|Local Produce, Ingredients set Green Valley Grill Apart
Restaurant Review in The Business Journal of the Triad
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On the Saturdays when we manage to wake up early enough, my wife and I love to visit Greensboro’s farmers market across from memorial stadium.
Checking out what’s in season is almost as much fun as loading up on newly picked vegetables, ripe apples or figs, local honey or free-range eggs.
Each week we anticipate seeing familiar faces-the farmer who always picks the tiniest okra and the home baker with the rich lemon chess tarts. On any Saturday we also can count on seeing Dennis Quaintance and his wife, Nancy King-Quaintance, every available arm filled to overflowing with flowers and produce.
The couple whose company has established Luck 32 restaurants, the O.Henry Hotel and its Green Valley Grill, Obviously recognize that fresh, local produce translates into good cooking- and even better eating, especially at their Green Valley Grill, where my wife and I and recently sampled some veggies fresh from the field.
There’s even a mission statement on fresh vegetables, just as there’s a mission statement on just about everything at Quaintance Weaver Restaurants & Hotels.
“The Quaintance-Weaver Field Truck Program mission is to support the QWR first mission plank, which is ‘to offer the highest quality food and drink at a good value,’ by procuring fresh, locally grown (or made) food that explodes with flavor.”
Some of the “explosions” this past summer have included local leeks, squash, corn, eggplant, basil, cucumber, mushrooms, spinach and other greens and veggies.
Basil has come from Eagle Springs Farm in Pittsboro. Squash, arugula, shiitake mushrooms and zucchini have been provided by Rich and Deborah Davis at Dark Hollow Farm. Tomatoes have come from Craven Smith Greenhouses in Reidsville and Handance Farms in Reidsville.
By way of taste of the Triad’s anonymous e-mail address, I asked Mark File, QWR’s marketing director, whether using fresh produce was economical.
“Oh boy,” he wrote back, “don’t get us started on this question or we might just can the whole initiative! The program is a real pain relative to just bringing the food in on the big truck,” he said.
“We go out and pick it up, chit-chat with the farmers, then sign a makeshift invoice….The invoicing and payments are difficult. It is really easy for us to need more than the farmers have or not need as much…I could go on and on.”
So it is definitely more expensive?
“Yes, in raw food cost, plus the cost of the transportation and so forth. We can only justify the increased cost by hoping that the flavors and the goods will translate to more people wanting to dine with us.”
To be honest, I hope people have noticed and responded, as I have. In fact, on that same day that visited the farmers marketing in the morning, I was gratified to try some “Field Truck” tomatoes that were generously piled onto my BLT ($6) on the patio at Green Valley Grill. While I don’t want to belabor the obvious, I think the sublime sweet-and-tart taste of a genuine homegrown tomato is about as a good as it gets. Who need gourmet when you’ve got fresh?
What’s more, the “B” in the sandwich was Giacomo’s pancetta bacon. Giacomo, for anyone who has missed out, is an Italian grocer out on High Point Road who makes heavenly sausage, piquant soprasetta and fresh mozzarella. Other locally “made” ingredients come from the Goat Lady Dairy in Climax and Guilford’s Old Mill out beyond the airport.
The oven-roasted leek and Yukon gold potato soup ($4), which the server said featured fresh, local root vegetables, was rich and creamy, comfort food at its best. Also in the comfort category were fancy grit with Giacomo’s sausage ($8). If you’re used to instant grits, Old Mill grits, which require about a half hour cooking, are much more like polenta, only thicker and more substantial.
Dishes on the current menu that feature local sausages and cheese include the antipasti salad ($9.50), which was made with fresh peppery greens and Giacomo’s sausage, the Sicilian sandwich, buttermilk fried oyster salad, Florentine pizza, Parmesan crusted chicken and roasted lamb rack.
Our Server knew what dishes featured local produce and had obviously earned an “A” from lucky U, QWR’s training program for its associates. He was efficient, polite and nearby when we needed him.
Hurry, though: With the chill of autumn in the air, acorn squash and root vegetables are already replacing summer squash and the last of the of the greenhouse tomatoes. Old Man Winter waits for no one.
TASTE OF THE TRIAD is written by a local critic who, in order to avoid special treatment prefers to write anonymously.