Anthony and Alyssa Roost became part of a culinary revolution when they committed to using local farm-fresh ingredients for the recipes of the dishes and entrées served in their Attraversiamo Restaurant. Anthony said that, to the extent possible, every item on his Cal-Ital menu is made from ingredients grown or raised within 100 miles of the restaurant’s Streets of Brentwood location.
Using locally sourced ingredients is the theme of a growing farm-to-table (aka farm-to-fork) movement, offering a style of food service with origins that reach back to at least 1978 with the founding of the Organically Grown Company in Eugene, Oregon. The movement gained strength in the 2000s to the point that by 2015 The American Farm to Table Restaurant Guide listed restaurants in more than 30 states.
Farm-to-table is more than a passing fad or marketing gimmick because the movement is a natural extension of Brentwood’s agricultural culture, with roots stretching more than 100 years into the past and that continue to thrive in the present. Harvest Time in Brentwood, for example, channels the efforts of more than 45 members of the local farming industry into a year-round effort offering educational programs and especially products including fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts — plus such retail products as pies, gift baskets, and gourmet treats. Numerous U-Pick stands sell products on a drive-in basis. Every spring, especially during Memorial Day Weekend’s cherry harvest, association members welcome 180,000 visitors to the area from all around Northern California, plus other states and even foreign countries.
Anthony is a board member with the Agricultural Committee, which is cooperating with Harvest Time to channel the host of amateur harvesters into taking advantage of the shops and restaurants in Brentwood’s downtown and at the Streets of Brentwood.
Brentwood is a near-perfect location for making the farm-to-table magic actually happen. Our Mediterranean-type climate and soil provide a year-round supply of diverse and high-quality ingredients for Attraversiamo’s seasonal recipes. The corn is sweeter, the stone fruit is juicier, and the vegetables tastier. Anthony noted that the crops do not plant and harvest themselves. We should respect the farmers who for generations are out in their fields every morning, often before daylight, and many times only return home with evening sunset. Anthony said, “Let’s be thankful to them for dedicating themselves to ensuring the quality products and produce that enrich our mealtimes and our lives.”
Anthony said that the Agricultural Committee is on a specific mission to promote relationships between farms and restaurants. It is a worthwhile endeavor because the farm-to-table culinary style offers some distinct advantages both for diners and for the planet. For one thing, dishes are naturally healthier and more appealing when made with ingredients that were freshly delivered from local sources. East County eating establishments that utilize regionally grown products provide diners with unparalleled nutrition and taste advantages. For example, tomatoes that were harvested yesterday morning in a field within hiking distance will obviously be tastier and more nutritious than those harvested from a Central American factory farm ten days ago. The local ingredients found in everything from a hamburger to the orange, walnut, gorgonzola, and mixed greens in an elegant salad provide special taste qualities that anyone could notice and that gourmet diners will seek.
The farm-to-table style also has economic advantages. Purchasing local products eliminates long-distance shipping costs. More importantly, perhaps, payments made for products purchased from local farms, ranches, breweries, and vineyards end up in the pockets of the owners and their employees. The money is then recirculated within the community, as they use at least part of their profits and income to purchase local products and services. Doing so strengthens the local businesses and supports the employees in the establishments where they buy groceries, services, and retail products — and (of course) supporting the owners and staff of the eating establishments where they dine.
The farm-to-table culinary style is green, which is another advantage. Many of the local farms and ranches utilize solar energy, employ organic farming methods, and reduce waste. Furthermore, using local ingredients eliminates the pollution and fossil fuel consumption that would otherwise be associated with long-distance shipping, Anthony said that his farm-to-table culinary style is part of a regional movement with Sacramento as its hub. In 2012, Kevin Johnson, who was the Sacramento mayor at the time, officially bestowed upon the region the official designation as America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital. The mayor had good rationale for doing so because Central Valley serves as a breadbasket for the entire country and foreign nations, with more than 150 varieties of crops, a regional agricultural economy valued at 7.2 billion dollars, and more than 1.5 million acres under cultivation. The region is also home to more than 40 thriving farmers’ markets.
Anthony said that Brentwood’s farms, ranches, vineyards, breweries, restaurants, and individuals work together to support the local culinary and agricultural industries. Committees and agencies in the city and county are focusing on core agricultural sector issues such as anticipating future labor requirements, promoting innovation, assessing production needs, and improving food distribution channels.
“Better in Brentwood” is more than a slogan. Anthony said that the ingredients in his recipes incorporate products from 16 local vendors including organic fruits and vegetables, honey, beef, chicken, seafood, and even coffee.
Anthony said that high-quality local dining opportunities are reversing the tide of residents that historically flowed out of Brentwood as they sought fine dining “over the hill” in places like Walnut Creek, San Francisco, and Berkeley. “We are helping residents to discover premier-level dining opportunities right here at home,” Anthony said.
He reported that Brentwood itself is becoming a culinary destination. Attraversiamo has served diners who have come from Livermore, Walnut Creek, San Francisco, and Oakland to sample the fare that they’ve learned about in the press and social media, read about in reviews by enthusiastic gourmets, and heard about from friends and acquaintances. Anthony said that their rising reputation is well deserved because, for example, he paired McGrail Vineyards’ Kylie Ryan Rosé with an entrée made from Brentwood sweet corn to defeat 20 other contestants and take home the Best White Wine Pairing trophy at Livermore Valley’s “Taste our Terroir.”
Anthony said that many local products end up as ingredients in Michelin Star Restaurants around the country.
By way of summary, Anthony said, “We take their awesome stuff and put it on a plate.” The fact is that there might be no place in the world where it would be as easy for him to keep his Attraversiamo’s farm-to-table dishes supplied with fresh local-grown ingredients than right here.
“Better in Brentwood” might be the actual truth.
Photos By Ron Essex