For some, eating locally is nothing novel, but rather a way of life. But there are still many Americans who don't subscribe to local eating, not experiencing the bounty of ingredients in their own backyards. In an effort to put locally sourced fare in the spotlight, National Eat Local Day was created by Prairie Grass Cafe's Sarah Stegner and Cindy Kurman of Kurman Communications, Inc. The holiday takes place every fall equinox, which this year falls on September 22, serving to encourage restaurants to offer at least one locally sourced menu item for the day. The roster of participating chefs includes national names such as Alice Waters (Chez Panisse, Berkeley), Nora Pouillon (Restaurant Nora, Washington, D.C.), Jamie Leeds (Hank's Oyster Bar and Lounge, Washington, D.C.), and Norman Van Aken (Tuyo, Miami), in addition to Chicago chefs Mark Grosz (Oceanique), Paul Fehribach (Big Jones), Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill and Topolobampo), and Stegner and George Bumbaris (Prairie Grass Cafe).
Each restaurant will offer special menu items for National Eat Local Day. Big Jones' offering is fried green tomatoes with baby lettuces, aïoli, and deviled egg puree. Oceanique features eggplant with heirloom carrots and tomatoes, seasonal mushrooms, Tropea onions, and leek-basil broth; as well as fennel, arugula, Tropea onion, and peach salad. Rick Bayless prepares a plethora of dishes, including grill-roasted corn with homemade sour cream, Anejo cheese, and chile; and chicken in Oaxacan mole with local vegetables and masa dumplings at Frontera Grill, plus ensalada clasica, lamb three ways, and Borracha salsa at Topolobampo. And at Prairie Grass Cafe, Stegner and Bumbaris will serve heirloom cherry tomato and bread salad; a salad of green and wax beans; homemade lamb sausage with grilled honey-glazed heirloom pumpkins; Lake Superior whitefish; and for dessert, warm plum crumble with oats and creme anglaise.
(Homemade lamb sausage at Prairie Grass Cafe)