When Arrows Restaurant opened in Ogunquit, Maine in 1988, the idea of a fine-dining restaurant supplying its own fresh produce was a novelty to most New Englanders. There were small garden-centered restaurants at the time, like New Hampshire’s Pickity Place and Connecticut’s Golden Lamb Buttery, but Arrows changed the game by bringing the ingredient-driven New […]
By Amy Traverso
Aug 19 2015
More farm bounty.Photo Credit : Amy Traverso
When Arrows Restaurant opened in Ogunquit, Maine in 1988, the idea of a fine-dining restaurant supplying its own fresh produce was a novelty to most New Englanders. There were small garden-centered restaurants at the time, like New Hampshire’s Pickity Place and Connecticut’s Golden Lamb Buttery, but Arrows changed the game by bringing the ingredient-driven New American cuisine of California (where owners Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier got their start) to Maine. Further up the coast, Melissa Clark brought a similar sensibility to Primo, which she opened in Rockland in 2000.
Now, most diners expect to find some locally grown produce on their menus, at least in summer. And more and more chefs are partnering with local farms or even running their own farm operations.
I got to see a remarkable example of a farm-restaurant partnership when Yankee visited the Chatham Bars Inn on Cape Cod last month to celebrate the resort’s appearance of the cover of our July/August issue. There, we toured the Inn’s own farm—aptly named the Chatham Bars Inn Farm—and tasted our way from the fields to the property’s signature restaurant, Stars.
The farm has been a work in progress since 2012, when the Inn purchased a former berry farm in nearby Brewster and set about enriching the sandy soil with layer after layer of compost and bringing additional acres of land into production. It’s an ongoing project. “You need to augment the soil,” says farm manager Josh Schiff. “It really takes a motivated party. But with a lot of work you can turn Cape Cod soils into productive soils. Eventually the soil will be self-sustaining with cover crops and leguminous crops.” Fortunately, the resort has a motivated party in owner Richard Cohen, a New York-based real estate investor, who has been a strong supporter of Josh’s efforts.
The effort is already paying off, with the farm yielding enough produce to supply the Inn’s restaurants with thousands of pounds of tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, herbs, lettuce, squash, carrots, and other edibles, as well as an additional 35 farm shares for members of the community. Excess produce is also shared with local food pantries.
Each winter, Josh meets with CBI’s executive chef, Anthony Cole, to plan the lineup for the upcoming season. Sixty percent of the farms produce goes to the kitchen, and Josh and Anthony are always experimenting with new varieties. Josh introduced us to Sakura cherry tomatoes, an antioxidant-rich, Dutch-bred plant that produces some of the most flavorful tomatoes we’ve ever had: Sweet-tart and juicy, more like berries than beefsteaks.
Josh also teaches gardening workshops that are open to the general public and leads tours of the garden on Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m. You don’t have to be a guest of the resort to enjoy the farm.
But to really enjoy the fruits of Josh’s labor, it’s hard to beat a meal at the inn. It’s a pricey treat, to be sure, but Chef Cole’s team coaxes maximum flavor out of these supremely flavorful ingredients, combining the farm’s produce with local seafood, game, and prime and grass-fed beef. One section of the menu, titled “From the Farm,” is a great place to start.
Josh enjoys a lengthy tomato season, thanks to his savvy use of a greenhouse and high tunnels (unheated, covered structures), and Chef Cole pairs the fruits with aged balsamic vinegar, local sea salt and Massachusetts-made Great Hill Blue cheese. His hand is gentle: the flavors enhance, but the tomato still shines through.
Likewise with a Stars signature dish: Chatham lobster poached in butter so that the meat cooks gently and its sweetness plays against the richness of the sauce. Chef Cole pairs it with a smear of carrot-curry puree, asparagus, and fresh carrots from the farm. Sweet-salty granola is the surprise accent.
Across the main lobby of the inn, you can find more of Josh’s produce on the menu of the more casual Sacred Cod restaurant (named after the four-foot carved wooden fish that hangs in the Massachusetts State House). Each day brings a “Local Catch & Harvest” special based on whatever is fresh from the farm and waters that day, as well a variation on the tomato-blue cheese salad and plenty of fresh greens, herbs, and other vegetables.
Chef Cole oversees it all. When I saw him earlier in the day, he told me that he came to the inn nearly ten years ago after many years working at Ritz-Carlton properties around the world. But he thinks he’s found his dream job. What more could a chef want? A view of the sea, fresh fish from down the road, his own farm to help plan and savor. He may never leave.