Crooked Ewe tries to cook local while finding the best ingredients

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By: Marshall V. King
mking@flavor574.com

Marshall V. King/Flavor574

As hungry eaters want local food, chefs try to comply and fill plates with it.

“I’m for local, 100 percent,” said Alain Helfrich, executive chef at Crooked Ewe Brewery & Ale House. “I’m also for good ingredients.”

He has a bit of a philosophical approach to food. He wonders if the amount of meat we eat will hurt the environment. Crooked Ewe is the kind of place where you can find both vegan food and smoked brisket. 

But such philosophical musings are secondary to his primary concern — he wants quality.

During the interview for a previous Dining A La King column, Helfrich discussed how he wants local vegetables and is getting a lot of them. He wants local meat and is finding some.

“Every week or two, I add more local,” he said.

In the Crooked Ewe brew room, owner and brewmaster Andy Walton would love to use local hops, but finding quality hops consistently is an issue.

Along with its three menus — the regular menu, the vegan/vegetarian one and the beer list — is a sheet titled, “Where We Get Our S#$% From.” It’s a long list of sources of the meat, grains, hops and as many of the ingredients they can mention.

The brisket is from Select Angus Farms in Nebraska, the coffee from Zen Coffee and Cafe in South Bend. Cheese comes from Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin. The tom yum paste is from Thailand. Helfrich said he’d love to find a closer source, but who makes the classic paste better than the country in which it essentially originated?

In an era of food allergies and “Frankenfoods,” Helfrich is fighting back with honesty on his path to deliciousness as he continues searching for better sources.

“I invited any local producer of food, who labors for their passion and wants to partner with us, to reach to me personally,” he writes on the bottom of the ingredient list.

Marshall V. King is food columnist for Flavor 574 and community editor for The Elkhart Truth. You can reach him at 574-296-5805, mking@flavor574.com, and on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
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