While sustainability, farm-to-table, locally and organically grown food ideas are now being adopted by many top chefs at their restaurants, there are other places that went green long before going green was cool, or even respected. Check out just a few of these Connecticut restaurants that are using only local and organic food and get an idea of what great food can really taste like.
The Elm Restaurant
73 Elm St.
New Canaan, CT 06840
The five- or seven-course “Chef’s Farm Tour” offering at The Elm is not just a catchy title – everything chef and owner Brian Lewis prepares comes from local farms. He even lists those farms on his website, where he acknowledges the contributions and inspiration given to him by these members of what he calls his “close local network of farmers and artisans.” Lewis uses only local ingredients, and by that he means everything from Hudson Valley foie gras to purslane, a “weed” as he notes with glee, which “can be found right here on Elm Street.”
It is not only his food that is “locally sourced,” but also his staff, which includes sous chef Mike Paez, whom he wooed away from Manhattan’s Momofuko, and award-winning pastry chef Caryn Stabinsky, who until coming to join him was at New York City’s famous Monkey Bar restaurant.
As with his selection of staff, Lewis does reach out beyond the boundaries of Connecticut for certain ingredients, such as the Sugar Bee Maple Syrup he gets from a farm in the Catskills and the halibut from fishermen in Maine, but except for St. Canut’s farm up in Ontario, almost everything on his table and in his kitchen comes from somewhere in New England or New York. Lewis supports these local farmers, fishermen and artisans in part because in order to cook his variation on authentic American cuisine, he needs authentic ingredients. He also believes in keeping The Elm a sustainable restaurant with a local and seasonal flavor, and that includes buying local ingredients in season. As his motto beckons: “Come celebrate the bounty of the season with us.”
77 West St.
Simsbury, CT 06070
While the waterfall alongside no longer supplies power, as it did for nearly three centuries to the historic old mill which Tyler Anderson renovated to house his restaurant, Millwrights is still very much all about the local farms. Saving and renovating that historic building, known as the Old Hop Mill, is not Anderson’s only contribution to being green. Chef Anderson prides himself on preparing “hearty” meals of “inspired New England cuisine,” and to do so, he draws upon a long list of local farms and other suppliers.
Anderson uses the old methods that were specific to Colonial New England, such as roasting vegetables in salt over a wood fire. Such is his commitment to “Farm to Table” that he has not only partnered with a nearby organic farm for much of his produce, but also gets his hands dirty in a home garden from which he harvests some of the herbs and vegetables for Millwrights’ kitchen. “Eighty percent of the ingredients” used in that kitchen, explains Anderson, come from farms and artisans in Connecticut and the surrounding states. While much of that is seasonal, in the winter and spring he also uses produce that was not only grown but also pickled, preserved or canned locally. That was how it was done in Colonial times, and that is how Anderson does it now.
Millwrights is a leader in the farm-to-table sustainable restaurant movement, and Chef Anderson is committed to offering an authentic New England dining experience, one which, as he puts it, serves up “hearty foods for hardy people.”
Claire’s Corner Copia
1000 Chapel St.
New Haven, CT 06510
Not every “green” restaurant has linen tablecloths, fine china and elegant silverware. Claire’s Corner Copia is as far away from that kind of restaurant as anyone can get – but it is also about as green as any restaurant in the state – and has been so for nearly 40 years.
Long before the high-end chic restaurants and chefs “discovered” sustainability, farm to table or any of the other catch phrases that go with being green, Claire’s was not only sustainable, but it was organic – and still is. Claire’s is also a vegetarian restaurant – and a Kosher one at that. It is also every bit the everyman’s restaurant it started out as, serving very generous portions, most for under $10. That price is very attractive to Claire’s principal clientele of Yale students, as would be expected from a restaurant that is quite literally right across from the original campus.
In keeping with the desire to “bring real food to lots of people,” everything on the menu at Claire’s – even the buns for the veggie burgers – is organic. Most of the ingredients, especially in the salads, come from local farms, and Claire’s supports not only local, organic and sustainable farms, but also the community at large. The restaurant sponsors many local charities, hosts a regular “Yappy Hour” where patrons can bring pets and proceeds benefit a local animal shelter in New Haven. It also always has “coins for causes” jars on the counter to encourage patrons to drop their change to support charitable ventures.
Owners Claire LaPia and husband Frank Criscuolo are true pioneers in their field, having gone green long before going green was cool. Why? As they explain, it all comes down to their belief that “eating well is really the best defense against illness and disease.” You May Also Be Interested In These Stories
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Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.