Regularly changing a menu to reflect what’s seasonally fresh is a common custom in the restaurant business.
In the north state, however, precious few businesses utilize the practice.
For chef Che Stedman and his staff at Moonstone Bistro, using locally grown whole foods and shifting with the seasons is the only way to operate.
Today (Oct. 12), Moonstone unveiled its new fall menu, which features such items as pumpkin pasta with wild mushrooms, and pan seared cod with a beet tartare.
Items like pumpkin, butternut squash, radishes and beets reflect the shift in the seasons. Stedman, who runs the restaurant with his wife Tanya, changes his menu about six times a year.
When Moonstone opened two and half years ago, some diners were unaccustomed to having favorite items disappear from the menu in place of something else. These days, many of them anticipate the changes.
“We’re now to the point where customers wonder what’s coming in that’s new,” Stedman said. “It generates a new buzz and people find their new favorites. It’s settled into a nice pattern.”
There are plenty of reasons why restaurants don’t change their menus or seek out locally produced products. It takes a lot of work, creativity and flexibility.
Moonstone’s staff must create and prepare new dishes based on what’s fresh. Instead of using one or two established food providers, Stedman uses a large array of sources, such as produce from Julia’s Fruit Stand in Los Molinos, and Prather Ranch beef from Kent’s Meats.
Restaurants that use a food provider like Sysco can keep their costs consistent throughout the year, while Stedman’s method often includes a fair amount of variance.
But the reasons for being flexible and shopping locally vastly outweigh the alternative, Stedman believes.
Food grown locally simply tastes better and is healthier, he says. Certified organic foods and products are a large part of the picture, but even when they’re not “certified” organic, Stedman knows where they came from and how they were raised.
Beyond what he’s doing in his own business, Stedman hopes more and more people (and restaurants) adopt the philosophy of shopping locally and using whole foods.
“I think Redding is primed for this (movement),” says Stedman, who received his training at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. “We have the farms and the ranches. It’s what we do. All we have to do now is sell it locally.”
Listening to Stedman talk about the whole food movement makes one wonder why everyone hasn’t adopted the philosophy.
“People get the concept when it comes to fish, the fresher it is, the better,” he says. “But it’s the same with produce — a week-old carrot is not as good as a two-day-old carrot. A carrot that’s five weeks old doesn’t taste like a carrot at all.”
There are indicators that more and more north state residents are plugged into the movement. Area farmers markets have thrived and expanded, whole foods delivery services like Churn Creek Meadows Organic Farms and Country Organics have done steady business, and an area group continues to press forward with plans to open a whole foods co-op in Redding.
The Woodside Grill at the Gaia Hotel in Anderson uses locally grown food and produce, Grilla Bites in downtown Redding features a menu full of organic foods and drinks and even Angelo’s Pizza offers pizzas with farmers market toppings.
At Grilla Bites, owner Brian Garcia says most of his organic produce comes from General Produce of Mount Shasta and Sacramento. The company purchases its food from area and regional farmers, though in the winter, its range expands.
The Redding Grilla Bites restaurant is one of five in the chain (other locations include Chico, Ashland and Medford, Ore., and Snohomish, Wash.), and the establishment has been open for five months. Grilla Bites serves items like sandwiches, burgers, salads, nachos and fresh-squeezed juices and smoothies.
All the meats the restaurant serves are naturally raised, Garcia says. He added that one goal is to work more closely with area certified organic farmers and producers as the restaurant evolves.
“That was my idea — to bring natural, organic foods to people,” he said. “There’s definitely a need for what we’re doing here. Our goal is to get better about it.”
At the Moonstone Bistro, Stedman is excited for his customers to explore the new menu.
In addition to the Pumpkin Pasta and Cod dishes, dinner entries include oven roasted chicken au poivre, hickory smoked duck breast and fire grilled Prather Ranch flat iron steak.
Lunch specials include smoked gouda and pastrami pasta, pan seared chicken, prosciutto wrapped scallops and house made tagliatelle pasta. From the dessert menu, Stedman said he can’t wait for folks to try the new pumpkin waffles.
Moonstone Bistro is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Call 241-3663 for reservations.
Grilla Bites is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Jim Dyar is a news, arts and entertainment journalist for A News Cafe and the former arts and entertainment editor for the Record Searchlight’s D.A.T.E. section. Jim is also a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding. E-mail him at email@example.com.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment.