Locally-sourced produce, meats and other supplies are always going>"/>
Locally-sourced produce, meats and other supplies are always going to taste better. Getting to know your farmer, your rancher, will allow you to procure supplies that have been raised or grown better, harvested at the peak of freshness, and put to use in the restaurant as closely as possible to the moment they were taken from the ground. All of this will lead to product that is far superior to anything you can get from the big, national suppliers.
Yes, there have been other reasons for going local (not the least of which being that customers still seem willing to pay a premium for locally grown or sourced ingredients), but among chefs and high-end home cooks, taste (or at least the fantasy of taste) has often been the primary rallying cry.
Only now, the folks over at Nation's Restaurant News have put that to the test. Not a big test, and far from a scientific test, but still--they did a three-chef (and one wine expert) taste test of various local-versus-supermarket ingredients and published their findings yesterday. I think the results might surprise you...
Here's the set-up, via NRN:
"Nation's Restaurant News gathered a panel of chefs at Elements restaurant in Princeton, N.J., and compared two prune plums -- one from a supermarket and one locally grown -- an organic chicken from Colorado and another organic one raised on a central new Jersey farm, the hearts from those two birds, and lamb grown on an organic farm in central New Jersey served beside a Colorado lamb bought at a supermarket.
New Jersey wine made with Bordeaux grape varietals was sampled alongside an actual French Bordeaux."
So how did the experiment shake out? Well, more often than not, the three chefs (Scott Anderson of Elements, David Felton, executive chef of Ninety Acres in New Jersey, Patricia Williams, chef of Smoke Jazz & Supper Club in NYC, and wine expert Emilia Sparatta of Elements) either couldn't tell the difference between the local and the store-bought, or liked the store-bought better.
Yes, there were some mitigating factors. And yes, anyone who has ever tried to do something like this before will tell you that any sort of blind tasting experiment where the popular outcome is already known is really hard (expectation has a tendency to seriously mess with the tasters' heads). But the results are still interesting.
You can see the full article on the NRN website right here, but the thing that I found most interesting was the conclusion.
This is the last line in the NRN piece: "Lesson learned -- local food and wine, which is one of the hottest trends in the industry today, may be mostly hype."
So what do you folks think? Is the locavore movement, particularly in restaurants, mostly hype? Is taste the only reason for shopping and eating local? And in your own experience, how have you found the difference between local and store-bought supplies, and is it enough to justify the price?