As more consumers value knowing where their food comes from, North Dakota chefs are getting in on the action, serving seasonal, local dishes that showcase the state’s diverse agricultural bounty.
Pirogue Grille in Bismarck was founded by husband-and-wife team Stuart and Cheryl Tracy. Stuart has been the chef at the restaurant since it opened in September 2005.
Stuart says they try to use local ingredients and proteins as much as possible.
“We plan the menu seasonally, so you have your herbs, onions, zucchini, lots of rhubarb and asparagus when they’re available,” he says.
They source lamb from nearby Oregon and bison has always been from North Dakota. “The bison medallions are by far my favorite dish to make,” Stuart says. But the locally sourced ingredients include some of North Dakota’s larger commodities as well.
He adds that most consumers really like to make the connection back to the land with their food.
“Most people in North Dakota who are native North Dakotans are probably only two or three generations from living off the land,” Stuart says. “There still tends to be a connection there that’s not that far back.”
In Fargo, The Hotel Donaldson has recently stepped away from its reputation as a fine dining establishment to adopt a more casual dining feel. Although the menu has changed and the options are more budget-friendly for consumers, Chef Ryan Shearer says they still pride themselves on quality ingredients and superlative execution of technique.
“We have always worked with local farmers,” Shearer says. “We like to use produce grown within 100 miles of the hotel, but use plenty of smaller farms in Minnesota as well.”
He adds that typically, the menu is based off of growing seasons, using ingredients such as tomatoes, microgreens, asparagus, chives, parsley, squash, onions, mushrooms, oats and more. Not only does this provide fresh food for diners, but it also teaches them to eat within the season and understand that certain ingredients are not available year round.
“I think the majority of our customers really enjoy knowing where their food comes from,” Shearer adds. “Or at least knowing it came from close by. In years to come, I would like to think that knowing where our food comes from becomes even more important.”
Shearer says that one thing he appreciates most about his chef-farmer relationship is seeing the care that goes into the production process.
“It’s easy to write off fresh produce when you see it come in a box off a truck,” he says. “But when you see a farmer bring in a bucket of tomatoes that smell like summer, you can feel the connection not only with these people that work very hard at their craft, but also with the earth. That’s something I think a lot of people have forgotten, especially in today’s age.”