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Wednesday, June 11, 2008 03:39 pm

In good taste

Stewardship Alliance promotes local farm produce at area eateries

Untitled Document Lindsay Record, local-food coordinator at the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, started working with Springfield area farmers nearly a year ago. She wanted fresh ideas on how to introduce more local foods into the community, and after some discussions, they came up with a new plan.
They’re calling it Local Flavors: a dinner series that gives area restaurants a chance to buy ingredients from local farmers and incorporate them into their menus. Record says the series will let restaurant owners ease into the locally grown market to see whether consumer demand is there. “We know farmers are interested in selling to that market and consumers are interested in supporting local farmers,” Record says, “so we want to see if they’ll be able to do that in a restaurant atmosphere.”
Maldaner’s Restaurant, already known for its use of locally grown and organic foods, will host the kickoff dinner at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 19. Michael Higgins, owner and head chef, says he started working with farmers years ago after watching locally grown foods dominate recipes and menus in such places as California and New York. “I talked farmers into expanding their planting so we, at least here in Springfield, could take part in having some of the same things you’d see on the West Coast and East Coast,” Higgins says. In the past couple of years, as a result of the growth in the Old Capitol Farmers’ Market and local competition, Higgins says, the “buy fresh” movement in the capital city has taken off. Sean Keeley, the owner of Ross Isaac, has also gotten involved in the Local Flavors series. Keeley, who specializes in American cuisine with international influences, says that garden fresh ingredients are always better than produce bought off a truck. Record says she knows that the interest is there and hopes that Springfieldians will try this route so that everyone can benefit. “We want people to take advantage of this opportunity to not only let participating restaurants know that ‘Yes, we do want local foods,’ ” Record says, “but to show other restaurants that there is a market in supporting local farmers.”
To make reservations for the inaugural Local Flavors dinner at Maldaner’s, call the Illinois Stewardship Alliance at 217-498-9707 by Monday, June 16. The $30 fee covers a choice of certified organic chicken, vegetarian pasta, or humanely raised America’s cut pork. For the subsequent dinners — Ross Isaac on July 3; Augie’s Front Burner, July 17; Catie Girl’s, Aug. 7; Augie’s, Aug. 21; Maldaner’s, Sept. 4; Sebastian’s, Sept. 18; Catie Girl’s, Oct. 2; Sebastian’s, Oct. 16; and Ross Isaac, Nov. 6 — reservations may be made directly with participating restaurants.
Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.
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