Column: Putting the local economy where our mouths areSome Duluth restaurants have publicly pledged their support for the local food movement by signing the Superior Compact Purchasing Commitment. This is part of a larger nationwide movement that promotes a locally grown diet as a means of improving local economies, reducing transportation costs, and providing foods that are healthier and fresher.
By: John Shirley, For the Budgeteer News
Some Duluth restaurants have publicly pledged their support for the local food movement by signing the Superior Compact Purchasing Commitment. This is part of a larger nationwide movement that promotes a locally grown diet as a means of improving local economies, reducing transportation costs, and providing foods that are healthier and fresher.
The Lake Superior Good Food Network (GFN) initiated the compact by which supporters commit to “measurable goals.” By signing, an organization agrees simply that it “supports the goal to purchase 20 percent locally grown food by the year 2020.” The Lake Superior GFN defines “locally” by listing specific counties in the western Lake Superior region.
So far, six Duluth restaurants have signed the agreement. These restaurants, described below, all bring different things to the table but are united in this strategy to better serve the community.
Duluth Grill receives about 25 percent of its ingredients from various local food producers, while it continues to increase its own food production, according to Duluth Grill’s website. Besides the gardens already on their parking lot and a nearby one, they plan to build “Duluth’s Biggest Community Garden” in their back parking lot. For foods they don’t currently produce, they have cultivated relationships with many local farms, including one belonging to UMD. Since large livestock in their parking lot could scare away customers, Duluth Grill relies on local farms to supply products from those animals. Beef and bison from local farms are always at home on Duluth Grill’s range. While increasing its production capacity, the restaurant promotes the local food movement by hosting an extensive website and attending events such as the “Art of Local Food Dinner.”
At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Café
On its website, the café describes itself as both a restaurant with a “world influenced cuisine” and a “farm fresh eatery.” To fulfill this role, the restaurant has adopted a strategy of thinking globally but shopping locally. Produce is grown at Northern Harvest Farm in Wrenshall or in one of the many Bay Produce greenhouses, behind the Mariner Mall in Superior. Local wild rice and wild fish sources are Spirit Lake Native Products and Lake Superior Fish Company. They have many other local ingredients in their lineup, including cheese, maple syrup and honey. While usually bringing the farm to the customer, the café sometimes brings the customer to the farm by hosting local food farm functions. During these “Farm Dinners,” patrons enjoy fine meals with wine on the farm where the food was made. To further publicize the local food movement, they recently served quail ravioli at the Art of Local Food Dinner.
Zeitgeist Arts Cafe
As its menu demonstrates, this restaurant-theater-cinema practices the art of serving food of local origin. There’s no need to have a cow to enjoy some local goat cheese. Other options include gorgonzola cheese or a local cheese plate to really milk the situation. Featured salads include the Medeline Salad, served with local honey. Main course options include local bison and lake trout.
Fitger’s Brewhouse, Tycoons, Burrito Union
These restaurants have the same owners and vision for local foods but differ in theme and many menu items. While Fitger’s makes the “Brewhouse Beer,” daily supplies are brought to both Tycoons and Burrito Union. But this is not the final phase of the beer. The spent grain is used as feed for local cattle, according to Dan Fuhs, the manager of Burrito Union. Rob Strom raises these cattle on his land in Twig. Strom also performs other roles at the restaurant. The organization plans for this farm to eventually provide most of the beef for the three restaurants. The restaurant management is gearing up to keep the promises of the compact. According to Fuhs, the organization is increasingly focused on the 20-percent goal. In the last month, he’s heard it talked about more than in the entire last year. “We are definitely making a concerted effort,” he said.
John Shirley lives in Duluth and has an interest in science and general concern for the environment. He wrote this column on the behalf of Just Take Action, which owns Fitger’s Brewhouse, Tycoons and Burrito Union. To learn more about the Good FoodNetwork, visit goodfoodnetwork.org.