I am sure I am not the only one who has made up recipes based on what was bought that day at the farmers market. If you are lucky enough to have one nearby (Hilton Head Island Farmers Market opens April 1 and Bluffton’s Farmers Market opened on March 17) and you are a foodie like me, it is difficult to stay away. Just last weekend, I came away with a bagful of crispy radishes, a bunch of neon-red beets and my creative juices reinvigorated after a stop at a large Atlanta area market, the Dekalb farmers market, while away for the weekend. Whilst I am not exaggerating when I state I could have blissfully spent the entire day between the stalls, I will acknowledge my self-sacrifice in leaving after only about an hour – husband and 3 year old in tow. Better for us all to leave now I thought – before the slightly beleaguered pre-schooler gets fussy (i.e. loud & weepy) and the hubby gives me that, “are you done yet” look, again.
But I was content and good-to-go with everything I needed to make a yummy dinner plus a chance to play around with some über-fresh ingredients in my sister’s large kitchen. For those who are lucky to live in Hilton Head Island or are visiting the Island and environs for any stretch of time, the availability of local, seasonal ingredients from the farmers market is a summer bonus – a boon for foodies and local chefs alike. So if your Island weekend away will not include an encounter with pot nor pan, know this – local, seasonal “farmers market” freshness is as close as a fabulous dining experience at one of the Island’s Fresh on the Menu member restaurants or businesses.
With much enthusiasm, WiseGuys Executive Chef and Manager, Russell Keane, chatted about the FOTM program and why serving local, in-season ingredients has been a success factor for his restaurant.
“Buying local ingredients is a food trend that makes sense. The reasoning is simple: It’s good for you, it’s good for the local economy and it’s good for the environment. But the most important reason? Food produced as organically as possible and served in-season and cooked with care simply tastes better,” Chef Russell explains. The restaurant has been buying local and using sustainable methods as much as possible for years.
“We are partnering with local farmers to not only supply us with fresh locally grown products from a farm near us in the area, but also to help recycle restaurant waste by composting discarded kitchen scraps like vegetable ends, peelings and eggshells,” he added. “Once we begin serving the produce grown in the compost material we provided, it completes a circle – there’s less waste and it’s a good feeling to know that we’re helping to do our part.”
Chef Russell also shares with me that he believes the Island is close to an epiphany of sorts – with the opening of the farmers markets, additional small farms start-ups and more sustainable methods being used by individuals and businesses – the time is right for Hilton Head Island to lead the area in supporting locally grown and produced foods.
Chef Russell said, “The public is more aware than ever of the health and taste benefits of eating locally, organically and in-season. From a cost stand-point this need will increase the demand for locally grown products, and this uptick will be a win-win situation for the farmer, the restaurateur and the consumer.”
Right on Chef Russell! Knowing what you’re eating and where it came from is an axiom of knowledge which no one should need to speculate about – no matter if it’s at a marvelous restaurant like WiseGuys or your own dining table. Of course, I begged and Chef Russell caved – so here’s the famous WiseGuys Mussels with Smoked Bacon, Chives & Gorgonzola Crazy Water. Enjoy!
PS. I would be remiss if I did not note that WiseGuys also offers up a ‘Gluten Free’ menu – creative rifts on WiseGuys favorites and some additional treats. Thanks Chef for looking out for ALL of us!
Steamed Mussels with Smoked Bacon, Chives and Gorgonzola Crazy Water
Chef Russell Keane
1 lb. fresh mussels
1 oz salted butter
2 oz dry white wine (Chenin Blanc if available)
1 tsp. fresh chopped garlic
1 oz fresh chopped chives
2 slices apple smoked bacon – cooked crispy & rough chopped
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
1 oz apple cider vinegar or hard cider
1 oz gorgonzola cheese (can substitute blue cheese if needed)
Rinse mussels under cold running water and remove any seaweed beards or barnacles still attached. In a small saucepan over medium heat add butter and garlic and cook gently for about a minute. Add wine, cider vinegar, crushed red pepper and gorgonzola cheese – reduce over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring gently to melt cheese. Add mussels, bacon, and chives – cover and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes until mussels open up. Remove from heat and serve immediately.