Bringing the farm to the table
A Q&A with Grana sous chef Sarah Jester
Many local farms rely not only on selling directly to consumers, but also on selling to folks in the restaurant industry who highlight their ingredients in fun and creative (and delicious) ways. One such eatery that embraces a farm-to-table philosophy is Grana Wood Fired Foods, where the menu changes with the seasons and the focus is always on quality as well as community. Sous chef Sarah Jester, who runs the kitchen day-to-day under owner/chef Jeff King, recently sat down with the CN&R to talk about the restaurant’s mission and why it works for her.
Tell me a little about Grana’s farm-to-table philosophy.
Farm-to-table for us, we always say, is not just a catchphrase. We really believe in bringing things from the farm—and advertising that. We like to tell people that we did get this cheese from Orland Farmstead. We did get these tomatoes from Farmalot or GRUB. Every time I do a special I try to remember to write down where things come from. We just really like supporting the community. You get fresher ingredients, higher quality ingredients because they’re fresher. It makes for better product all around. When you start with good ingredients, you get good results. I started working here partly because of the farm-to-table [commitment].
How does working with local growers influence your menu choices?
For instance, we haven’t had tomatoes since last October. When they came in a couple weeks ago—we got the first delivery of heirlooms from GRUB—we were like, “Yay! Tomatoes are back!” We get really pumped because we haven’t eaten the things in six, seven, eight months. You get more excited about the things coming around when you can’t have them all the time. It kind of forces us to change the menu—the seasons just dictate, which is kind of nice.
Do you find your customers appreciate that?
Some of them. It tends to be newer people who are frustrated with that. But a lot of our customers like that we change it up and that they know that the produce we’re getting here and the other things we’re getting here are really fresh. The faro beet salad that everyone loved—I couldn’t get faro anymore from Llano Seco, and then beets went out of season around the same time. We’re just not going to have that for a while; we’ll try something different. It can be a bummer for everyone when something goes out of season.
How do you use Orland Farmstead Creamery products?
We get their feta, their fromage [blanc] and their ricottage. Not necessarily in the same quantities all the time; it depends on what we’re making. We often do crustini with fromage or ricottage spread on it and then whatever seasonal toppings—I’m sure we’ll be doing tomato bruschetta. It’s just really delicious cheese. We serve it on its own—you can get a side of fromage anytime you come in, with whatever you order.