When it comes to farm-to-table, you can always expect a freshly curated menu that incorporates the best of the local and seasonal harvests. In order to ensure that the freshest local vegetables, fruits, meats, and dairy products are on the menu each week, chefs work directly with local farms, farm-fresh co-ops, and farmer’s markets to make sure only the highest quality meats and produce are introduced to the ever-changing menu selections.
This is the farm-to-table model, bringing together local farmers and local restaurants to boost the local economy and provide the local community with the freshest seasonal fare possible. In this model, chefs work so closely with local farmers that they’re usually on a first-name basis, leading to each farm, market, and co-op to be credited with their contributions throughout the menu. This partnership is mutually beneficial to everyone involved. It helps to make sure that the items offered each week are of the highest quality, freshness, and grown as locally as possible. It also allows you to know where and from whom your food comes.
As the farm-to-table movement spreads from its roots in large cities to the rest of the country, we wanted to highlight some of the best farm-to-fork restaurants in the country while introducing you to some of the fruits and vegetables that are coming to a menu near you now that the fall harvest is in full swing. Each vegetable or fruit will include a special menu item from the farm-to-table restaurant that we’ve hand-selected, along with a wine or side pairing suggestion.
There are not many fruits that announce that fall has officially arrived more than the cranberry. There’s good reason for this as autumn is peak harvest season for these red and delicious berries, especially during the months of October and November. So when you’re out to eat, make sure to get your fill. You’ll likely find them in one of the many Fall Harvest salads available or from the dessert menu.
Restaurant of choice: Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar, Pennsylvania
Farm-to-table menu item of choice: Warm Autumn Squash Salad with ancient grains, sheep’s milk feta, dried cranberries, and a maple dressing
Pair with: Try it with a nice Chianti wine or a glass of unoaked Chardonnay
Grower’s tip: If you like challenges, growing cranberries is a good one for expert gardeners. Requiring meticulous soil preparation and a lot of patience due to a 3-4 year fruiting period, these berries are best suited to avid gardeners.
Although not as iconic a fall harvest vegetable as butternut squash or pumpkins, the mushroom is a staple veggie during this time of year because many mushrooms have reached their peak of growth. Not to be overlooked during your fall foraging, mushrooms such as white buttons, Cremini, Portobello, Oyster, and even Chicken of the Woods mushrooms are the best this time of year. You won’t have any trouble finding a variety of mushroom-rich dishes on the farm-to-table menus this fall, but we recommend getting your fix now while peak season is upon us.
Restaurant of choice: Founding Farmers’, Multiple Locations
Farm-to-table menu item of choice: Sausage and Mushroom Gnocchi
Pair with: Maple Roasted Brussels sprouts with Bacon or the Honey Scotch Carrots
Grower’s tip: If you’re interested in growing your own mushrooms, we recommend starting out with the Button variety called Agricus bisporus, as they are widely regarded as one of the easiest to grow. Once you have all of your supplies including spores, substrate of choice, and growing trays, your key to success is maintaining a warm (70 degrees) and moist growing environment.
Although you can grow Arugula almost any time of the year, it truly grows best during the cooler seasons like fall and early winter. This late-season harvest staple is best known as the leafy green in your favorite Fall or Winter salads. But as of late, the leafy vegetable has left the salads behind and is now starring in dishes such as pasta and pizzas. Arugula’s mild peppery taste makes it a great ingredient for adding subtle flavors to your dishes without overpowering.
Restaurant of choice: a(Muse.), Delaware
Farm-to-table menu item of choice: Free Range Chicken with Farro and Creamed Arugula
Pair with: Go for the Bennett Peach Soup or the local Royal Trumpet Mushroom for your appetizer or side
Grower’s tip: Arugula is a wonderful crop for gardeners of any skill level, and a great salad green for fall harvest salads. This peppery-tasting plant grows best in cool weather, which makes it great for this time of year. Getting the growing conditions right is key to a successful arugula harvest. If it’s too warm or hot, the greens will taste bitter and the flavor will suffer.
Probably the vegetable most associated with fall, and a huge inspiration for dessert and drink menus this time of year, the pumpkin is the classic poster-vegetable of the Fall season. Restaurant-goers and coffee drinkers alike know that once the cool weather comes, pumpkin and pumpkin spice everything can be seen on cafe and bakery menus from New York to L.A., and everywhere in between. Not only is pumpkin great for drinks and desserts, but it’s also rapidly becoming a staple of pasta dishes, soups, and more. Make sure to keep an eye out for pumpkin dishes as you explore the entree sections this fall.
Restaurant of choice: Local Kitchen & Bar, Montana
Farm-to-table menu item of choice: Handmade Pumpkin Ravioli (Fall menu availability)
Pair with: Keep it local with a Montana Brewing Company seasonal Clark & Daly Copper Ale
Grower’s tip: The best time of year to start growing pumpkins has passed, but it’s never too early to start preparing for next year! When planting pumpkins, it’s important to remember that they require space, and a lot of it, as the vines can extend out to about 5 feet. Make sure you’re planting your seeds on the edges of your garden. When the pumpkin fruit starts growing, the soil must stay moist. The plant requires lots of water to make big pumpkins!
Beets are not only one of the healthiest foods in the world, but also one of the more undervalued vegetables in the culinary sense. Trending upwards with the growth of the farm-to-table movement, in conjunction with its wide seasonal availability across North America, the beet is ready to take over your table. No longer relegated to beet salad or Borscht, the beet can now be widely found on dessert menus, cocktail menus, and paired with cheeses like feta and blue cheese. Make sure you give this superfood root a fresh chance this fall as you peruse the menus.
Restaurant of choice: The Little Beet Table, Chicago & New York
Farm-to-table menu item of choice: Beet & Chickpea Burger with bibb lettuce, hibiscus onion, white bean avocado, and sweet potato
Pair with: Beets & Caramelized Fennel with pickled pearl onion, watercress, and thyme-mustard dressing
Grower’s tip: Beets are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. Plant it, water it, give it sunlight, and watch it grow. When it comes to beets, don’t overthink them and don’t overwater them. For best results, grow during the spring and fall months when it’s cooler outside.
If you enjoyed learning about the farm-to-table movement and the freshly harvested fall vegetables then you need to read our Hungry Gardener’s Guide to the Fall Harvest article!