Interesting article in Here magazine (published Thursday July 19th, 2012)
Chef Stefan Müller of Delta Beauséjour in Moncton has offered a seasonal 100-mile menu for the fourth year in the hotel’s Windjammer restaurant. He grows a garden on the hotel rooftop and uses products from the garden and from local farmers, among them Verger Belliveau Orchard and Springbrook Farm of The Really Local Harvest co-op.
Uber-local dining : 100-mile menu provides fresh dishes, supports local producers
by Victoria Handysides
Chef Stefan Müller kneels and reaches into the centre of a lefty row of potted plants lining the Delta Hotel’s downtown rooftop. He pinches a ripe yellow tomato, gently twists it off the plant and holds it out in offer.
“This is when they’re best. Fresh off the plant and still warm,” he says.
The little yellow tomato is the first Müller’s picked so far this year. Soon, the rows of radishes, beans, potatoes, carrots, greens and herbs will be harvested and added to delicate dishes at the hotel’s Windjammer restaurant, a four-diamond, suit-and-tie eatery featuring a delectable 100-mile menu until the end of the growing season.
“It’s a lot fresher than what’s stuck in transportation for days, weeks or even months,” Müller said, dissecting a few dishes on the full menu, which features four full pages of appetizers, soups, salads, entrees and desserts.
This marks the fourth year the Windjammer has offered a seasonal 100-mile menu. Müller says each year he and his kitchen staff concoct new dishes as an exercise in discovery. Recent searches for local ingredients have unearthed locally grown wild rice and curry plants.
Müller, a German-born executive chef, admits when he arrived in New Brunswick, he assumed seafood was the extent of food produced on the East Coast. The menu’s vast variety regularly surprises diners. Most don’t realize proteins like quail (from Petitcodiac), boar (from Knightville) and foie gras (from Cormier Village) can be found within a short drive from Moncton, he says.
Sourcing local raw foods is costlier and leaves the restaurant at the mercy of supply, which isn’t always readily available. Smaller-scale producers take more time to raise animals and grow vegetables, but the payoff comes when dishes are plated.
“They’re not produced in such volumes with growth hormones, so it takes a little bit longer to raise the animals. But at the same time, they have a much happier life,” he said. “They grow up the way they’re meant to, not in cage.”
Since the resto is a season-long, regular customer, the local producers the Windjammer supports (including Belliveau Orchard, Springbook Farms and the Moncton Fish Market) can rely on consistent revenue coming from the restaurant.
“You leave the money in the community and give the producers’ employees work. It’s a win-win for the community,” Müller said.
The closest producer supplying the downtown hotel’s local menu is a mere service elevator ride from the Windjammer’s dining room. The restaurant operates a large rooftop garden complete with busy bee hives, brimming with rich, golden honey. The garden has been there for four years, and it’s been growing in size each year.
While the garden won’t produce near enough to supply the restaurant’s entire 100-mile menu season, Müller says there’s a different kind of satisfaction in growing vegetables from seeds in early spring, watching them grow, harvesting in the summer and creating original recipes.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said.
To check out the Windjammer’s 100-mile menu, visit the restaurant inside the Delta Beausejour, 750 Main St. Moncton. For reservations, call 877-7137.