WILLSBORO - A growing movement to use locally-produced food in fine-dining establishments has helped create positive publicity for a local restaurant and its suppliers.
Turtle Island Cafe, an award-winning restaurant in Willsboro, was mentioned as a "great restaurant" in the November 2009 issue of Gourmet Magazine.
The recognition came as part of an article highlighting some of the most popular artisan food producers of the Adirondacks and the local restaurants that turn their goods into delicious meals. Turtle Island Cafe's owner and chef, David Martin, said he was thrilled to be recognized in the nationally-distributed publication.
Martin credited Westport-based nonprofit Adirondack Harvest with drawing Gourmet's attention to Turtle Island Cafe, one of a handful of local restaurants that makes a point to utilize locally-produced, sustainable foods.
"Their mission is to help local farmers with their connection to the community and local restaurants," Martin explained, noting that Turtle Island Cafe is a member of the organization.
"We're huge believers in a movement, and it's growing stronger," said Martin; "the slow food movement."
The idea, Martin explained, is to get food that's produced on local farms.
"It makes people more aware of where their food comes from, where it is produced; how it gets from the farm or the ocean to your plate," he said.
For Martin, that means buying much of his meat through a regional food cooperative made up of farms and fishermen throughout New England. The restaurant's cheese comes largely from Clover Mead Farm in Keeseville, apples from Peru, and vegetables from Essex and Westport. In all cases, it's grown without the use of synthetic chemicals.
"It makes better food for a lot of reasons," said Martin. "It is grown in the way the spirits and the gods intended it to be grown."
Martin's views are echoed by Nanette Maxim, the author of the Gourmet article. Through a recount of her travels through the area, Maxim persuades readers that they can experience the same rejuvenating experience in both the scenery and food of the Adirondacks.
Maxim stated in the article that the North Country's "foragers, cheese makers, chefs, and pork, beef, and poultry producers have put the North Country on the culinary map."
Many other well-known venues were mentioned in Maxim's article as well, such as Elizabethtown's Deer's Head Inn, which also makes use of many local foods. Dogwood Bread Company in Wadhams was also given a brief mention.
"We're very fortunate here because there are such wonderful farms," said Martin. "The love and passion they put into what they produce is equal to the love and passion we have for what we're doing here in the restaurant."
And many of those farms are starting to use new methods to extend their growing seasons. Juniper Farms in Westport, where Martin buys vegetables for his salads, is using high-tunnel greenhouses that allow for the near year-round production of some produce.
"We're still getting greens from him, whereas before he would have ended in September," said Martin, noting they are as fresh and crisp as ever.
"It does not hinder the quality on any level," he added, but noted the flavors do change between what is harvested in the summer and late fall.
Martin hopes that the demand for locally produced food will continue to grow as time goes on.
"That's the philosophy we carry through with the plate," he said. "It's as much personal as it is professional."