Something is fishy in Central New York…

When we opened the Tailor and the Cook, we committed to using local products whenever possible.  It was a choice we made for many reasons, chief among them being sustainability.  It’s important to know that the food we eat has a future, that it will keep providing for us.  To be sure that our use of it will not hinder its use again and again.  Additionally, there are health benefits to consider: absence of antibiotics and hormones, and freshness.  And what’s more, the decision to keep things local is a sound fiscal decision that keeps our dollars close to home, and circulating in our community.

Recently, I was speaking to a guest who, while enjoying our dining experience, didn’t quite get the “local” thing… “I am not so sure anyone really cares about local” they told me.  With a great deal of composed professionalism, I emphatically disagreed.  People do care, and it is quite apparent to me, and all of us here at the Tailor and the Cook.  The response we have had to local foods, and the education that comes along with serving them has been tremendous.  Does local matter to everyone?  Probably not.  But it matters to enough people to create something of a sea change.  When your friends and neighbors start paying attention to something, start talking about it, start eating it… well, that is bound to turn at least a few heads.  Seeking out local, sustainable, quality ingredients matters to me, and as it turns out, quite a few of you as well.

In the past year I have had the pleasure of meeting so many incredible individuals who devote their livelihoods to producing high quality foods.  Be they cheese maker, livestock producer, vegetable farmer, or whatever path they choose, they commit to producing food that is good from beginning to end.  Starting with seed or newborn calf, they see the process through with care and dignity, all the way to the sale, where that product becomes yours and mine.  That’s when it becomes reality to me.  I can never fully understand the process that it took to make it happen, but I surely can respect it.  It’s a product, a service, and it didn’t travel far to make a difference.

I have served amazing vegetables, stellar cheeses, wholesome and tasty meats, pure honeys and maple in the past eight months at the Tailor and the Cook.  I have loved every minute of it.  But when it comes to local food in CNY, there is one thing that we can’t reach out and grab for our table.  Seafood.

Until now.

Now, I am all for wild caught seafood, be it from the ocean, or from the lake.  It’s how our ancestors did it, but it’s not always realistic, especially here in the Mohawk Valley, landlocked as we are.

Shortly before we opened our doors, another dynamic business sprang forth in Sherrill NY.  Aqua Vita Farms was born just a year or so ago, in a repurposed portion of what was the Oneida Silver Campus.  Committed to sustainable farming, Aqua Vita farms is one of a small but growing number of commercial Aquaponic farms in the US.  I am no farmer, and even less of a biologist, so I won’t attempt to explain the process in any sort of depth.  In short, fish and vegetables grow in a closed indoor ecosystem, each one feeding the other, each one sustaining the growth of the other in a symbiotic relationship.  It’s wonderfully simple, and at the same time incredibly complex.  Aqua Vita has been producing greens for the better part of a year, and we have been serving them in our house salad since day one.  It’s refreshing to know that even when the depths of a Central New York winter set in, we can still have fresh, healthy greens all year round.  Now, I know hydroponic produce does lack some characteristics of soil grown produce, but I am willing to accept that in exchange for fresh product 365 days a year, especially when it travels less than 30 miles to your plate.

This week, Aqua Vita Farms harvested its first fish, beautiful Tilapia. After more than a year of trials and tribulations, these fish have reached a healthy age of maturity.  And this weekend, that first harvest of CNY seafood will be served up to you at the Tailor and the Cook, alongside their greens which have become a staple of our dining experience.

Aqua Vita Farms is a small business, owner-operated and rooted in the community.  Not unlike the Tailor and the Cook.  Mark Doherty, Scott Fonte, and Autumn Bresloff at Aqua Vita are hands down some of the most passionate people I know, and I am proud to partner with them at the start of this project.  I look forward to when their fish will soon be available to the entire CNY marketplace, but until then I am happy to be a part of the trial run.

I am excited.  Excited to be a part of this community, a part of this local foods movement here in Central New York.  I am thrilled that others feel the same sense of forward motion.  I am elated that the food we cook makes people happy.  I am humbled each and every day by the tremendous response to our restaurant.  And I am excited to eat fish.

Keep it local.

-Tim