Update: The price for the Ageless Cuisine benefit at the bottom of this post has been changed, from $150 to $125. Register for the event online here.
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Lyons was hosting a small group of local farmers whom he hopes to purchase produce from during the upcoming growing season, to accommodate a fresh, weekly portion of his new menu (due out June 2).
Having no prior close relationship with many of the region's growers, Lyons reached out to Pikes Peak Urban Gardens (PPUG) members Elise Bowan and Larry Stebbins to gather as many growers as possible to attend the dinner.
Lyons' message to attendees was simple: "How can we use this restaurant to help you guys?"
Steve Hitchcock of Pueblo's upstart Dragonfly Farm expressed both excitement for having a restaurant outlet for his small, organic crops, as well as skepticism, questioning whether he'd be able to compete with larger local entities who might produce more volume more consistently. Admittedly a new farmer, he also wasn't even sure of the going rate for many of his vegetables.
Lyons tried to reassure Hitchcock that he'd work to be equitable between farms, and that he wasn't worried about minor price points ("I'm not looking to nickel and dime you guys ... I can afford vegetables — we aren't talking about caviar"). Rather he expressed a need for pinning down consistent deliveries and working out good communication — at least a week's heads-up about what items are reaching prime harvesting time.
Nosh's chef says he aims to feature farms, by name, on the menu next to the ingredients they contribute. He also wants to design dishes that highlight each vegetable rather than just place them as a side, as exemplified by current menu items like his outrageously good Brussels sprouts, which are seasoned in part with Kochujang (a Korean chili pepper paste) and candied lemon zest are served over polenta with a manchego cheese garnish. Another example, Nosh's sickly delicious roasted cauliflower plate, features the widely unappreciated item mixed with caramelized onions, whole basil leaves and cashews in a roasted garlic miso sauce.
As an advocate for local foods myself, I can say that last night's dialogue was pretty inspiring, and it will be interesting to keep tabs on Lyons' weekly fresh sheet throughout summer to see if all these early hopes come to fruition, for both the chef and the farmers.
Several local outfits (The Margarita at PineCreek and Adam's Mountain Cafe, for example) are already pretty good about utilizing local produce, but Lyons is clear about wanting to take the local foods scene to a next level by truly spotlighting them on his menu and really pushing common food sensibilities with fairly far-out recipes (also look for trout heads, buffalo tongue and his take on chicken and waffles on the new menu).
Two side notes:
• Ryan Morris of Country Roots Farm and Beki Javernick of Javernick Family Farms both say that CSA enrollment is a little sluggish thus far this year; spots remain open for several of the smaller farm's CSA programs. As we said in our recent Insider Guide, Grant Family Farms is a great option once our smaller Arkansas Valley growers' CSAs have filled up.
• Lyons will be hosting an "Ageless Cuisine" benefit for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' CU Aging Center from 6-9 p.m., Thursday June 10 at the Lodge at UCCS. He'll be joined by co-Food Network stars Aaron McCargo, Jr. (winner of 2008's season four of The Next Food Network Star and current host of Big Daddy's House) and Adam Gertler (also a season four contestant and current host of Will Work for Food. Seats,
$150 $125, will be limited to 150 attendees.