calories, 25 grams protein, 32 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams sugar, 13 grams fat, no cholesterol, 784 milligrams sodium, 8 grams dietary fiber.

Warm Apple Cake

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 cup wheat flour

11/3 cup all-purpose flour (Daisy brand preferred)

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

4 ounces butter

16 ounces apple, very small dice

2 eggs

1. Combine flours, sugars, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a mixing bowl using the paddle attachment.

2. Add butter that has been cut into small pieces and is at room temperature. Blend until the butter is incorporated into pea-size pieces.

3. Add the apple. Then mix in eggs one at a time.

4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a loaf pan or individual molds.

5. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 400 degrees until a toothpick comes out clean. The time will vary depending on the size of the pan used, so start checking after about 20 minutes.

6. Cool and then remove from pan or molds. Serve immediately or reheat for 5 minutes before you are ready to eat, and top with ice cream (see recipe for homemade, or use your own).

- From chef Sheri Waide, Southwark restaurant

Per serving: (based on 6) 596 calories, 7 grams protein, 105 grams carbohydrates, 66 grams sugar, 18 grams fat, 103 milligrams cholesterol, 557 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.

Cheddar Cheese Ice Cream

Makes one quart, or 8 four-ounce servings

7 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

11/2 cups half-and-half

1 cup cream

6 ounces finely grated cheddar cheese (use a microplane for best results)

Pinch white pepper

Note: An ice cream maker is used in this recipe.  

1. Combine yolks and sugar and whisk until light.

2. Heat half-and-half to a boil. Incorporate that into the egg-and-sugar mix and heat over a water bath until the mixture is the consistency of custard.

3. Remove the pan from the burner and fold in the cheddar and pinch of white pepper. At this point you can place the mixture back on heat if you need to melt the cheddar a bit more, but be careful not to cook the eggs.

4. Fold in the cream, then chill and follow ice cream maker directions at this point.

- From chef Sheri Waide, Southwark restaurant

Per serving: 308 calories, 9 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrates, 26 grams sugar, 18 grams fat, 228 milligrams cholesterol, 168 milligrams sodium, no dietary fiber.

Contact staff writer Dianna Marder at 215-854-4211 or dmarder@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @marderd. Read her recent work at http://go.philly.com/diannamarder

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