Archive for September, 2012

Sep 21, 2012

Local First Provo

As you’ve walked around downtown Provo these last few weeks, you may have noticed something new in the doorways. The bright green stickers proclaiming “Buy Local First” recently adorning these businesses are in large part the handiwork of Kristen Lavelett, Assistant Director of Local First Utah. Local First has recently opened up a chapter in Provo and Heirloom couldn’t be more excited! We spoke with Kristen a few days after the chapter’s launch party to learn more about the recent Local First expansion.

Tell us about Local First.

Local First is a statewide organization whose mission is to educate the public regarding the benefit of local business. We’re looking at the public as consumers, local government and local business. We work in several different endeavors to fulfill their needs.

We are not an advocacy organization. We are an education organization. We try to educate local politicians to help them shape policy. With business, we help them know how to brand themselves as a local business; how to work with other local business. Our strongest branding piece is our window cling and door cling. We use that as a branding tool so our consumers know that “If Pizzeria 712 is a local business, we know what our dollars are doing when we shop here.”

We are not anti-chain or anti-big business. The name is local “first” not local “only”. When possible, choose local first, but we’re obviously not going to tell people to boycott Wal-Mart.

How long has Local First had a presence in Utah?

Local First has been a non-profit since 2006. We started out as a group of business owners who recognized we needed each other and we needed to support each other during the economic climate. We’re on really firm ground in the sense that localism has become really trendy and that works for us. I think the economic downturn of 2008 caused our culture as a whole to really analyze where we were going and what we were doing. Was it really worthwhile? I think some of that thinking has changed, particularly with people 35 and younger. I think people 35 and younger want to change our cities. They want walkable cities; better planned cities. As that had changed, Local First has really seen a great change.

What are the economic benefits to shopping locally?

For years, we had been citing studies from other cities and we were so excited to find out that in Utah, 4 times as much money stays in the local economy, which is just tremendous. For every $100 dollars spent in a locally owned business in Utah, $52 are re-circulated in the local economy. If that same money is spent in a big box store, only $14 are re-circulated. At a restaurant, $78 are re-circulated and stay in our economy. At a big box, only $14 are re-circulated. Those numbers just sent a new energy through the movement as a whole.

Provo is such a unique cultural and economic climate. Why the expansion to Provo? Do you alter your approach when coming here?

I have been really surprised by Provo. Because Utah is such a geographically large state we recognized that if we are going to learn to engage with this trend of localism on an individual level, we needed to engage chapters on a smaller level. We’ve set up this chapter initiative. Local First Ogden was our first and they’ve been on the scene for 2 years. We realized Provo could be a really viable next step. We have found that the local source movement really strongly appeals to a segment and that Utah County and Provo would be a good place to learn how to do that.

In addition to choosing to chop locally first, how can an individual get involved?

Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook. When we develop information or when we have events or new programs, that’s how we communicate them. When we have events, it means the world to us to have consumers come.

We are working tentatively on having a “Friends of Local First” out in 2013. We are looking to develop some incentives and loyalty for those who really choose to shop locally a part of their lifestyle. But having people engage with us on FB and through events and our newsletter is a great thing.

Many thanks to Kristen and Local First for bringing the movement to Provo! Local First is hosting their annual gala “Celebrate the Bounty” on October 11 at Rico’s Warehouse in Salt Lake City. Heirloom will be there and you should be too! Visit www.localfirst.org for more information.

Sep 18, 2012

Cowboys and Chefs: How Heirloom Won 2 Steers at Auction

The best beef comes from the best ranchers. And in some cases, even ranchers-to-be.

This August, Heirloom was proud to support the talented students of the Utah 4H Livestock Program by attending the 4H auction in Toeele, Utah. Colton, Casey, and Matt piled into a car at the break of dawn and headed north, where they proceeded to win two very special steers.

Raised by Utah County high schoolers Cecelia and Levi Davis, the steers (one Black Angus and one Red Angus) were part of a 4H project that develops skills in animal husbandry, leadership, hard work, and service to the community. This is the second year that Cecilia and Levi gave up summer camp to take out USDA loans to purchase the calves and participate in the program. The steers were raised to market in a grass pasture in Payson, Utah, where every detail of their daily care and growth (from 500 to 1500 pounds) was carefully monitored in a record book.

When Cecilia’s and Levi’s mother (a member of the Heirloom Group family) approached us about the auction, we jumped at the chance to bridge the gap between what we serve and where it comes from. Bidding at a livestock auction isn’t something restaurants do — there’s usually a middleman, just like there’s usually a grocery store or butcher for consumers. It was the perfect opportunity to practice what we believe — that good food comes from hard work, not just from the chefs who prepare it, but from the tenacious individuals who raise it. We’re honored to serve the incredible product of their dedication at all of our outlets in the coming weeks.

Colton’s thoughts from the day:

I started the morning feeling a bit groggy and not too excited about the drive out to Tooele.  As soon as we walked up to the pavilion where the auction was gearing up to start that all changed.  It was like being taken back in time.  You felt as if the whole community had turned out and they were certainly dressed for the occasion.  Matt & I in our sandals and shorts were no match for the boots, Wranglers and other cowboy dress. Many a glint was caught off the profusion of beautiful belt buckles.

