When it comes to the local food movement, no one puts his money where our mouths are quite like Edward Farrow, the executive chef of The Café at MIM. On any given day, this cafeteria-style museum restaurant (so much prettier and just plain better than a museum cafe is ever expected to be) creates changing menus that are 75% local.
But tomorrow -- Tuesday, September 25 -- the café celebrates its annual Eat Local Challenge by offering a lunch that's 100% locally sourced. One hundred percent -- it's pretty amazing. There's just one miniscule exception:
Salt. You see, Arizona doesn't mine edible salt (just for swimming pools and other industrial purposes), so Farrow got his pals in San Diego to ship him 25 pounds of salt harvested from the Sea of Cortez, which is just a little over 200 miles away.
Does this strike you as extraordinary effort on The Café's part? Does me. But this almost loco devotion to local is nothing new, according to Farrow, who earns his paycheck from Bon Appetit, a California-based food service management and catering company with 450 institutional clients, including the prestigious Getty Center in LA, the Art Institute of Chicago and The Modern Art Museum in Forth Worth.
For the same event last year, Farrow -- whose impressive resume includes the famous River Cafe in Brooklyn, The Inn at Little Washington and Kai here at home -- says one of his sous chefs drove to Yuma to buy wheat, which he brought back to Phoenix and milled himself at a local mill. This year, the café will be using flour from Hayden Flour Mills -- which the museum chef views as a real boon for local-lovers.
Farrow explains the difficulties in being 100% local. Sugar, for instance, isn't grown in AZ for culinary use, so more often than not, the café uses local honeys (Crockett's, for one), agave nectar and apples from Willcox as sweeteners. Turkey is another product that's hard to find locally year-round, as are eggs, given that Phoenix's extreme heat throws off laying cycles.
But Farrow, who says he's allowed to run the café as if it's his own business (meaning -- without corporate dictates such as grilled cheese on Tuesday) does the best he can, striving to source locally as much as possible. He and his crew have even tried making their own yeast -- which they're doing for this event but won't continue to do simply because it's hard to maintain the kind of consistency baking requires.
In any case, here's tomorrow's menu:
Soups: Egg Drop Soup with Power Ranch Beef and Hearty Greens Roasted Butternut Squash with its own Seeds and a "San Francisco Peaks" Lobster Mushroom Hash
Sandwiches: Josh's Foraging Fowls Roasted Turkey, Rainbow Valley Creamery Smoked Cheese, Seacat Gardens Mustard Greens, Local Cucumber, MJ Bread Multi Grain Bread Veggie...Crow's Dairy Goat's Milk Feta, TOCA Tepary Bean Spread, Grilled Zucchini, Roasted Seacat Gardens Beets and Chard, MJ Bread Multi Grain Bread Sandwich Garnish: Crooked Sky Farms Red Potato, Red and White Turnip, and QCOM Olive Salad
Global: Homemade Pasta Ribbons using Hayden Mills Sonoran White Wheat, Desert Springs Stripped Bass, Local Lobster Mushrooms, "The Meat Shop" Bacon, Turnips, Braised Seacat Gardens Kales, Roasted Chicken Jus
Local: Desert Springs Tilapia, Crooked Sky Farms Sweet Potato Puree, Crocket's Honey-Two Wash Ranch Roasted Okra, Local Seacat Gardens Turnip-Beet Greens Vinaigrette with Tomato
Pizza: Rachael's Tiny Farm Quail Eggs, Grilled Pinto Creek Farms Yukon Gold Potato, "The Meat Shop" Bacon, and Two Wash Ranch Herbs
Grill Feature: Wilson Ranch Ham, Wilcox, AZ Heirloom Tomato, and Fossil Creek Goat Cheese Panini on MJ Bread Brioche with Crooked Sky Farms Red Potato, Turnip, and QCOM Olive Salad
Grill Items: "Power Ranch" Beef Burger "Hayden Mills" Chickpea, Farro, and TOCA Tepary Bean "Veggie" Burger "Schreiner's" All Local Beef Hot Dog "Two Wash Ranch Chicken" Breast Sandwich
Grill Sides: Homemade Local Yukon Gold Potato Chips Seacat Gardens Organic Greens Salad with QCOM Red Wine Vinaigrette Hayden Mills Polenta Cakes Hayden Mills Flours Panisse Santa Rosa Farms Melons Salad Grilled Crooked Sky Farms Corn-on-the-Cobb
Desserts: Arizona Reevis Mountain Ranch Black Mission Fig and Persimmon Tart with Rainbow Valley Creamery Smoked Butter and Crow's Dairy Vanilla Gelato Arizona Apple and Date Cake with Green Valley Farms Pecans and Shamrock Farms Sweet Cream Fossil Creek Dill Havarti Cheese with Local Fruit Compote and House Made "Wilson" Crisps
Cookies: Fossil Creek Goat Cheese-Briggs & Eggers Pears Hayden Mills Polenta-Crockets Honey with Mayas Farm Pomegranate Mayas Farm Butternut Squash and Sage with Rainbow Valley Creamery Brown Butter
Drink: Fresh Squeezed "Arizona Fruits" Elixir
House Made Condiments: Ketchup Mayonnaise Mustard Klein's Jalapeño Pickle Relish Hot Sauce
Just for tomorrow, The Cafe will pull non-local stuff like Coca-Cola off the shelves, although they'll accommodate customers who insist on Coke. Otherwise, local-leaners will find local sodas, local coffee, local beer and wine from AZ's major producers.
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Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.