Kings Park restaurants cooking local produce
A growing number of Kings Park restaurants are purchasing their produce and other items from local farms and businesses at the Kings Park Farmers Market.
Participants say the practice ensures local businesses support each other, while bolstering the local economy and creating a community.
"It gives money to the growers so they can keep coming back . . . and it's a selling point for the restaurant," said Shane Mott, manager of Cafe Red, while recently shopping at the market. "It's a circle for everyone, and no one loses."
The market, which is in its third season and is open Sundays through November on Route 25A, also offers restaurants an opportunity to try new ingredients, like the Japanese kabocha squash Mott purchased from Julie Yen, who co-owns D & J Organic Farm in Yaphank.
"Cut it, scoop it out, and steam the whole thing," Yen said of how to prepare the squash, which Cafe Red turned into a soup that is one of this week's "farmers market specials," which the restaurant has served since July.
Steve Cardello, co-owner and chef of Relish, has been buying items such as hydroponic lettuce, heirloom tomatoes and local eggs from market farmers for more than two years. "If you meet the person who's growing your food and have a conversation with them, you feel good about it," he said.
Though it costs twice as much for Cardello to purchase 250 dozen local, free-range eggs each week, he says quality and freshness make up for the cost.
"When you're getting . . . a tomato that's never been refrigerated, never sat on a truck, never been gassed, or a piece of lettuce that was picked the morning you're getting it," he says, "it's undeniable that the food just tastes better."
Wendi Johnston, manager of Sombrero's Southwest Grill, said she plans to shop this Sunday and begin offering specials made with farmers market items on Tuesday.
She said the restaurant will "try it out" next week and if it works well, may continue featuring farmers market specials on the menu.
"They've got really great product over there, and they've got really great people," she said. "You want to buy from them. . . . You want to help your neighbor."
Neighbors helping neighbors was the theme Aly Elish-Swartz, co-founder of the market and member of the Kings Park Civic Association, which co-sponsors it, wanted when she began reaching out to restaurant owners.
"I just thought it would be a nice, symbiotic relationship to have the restaurants help the market and the market help the restaurants, while serving people amazing produce and amazing food," she said. "It's about developing the relationships and . . . making the connections. I think that's what the market has done."
Matthew Acerno, co-owner of Ciro's Italian Restaurant, said he "definitely" plans to check out the market soon and determine whether he can incorporate items there on his menu. "I like the idea of locally grown," he said. "I think it's a nice thing to feature."
Customers say they like the trend. "I think it's a great idea," said Suzanne Hildebrandt, 54, of East Northport. "I'm a big supporter of local. . . . It's good for everybody."