There was a real sense of teamwork there.  You could see the support that parents & neighbors had given as they rallied around to help with the final stage of this months long process.  There was something so right about watching those kids, all dressed up in their clean white shirts & 4H patches, calm their animals and get ready to show.  You could tell the organizers had been doing this for years.  It is a smooth seamless process and just like that, the gavel drops and the bidding is over.  On to the next animal, on to the next project.

Cecilia’s mom Ruth mentioned afterwards that it is a tough day for the kids.  They have to face the reality that their friend who they have nurtured for the past few months is now gone, no longer needing to be taken care of.  When I asked them if they were going to go and relax they immediately responded that they had a lot of work and cleaning to still take care of.  Not in a whining sort of way, more of a responsible sort of way.  In that sense I think that 4H is doing a great job of accomplishing their mission of teaching the next generation about agriculture and the responsibility it brings.  It was a real honor to be able to be a small participant in this great process.  It certainly reminded me of the work and humanity that goes into each and every bite we put in our mouths.

Sep 05, 2012

Wine 101: Wine secrets from the pros

We’ll let you in on a secret – restaurants don’t know everything. We are constantly and eagerly learning about food, wine, and customer service. We have wonderful opportunities to learn the real story from passionate professionals; even better, we get to share that information with everyone who walks through our doors.

Recently, the Heirloom Group took a wine education course to demystify a subject that many love, but few feel comfortable discussing. Chris Neidiger, General Manager of Communal Restaurant, shares a little of what we learned from Wine 101:

For many, wine education can seem like an intimidating subject to tackle, but it’s actually just a few simple tips on gardening, using your senses, and enjoying what you’re drinking. Heirloom called upon friend and wine broker Francis Fecteau (Libation Inc. of Salt Lake City, UT) to provide insight into the world of wine. We met on P712’s patio for an afternoon of smelling, tasting, and learning about viticulture. We learned about everything – from planting to harvesting, barreling, bottling, and eventually, consuming.

As with winemaking, our education began with the planting and harvesting season. In January and February, bud swellings appear on vines as they awaken from their winter slumber. These swellings grow into leaves and flower clusters, which eventually turn into fruit. Full blooms don’t typically appear until May. Grape flowers are self-pollinating, so these blooms look significantly different from most fruit plants since they aren’t trying to attract bids and bees for pollination. Grapes begin to appear in June and continue to grow and expand until they are fully ripe at the end of July.

Throughout this process, winemakers are constantly inspecting, pruning, cleaning, protecting and carefully guiding the growth of their plants. Timing is crucial. Leave the grapes on the vine too long and your wine will be affected; take them off too soon, your final product will be different. If you don’t prune your vines throughout the growing season (resulting in too many shoots/grapes per plant), you run the risk of producing a lower quality product. Every decision affects both profitability and quality.

The harvest season generally begins in September or October, and it involves more than just picking the fruit off the vine. Harvest is the stage when fruit is picked, pressed, barreled, fermented (sometimes multiple times and in different ways), aged (in some cases) and eventually bottled or stored for later use. Once bottled, some wines will stay in the bottle for an indefinite period and are not available for sale until the winemaker believes the wine is properly aged to achieve tasting goals. Being a winemaker is a full-time job, every month of the year. It’s a continuous cycle of planting, harvesting, bottling, and aging. Many winemakers don’t see the profits from their wine until years after the work was done.

The next part of our wine course taught us about the importance of smell. Francis provided a kit with smells in tiny bottles. Yes, smells in a bottle! These are used to train us how to identify certain characteristics often found in wine. It was also a way to discover that each person interprets odors differently.

The “White Wine” smells were first. The bottles were labeled lemon, pineapple, honey and vanilla. However, our answers varied wildly on each of these. Some guessed pine, others described the smells as Flintstone Vitamins, butter, and many more. “Red Wine” smells were next – strawberry, black currant, black pepper, and smoke. Our answers were even better this time around: gummy bears, olives, oak, and the best: “fake cough syrup.”

Tasting came last. With our newfound knowledge, we were able to identify smells and tastes in each glass of wine that were easy to pick up now that we had trained our noses and minds to pay close attention to the subtleties. The best part was comparing wines side by side. Identifying the differences between the Aquinas Cabernet versus the Bucklin Zinfandel or between the oaked Louis Latour Chardonnay and the unoaked Mer Soleil Silver Chardonnay (in a classy ceramic bottle) was an eye opening experience. The other two wines we tried (to compare sweetness) were the Atrea Rose and a very sweet (but very good) Riesling. All of the wines we tasted are on our wine lists.

With Francis’ help we are now better equipped to handle all those tough (or not so tough) wine questions you can throw at us. We learned about important food pairings, what labels can tell you, how small local producers (yes!) benefit the state of Utah and wine drinkers everywhere, and many more fun factoids about wine production and enjoyment. We hope you’ll visit Communal or P712 soon and see what else we can tell you when you come in for dinner!