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The Flavor of Local: Chef Mike Isabella Kicks off Dine Out for Farms™

What do the seasons taste like? Does April’s first asparagus mean the shedding of winter’s chill? And does butternut squash suggest autumn?

Chef Mike Isabella receives a No Farms No Food hat from American Farmland Trust President Jon Scholl.

For Mike Isabella, chef/owner of Graffiato in Washington, D.C., it is the other way around: the seasons bring the flavor of local.

“The most rewarding things that I’ve heard are the comments,” explains Isabella, talking about feedback from his customers. Regarding the sweet corn agnolotti from his seasonal menu, “The best thing I could hear was, ‘Oh wow, this tastes like summer.’”

“Top Chef” finalist Isabella has joined dozens of chefs and restaurateurs across the country for the second annual Dine Out for FarmsTM week, where chefs demonstrate their support for local farms through their gifted culinary talents. The  event, held from October 16-22, is a celebration of delicious food and the farmers and land needed to grow it.

The connection between local farms and restaurants has been growing steadily over recent years. According to the National Restaurant Association, top menu trends in 2011 have centered on locally and sustainably sourced food items.

For Isabella, working to source the freshest ingredients at his restaurant is more than an appeal to consumer demand.

“The more support we get from the chefs, the more we help the farmers out,” explains Isabella. “The more we help the farmers out, we get better product on the table. It’s a way that we can help the farmers grow, and help get the prices [on the menu] down.”

“It’s not just about it being good,” he explains. “It’s about it being good, seasonal and local.”

About the author: Erica Goodman is the Communications Associate with American Farmland Trust.

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