By Sarah West
I retrieve an item from the shelf, pour over the label, searching for provenance. In the market, I make choice selections discerning where my food comes from. Food from far-off places evokes curiosity and exotic charm. Yet, food is worth further examination, compelling one to question the import, the label.
At the local farm-stand, I choose fresh-picked blueberries. Dark Prussian blue gems, with deepening blush of magenta still visible, the sweet and tart breaks open and twirls a flavorful dance. The farmer’s price asks too little. He reaches for change. I insist that he keep it. Anything of quality harvested or hewn by hand is worth more. These I will pair with pancakes laced with ricotta and lemon curd, and topped with a fresh lightly sweetened whipped cream. At home, I collect greens from my garden to spin into a crust-less quiche made with gruyere and cheddar cheese. Local eggs will add brilliant yellows and enriched accent to mid morning weekend feasts.
A leisure drive into the sunset. Chasing streaks of lavender and melon westward as foggy mist emerges from forest shadows skirting fields and pastures. Red clay, black soil and Alabama blue sky fades into night. At Acre, the first course brought to our table reflects the southern sea and sky. Upon slate glistens a salt formation, elevating the oyster to new heights. Sourced local to Alabama, Murder Point Oyster Company has supplied Chef Compton with the evening’s shining star. Elegantly constructed, this art-worthy composition inspires the painter to pick up the brush. A medley of delectable flavors present blood orange mignonette with sunburst trout roe, peach blossoms, cucumber and fennel. An informative bouquet which raises the bar.
This delightful experience is followed by the charcuterie board, exhibiting the house’s best of cured salami, pickled grapes, peanut brittle, pecan mustard, asher blue and stone hollow goat cheeses and the list goes on. For the main course, pan roasted king salmon with sweet corn bisque, garnished with okra, heirloom tomatoes and jalapeños. And for the table a 2016 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. A final dish curated by the Chef du Cuisine, the desert flight including bread pudding topped with vanilla ice cream and crumbled prosciutto, a blonde tarte and the ever decadent peanut butter pie with meringue, truly to die for.
The farm-to-table establishment calms in the late evening as diners, all too satisfied, consider the time. It has grown late, the restaurant is aglow with ambient light. Another day has come and gone. The chefs and the farmers continue collaborations here setting standards where food’s provenance, the harvester’s hands, the line cooks, wait staff and chefs all have an integral role to play in this continuously sensational production.
-Art is Life Expressed – Sarah West
Author’s Note: Compliments, Credits and Kind Regards to Chef David Bancroft, Chef Jeffrey Compton and the team at ACRE who strive and succeed at serving Alabama’s very best in farm to table cuisine.
Sarah West serves the Opelika Observer as a contributing columnist, with written works of Cultural Arts relevance and prose. She is a preservation, and conservation advocate, activist, and visual artist of American Illustration with a focus on Regional Narrative Painting. She is founder of the Sarah West Gallery of Fine Art, A Center for Cultural Arts, Smiths Station, Alabama’s premier fine arts destination. She is the appointed Official Artist to the City of Smiths Station, a Lee County syndicated columnist, the director of her art center’s Cultural Arts Outreach Initiative which partners with local schools to make the arts accessible to all. She also serves a chief curator to the City of Smiths Station, City Hall Art Galleries. She is a founding member of the Smith Station Historic Commission. She is a member of the Women’s Philanthropy Board- Cary Center, Auburn University College of Human Science. She is an elected member of the Society of Illustrators- NYC. She mentors art students of every age through weekly classes at her studio located in the heart of Smiths Station, Alabama. To learn more about her work and activism visit, www.thesarahwestgalleryoffineart.com.