For the past few years we at Green Valley Grill in Greensboro have been exploring new ways to bring the freshest, most flavorful foods to our guests while considering the triple bottom line of profit, environmental sensitivity and social responsibility. We call this our "Farm to Fork Initiative." To these ends we’re purchasing some of our meats and seafoods differently. We’re also bringing more and more local produce and artisan-made cheeses. We hope that this Initiative will have long-lasting effects that extend through-out our community. Some of our partners are local farmers who handpick their produce on just a couple acres, and others are larger companies that supply some of the best restaurants in the country with top quality ingredients. We have long believed that the nearer the farm to the fork the better the flavor. Allow us to introduce a few of our partners:
Kid in the Candy Store
By Chef Leigh Hesling (2013)
Growing up on a farm in Australia definitely spoiled me. I grew up in the tropics, and my family had a crazy amount of homegrown goodness. Anything grew—from peaches to persimmons—and where food came from was never a mystery. Looking back, I can now appreciate being sent to the garden to pick beans. We also raised a variety of animals, including cows that provided plenty of fresh milk. I watched my mother and grandma make jams and can vegetables and fruit, which taught me the importance of food preservation. So, this trendy local food movement isn’t foreign to me. It’s sort of like déjà vu all over again.
Farming is in my blood, so I love being with farmers. Luckily, we have more than one great farmers’ market nearby. At the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, farmers set up daily, so I’m able to score great finds all the time. The cool stuff I find gets to ride back in comfort and style in my London “veggie” taxi. Give a wave if you see me scooting around town in this iconic jalopy…it’s really slick!
While the growing season got a late start this year, the markets finally are rocking! Strawberries have been here, and peaches, squash, zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes are starting to come in. I bet I’ll work with at least 20 farmers this summer, and I’ve built some special relationships with awesome folks like those at Burton Farms, Little River Produce, Parker Farms and Whitaker Farms.
May brings garlic scapes from Plum Granny Farm. Scapes are the flowering stalks of the garlic plant, and they are awesome grilled and chopped up in salads or omelets. The season for garlic scapes is short, so I’ll special them like crazy. As always, the Carolina strawberries have been so delicious. People can’t wait for PWB’s Strawberry Bibb Salad with roasted pecans, farmer’s cheese and rhubarb vinaigrette.
Every summer, guests absolutely freak out about the Moroccan Spiced Tilapia over a Greek salad of fresh peppers, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, olives and feta cheese at GVG. Seriously, it’s life-changing stuff! The summer fruit crostata—also at GVG—is always a hit, changing depending on what fruit is at its peak. I’ll visit the market three to five times a week to find the best peaches, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. We will be making all kinds of jellies like they’re going out of fashion! One of my favorites is Concord grape jelly. Fresh corn is another highlight of summer, and GVG’s smoked paprika scallops with creamed corn and spinach is an absolute must.
Now I am going to dedicate a whole paragraph to tomatoes. I could write a book, I love them so! Our guests could definitely taste the difference if we didn’t use locally grown tomatoes. Carrie, the “godmother” of the Triad Market, is my main tomato supplier. I use her gems in as many things as possible. At both restaurants, the tomato sampler will return, changing according to what varieties of tomatoes I can get at the market. There are so many different types, shapes and sizes of tomatoes, but hands-down my favorite is the Cherokee Purple. PWB will have a savory tomato bread pudding and tomato basil tart with zucchini chips. GVG lunch-goers really dig the grilled cheese sandwich made with homemade bread, heirloom tomatoes and vintage aged cheddar.
Last year, the coolest thing that happened to me was my apple guy selling me chicken of the woods mushrooms. Surprise! When I find something interesting, I create a special, like the wild-foraged mushroom risotto at PWB. I hope we’ll get to do that again at the end of summer and in early fall. However, Mother Nature’s calendar doesn’t always mesh with our six-week menu cycle! That really used to wig me out, but now I roll with the punches when it comes to my finds at the market. And I’ve realized that the farmers and our guests are really appreciative of this mentality.
Another cool story is that I buy a whole cow about every two weeks from Bobby at Bradds Family Farm. It’s a sustainable relationship, because we don’t leave Bobby with parts he can’t sell. The reason the Darn Good Burgers at GVG are so darn good is because the meat is from a single-origin, happy cow that comes from right down the road. We also make our own pâté at PWB and use the prime cuts over at GVG for wood-fired rotisserie specials.
I’m like a kid in a candy store at the market! I can’t wait to see how the season unfolds.
Try some North Carolina wines from our award-winning Wine List. The nearby Yadkin Valley is designated as the first viticultural appellation in North Carolina. There are 150 appellations in United States, including 14 in the southern region. A region can gain an appellation if its soil, growing season, climate and amount of rainfall vary from the surrounding areas. The Yadkin Valley is very distinct with soil that is clayey, well-drained and moderately fertile, which are excellent qualities for grape growing. In the past five years, the number of wineries in North Carolina has leaped from 15 to 40. Take a tour of central North Carolina Wineries.