Do you know where the food on your plate came from?
I'm not referring to the grocery store from which you purchased it, but where it was actually grown or raised. If it's fish, there's a good chance it may be from China, as they are one of the leading exporters to the United States. The eggs in your omelette may be from a factory farm.
Chances are, if you shop at a large chain grocery store, you don't really know where your food comes from. This fact was highlighted just a month ago, when a massive egg recall took place because of contamination from salmonella. Two large factory farms produced the 380 million recalled eggs, which were sold under several different brand names. Consumers could only identify the allegedly contaminated eggs by checking a lot number printed on the carton.
The folks at Cafe Amano, 105 S. York St., are planning to change all that here in our fine town with their new, specialty, full-service butcher shop. Opening around the end of October, the Amano Boucherie ("butcher shop" in French) will specialize in locally sourced cuts of meat, poultry and produce. Many of the items it will carry will be either free-range, vegetarian-fed or organically grown.
"We will carry a selection of both prime cuts of conventionally raised beef, as well as free range," Marco Conte, owner and chef at Cafe Amano, explained. "We'll also carry free-range, vegetarian-fed poultry, sustainable seafood and organic produce."
Conte said they will also sell exotic meats, such as bison, ostrich, elk and venison. These meats are significantly lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than beef, while also being higher in iron. They also have been raised free-range, meaning instead of being confined to pens, they are free to roam the pasture and graze.
"All of our products will be identified and sourced, so you'll know where it comes from. For example, all of our exotic meats will be purchased from BlackWing Farms," Conte said. "Our philosophy is to use local sources and businesses as much as possible; even our printers are from Elmhurst."
Conte recently vacationed in the French St. Martin, where he learned a great deal about food. Visiting the farmers markets daily, he noticed the produce was lush, ripe and tasty, and the cuts of meat were juicy and vibrant.
"The strawberries were the size of my thumbnail, not like the giant ones that you find here, and they were delicious. Everything was the size it used to be 10 years ago here," Conte said.
Much of our conventionally raised produce is either treated with fertilizers or may be genetically modified. In the United States, manufacturers are not required by law to disclose if a food has been genetically modified.
At issue currently is the newly developed genetically modified version of Atlantic salmon, dubbed the "Frankenfish" by some. The FDA is evaluating whether it will allow the GMO salmon to be sold in the U.S. It would represent the first genetically modified animal; until now only genetically modified produce has been sold.
Also at issue is whether the manufacturer is required to label the salmon as genetically modified. Environmental critics argue that the modified salmon could cause allergies in humans, and intermingle with natural fish and taint the population. They also are concerned that long term studies are not available to determine the effects.
Amano Boucherie, however, will not carry any genetically modified foods.
"All of our foods, both in the restaurant and in the butcher shop, follow the natural food chains. Any one of my servers can recite the exact ingredients in every dish we serve," Conte said. "We do not believe in processed foods. Many of our customers suffer from diabetes and other issues. They can rely on our foods."
Organic and free range meats and poultry are more expensive than conventionally raised foods, however. Conte said they will work to keep their prices as low as possible.
But since our diet in America is heavy on meats and low on vegetables, you can allay that higher cost by serving a smaller portion of meat and adopting the Mediterranean diet.
"Filling your plates with mostly vegetables and a smaller piece of meat is much healthier anyway," Conte said.
Amano Boucherie will also offer Chef's Table private dinners, featuring all the foods from the butcher shop and cooked by Chef Marco, as well as cooking classes. Call for more details.