Back to Our Roots
Recently we have seen a substantial rise in ‘healthy’ restaurants. More and more institutions have begun focusing their culinary efforts toward locally-sourced ingredients, offering us diners more ‘clean’ and wholesome menus to choose from. With the increase of clean eating comes a surplus of farm-to-table restaurants that accommodate just this and beyond. High-end restaurants are not only offering menus with a higher emphasis on vegetables, but are becoming less wasteful in their cooking. “The culmination of the trend is the WastED project, which brings together chefs, farmers, fishermen and food purveyors to come up with novel ways of reusing waste rather than condemning it to a compost bin.” Food waste has been a growing concern of both the government and of chefs. The increased focus on food waste today is the result of years of the government, consumer and food and environmental activists’ efforts finally making their mark on mainstream dining.
We are now being drawn to the attraction of restaurants that offer locally sourced meats and vegetables, with the majority of fine dining establishments boasting the exact source of their produce. The West Coast has been a major player in adapting to these growing trends, with San Francisco leading the way on conscientious menu planning.
Shortly after AL’s Place opened in 2015 under the direction of Aaron London, it was named the nation’s best restaurant by Bon Appetit magazine. As you can guess, vegetables are the star of this menu, moving from the side of the plate to the center. London designed this playful menu with a particular emphasis on locally-sourced, seasonal vegetables and seafood that successfully gained him a 2016 Michelin Star. In keeping with ‘green’ dining, nothing goes to waste in this place. London has stated before that this not only boils down to environmental responsibility, but it also allows him to develop dishes from the ingredients that would usually be tossed out. Examples of this can be seen through the use of the pods of shell beans; these and roasted to create a stock which subsequently is used to cook the beans in. The menu also includes a remarkable number of pickled vegetables which deliver extraordinary flavors. This inventive use of everyday vegetables is why AL’s Place reins one of the hottest restaurants in the US.
The Progress is Stuart Brioza’s and Nicole Krasinski’s follow-up to the hugely successful, State Bird Provision in San Francisco. Similarly to AL’s Place, The Progress possesses a thoughtfully crafted menu of seasonal dependent, locally-sourced ingredients, although slightly heavier emphasis on meat can be found here. Focusing on family-style serving, this James-Beard winning spot is in keeping with the clean-eating, locally-sourced wave that we are on with dishes on the menu such as Northern California Black Cod and BN Ranch Beef. BN refers to Bill Niman, the founding partner of BN Ranch, who has come to be known as the “godfather of sustainable meat”. They supply meat from carefully raised animals in California to restaurants and retails stores. The minimal décor in the Progress is positively reflected in their imaginative use of simple and fresh ingredients, which is why it was deservingly awarded the nation’s best restaurant by Bon Appetit magazine when it first opened in 2012.
Husband and wife duo, Brioza and Krasinksi from The Progress have also graced the city of San Francisco with another new project, The Perennial. This eco-friendly restaurant opened its doors in 2015 and brought with it an entirely new meaning to sustainable dining. Not only are vegetables the focal point of the menu, but they are integrated into the design of the restaurant itself. The industrial-chic quarters features vegetables, herbs and micro-greens growing in a “living pantry” mounted along the walls in the front window, as well as an aquarium filled with fish. The plant also sends its roots down into the water which is fertilized by the fish. This mutually beneficial relationship is referred to as “aquaponic”. The Perennial prides itself on their philosophy and values which champion progressive farming as they believe that agriculture has the potential to reverse climate change, making their goal to serve great food and drinks that are part of a positive food system. Their dedication to this can be seen in their involvement in a number of eco-preservation projects; they are working with ‘The Land Institute’ on a perennial grain called Kernza which will help restore the soil ecosystem and draw carbon out of the atmosphere and into the soil. The Perennial will be the first restaurant to serve bread from Kernza once it is fully developed; they serve beef and lamb from ‘Stemple Creek Ranch’, a ranch that offers meat that has been raised as part of a carbon farming project; and most interestingly, The Perennial is building a 2,000 sq. foot aquaponics greenhouse in West Oakland. Here, their kitchen scraps will be ‘composted’ by chicken, worms and black soldier fly larvae. It doesn’t get greener than this!
Another 2016 Michelin Star receiver is Aster. The creative team behind the restaurant is Brett Cooper (former Outerlands chef) and the Daniel Patterson Group (Coi, Alta CA). Using local and organic ingredients, the fare served in Aster draws on a range of influences, the most notable being Japanese. As seen with our other restaurants on trend, Aster is also in keeping with the minimalistic décor with a large rectangle communal table in the center of the room and a small open kitchen in the back, all finished in a wood-palette. Cooper’s menu draws on classic and modern cooking techniques combined with a deep appreciation for authentic products, giving way to an inventive and diverse outcome. This organic-fueled menu features creative combinations such as Buttermilk-miso, Asian pear and Watermelon Radish. The origin of the produce is also proudly identified such in the case of Don Watson’s Milk-fed Lamb. The dedication to their local food purveyors and ever changing, original menu has positioned Aster as one of the best additions to the San Francisco restaurant scene.
March 9th 2016