As the golden light of autumn waned, the brisk afternoon warmed with the happy chatter of guests. Pecks on the cheek, lingering hugs and the joyous anticipation of time with loved ones set the stage for a holiday gathering. The cook mopped a brow with a dish towel, inhaled the stuffing’s fall fragrance and smiled. Nothing can top the celebratory combination of glorious food, home and company. In fact, it is the melding of elements, both festive and familiar, that creates the greatest happiness.
Gatherings can feel stressful, but serving specialty foods and a showcase bird is worth the planning and preparation. Even professionals, like Logan Webber, executive chef at Brix, utter colorful language when the top of the stuffing chars instead of browns, so relax, home cooks—it’s all part of the process.
When it comes to choosing quality ingredients, local is always better. Even a massive bison creates a smaller carbon footprint when the animal is grazed, processed and eaten regionally. Sustainable farming and ranching guard future land use for all. Environmental preservation—avoiding toxic substances or depleting natural resources—builds an ongoing ecological balance. Sustainable practices consider animal welfare, protect public health and support vibrant communities. The good news is that increasing demand for sustainable living is fueling a robust market of products and producers.
The Colorado Plateau offers a wider variety of proteins and produce than might be expected for a semi- arid land. Some of the sources readily available to Northern Arizona include: McClendon’s Select, Roots Micro Farm, Black Mesa Ranch, Two Wash Ranch, and of course, the local farmers market. Three generations at McClendon’s Select have cultivated nearly 100 acres of certified, organic farmland in Peoria and Goodyear. Roots is an urban farm in Flagstaff supplying colorful micro-greens—vegetables, herbs and flowers—to local restaurants. Black Mesa Ranch boasts the “flavor of the White Mountains” with farmstead artisan cheeses crafted from registered Nubian goats. Two Wash Ranch, a five-acre poultry farm, raises chickens, ducks, geese and pea fowl in a cage-free environment. For the easiest downtown shopping however, visit Proper Meats + Provisions, an abundant source of regional, quality fresh and jarred items.
“There are many reasons to use sustainable ingredients,” Chef Webber said. “It’s better for the environment, but there is also the chance to talk to the people, who make the food, about their practices and upcoming farm produce. This offers the chance to change up the menu with seasonal items.” Farmers markets are ideal for this, and he also chats with other chefs, who can help with sourcing. Webber, who entice diners with the unique root vegetables in autumn, added, “Local goods taste so much better and have a longer shelf life that extends recipe opportunities.”