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ISSUE 119 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/7/2005

Local food day serves meals close to home

By Laura Botz
Staff Writer

Friday, October 7, 2005

St. Olaf diners stepped up to the "Eat Local Challenge" posed by Bon Appétit and all of its branches across the nation for lunch on Thursday, Sept. 29.

As explained by the flyers posted in and around Stav Hall, two of the food stations, "Home" and "Grains," featured an array of dishes with ingredients purchased from producers no more than 150 miles away from campus.

According to Hays Atkins, the director of Bon Appétit at St. Olaf, the purpose of this experience is to "encourage chefs to establish relationships with local producers" and to "raise awareness about issues surrounding food purchase and production."

Atkins explained that there are several benefits to eating local. First, it cuts the monetary and environmental costs associated with transporting food across the country. It also helps to stimulate the economy of the surrounding community instead of sending money to other parts of the world.

In addition, it encourages the purchase of food from small family-owned operations and does not support large-scale farming in which cattle are packed into feedlots and given numerous growth hormones.

Thursday's menu consisted of braised beef brisket with caramelized onions and cabernet-tomato reduction, rosemary roasted heirloom potatoes and brussel sprouts with hickory smoked bacon.

The vegetarian dishes included beefsteak tomatoes stuffed with sweet corn, summer squash and Amablu bleu cheese, apple cider and Macintosh apple braised cabbage with tarragon, and honey-glazed heirloom squash with thyme. Honeycrisp apple and butternut squash crisp were featured as dessert.

Student response to the food was positive, Atkins said. In fact, Atkins said that the only negative comment he received was that the Local Food Challenge did not happen often enough.

"I was impressed by the variety and quality of the different meals they prepared for this; for the 150 mile limit, they were inventive," Mary Sotos '07 said. "I particularly liked the tomato stuffed with corn, peppers and cheese crumbles."

Finding locally grown and produced food to include on the menu was not difficult for Bon Appétit. It has already established a solid relationship with STOGROW, the student-run farm on campus that provides much of the fresh produce served at Stav Hall every day.

Among the local producers whose foods were featured on Thursday was Thousand Hills Cattle Company of Northfield, which prides itself in its "100 percent grass-fed beef." Others included Six Point Berkshire Pork of Cottonwood, Pepin Heights Apples in Lake City, Axdahl Farms in Stillwater, Alexis Bailey Vineyards of Hastings and Faribault Cheese Company.

Bon Appétit also worked with the Southeast Minnesota Food Network, which represents "nearly 40 regional producers" of produce and other products.

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