'Slow Food' Fans Find That Fresh Tastes Best

It’s called the Slow Food move­ment, in contrast to the average American’s reliance on fast, pre-packaged and imported foods.

On Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 22:31

It’s called the Slow Food move­ment, in contrast to the average American’s reliance on fast, pre-packaged and imported foods. And local proponents of this increasingly popular trend are helping Northland residents eat tastier, healthier food grown close to home. Forget those Latin American raspberries and the beef from who-knows-where. When you’re eating slow, you’re tasting fresh greens from a field down the road, herbs from a kitchen garden, and meat raised a stone’s throw from the restaurant that serves it. “People like talking to the people who grow their produce,” says Rosemary Salerno, general manager of the Zona Rosa shopping center, which sponsors a weekly Tuesday evening market featuring locally grown produce. “They like knowing who they are buying their produce from, and they feel it is fresher and healthier.” Fresh from the Farm Zona Rosa’s 17 participating farmers sell everything from veggies and herbs to jams and baked goods, most organic. Briarcliff Village also sponsors a weekly Thursday night market from 3-7 p.m. Shoppers browse for organic meat, potted plants, spices, jams, bread, pies, cookies, local honey and fresh produce – all from local growers. “I bought some asparagus last week, and the guy said they cut it two hours ago,” says Brian Votava, Briarcliff Village’s project manager. “That’s pretty amazing.” Both markets have developed a loyal clientele that ranges from business people on their way home from work to dedicated participants in the slow-food and healthy food movements. Restaurateur Jonathan Justus’s com­mitment to serving locally raised organic meat and produce has helped propel his Justus Drugstore Restaurant into a nationally known dining spot. New York chefs, famed food critics and a movie star or two have been spotted there. Focus on hometown Flavor A much-traveled chef, Justus and his wife, Camille, developed their fondness for local produce, meat, dairy and fish while running a restaurant in France. In 2005 they moved back to his hometown, Smithville, to open a unique eatery in the building where his family had operated a pharmacy for generations. The hometown location made sense. But why the local ingredients? “The way we think of farming in general is that people are prepping their soil with additives that make plants grow fast and get a high yield but are damaging to the flavor,” says Justus, who with his wife contributed the design and hands-on labor for the Drugstore’s renovation. “The details of flavor, texture, getting the very best from using the very best, means using things from local producers.” Justus ticks off his suppliers like friends invited to a pot-luck supper: chicken and eggs from Carol and Jay Maddock; arugula, chives and parsley from Jane Phillips; dairy products from Shatto Farms; pork from Paradise Meats; honey from Northland Honey Farm; microgreens, peas and sunflower shoots from Five a Day Farms. And the list goes on. “The food that excited me in my travels is food that has flavor,” he says. “Unfortunately people have become used to things that are flavorless. Using the products I use from local farmers gives me flavor.”