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July 9th, 2014
If you’re eating at Hotel Bethlehem’s 1741 on the Terrace restaurant on a Thursday night, chances are the sugar snap pea you’re about to spear with your fork was grown one mile down the road.
A new partnership has taken root between the hotel and Burnside Plantation’s Colonial period gardeners.
Historic Bethlehem Museum and Sites’ Vice President and Managing Director LoriAnn Wukitsch says it’s a first for the program but calls it a marriage and a “win-win.”
The Colonial garden has been in existence since HBMS took over Burnside, well over a decade ago, Wukitsch says. Burnside provides the seeds and tools, but volunteers are in charge of cultivating and maintaining individual plots.
Pat Corpora, of Bethlehem, who’s volunteered in the gardens at least five years, tends to five of the approximately 25 to 30 plots that cover an acre.
“We grow things (that would have been) grown in a historical time to give the garden a look similar to the 1700s,” Corpora explains.
Volunteers could pick their own share, and often carved up the produce among the rest of the volunteer group, “but it was still more than what we could ever need,” Corpora says.
It was Corpora’s idea to approach the hotel about using and highlighting the Colonial produce. He knew of chef Michael Adams and approached him in the spring to see if he might be interested in using the heirloom veggies and herbs.
“It’s produce that’s as fresh as it could possibly be,” Corpora says.
Adams, who’s been practicing farm-to-table cuisine for 20-some years, saw it as a great addition to the menu and a great way to recognize the volunteers’ efforts.
Corpora took the idea back to the garden’s chairwoman, Marion Lee, as well as the other volunteers to see if they were on board, and the decision was unanimous.
How it works
Adams joins the volunteers on Thursday mornings to harvest, collecting only what he can use in that night’s dinner specials.
“If we were taking vegetables for a weekend, we’d clean out the garden,” Adams explains, gathering no more than five pounds of any one item.
“Even if he picked every single thing in the garden, he wouldn’t be able to serve every meal,” Corpora agrees.
On the first harvest the last week of June, he picked sugar snap peas, and filled his baskets with turnips, beets, baby carrots, red burgundy beans, tarragon and lavender mint on subsequent visits.
Adams envisioned the carrots highlighting a plate of seared halibut with a beet emulsion. The tarragon would be added to a mussel dish. The turnips were set to be roasted and pureed, alongside duck confit. And Adams earmarked the lavender mint for a specialty cocktail.
“I’ve long been a proponent of using as much locally grown and in-season food on my menus,” Adams says in a news release. “I enjoy creating new dishes using ingredients that are at their peak of freshness. You really can’t get anything better than produce grown in your own backyard, and Burnside Gardens is, in essence, the hotel’s backyard!”
Adams says he acknowledges Burnside’s volunteers with a note explaining the produce’s journey at the bottom of the 1741 menu, and asks his waitstaff to verbally inform customers about the partnership.
He plans to host a dinner for the volunteers at the end of the summer. Wukitsch says the hotel has agreed to make a fair value contribution to the gardening efforts going forward, based on what they harvest throughout the summer.
“What a great way to benefit the Burnside Plantation, hopefully attract more volunteers and we benefit with the fresh ingredients,” Adams says of the arrangement.
Burnside’s garden was designed as a teaching tool for students who visit the plantation, Wukitsch explains. The produce serves the site’s Foodways Colonial Cooking program, which hosts demos based on colonial recipes in Burnside’s colonial kitchen.
Volunteers were able to harvest from their plots, but often the surplus went unused. Corpora explains that for perspective, this year he’s tending 36 tomato plants in a single plot.
Corpora says there was an effort at one point to donate the excess, but it didn’t come to fruition. He explains the partnership with the hotel provides a viable, more effective way to distribute the produce.
Wukitsch says she’s not sure if other restaurants would be interested in using the produce going forward, but she’s open to the idea.
“The hotel’s been supportive of our mission and preserving history,” Wukitsch says.
“I’ve got to believe when you’ve got the community support, there’s always room for further collaboration,” she adds.
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As published by LehighValleyLive.com
July 9, 2014
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