Monday, January 17, 2011

Serving Community Along with Dinner

With our break behind us and concerns at hand after the fire at Pete's, we re-open our kitchen on Main Street tonight. Community is much on our minds. While Linda had a lot on her plate in Hardwick, from a fresh application of Vermont Natural Coatings on the wood floors at Claire's to working with the Center for an Agricultural Economy, her Claire's co-owners Steven and Mike went to New Orleans to learn from the the emergence of a new food community in a city well-known for its cooking but still struggling in the aftermath of Katrina and last summer's oil spill.

They found exciting new efforts, centered in part on a small program called Our School at Blair Grocery (left and above) in the still devastated Lower 9th Ward. This program helps young men and women from the community complete a high school degree while learning about sustainable agriculture, growing food at affordable prices for the neighborhood and selling produce to both established New Orleans chefs and rising newcomers. One of the best of these restaurants is a casual eatery in Bywater called Satsuma Cafe, named to honor the local citrus and not far across the canal from the Lower 9th (below).

Like Claire's, the Cafe provides a community space where people gather for good food, to keep in touch, and to enjoy an ever changing exhibit of local artists.

Another is Cochon (right) in the more established Warehouse Arts District. Both do their best to source local and sustainable produce in a region where farming and fisheries have been devastated by industry, bad government policy, and neglect, and are just beginning to make a comeback.

Coming home just after the fire at Pete's, Steven and Mike are inspired by how much communities can accomplish when they pull together to realize their dreams - even in the aftermath of overwhelming disaster, antipathy, and indifference. You can learn more about their trip by stopping by at Claire's or reading Mike's blog post and links on the Saint Michael's College website.

Aware that much of the food at Claire's is grown at Pete's, many in our community have asked what will happen now. We are fortunate beyond measure to be in the heart of an agricultural economy of such abundance; we're inspired by Pete's plans to rebuild and by the many efforts to support his plans in creative ways. So close to the farm itself, we are working with Pete on how we might best help, and you can send your support directly to Pete at his Farm Fund. While we look forward to the rebirth at Pete's Greens that spring will offer, the food at Claire's will continue to reflect the abundance of farms all around us.

Claire's is open tonight and every night except Wednesday, with bar service, coffee, and baked goods after 2:30 and dinner seating from 5:00 until 9:00 pm. On Sunday, we are open for Blunch from 11:00 am until 2:00 pm. Reservations are encouraged.

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