Our dear landlord Mike Kitts, was in the other night, and after his waitress waxed on about our locally-raised lamb, pork and beef, our sustainable seafood choices, how we buy as much from local farmers as we can (even in winter), Mike called Kathy over.
“How come you never tell people about all this?” To which Kathy replied, “Huh?”
That’s when we discovered Mike wasn’t on the e-mail newsletter list (he is now). And that, over time, due to the volume of items on the menu, we’ve cut way back on the list of local sources. And really, into how many menu items can you squeeze “Mountain Shadow” this and “Dancing Moon Farm” that without creating the Cliff Notes version of War and Peace?
So here’s how we try to live our food values: Our first choice is food raised in the Mt. Hood food shed. That’s food grown in the 100 or so miles within the watershed or influence of our iconic mountain. Jim Hanna named his Dufur company, Mountain Shadow Natural Meats with this idea in mind, and that’s who supplies most of our beef, lamb and pork. The animals are raised without antibiotics, hormones or grain.
When it comes to seafood, we serve fish from sustainable fisheries, to the best of our knowledge. Anyone who deals seafood will tell you it’s a murky world out there. We once bought crab for months from what was described as a sustainable crab fishery, only to learn that the fisherman had been arrested for poaching tons of crab in Russian waters. Yikes. For the most part, we trust our supplier, Ocean Beauty, to honestly tell us the source of what we’re buying. Some of our rules: we won’t buy monk fish, snapper, many tunas, farmed salmon, exotics from Mexico, farmed shrimp, or seafood processed overseas. When In doubt, we check with the Monterey Bay Aquarium. If you don’t have one of their handy pocket guides, you can get one.
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, we are so blessed to have an amazing growing community right here at home. If you aren’t familiar with the Gorge Grown Food Network, go visit their site, and then join. It’s a mere $25, and will do so much to help promote eating from Gorge dirt. And we have a ways to go. The network’s Gorge food study shows that we only consume 3% of what we eat from local sources. Wow.
This time of year, we won’t serve foods out of season – raspberries or tomatoes in February – yet we still must depend on winter markets to the south for even the basics, such as lettuce. But even tonight you can enjoy on our menu potatoes from Oregrownian farm in Parkdale, microgreens from White Oak Woodland farm in Goldendale, and mushrooms from Hood River Organic. By mid-summer, almost all of our produce comes from local suppliers, a venture that takes a tremendous amount of our time. But it’s worth it.
Some other ways we live what we believe: our cooking oil is recycled by Encore Oil; we use environmentally safe cleaning products; our kitchen scraps go to needy chickens; we buy green power. And we make everything, right down to our hamburger buns, bread, sausage, desserts, dressings, sauces, and pasta, right in house.
Now you know, Mikey. Glad you like it.
Now, throw in the creativity!
So, after all that going on and on blather about where our food comes from, here’s where our creative kitchen is taking those raw ingredients this week:
We just got oh-so-tired of beef burgers. So this week, we’re grinding Mountain Shadow lamb leg and making fresh lamb burgers, on Nathan’s buns with herbed feta cheese and lemon mint aioli.
Our seared scallops our showing up at your table on a roasted mushroom and walnut crema with a fresh Italian salsa verde of fennel, parsley, olive, caper and shallots. A crema is a Southern Italian pureed dish composed of nuts (usually walnuts or almonds) and mushrooms. The combination with the rich, buttery scallops is fantastic, and answers that age-old question: what food goes well with Chardonnay? We think this dish is equally delicious with one of the three Pinot Noirs we have on our wine list.
For that pork fix (come on, you know you gotta have it) try our pork belly on curried apples and dates.
We’ve still got Hawaiian tombo tuna in the house. The California artichokes are particularly luscious right now, so we’re serving the tombo with artichoke heart confit, olives, almonds and capers on white bean puree. Or order a small plate of tombo in a delicate escabeche of carrots, onions, garlic and jalapenos.
See you around Nora’s Table