Last Bite

What’s Your Local?


Left to right: Ismail Samad, Elizabeth Ehrenberg and Alice James

Sunday afternoon in the Gleanery kitchen. The menu sits on the counter, more a short list of available ingredients than an actual description of what’s for dinner. There are almost no vegetables in the kitchen, and until there are, the menu remains untouched. We open for dinner in two hours and I’m starting to feel the pressure.

The manager comes back with a potential dinner reservation on the phone: The caller wants to know what’s for dinner. I shake my head. She covers the phone and asks, “Do you know if it will be red or white meat? They want to pick up their wine.” The caller makes the reservation, knowing only that their dinner will pair with white wine.

Fifteen minutes later, after wrapping up at the farmers’ market, dusty farm trucks pull up to the back door of our kitchen. The first one arrives and I hustle out to meet it. The farmer opens her gate, revealing all the vegetables that didn’t sell at the market that day. As we talk about how our respective mornings went, I peer inside eagerly.

She’s got a handful of little heads of lettuce. A very large bin of carrots sits in front of garlic scapes. As I tell the farmer what I would like, she pulls out her scale and weighs those carrots, scapes and fresh herbs. By this point in the season, she knows that I will take all of the husk cherries she has.

The salad comes together with those little heads of lettuce, quick-pickled scapes and a sprinkle of feta. The chicken will be pairing up with tarragon-poached carrots. Black lentils will round out the plate, providing balance in flavor and color. Husk cherries will balance atop the whipped cream on a chocolate cake.

We show commitment to our farmers by building our menus based on whatever they bring to our door. This commitment is reflected back to us in so many ways. The farmers make a last-minute vegetable delivery on Saturday morning after an extraordinarily busy Friday night. Everyone—the chefs, the farmers, the artisans who made the tables and plates, the community at large—everyone is willing to bend a little to play their part in having a great meal together.

Our local is the fact that we all depend on each other. Every night is Stone Soup for us.

Our own customers bought shares in our restaurant, taking the leap of faith to create the community they want to see. Now, they are willing to give up control of the menu just as we have, showing up happily to partake in that Sunday evening menu finalized just an hour before dinner.
—Alice James

The Gleanery
133 Main St.

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