The Year In Culture

Organic, sustainable, local: The words that now dominate food

Organic, sustainable, local: The words that now dominate food

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It's all about where your dinner came from these days. Courtesy of Urban Harvest
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Haven has its own garden and it proudly prints on its menu where the dishes have been sourced. Photo by Barbara Kuntz
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Big or small, growing your own, is all the foodie rage. Courtesy of Urban Harvest
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News_Marene Gustin_Haven_garden_Kevin Naderi
News_Joel Luks_community gardens_Alabama Gardens_Mr. Christian_Allotment garden

Editor's note: This is first in a series of articles CultureMap will be running this last week of 2010 on The Year in Culture. The stories in this series will focus on a few key points, things that struck our reporting team about the year rather than rote Top 10 lists or bests of. First up: The words that changed food.  

For wine enthusiasts, it’s fun to order a bottle at a local restaurant from a winery that you’ve been to, whether it was in Napa Valley or vineyards in Spain. For local food lovers, it’s even more exciting to eat a whole meal from ingredients that might have come literally from the chef’s backyard.

The focus on using locally grown ingredients and eating foods where the origins and nutrient patterns are revealed (and often printed on the menu) peaked in 2010. It was more prevalent this year for restaurants to showcase changing menu items to pair with what they found at the farmers market or what their suppliers were selling that week. The terms “locally grown”, “organic” and “sustainable” were definitely the foodie buzz words of the year.

At Haven, Chef Randy Evans and his menu have local ingredients italicized to let patrons know where their food came from. Haven proudly shows off which ingredients are from Texas farmers, ranchers, artisans or boatmen (is that a new term for fishermen?). In addition to using local foods, Evans’ dishes are created so elegantly that each ingredient is displayed at its best.

Monica Pope’s t’afia is probably the most well known restaurant when it comes to supporting local. Not only can you trust that her menu items will be innovative, colorful, and feature nearby fresh ingredients, but she supports Texas businesses by hosting The Midtown Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning.

The Highland Village Farmers Market (HVFM) and City Hall's Urban Harvest Farmers Market are two of the newest players to the weekly farmers market circuit around town, featuring fresher versions of your grocery store favorites. Everyone who participates in shopping at a farmers market is  a winner — the vendors get to sell directly to the consumer, and the consumers get to see where their food comes from. Eggs really do have a different color when they come straight from the farm. All HVFM growers practice organic and sustainable farming.

Houston restaurants and farmers markets make it easy for you to know where your food comes from and help you make a well-educated decision on what you’re eating. Dining really becomes a different experience when you trust your food source and can enjoy each ingredient knowing it's served in its purest form straight from the farm.