Pretty great start to the Farm2Belly kick off at Empire State South
First of all, the space was amazing but the menu, right out of the gate was something really special. There was a wealth of heirloom vegetables and legumes and jumping out was the chicken from a farm we know and love GrassRoots Farm.
One of us was keenly eyeing the duck, and after asking its source and discovering it was Darby Farms ordered it for her entree. The duck was incredible - succulent, juicy and bursting with rich "gameynes", it tasted, well 'ducky' not just some mound of ubiquitous protein, and it was cooked to perfection (chef cooks it medium rare as standard which reflects the purity of the product in our opinion). Be wary of chefs who like to char or serve their proteins well done, this generally means the meat is either dubiously sourced or at the very least frozen - besides chicken of course. But even then, pasture raised chicken is generally a little more pink around the bones since there is more vascularity in the tissue because they actually move around. It was paired with a fresh crunchy corn succotash and a nugget of duck confit, that was just as good if not better than dessert!
Another sign of the real 'cheffing' that happens behind the scenes of Empire State South is the ease at which they prepared a special meal for Gillian, who is vegan (a real live vegan who supports sustainable farmers who raise animals humanely - she is a vegan because of the atrocities of Factory Farming and for that reason alone...), Chef prepared a wonderful vegetable plate with delicious local beans, greens, veggies and gourmet mushrooms.
We were fortunate to snag the chef... well accost him,.. Atlanta's own Josh Hopkins. We asked him where he sourced his meat, and he was able to list all the farms that supply his ingredients. His main focus is natural/pasture raised proteins and he stands strongly behind that philosophy. To name but a few of his suppliers: Grassroots Farm, Darby Farms, White Oak Pastures, and Riverview Farms.
In summation- Empire State South is a poster child for humane eats in a high end gastronomic haven that promises to, not only exhilarate the palate, but also avail ones quest to eat out and eat right. .
the farms & suppliers
THOSE MEETING THE F2B HUMANE PROTOCOL:-
BLOG: Grassroots Pastured Poultry: Taste the Difference
White Oak Pastures
BLOG: The Vegan and The Stockman
BLOG: The Stockman: Redux
THE OTHER FARMS & SUPPLIERS:–
Southeast Family Farms comprising of
Southeast Family Farms is part of Halpern’s which is referred to as their ‘farm to table’ side of the business. The five main farms comprising SFF are - Niman Ranch, Harris Ranch, Masami Beef, Two Rivers, & Joyce Farms. Interestingly, except for Joyce Farms, the suppliers are Mid and Western based.
Bill and Nicolette Niman no longer own Niman Ranch. They parted ways with the farm that Bill started at the end of the 1970s in 2007, and began a new farming venture, BN Ranch. One of the main reasons that Bill Niman cites for his departure :is because he felt that it "fell into the hands of conventional meat and marketing guys as opposed to ranching guys...You can't really ferret out how [the cattle] are being raised [now]."
Harris Ranch (not to be confused with the Harris Family of White Oak Pastures) is a massive beef feedlot (capacity 100,000 head of cattle) and processing facility out in California. From my understanding the main source for the Harris CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) comes from independent cattle ranchers i.e. outside producers.
Masami Food Inc cattle are born and finished on the ranch; the cattle are finished in barns on a concentrated grain feed formulated for the requirements of a grade 10 wagyu beef.
Two Rivers today is more of a brand than a ranch and supplies 100 distributors in 40 states. The head office is in South Dakota, and like Niman Ranch and Harris Ranch the animals will be auditable for quality control purposes, but otherwise untraceable for the regular Joe or Josephine Consumer.
Joyce Farms is a mixed bag – the beef is 100% grass-fed and the Poulet Rouge heritage chicken meets level 4 on the 5-Step Global Animal Partnership index, (which is almost top marks), However the raising methods for the rest of the livestock, including the 'regular' chicken, is unclear. I have written a mini blog on Joyce Farms as it is worth a fuller discussion due to its mixed standards.
Empire State South
Chef Josh Hopkins