Know Your Food
When the talented kitchen team from Restaurant Orsay ventured out to Congaree and Penn earlier this month, they were expecting to learn about rice and the milling process that produces the middlins they serve to customers each week. They wanted to see the farm. They wanted to get a sense of how rice grows. Little did they know, their farm tour would turn into an experience that caused them to think outside the plate.
In just over a year, Congaree and Penn's land has undergone a remarkable transformation, and it's clear the farm is serious about providing innovative products to our local food community. Restaurants sourcing local and wanting to understand how a crop is grown is one thing, but as Congaree and Penn owner Scott Meyer described his vision for upcoming phases of the farm's development to the Orsay kitchen team, he took the conversation one step further: “If there’s something you really want to serve, tell me, and I will grow it."
The Restaurant Orsay-Congaree and Penn farm tour is one of many examples in Northeast Florida where, increasingly, farmers are teaming up with local culinary talent in an effort to stimulate our local food economy and bring regional flavors to our plates. Executive Chef Brian Whittington notes, “As we are plating up the rice middlins on the way to our customers, now we can visualize where it is grown and dried.” The prospect of being able to collaborate on crops grown for restaurants (along with a farmer who is interested and able to grow them) is also significant in the way it supports our entire food system, making the experience from start to finish a win-win for everyone.
As expected the Orsay crew responded favorably to farmer Scott's offer, tossing out possible ideas and creative suggestions, fueled further by the success stories of the farm's first rice harvest and on-going plans for grafting mayhaws, producing cider, gathering honey from hives, and adding goats and cracker cattle to the fields. Indeed, these are exactly the kinds of relationships our team at Edible Northeast Florida loves to see and support; restauranteurs and farmers moving side by side in an effort to know, understand, and collaborate on the food that's served up on our tables.
Photography by Kristen Penoyer