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Bringing home the bacon


The farm-to-fork movement has a new outpost at Local in Norman.

Doug Hill May 2nd, 2012

Melissa Scaramucci is passionate about bringing the fresh flavors of Oklahoma farms and ranches to your palate.

 She’s the owner of newly opened Local restaurant, 2262 W. Main, Norman.

Enlisting sisters Heather Steele and Abby Clark to operate the place, they have their uncle’s Walnut Creek Farms in Waynoka lined up as a supplier.

“Our concept is sourcing food direct from the farmers and straight to our tables,” Scaramucci said.

A dozen farmers from Bixby to Locust Grove have already partnered with Local, and more are coming aboard as demand increases. Responsible stewardship of the land and healthy, sustainable agricultural practices are key to selection.

Planning Local’s operational ethos and menu was inspired by the Oklahoma Food Co-op and the Urban Agrarian organization, along with pioneering Oklahoma City restaurants Ludivine and Nonna’s.

Scaramucci estimated that the majority of Local’s food is homegrown, excluding seafood.

“Every dish has a local element,” she said. “Eggs, beef, lamb, poultry and pork — for sure — are all from Oklahoma.”

Naturally, the menu will change with seasonal availability and the whims of Mother Nature. This spring’s perfect growing conditions of adequate moisture, cool nights and warm days produced a bumper crop of wild morel mushrooms in these parts.

That rarely happens and led leading chef Ryan Parrott, formerly of Iguana Mexican Grill, to create a fennel and morel soup last month. An important element of the farm-to-table philosophy involves such versatility and creativity. Not relying on the global food supply means frequent substitutions and artful improvisations.

Scaramucci maintains that Local’s menu features American food.

“It reflects who we are as a people, and that’s undeniably a melting pot of those from other nations.”

Beef bourguignonne competes with a grilled chicken pho for the diner’s attention. Roasted mushroom pappardelle and Moroccan lamb are likely choices, as are ox tail ravioli or fish tacos.

It would be difficult to plant a national flag on Local, but there is an all-American burger, intriguing meatloaf cupcakes and Asian beef carpaccio. Lobster mac and cheese is the stuff dreams are made of.

Dinner entrées range from $10 to $18; lunch is a bit less expensive.

Local’s table wine, Palmina, is sourced from an Oklahoman-owned Napa vineyard. Desserts include tempting mascarpone apple-spice cake and warm raisin-pecan tart.

 Noting the liberal use of terms on the menu such as “artisanal,” “deconstructed,” “grass-fed,” “freerange” and “house-infused,” Scaramucci bristled when asked if Local runs the risk of being trendy over substantial.

“These are words with ancient derivation that describe the way our grandparents ate,” she said. “For instance, they made their own ketchup, so to say something is ‘artisanal’ or ‘house-made’ just means you made it yourself, instead of opening a bottle.”

Therefore, preparation and cooking are by someone who might be your neighbor, not a factory hand overseas.

“We are working to transform how agriculture is perceived in the central United States,” said Susan Bergen of Stratford’s Peach Crest Farms, which supplies Local with winter greens, scallions and herbs. “Providing quality fruits and vegetables year-round is our mission.”

In the dead of winter, Peach Crest’s hoophouses shelter tender plants from harsh temperatures. Still, availability of crops varies.

“We all need to consider where our food comes from,” Bergen said. “How much energy it takes to move things around the world should be a consideration, along with how healthy it is to eat.”

 
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