With spring comes fresh crops, and for foodies who want to know where their steak and steak tomatoes were raised, it’s a great time to dine out. With the locavore movement gaining ground in recent years, an increasing number of New England chefs are sourcing hyper-local — whether that’s hand-selecting eggs from the farm down the road or growing fresh veggies in their on-site garden. So locavores, it’s time to take a road trip to taste some of the freshest menus in New England.
At Vignola Cinque Terre in Portland, Maine, executive chef Lee Skawinksi sources the bulk of his menu from Dan and Michelle Kary’s Grand View Farm. Cultivating since the 1780s, the farm now produces exclusively for the restaurant that serves brunch, lunch, and dinner with organic menus “subject to change.”
That’s key when hunting for a fresh locavore restaurant — a menu that “changes daily” or is “subject to change” usually means the chef is creating from what’s fresh and available that day — not what’s jammed in the freezer. Sample dishes here include seared duck confit with cranberry, endive, and hazelnut; fried Maine river oysters with spinach and fennel purée; and house-smoked brisket hash with poached eggs, grilled focaccia, Italian cheese fondue, and salsa verde. 10 Dana St., Portland. 207-772-1330. www.vignolamaine.com
While you’re in Portland — and if you love wine — check out Vinland, an organic farm-to-table restaurant boasting a gluten-free menu, Maine-brewed beers, and dozens of wild-fermented organically grown wines. The menu lets you know exactly where your arugula, mussels, steaks and cheeses were sourced. Sample dishes include pork with sweet potato, monkfish with sunchoke, and salted blueberry semifreddo. 593 Congress St., Portland. 207-653-8617. www.vinland.me
Sitting on a sustainable farm in Rockland, Maine, Primo harvests the bulk of its menu just a stone’s throw from your table. Dine outdoors or gather a party in the post-and-beam barn for a farmer’s salad with organic greens, olive oil-fried croutons, house-made bacon, and backyard poached eggs; spinach linguine with sherried chicken, pea tendrils, and reggiano; or grilled backyard chicken. Opens for the season May 5. 2 North Main St., Rockland. 207-596-0770. www.primorestaurant.com
The Farm House Tap & Grill, a farm-to-table gastropub in Burlington, Vt., serves dozens of Vermont brews. Check the list of food sources to learn, for example, that your eggs were laid in Jericho, your salad greens picked in Burlington, and your beef raised in Shelburne. Brunch on farm eggs scrambled with scallions and Vermont cheddar or lunch on a free-range turkey burger with Vermont blue cheese and grilled onions. For dinner: local fish and hand-cut chips with coleslaw. 160 Bank St., Burlington. 802-859-0888. www.farmhousetg.com
Set on 300 rolling acres at the foot of Vermont’s green mountains, Twin Farms is a rustically luxurious five-star resort with 15,000-bottle wine cellar, on-site garden — and no menus. Vermont-hearty meals are built daily from staples of fresh fish and locally sourced wild game, beef, cheeses, and fruits, along with veggies, berries, and herbs grown on the estate’s garden and greenhouse. Chef Nathan Rich requires everyone on his culinary team to visit the farms they source from — whether it’s the fresh fruit from Champlain Orchards, beef from Almanak Farm, or pork and rabbit from Steve Hambsch Family Farm.
Wake to farm-fresh eggs, in-house cured bacon, and French toast with local butter, Vermont syrup, and jam made from berries picked on the estate. Hike and picnic on cold Maine lobster, grilled quail, and heirloom tomatoes with ricotta. Dine fireside with wine, freshly made poppyseed rolls with lavender butter, smoked duck, quail eggs, candied almonds, and pretzel ice cream. Must be a guest to dine. 452 Royalton Turnpike, Barnard, Vt. 802-234-9999. www.twinfarms.com
At Hen of the Wood, sample fare includes wood-fired bread with radish butter; ham-wrapped rabbit loin with apples; hanger steak with coal-roasted onion; salt-roasted Kennebec potatoes; and smoked bluefish. The original location is in Waterbury, Vt., but their Burlington location is larger. 92 Stowe St., Waterbury, Vt. 802-244-7300; 55 Cherry St., Burlington. 802-540-0534. www.henofthewood.com
From Chatham mussels to Brewster oysters, the seafood at Ocean Terrace in Brewster is largely bay-to-table, and the herbs are grown on-site. Try the seared cod loin with lemon fingerling potatoes or fresh-caught swordfish with charred green tomato. The restaurant is part of the Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club, set on 429 acres of green and bluff overlooking Cape Cod Bay. You don’t have to stay there to dine, but you may want to — it has an 18-hole course, tennis courts, pools, and access to bike trail. 2907 Main St. Brewster. 888-509-4600. www.oceanedge.com.
While you’re on Cape, stop by Pain D’Avignon, artisanal bakery by day, European-stye bistro by evening. Breakfast on just-baked apple turnovers, poached local farm eggs over seared crispy polenta cake, and house-made sausage. Dine on Cape Cod oysters, house-made pasta with local cheese, or roasted free-range chicken. The breads, croissants, and biscotti of course, are made right there. 15 Hinckley Road, Hyannis. 508-778-8588. www.paindavignon.com.
Depending on where you live, Henrietta’s Table in Cambridge might be a nice ending point on this fresh foodie tour. Founded in 1995, you could say Chef Peter Davis has been serving locavore since before it was hip. Go Sunday for the all-you-can-eat buffet brunch for made-to-order omelettes; farm-fresh bacon, sausage and ham; carved meats, Wellfleet Oysters, grilled veggies, local cheeses, vegetarian pasta, bagels with house-smoked salmon, buttermilk waffles with whipped butter, and Vermont maple syrup. Brunch $50 per person, noon to 3 p.m. Reservations recommended. 1 Bennett St., Cambridge. 617-661-5005. www.henriettastable.com
Lauren Daley can be reached at email@example.com.