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Local Dish

May 30, 2012
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How some area restaurants serve it up slow

Going to the local farmers' market creates a sense of community, not only for individuals, but businesses as well. Melissa Chaiken, chef and co-owner of The Fiddlehead Restaurant, 84 Hammond Street in Bangor, started the business with that in mind.

'I use a lot of local meat, local dairy, eggs, greens, lots of produce especially going into the spring and summer. I like using it. It's really nice to support the people immediately around you. It builds a strong sense of community,' said Chaiken. 'When people come here [to The Fiddlehead] to eat they feel that tie of knowing where your food comes from.'

That intimate knowledge of knowing your food, knowing who grows it and how they cultivate it, makes for good eating all around.

'Their reputation is at stake; [if something goes wrong] they'll make it up to you. It makes everyone work harder,' she said. 'It's supporting the community and you can feel it.'

Chaiken wasn't sure how difficult it would be maintaining a local menu.

'I thought it would be hard to get in touch with people who are local, but people came to me [saying] I have stuff I want to sell,'' she said.

Chaiken said that often what people had to offer became that day's special.

'It makes me be more creative with my [recipes] and that helps the restaurant. I have a special every week and it depends on what's available,' she said. 'It's a win-win.'

The idea of buying local was the cornerstone of The Fiddlehead Restaurant right down to the name.

'We're Fiddleheads, we have to do fiddleheads,' she said. 'This past week we got 150 pounds of fiddleheads packed in out freezer.'

She hopes the trend towards hyper-local food continues to grow.

'I want to encourage people to go to the Farmers' Market starting in downtown Bangor,' said Chaiken. 'It may cost a little extra, but I think it's worth it and I think it's worth it to support the local little businesses. I want more people to come to Bangor and walk around.'

Taking it slow

Mark Horton, co-owner and chef at Woodman's, 31 Main Street in Orono, participates in the Slow Food dinners kicked off by John Jameson of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

'It went well and we've been doing it the last Sunday of the month June through August or September, depending on the season' said Horton. 'Everything on the specials board is from the farmers' market'

He incorporates many different fresh and local ingredients, including a lot of Maine shellfish and seafood.

As the summer gears up and more food comes in, the dishes become more fun and interesting.

'Once the tomatoes come out there's more excitement out there [at the farmer's market],' said Horton. '[Fresh vegetables] are so much better.'

Horton said that he gets the majority of his veggies from Peacemeal Farm.

He said that becoming familiar with really fresh food has helped him recognize when someone is trying to sell him veggies that have been sitting around for too long.

'I wish the season in Maine was longer, but we do have the advantage of fresh seafood year round,' he said. 'There seems to be a national movement towards fresh and local food.'

He said that many vendors are offering more local options to restaurants, making it easier for them to have offer local food.

And the Slow Food Dinners will continue. Horton thinks that they have grown the sense of community in the area.

'A lot of people came for the first ones and are coming back regularly now,' he said. 'I see some of these people at the farmers' market.'

Last modified on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 12:07

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