Local eating is catching on in a big way. To me, it just makes sense environmentally as well as economically.
The average tomato travels 1,500 to 1,800 miles before it reaches your plate. In this weeklong delay from harvest to dinner plate, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink and produce loses its vitality. Food grown in your own community is usually picked within the past day or two. It’s crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor. Buying locally makes you an invaluable link in the process of saving resources such as fossil fuels and packaging materials. Purchasing in your community keeps the expense of transportation and delivery to a minimum. With fewer than 1 million Americans now listing farming as their primary occupation, farmers are a vanishing breed. Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middle man and get full retail price for their crops – which means farm families can afford to stay on the farm, doing what they love.
I have seen more professional chefs stop phoning in their orders to wholesalers and start to explore the bounty of fresh, local, organic produce. The Electric Cheetah is a local restaurant that is practicing these principles using as many fresh local and organic ingredients as possible. My husband and I have driven by The Electric Cheetah many times. I honestly thought it was another one of those overpriced poser palaces. When we heard about all the local fare on the menu, we decided to check it out. We were pleasantly surprised. The prices were very affordable, even for two “starving” artists. The wide range of fresh, local and organic food on the menu was no joke. If you are a root beer lover, this place is a must. The extensive root beer menu offers everything from Detroit’s own Faygo to Goose Island root beer from Chicago. I even think I saw an Australian sarsaparilla. We ordered Southern Raw Fries–hand sliced with Michigan potatoes, Roasted Portabello Sandwich, a Statler and Waldorf Salad, and the Saffron Tomato Bisque. Our bill was less than $30. The Electric Cheetah’s motto is “If we can get it locally without causing you exorbitant price increases, we do.”
Everything is homemade. The restaurant even has fresh-from-the-oven cookies and organic milk. There are many interesting salads featuring fresh greens, microgreens, arugula, baby spinach and romaine lettuce from Mud lake Farm.
Mud Lake Farm specializes in growing colorful, tasty hydroponic lettuces for families and restaurants in West Michigan. The hydroponic farm is located in southern Ottawa County with two biomass-heated hydroponic greenhouses. The farmers enjoy exploring new ideas to make the farm more sustainable. They do not use any pesticides but prefer to work with nature using beneficial insects to manage pests.
As I perused Electric Cheetah’s menu, I saw other locally produced ingredients–Ann Arbor’s China Rose Tofu used in the Thai Town Salad and the Michigan “hopi blue” corn meal on the Fried Green Tomatoes. There seemed to be something for everyone on the menu, however I hoped for a few more vegetarian sandwich options. We loved indulging in all those fresh vegetable dishes in Michigan, in the middle of the winter, knowing that the shorter the distance from field to plate, the more vitamins, flavor, and money is retained for the farmer, restaurant and consumer–not to mention the environmental benefits. We vote with our dollar every time we pick up that restaurant check.