Farm to Fork
It comes as no surprise to foodies in San Antonio that the city’s culinary scene is bustling.
But San Antonio is also fast becoming a hub for farm-to-table restaurants — for chefs and guests who appreciate locally sourced foods with an eye toward healthier eating. Local means fresher, meaning diners can derive more nutrition. Plus it furthers the notion that sustainability is a worthy endeavor — and in this case, it does not have to be devoid of tasty culinary discoveries.
What is perhaps even more significant is that many chefs at farm-to-table restaurants have developed partnerships with area farmers and ranchers and in some cases give back to them, further enhancing the localvore movement. Another by-product of the farm-fresh concept is the rotating menu, based on what’s in season. The number of farm-to-table eateries is on the rise. Here is a sampling of the best of the best in San Antonio.
The Clean Plate
The Clean Plate, based in Tobin Hill, puts it right out front in its online mission statement: “Providing meals that are sustainably and respectfully sourced.”
The food here is free of genetically modified ingredients and pesticides. Chef Catherine New gets all of her meats and eggs, and most of her produce, from area farms and ranches, such as Shudde Ranch and Peeler Farms. She often procures supplies from farmers markets, including the one at Pearl. Fish tacos and stuffed peppers are The Clean Plate’s most popular items.
Cured boasts a fine array of farm-to-table dishes in addition to its renowned focus on whole animal cooking. Chef Steve McHugh, who spent 10 years working with Chef John Besh in Louisiana, was inspired by his childhood on a Wisconsin farm in developing Cured.
The menu relies upon locally sourced meats, which are cured anywhere from 30 days to one year. The charcuterie options are among the strongest a foodie will see anywhere in San Antonio, and the entire menu is made in house.
Speaking of Besh, Lüke is more than an outstanding, original restaurant on the River Walk. The menu is a wondrous blend of classic French and German cuisines with a Louisianan flair.
Chef John Russ runs the kitchen, using the freshest area ingredients available, with Texas Gulf Coast oysters being a must-have here. Otherwise, Besh and Russ get their seafood from Louisiana or Mississippi, helping to support their local coastal economies. Almost all of the produce at Lüke comes from area farmers markets, mainly the one at Pearl.
Feast serves contemporary American cuisine. Creative demonstration and execution of every meal has been central to Chef Stefan Bowers and owner Andrew Goodman’s Southtown restaurant. Having grown up in Northern California ultimately impacted Bowers’ culinary outlook, inspiring him to concentrate on organic and sustainable food.
A fine-dining establishment on the River Walk, Restaurant Gwendolyn is where Chef Michael Sohocki emphasizes aspects of the slow food movement, where no electrical equipment is used other than refrigeration and a hood over the range. Basically, Sohocki has a mission: to serve “honest food,” prepared much in the way it was readied prior to the Industrial Revolution.
Restaurant Gwendolyn sources all of its perishable foods from area ranches and farms. Nothing is prepared via factory methods. In-house staffers age the meat, can fruit and vegetables, and render fats. This all leads to dishes that are fresh, flavorful and healthy and taste like they were made by family and friends with lots of love, time, and patience.
A true family-favorite restaurant north of downtown sourcing local, organic, and sustainable ingredients, The Cove is best known for its fish tacos.
The restaurant works with farmers to provide patrons with locally raised, humanely treated grass-fed beef, lamb, and bison, along with free-range turkey and eggs. Local produce, breads, and cane-sweetened sodas also get the spotlight.
If that is not enough for the health-conscious diner, The Cove also boasts gluten-free options. And it all can be enjoyed inside a spacious building, which hosts live music, or outdoors in the beer garden, which also features a children’s playground.
In a city that loves its Tex-Mex cuisine, Vegeria has turned the genre on its head by embracing urban gardening, organic seasonal farming, and a farm-to-table mindset.
Chef Fred Anthony Garza said he seeks to help people learn the value of better preserving Tex-Mex and Latino food much in the same way his ancestors did. As a result, Vegeria is known as San Antonio’s only all-vegan and gluten-free restaurant, featuring sweet potato poblano flautas and tacos with garbanzo chorizo and calabaza (squash).
Success has spurred Vegeria to expand from its original location, 8407 Broadway St., into a second location at 1422 Nogalitos St.
Valeria Farm-to-Table Restaurant
Based in Boerne, northwest of San Antonio, Valeria is upscale and casual, but is as farm-fresh as you can get in the Hill Country.
Chef/owner Keith Kuhn sources GMO-free ingredients from local farms and ranches, and goes organic more often than not. Kuhn painstakingly seeks suppliers for particular heirloom ingredients. He gets his pork from a nearly century-old, family-owned company that raises pigs on a mainly foraged diet. The organic rice and corn come from a South Carolina mill, and the mozzarella cheese that Valeria uses is Di Stephano, known as the lone GMO-free mozzarella found in the United States. Pivetti flour, used for Valeria’s pizza, is found in Texas.
In the end, Kuhn and his colleagues pride themselves on working with partners that care about raising healthy animals and plants right. Diners get to enjoy clean, delicious food — sans trans fats, additives, and preservatives — as a result.
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