A World of Unique Character and Natural Beauty

Island Farm to Table

February 19, 2012      Author : Kate Hotchkiss Taylor    Category: Food      0 Comment(s)

"My cooking depends on amazing fresh ingredients. I love to build a meal around what's available, rather than the other way around. Plus, I believe in it ethically and in the importance of it to our environment and local economies." --Chef Amanda Hallowell

For Nebo Lodge Restaurant Head Chef and Manager Amanda Hallowell, locally and organically grown, produced, and harvested fare is a happy necessity.  Located on the Penobscot Bay island of North Haven, Nebo Lodge is accessible by state ferry out of Rockland, any other kind of boat from anywhere, and Penobscot Island Air.  For Amanda the location means little time to go more than a few miles for diverse freshness that excites the pallet.  Good for the environment and good for a sustainable island economy.

Observes regularly delighted customer author Susan Minot, who straddles the two divergent island worlds of Manhattan and North Haven, “Amanda Hallowell manages to deliver plates bearing food not only delicious, contemporary (not to be confused with trendy) and somehow just what you're craving

Jamien Shields feeds the kids before making chèvre cheeses from their mothers' milk.

without announcing the fact--as chefs often do--that she is an instinctively original and brilliant cook.  Amanda has given me more delicious and satisfying food that I can't help but crow on her behalf.”

Nebo Lodge’s restaurant opened in 2007 and has been building clientele appreciating island surroundings ever since:  North Haven is full of activities: seeing first-class and often award-winning plays and musicals, sailing, checking out the art galleries, delving into the culturally rich history, golfing, fishing, loitering on the dock, Kripalu yoga, visiting the library, biking, yachting, gift shopping, and regular movies and gatherings at the Waterman’s Community Center. Most of all this happens within a few minutes walk from Nebo.  Many simply sightsee, and painters regularly set up their easels to record the essence of the coastal life unfolding before them.

While there are notable exceptions to island suppliers, nearly all of Nebo Lodge’s restaurant ingredients come from North Haven and Vinalhaven, an island due south across the Fox Island Thoroughfare.  Hallowell estimates an average of 90% of each meal comes from this island produce, with the vast majority just minutes from her kitchen door. The results are dishes such as seared Vinalhaven halibut with oregano stuffing, pancetta, buttery fiddleheads, and spring parsnip frites and grilled boneless leg of North Haven Lamb with green peppercorn.

Rachael Garbowski of Nebo Lodge serves fresh sea scallops with pesto of fresh augula, pine nuts, Parmaesan, garlic, and olive oil.

North Haven’s farms encompass a combined area of under 400 acres. While this is far less than the 80 farms with a total of over 6,000 acres recorded in the agricultural census of 1860, they still provide an important foundation in the wheel of an economy with a documented history of over 5,000 years of inhabitants. Communities looking to their neighbors before seeking supplies or sales further away is nothing new: Organic and farm-to-table are market-hot after years of building awareness of just how good fresh food is in taste and health benefits. For an island community the mutually dependent relationship between suppliers, restaurant, cook, and customers is an economic necessity as well. Nearly 100% of North Haven farm sales are made to North Haven’s several restaurants, the grocery store, and residents. And since food suppliers regularly eat at Nebo Lodge, the use of their produce better be good.

These unique and loyal suppliers of exquisitely fresh fare are so important to Amanda’s kitchen success they are referred to as heroes. One of those heroes is Sheep Meadow Farm’s Doug Record, who says, “Amanda’s cooking is wonderful. Very creative. I try to order the stuff we sell [in the restaurant]. That’s kind of cool. We like to see how she prepares it and this is all good for the island - a lot of income and a lot of jobs.”

Additional supplier heroes are highlighted during Barn Suppers at the 200 year-old Turner Farm:  North Haven oysters, locally-caught and smoked mackerel, and cheese maker Jamien Shield’s chevres and camembert accentuate evening cocktails on the beach before guests sit down to a hearty family-style supper in a classic timber frame barn. With views of Penobscot Bay dotted with lobster and sailboats, Goose Rocks Light, and more islands beyond, Nebo Lodge-Turner Farm dining becomes an environmental connection and visual pleasure as well gourmet experience.

What closer relationship can a person get to the food source than by eating at the very farm where it is produced?  This full on, farm-to-table organic experience supported by dozens of local suppliers is one of the reasons Chef Hallowell loves her work.  “’Local’ is so important on the island,” she says, “and how incredible the local bounty is on North Haven especially.”

About the author / photographer--

Kate is a photographer, writer, and global business consultant who speaks Mandarin. She lives with her husband and two teenage sons on islands North Haven, Isle au Haut, and the water between. www.taylorwrite.com.


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