Seek local knowledge.
This advice – demonstrated below – is valuable. The surprise is that today, local knowledge highlights aspects of both worlds – what’s local as well as what’s not.
Local residents who live in places we visit sometimes point us in directions we don’t consider very ‘local.’ This happens when we’re given directions to a Chinese or Italian and Mexican or French restaurant rather than being told to eat the local beef while visiting Texas, or seafood while on the coast of say, California or Italy.
The twist is that today the number of restaurants serving both Very Local food and wine, as well as Not Very Local food and wine, appears to be growing. What do these two factions have in common? A regard for uncommon quality.
Now, the story.
A motel clerk in Fruita, Colorado, recommended that I eat at the Hot Tomato.
“It’s where all the locals go,” she said.
Having visited a place called The Feedlot that provided heaping helpings a day earlier, I took her advice, walked a half mile to the Hot Tomato, drank a glass of New Belgium ale, ate a slice of pizza with green peppers and appreciated the lively and fun atmosphere and fantastic service. A young lady seated beside me at the bar named Chelsea had arrived for dinner with her motorcycle driving friend named Grant, having traveled the six miles together from Grand Junction. She offered me a slice of pizza, then offered another slice of local advice.
“Try Bin 707, in Grand Junction. Good food and wine.”
I decided to visit Bin 707, located on North 5th Street, the next day. The restaurant was clean, spacious, and well-lit by ample windows. A huge fan silently whirred overhead, while Adele music played as I walked in.
For lunch I ordered a grilled cheese and a glass of wine. The cheese was Seahive white cheddar (from Utah), the sauce was black pepper aioli, and the bread was grilled ciabbata. Excuse me for sounding ignorant, but I had to consult Wikipedia after lunch just to find out what aioli is (a type of garlic, olive oil, and egg sauce that originated in Provence, France).
Brunch served until 4.00 pm – every dayFor wine I chose Treana – a blend of Marsanne and Viognier by Austin Hope, from California’s Central Coast. I chose this because last year I listened to Austin Hope speak and sampled his Troublemaker wine while in California (http://vinoexpressions.com/2011/10/17/sunset-savor-and-syrah/).
The food was delicious and the wine excellent – buttery and balanced.
Before getting to dessert, I inspected the menu – both written, and on chalkboards. The selection of ‘artisan cheeses’ and meats were all from the U.S., but combined the local with the distant – including a house made pork head cheese roulade, Calabrese Soppresatte from Utah, beef Bresaola from Virginia, and ‘queso de mano’ aged Spanish style cheese from Colorado (and I thought I knew how to speak Italian and Spanish…ha! I had to consult not only Wikipedia, but Google Translate to decipher all of this later).
Most wines on the list were from California (including a Verdehlo and an Albarino), though a good number were from Colorado (such as a sparkling black Muscat from Palisade, and a Cabernet Franc from Grand Valley), and there was one from New Mexico (Gruet sparkling wine) and one Australian (a Frisk Riesling).
Whoever prepared this menu and wine list had hunted for quality and affordability at both local and non-local levels. The local choices show their allegiance to geography, while the non-local picks highlight their overall regard for quality – regardless its origin. This jewel of a restaurant may embody a growing trend throughout the U.S. – and perhaps much of the world – to produce fiercely unique menus utilizing the best quality local produce and wines, and then supplement these only with hand-picked non-local items that amplify the character of the menu.
To be faithful to serving local grub and drink, but also open to providing the best offered by the entire world takes a bit of courage. In the book Liquid Memory – Why Wine Matters, author and film maker Jonathan Nossiter (Mondovino) quotes the Portuguese poet Miguel Torga as saying, “The universal is the local without the walls.”
For dessert I ate a cranberry sorbet, and knocked back a glass of Petite Verdot Reserve from Colorado’s own Grande River Vineyards. The wine was mildly tart, like the sorbet.
Then, I had to go. It was time to visit the locale…using, of course, local knowledge.
Local advice is priceless. But quality knows no boundaries.