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Lazy Local Listings

August 2, 2011

Let’s hear it for the church ladies. They have it going on. Besides raising their own grass-fed beef and making cream puffs from the eggs laid by their own organic chickens, they had a stunning recommendation something to check out in the area.

Do not forget where I am. I’m in the Johnstown-Altoona DMA, which ranks just outside of the top 100 Nielsen defined DMAs in the U.S. For comparison, Albany-Schenectady-Troy ranks in the 50s.

Within the DMA is Bedford County and the town of Bedford. Just south of Bedford is Bedford Springs. And that is where you can find the relatively recently renovated Bedford Springs Resort. I say relatively, since the first building there was erected in 1806, and the complete renovations were completed in 2007.

It’s a historic property, and if you are a fan of President Buchanan, you need to get out here stat. He spent 40 summers at the place.

But I don’t care much about mineral springs, exacting historical renovations, or golf. I care about food. And there were some things that I found on the menus at the resort that caught me by surprise, especially in this small, decaying part of the country.

The resort actually has three restaurants, a steakhouse, a dining room, and a tavern. Here’s the rundown of a few items plucked from all the menus:

Laurel Hills Farm trout
White Oak Farms half chicken
Lancaster bacon
Van Grouw Family Farm cheddar
Potter County blue cheese
Somerset County maple syrup
Alum Bank honeycomb
Gemelli Bakers’ crusty bread
Dove Song Dairy goat cheese
Kennett Square mushrooms
Jamison Farm lamb
Galliker’s cookies ‘n cream ice cream
Eberly Farms roasted duck
Yuengling tempura battered onion rings

To be clear, all of these ingredients and producers are called out on the menu next to their respective dishes. Now many of these wouldn’t qualify for the 100-mile diet. But I’ve never been that staunch of a locavore. While not all of these are located within the DMA, they are all within a day’s drive.

But here’s the thing: not all local food is created equal. Some of it is better than others. And some of it is much better than others. Sorting out the wheat from the chaff can take an awfully long time. Granted, it can be a fascinating experience visiting farms, meeting farmers, and checking out their operations. So if you have a ton of time, I really encourage you to engage in these meandering explorations. You’ll likely kiss a lot of frogs, but I also expect you may indeed find some hidden gems.

One day when I have a lot more free time I hope to do the same.

These days, however, time is at a premium, and gas isn’t that cheap either. So finding a restaurant that has already done the legwork is extremely valuable. Not only is the fish farm nearby, but farmed trout are a Seafood Watch Best Choice. And we have to pass through State College coming to and leaving the farm, so a stop at Gemelli Bakers may be mandatory this time around.

Ah, if only there were more restaurants in Albany, like these three in Bedford, that embraced the great producers of the region, and proudly put their names on the menu.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2011 10:09 pm

    Yes, to all of this.

    We should get together sometime so I can fill you in on a new project I’m working on. I think it would be right up your alley.

    And to the “church lady” point – this is something I just ranted about on my blog (and how bloody Hipsters seem to totally ignore the contributions people like this have made to the food community).

    Hope PA is still treating you well!

  2. Jay permalink
    October 10, 2011 4:51 pm

    I used to be the Executive Sous Chef here before I re-located down south. I pain stakingly re-vamped the menus here and sourced local products and developed relationships with these farmers for this resort. I used the products that were listed on the menu, but be careful Omni is a huge hotel company that has a big relationship with Sysco, I would put money on it that names are being thrown around and they are not actually using those products. For instance I had a personal relationship with Dove Song Dairy and when I ordered it was through email, when I left I never gave anybody that email address. I am a true local farm supporter and it takes time to build relationships and source good local products. I hope that they really are using these products still, but I hate when people write menus and just google a farm and put it on their menu’s so that they can be part of the trend.

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