One might think that local ingredients are hard to come by during a Massachusetts winter. But that hasn’t deterred Brian Dandro, executive chef at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge. “When I took over the signature restaurant, ArtBar, it lacked an identity, so I thought ‘what better to focus on than what’s available in our backyard.’ Now I’m passionate about putting together local purveyors,” he says.
Dandro defines “local” as “regional New England” to assure availability and variety. He works directly with Red Fire Farm, a grower out of Granby in western Massachusetts, for much of his produce supply. Both share the same sustainability philosophy; Red Fire grows organic vegetables and distributes through Metro Pedal Power, a cycling company. Throughout the winter, hardy greens have been growing in greenhouses and root vegetables, squash and potatoes are in storage. Until April, ArtBar’s menu is featuring dishes such as Roasted Beets, Shaved Fennel, Blood Oranges, Peppercress and House Made Ricotta and Georges Bank Sea Scallops with Roasted Parsnip Risotto Cake and Mushrooms.
Although Red Fire Farm is an excellent produce partner, “you can’t be too elite,” Dandro contends. He also buys from Costa, a local distributor with a viable farm-to-table program, and a few others. “With a 400-room hotel, sourcing regionally from several suppliers helps keep prices in check and availability consistent,” he notes. Dandro also goes beyond produce when it comes to local sourcing. “It’s not hard to put at least one ingredient into each menu item that’s locally produced,” he claims; there are cheese makers, meat producers, smokehouses and even a chocolate company nearby.
It goes without saying that Dandro is looking forward to the first crops of spring. “I’ll start by doing daily specials since the season can be really short for some items,” he says, referring specifically to fiddleheads from Maine, rhubarb, peas and asparagus. And he’s working up a “local page” for the hotel’s banquet menu as well.
Coming into season: