Salt of the Earth
114 East Main St., Fennville
saltoftheearthfennville.com, (269) 561-7258
While the term “meat and potatoes” doesn’t exactly elicit expectations of a culinary adventure, Fennville’s Salt of the Earth does its part to prove otherwise.
If you aren’t familiar with Salt of the Earth, it is a Midwestern, ingredient-focused establishment that sources all of its food within about a 50-mile radius of its doors.
Sure, Midwestern food is not very exciting — nobody is opening up that little Midwestern bistro in TriBeCa. But at Salt, proprietors Steve Darpel and Mark Schrock allow Chef Pietsch and his kitchen to turn the concept of traditionally heavy, eat-for-sustenance, local fare on its head.
“Not just local food — it has to be good, too,” Pietsch corrects me.
It’s easy to poke fun at the local yokels or the farm-to-table movement. But keep in mind it’s not easy to serve green lettuce in February or find fresh tomatoes year round.
Chef Pietsch and his team stay current by holding frequent menu meetings. It’s where they discuss trends, like how 2015 was the “year of the cauliflower,” and my dinner was littered with it.
I got a roasted vegetable plate of green cauliflower, parsnips and Brussels sprouts garnished with capers, raisins and blue-cheese vinaigrette. Next up: Confit of pork belly, comfortably lying on a bed of buttered leeks and pickled onion.
Then came a butternut purée carbonara: A soft-boiled egg resting atop the entanglement of house-made bucatini. Finally, a grilled hanger steak cooked to perfection, served with a butternut purée, a return of the blue cheese vinaigrette, and — yes — roasted-green cauliflower.
Dessert was an oatmeal micro-cake with pumpkin, caramel apple and a brown butter sauce.
In full disclosure, I blacked out after one bite of the pork belly. Not to outshine the roasted vegetable plate — it was tastefully done with the blue cheese — but the pork belly was the breakout star.
It’s one of those dishes that makes you stop and consider the ramifications. Do I tread on? Out of Midwestern politeness, I carried on and tried the rich, creamy carbonara and the delicate, tender slices of beef, both of which met, if not surpassed, the quality of the pork belly. Turns out, this meal boasted an all-star cast.
This is food carefully, considerately thought out by a staff of experts. The team is restlessly creative and artfully modest. Salt of the Earth is a restaurant that’s redefining farm food in our own backyard.
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