TABLE 17 is rated number one in the top 10 'farm to table' restaurants in Toronto - so on that basis we definitely thought it ought to be worth a dinner reservation…and it was. The interior was eclectic in decor, and intimate, the food was delicious, and chef made a much-appreciated effort to provide the vegan half of the party with a delicious and well-presented veggie plate. There are times that it feels as a non-carnivore my meal orders are treated a little contemptuously by chefs (but that’s for another blog).
My omnivore dining partner ordered the house made ham hock terrine, which was delicious (the starter actually had two slices of terrine but the by the time we took the photo one had already been devoured).
The 'country-style' terrine was chunky, flavorful and with just enough saltiness from the curing process to make it a perfect start to the meal. This was followed by a main course of local Lake Erie pickerel, so things were looking good for getting the answers to my questions about the farm sources. Chatting to our waitress about the suppliers she proudly announced that chef knew exactly where all his meat came from and that she would have no problem in getting the information for me. Turns out she did (have a problem getting the information) and chef said he didn't know the individual farms that supplied his meat. Disappointed and feeling somewhat cheated (remember - “number one farm to table”) I wrote to the restaurant the following day expressing my dismay. Within a short while I received an apologetic email from the manager saying that the chef had been too busy to list the meat suppliers during dinner, however he went onto say this was no excuse and my contact information should have been obtained and the required information provided out of restaurant service hours. In response to my email it had been the job of the commis chef to put all the information together and the manager provided me with a detailed list of their suppliers - from the duck all the way to the elk.
To get an idea of the raising methods of the farms which supply Table 17 I am relying on Internet searches (not being a Toronto resident) and importantly reading between and behind the 'blurbs' on the various websites. My findings and interpretations can be found below, but in summary Table 17 gets top marks for taste, ambience, supplier knowledge and now of course transparency.
The lesson learned for me as a consumer is whenever possible try and extract the farm information outside of a busy dinner-time - however, PR is indispensable for the reputation of a restaurant and I believe every effort should be made to take care of the customers' questions in a professional manner without resorting to dismissive tactics, especially in this new dining era of ‘know your farmer know your food’.
The dining experience, which this page is hoping to exemplify, is that dining-out is a series of relationships, from the farmer to the chef to the customer - history has shown us that it is no coincidence that the break down of these relationships has accompanied the general demise in food production in the last half century. However, what is very exciting is that just a few years ago a network like Farm 2 Belly could not have existed - but in our new ‘food intelligence’ epoch there are many restaurants to shout-out about where transparency and a respect for the grass-roots ingredients are linchpins in the final dishes on the tables of restaurants.
THE FARMS & SUPPLIERS
THOSE MEETING THE F2B HUMANE PROTOCOL
KUNAN FARMS (pork)
SECOND WIND, (elk)
BEVERLEY CREEK (lamb)
CUMBRAE'S (lamb only )
THE OTHER SUPPLIERS AND PRODUCERS
CUMBRAE'S (ham & bacon)
ONTARIO HARVEST (pork)
GEORGE MCGEE (beef)
KING COLE DUCKS (duck)
We were unable to find the website for Kunan Farms and have gleaned the information through third party Blogs - however it would appear that this is a Mennonite farm raising free-range heritage Duroc pigs. All the grain fed to the pigs is grown on the farm.
Cumbrae's a Toronto butcher, opened it’s doors 10 years ago by third generation butcher Stephan Alexander whose aim was to supply Toronto consumers and restaurants with local quality meat.
It has become a co-operative of 70 farms. All the spring lamb as far as I can ascertain is raised on pasture. Beef is also supplied to Table 17 from Cumbrae’s but for the most part the beef cattle are finished in barns on grain and silage at age 14 months…bearing in mind that under the industry's standards calves are shipped out to feedlots straight after weaning.
A Farm 17 supplier worth mentioning is ONTARIO HARVEST (although more research is needed to itemize and investigate the individual producers) which specializes in Ontario meat produced under the following guidelines:- “Naturally & ethically raised, hormone & antibiotic free, specializing in game meats & game fowl, heritage breed products”.
GEORGE MCGEE Stirling ON is a beef supplier for the restaurant - however we couldn't find any information on this cattleman.
Manager David Upper
Reuse, repurpose and recycle are the three 'R's which come to mind when one first walks into Southbound, a tastefully converted 1880s drapery shop in Old Chamblee right across from the railroad tracks. Walking inside one immediately knows this is going to be something different with the prospect of something special! No expense and attention to detail has been spared in the refurbishment - what isn't reused, repurposed or recycled fits in perfectly with the rustic decor and ambience of the restaurant - even the 2014 poured concrete bar top fits right in with the old buckets that have been turned into light fixtures illuminating the bar.
Dennis Lange has orchestrated his new restaurant (two years in the making) perfectly and he is determined that his food is going to be as good as its surrounds. Dennis has been part of the Atlanta food scene for a good many years - one of the founding members of Slow Food Atlanta, hands on soil regenerator at Gaia Gardens home to Love is Love Farm Atlanta's renowned organic produce farm, and a respected figure with Georgia Organics - so he knows a thing or two about quality ingredients and the importance of buying local. The menu is American with an emphasis on good old Southern dishes, and in the evening dinner is in the control of chef Cooper Mills formerly of Livingston restaurant another great Atlanta eatery. My personal recommendation is to go for lunch as I think this is where the restaurant excels; featuring items such as a BLT with bacon to die for from our friend Rusty Bowers owner of Pine Street Market, and a pulled pork sandwich with pork sourced from no other than GA Berkshire hog farmer Tommy Searcy from Gum Creek Farms - what Southern menu isn't complete without this item. The chèvre, which accompanies the delicious local salad greens, comes from Decimal Place Farm (not only have we met the goats but have helped milk them too!!).
My only criticism (if i had one) is that the chef is a little heavy handed with the garlic - especially in simple veggie dishes, however Southbound is a wonderful addition to the Atlanta food scene and it is exciting to have such a great restaurant outside of the Atlanta city limits.
We will definitely be regular lunch patrons and wish Dennis Lange every success in his new venture. This is a word of mouth restaurant as it really is off the beaten track - the good news is that the word is getting out and the word is obviously good because the restaurant tables are full for lunch and dinner despite only being open a since June2014. Here's to local and here's to quality ingredients...and here's to the tasty future for Southbound.
The farms & Suppliers
THOSE MEETING THE F2B HUMANE PROTOCOL
Pine Street Market (bacon & charcuterie)
Gum Creek Farms (pork)
Decimal Place Farm (goat's cheese)
THE OTHER FARMS & SUPPLIERS
Springer Mountain Farms (chicken)
Heywood's Provision Company (local butcher's shop)
Heywood's Provision Company is a member of the Butcher's Guild and as such has taken the Butcher's Guild Oath. We intend to visit the shop and discover the farms which supply the meat as it isn't evident from their website.
Springer Mountain Farms chicken a popular choice for chefs in Georgia unfortunately their American Humane Association standards do not meet the F2B Humane Protocol. Here is the link for the standards, simply click onto broiler chickens pdf when you reach the page and decide for yourself whether these standards meet you personal requirements.