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Eating Globalocally

When I was first discovering fine cuisine and great wines several years ago, the food world was an exciting international bazaar.  My guidebook was Gourmet magazine, still in its glory days before being dumbed down and left for dead, with its great food travelogues and intriguing and challenging recipes. Part of the challenge was just in trying to find the ingredients or reasonable substitutes.  Not living in New York, I had to scramble to gather the right spices from the Orient, grains from South America and fruits from New Zealand.  Julia Child was the reigning queen of food, cooking was exotic, and I loved it.

Then gradually we became aware of all the treasures that were growing in our backyards.  Morels gathered in a nearby apple orchard were just as rare as buying white truffles rooted out in the hills of Piemonte.  Gnarly, locally grown heirloom tomatoes became as fascinating as gnarly, purple potatoes dug up in Peru. Local wines had no trouble in competing with those with historical pedigrees.  Alice Waters was the reigning queen of food, the ingredients were fresh and chemical-free, and I loved it.

But now, I’m ready to move back somewhere in the middle and enjoy a cuisine that celebrates the glories of local ingredients blended with exotic ingredients that only come from somewhere else.  Call it “eating Globalocally.”

This was brought to mind recently when I was invited to the uber-local Blue Hill at Stone Barns for a luncheon hosted by the Bérénice Lurton.  Lurton is owner and winemaker at Bordeaux’ Château Climens, an old estate in Barsac that makes delicious Sauternes sweet wines (call them dessert wines at your own peril!) The purpose of the lunch was to show us the food-pairing flexibility of a sweet wine, a special one that is well-balanced with excellent structure and acidity.

But just as important to me was that the event showed how delightful a meal can be when “fresh and local” is blended with “far-away and exotic.”  For example, a Stone Barns pork liver terrine amuse went smashingly with a 2013 Cypres de Climens whose grapes were harvested along the banks of the Garonne and Ciron.  Even better were two vintages of Château Climens – 2005 and 2009 – matched with a winter squash salad with golden raisins, yogurt and toasted almonds.

Of course, living and eating globalocally isn’t limited to this one event.  At home, I love pairing a salmon filet from Alaska with a field-blend red wine from Va La Vineyards, practically my next-door neighbor in Pennsylvania’s Chester County.  And one of my favorite East Coast restaurants, the House of William & Merry in Delaware, mixes near and far-away ingredients in most of its dishes.  For example, Chef Bill Hoffman may use in a tartare locally grown beef and porcini mushrooms with not-so-local truffles and pecorino. Similarly, his cast-iron sweetbreads is a blend of far and near with wild mushrooms, arugula, Banyuls vinegar and aged parmigiana.

We need to always recognize that the farm to table movement has been great in getting us to buy, and give recognition to, local produce and artisanal foods which we ignored for too long.  And the movement has been crucial in getting us eat fewer over-processed, industrial foods.

But it shouldn’t be an either/or.  Buying local shouldn’t deprive us of the adventure and pleasures of one-of-a-kind international ingredients and artisanal foods.  There is room for both, often on the same plate, at our globalocal table.

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