The Clever Root

Fall / Winter 2015

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1 4 | t h e c l e v e r r o o t Introducing the people across the country behind the food we love to eat by Jesse Hom-Dawson "WE WERE JUST DOING what every other hillbilly in Tennessee was doing in their own backyard," Benton recalls fondly about how his business was founded. Benton's business was born from humble beginnings, and he used the same family recipe for curing his grandparents had used in their log smokehouse in Virginia, and wrote to universities around the coun- try with food programs on how to improve his business. Benton's bacon takes four to five weeks to produce, and the ham takes two years. Ham and bacon is the only thing that Benton's sells, and he plans on keeping it that way. "It's quality not quantity. What I'm doing I've had a lot of help with. The chefs give us a lot of help and support too, all over the country." One of his first accounts in New York City was Tom Colicchio's Craft, and other restaurants, like David Chang's Momofuku, quickly followed suit. Even with the high demand, Benton's only has 20 employees, and although he has been asked to expand his business, it's not about money: "I could retire, but I like having a reason to get up and come to work in the morning. It's not a dollar that motivates me, but a compliment. I want to make exquisite ham and bacon." A FLOWER FARM AND a wine bar might seem like an unlikely pairing, but Kath- erine Anderson has created the perfect symbiotic relationship between the two. " Anderson says, "Planting is intuitive, and I enjoy the freedom of growing whatever I want." On her small parcel of land, she grows both edible and non-edible flowers, and there is no greenhouse on the proper- ty, and all plants are planted from bulbs or seeds, an impressive feat in Washington's cold weather. Her seeds are culled from multiple sources, including Seed Savers Exchange, Johnny's Seeds, and Renee's Garden Seeds. Last year she teamed up with James Beard award–winning chef Matt Dillon to open The London Plane, a café/mar- ket/flower shop, and The Little London Plane, a wine bar, event space, and gift shop featuring local artists, located in the newly-revitalized Pioneer Square district. She also plans to expand the London Plane Larder Share, which combines elements of a high-end CSA box with a monthly subscription box that contains prepared food from the restaurant's kitchens, sourdough bread baked in-house, wine, flowers, and retail goods from the shop. SNOWY WISCONSIN DOESN'T usually bring to mind golden citrus and other fresh fruits, but Tree Ripe Citrus Company has been bringing Florida oranges to the Badger State for over 20 years. Founded in 1990 by Paine's grandfather, who had worked in trucking and produce, Tree- Ripe Citrus's goal was to bring good quality citrus to Wisconsin, where it was often impossible to find fresh citrus. The territory they sell to has expanded over the years, now encompassing Wis- consin, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, and Minnesota. Paine explains: "Commercially-grown fruit is picked before it is ripe, and then goes through distribution, which means it is 17 to 20 days before the fruit actually gets to Wisconsin and is put in the stores. We cut out the middle man, the warehouse, and the cold storage, so the ripe fruit is picked and driven from Florida to Wisconsin within 24 hours, meaning that our customers can get our fruits two to four days after it's been picked, which makes a huge dif- ference in flavor." While Tree-Ripe Citrus started off just selling citrus, it has expanded over the years to include Georgia peaches and pecans, Michigan blueber- ries, and other fruits as they come into season. Wisconsin breweries O'So and Like Minds use their peaches for their sour beers and other busi- nesses, like local bakeries and ice cream shops, also use their fruit in their goods. The Southern Gentleman Who: Allan Benton, Owner What: Benton's Country Hams Where: Madisonville, TN The Northwest Horticulturist Who: Katherine Anderson, Owner What: Marigold and Mint Where: Seattle, WA 7KH�0 LGZHVW¶V� Fruit Vendor Who: Tiernan Paine, COO What: Tree-Ripe Citrus Company Where: Johnsonville, WI MEET YOUR MAKERS ■cr

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