Last week, while I attended World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., I had the pleasure of eating dinner at a restaurant downtown called Graze.
If you’ve ever traveled to Madison, Wis., you understand that it’s a melting pot of cultures from farmers and businessmen to industrial and technology with hippyesque flair. And Graze is a reflection of all that is Madison.
According Graze’s Web site, the name Graze was chosen because grass-fed animals and rotational grazing are important to the restaurant owners. They also state they wanted the menu to inspire guests to do just that: graze.
What struck me most about my visit, in addition to amazing food, was that you weren’t hit over the head with messaging on hormones and antibiotics. That, in itself, was so refreshing. The dining experience was all about good food and knowing where your food comes from.
I don’t want to stereotype, but it seems the trend for pasture to plate restaurants (which I love the concept of) tend to market or position their foods through the labeling of antibiotic-free, hormone-free, vegetarian-fed beef, etc. This is a marketing concept that gets old fast, besides being misleading and one that only widens the growing disconnect between agriculture and today’s consumers.
At Graze you didn’t get the feeling of superiority or inferiority for making one food choice over another. You didn’t have to second-guess your food choice because of how it was labeled – it was all marketed to be equally delicious. (OK I’ll admit I did second-guess my food choice – too many amazing things on the menu.) There was a code on the menu that helped you decipher gluten-free, vegan, soy, if the dish contained nuts, dairy-free, etc.
The other part that I loved about the restaurant is they featured a farmer of the month; a novel concept I wish every restaurant employed. One wall of Graze was dedicated to the farm of the month including who the farm was and what crops they grew. It was cool to see the restaurant connect the farmer and the restaurant diner. You could feel good about supporting local agriculture. On the back of the menu they also listed every farm they sourced ingredients for the restaurant from. I was hoping to learn a little more from Graze about how they source the farms they work with, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get in touch with their head chef, Tory Miller.
Maybe if I visited the restaurant on another occasion I’d have a different view. But to me, my first visit to Graze was a refreshing dining experience and I enjoyed my visit. Perhaps other restaurants will take a page from Graze and help consumers make the connection between where their food comes from.
If you happen to get to Madison, Wis., Graze is located along the capitol square and touts one of the most amazing views. The side of the restaurant facing the capitol is glass and at night when the capitol is lit up, it’s breathtaking.