Farm-to-table dining in Taos
By Lucy Herrman
One of the biggest trends in food today is the farm-to-table movement. This food source preference is based on the premise that locally grown and raised ingredients offer superior flavor and nutrition to the consumer while supporting farmers with smaller operations. Working with heirloom produce and humanely raised livestock, these producers provide food in season, with an eye to sustainability and with a lifeline back to our roots when small family farms flourished. The extra care taken by local and smaller operations of farmers, wineries and cheesemakers harkens back to a time of self-reliance when food was hand finished and small batch.
Not long ago, processed foods were a hallmark of convenience in a busy world. But as we learn more about nutrition and food safety, we know that the sooner we get food from the producer to the customer, the more likely essential nutrients will be present in the finished food. Mass production and a highly centralized food growing and distribution system havecontributed to a nutrient gap. New enthusiasm for food safety, traceability and availability have made local purveyance from farmer to consumer more desirable. The growth nationwide of farmers markets, where we can buy directly from growers, has widened the interest in “knowing where food comes from” for the average shopper. In urban areas where fresh produce is scarce, the establishment of weekly farmers markets has had a dramatic effect in reducing fresh food deserts.
Here in Taos, the farm-to-table movement has also gained momentum of late. We’re lucky in that there is a genuine connection between local farmers and the conscientious chefs and owners of many restaurants in our community. By embracing the farm-to-table concept, they do a great job of bringing us closer to food at its source.
These restaurants feature “locavore” (a person who eats locally grown food when available) menus and boast local produce, meats and cheeses. The reasons are obvious: Not only do they support the local economy, but they offer the freshest and healthiest food available to their customers – food that hasn’t been shipped far, that hasn’t been frozen and sometimes hasn’t even been washed before purchasing. The following restaurants are some excellent examples of these practices in our community.
At ACEQ, owner Michael Wagener wants to know the source of everything that is served at his restaurant. The name ACEQ seems appropriate – it is derived from the Spanish word “acequia,” the communal irrigation ditch used by farmers for centuries in Northern New Mexico. Wagener contracts with local farmers, gardeners and suppliers for the best local, wild and farm-fresh ingredients. The seasonal ingredients support his ever-changing menu of contemporary takes on classic dishes. As a master sommelier, Wagener features many local New Mexico wines and brews on his menu. His dinnerware was made by local potter Logan Wannamaker. And while his tables were not locally sourced in Taos, they were locally sourced in Wisconsin. The wood was salvaged from his grandfather’s 125-year-old granary and built by his dad. ACEQ, 480 State Road 150, Arroyo Seco. Call (575) 776-0900. Serving dinner every night. Reservations highly recommended.
At The Love Apple, visionary proprietress Jennifer Hart and her chef, Jenni Ford, both believe that food can be decadent and rich while still being healthy. And to that end, they support independent agriculture to maintain the finest food traditions. Everything is made from scratch. They use hormone-free meat, regionally milled flour, locally produced cheese and vegetables. The Love Apple is located in a beautifully repurposed adobe church and serves dinner only. But if you want breakfast or lunch, visit The Love Apple’s sister emporium, Manzanita Market on Taos Plaza, where the same standards and commitment to organic and local ingredients are held. The Love Apple, 803 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Taos. Call (575) 751-0050. Serving dinner. Closed Monday. Cash and checks only. Reservations highly recommended. Manzanita Market, 103 N. Plaza, Taos. Call (575) 613-4088. Serving lunch. No reservations needed.
Micah Roseberry of The Farmhouse Café only serves 100 percent organic, sustainable, non-GMO cuisine at her restaurant, some of which is grown on her own Cerro Vista Farms. Taoseños have long enjoyed participating in her farm venture by purchasing shares in her CSA (community-supported agriculture) or buying Cerro Vista Farms produce at the Taos Farmers Market on Saturdays during the summer. But her belief in the benefits of farm-fresh foods carries beyond her restaurant. For the past 15 years, Roseberry has been also working to strengthen and promote healthy cuisine in local schools. She has partnered with several schools in Taos County to provide locally raised organic meals to children and to spearhead the planting of student vegetable gardens. She also teaches sustainable farming at University of New Mexico-Taos. But most days, she’s at her restaurant bringing her vision to life for her customers. Farmhouse Cafe, 1405 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, El Prado. Call (575) 758-5683. Serving breakfast and lunch. No reservations necessary.
Andy Lynch of Common Fire explains that first and foremost, he’s interested in providing his customers with the most delicious meals possible. And to Lynch, local organic ingredients are what create “delicious.” While never really adopting a formal farm-to-table plan, Lynch found that by working with of local producers, he can offer a superior menu of salads, small plates, entrees and flatbreads, most of which is cooked in a wood-fired central oven and served from lunch through dinner. Common Fire makes every flatbread crust and loaf of bread from scratch using a 15-year-old sourdough starter. Producing a loaf of Common Fire’s bread takes 48 hours from start to finish. Even his flour comes from a New Mexico grower of red winter wheat. Both the wood-fired oven hearth-baked bread and the flour are available for retail sale at Common Fire. Common Fire, 88 State Road 150, El Prado. Call (505) 803-9113. Serving lunch and dinner. No reservations.
Farm-to-table eating in practice – just another wonderful benefit of visiting Taos. And while the above restaurants are featured as strong examples, rest assured that many other restaurants in town embrace the local resourcing behind the farm-to-table concept.