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2013 Local Hero Winners

Congratulations!

Each autumn readers of Edible Rhody are invited to honor the people who bring us our food by voting for their local food heroes. We’d like to extend our thanks to you who voted for the chefs who feed us, the artisans who tempt us, the farmers who produce flavorful foods, the food stores that inspire us and the nonprofits that effect change in our food community.

 

Farmer/Farm
Skip Paul & Liz Peckham
Wishing Stone Farm, Little Compton

Wishing Stone Farm

If you’ve ever purchased produce from Wishing Stone Farm’s market booth or CSA, chances are you’ve met a member of the family. Liz Peckham and Skip Paul (pictured here with son Silas) are committed to offer- ing customers a personal experience; a fam- ily member is always on hand to greet customers at every farmers’ market. “It’s im- portant to us that our customers feel a con- nection to the farm,” explains Paul. This

year, in an effort to provide an even greater product to their loyal patrons, Wishing Stone Farm is in the process of enriching their soil with organic matter, minerals and nutrients to create a highly functioning soil ecosystem—a practice referred to as “nutri- ent-dense farming.” The result will be crops that have a measurably greater quantity of minerals, vitamins, nutrients and antioxi- dants. Studying the technique for the past three years, Skip is excited to share his knowledge with the public, and bring an even better product to market. WishingStoneFarm.com

(Photo by Chip Riegel)

 

Chef/Restaurant
Matt Varga
Gracie’s, Providence

Gracie's Providence

Now in his fourth year as Gracie’s head chef, Matt Varga feels as though he is hitting his stride. With an ever-changing menu dedi- cated to local, seasonal goods, Matt works closely with nearby farms, using their offer- ings to shape each dish. He also uses pro- duce from the Gracie’s rooftop garden high atop the Peerless buidling in Providence. “It becomes very natural to write menus in tune with the season,” he explains. “You have a base of ingredients to work with, and it’s like putting together puzzle pieces, finding the flavors and textures that work well together. It’s a very natural process.” Matt is quick to give credit to his staff, to owner Ellen Slat- tery and to the inspirational guest chefs who take part in Gracie’s Star Chef series. “Work- ing with other chefs gives us the chance to learn different techniques and styles. What we do at Gracie’s is very specific, but we try to draw influences from kitchens all over the world—and stepping outside our comfort zone keeps the creativity flowing.” GraciesProv.com
(Photo by David Dadekian)

Food Artisan
Olga Bravo & Becky Wagner
Olga’s Cup & Saucer, Providence

Olga and Becky

Celebrating their 25th anniversary this year, with a dedication to artisanal techniques and a commitment to using only the freshest ingredients, Olga Bravo (right) and co-owner Rebecca Wagner (left) credit their success to creativity and consistency. In 1997, Olga moved her bakery business to Providence after outgrowing her Little Compton space. Bringing a bit of the farm to the city, she planted a garden of herbs, tomatoes, flow- ers and fruit trees surrounding the café and created a welcome respite in the middle of the Jewelry District. What began as a menu dedicated to bread and baked goods now includes breakfast and lunch on weekdays, and weekend brunch. “Monday through Fri- day we have a captive audience,” Olga ex- plains, referring to the lack of lunch spots in the neighborhood, “but the fact that we’re busy on weekends is a sign of our cus- tomers’ dedication.” You’ll find their deli- cious products (and Olga and Becky) at several Rhode Island weekly farmers’ mar- kets too. OlgasCupAndSaucer.com
(Photo by Rupert Whiteley)

Beverage Artisan
Richard Carmichael
Greenvale Vineyards, Portsmouth

Richard Carmichael

It takes serious dedication to make wine in Rhode Island. Harsh, unpredictable weather, high levels of humidity and a short growing season: Vintages can differ wildly each year. But since the mid-’90s, Greenvale Vineyards has been committed to producing high-qual- ity wine from the fruit grown at their estate along the Sakonnet River in Portsmouth. The historic Greenvale farm has been in the same family since 1863, but it wasn’t until 1982 that the process of planting grapes began. “There can be dramatic differences in the wine from year to year,” explains winemaker Richard Carmichael, “but we are always optimistic at the beginning of each growing season.” With a new vineyard block planted, and the goal of opening their own winery (currently, Green- vale wine is made at Newport Vineyard), there is plenty to be optimistic about, includ- ing the continued dedication to producing great Rhode Island wine. Greenvale.com (Photo by Chip Riegel)

Food Shop
Provender Fine Foods
Tiverton Four Corners

Provender

Provender has been a mainstay in Tiverton Four Corners for over three decades, provid- ing locals and tourists alike with a much- loved menu of sandwiches, cookies, cakes, pastries and an ever-expanding selection of specialty foods. Celebrating its 30th anniver- sary in 2012, owner Jennifer Borden decided it was time to take to the Internet, launching a website, online shop and Facebook page to connect with customers, clients and le- gions of loyal former employees. “I have made several wedding cakes for girls who once worked in the shop during their high school years,” Jennifer remembers. “I love keeping in touch with them, and being a part of their lives as they grow up.” It’s this feeling of familiarity that fans of Provender appreciate. “Of course I hope that people love the food but equally important is the ambiance, and the feeling of being wel- comed.” ProvenderFineFoods.com (Photo by Carole Topalian)

Food Related Nonprofit
Aquidneck Island Land Trust

The Aquidneck Island Land Trust was founded in 1990 with the goal of conserving 2,000 acres, a seemingly impossible task given obstacles like the price of real estate and development pressure on Aquidneck Is- land. However, in less than two decades, the Trust has exceeded its initial goal, saved farmland and is now focusing on the future. “We are always looking to acquire new land parcels, grow our membership and increase our annual appeal,” says Interim Executive Director Chuck Allott. With a calendar of en- gaging events such as their Conservation Speaker Series, Trolley Tours and Land Mat- ters Walk & Talk Series, members can look forward to gaining an education while sup- porting an important cause. AILT is also partnering with local school systems to focus attention on engaging the island’s younger residents, the future stewards of the land AILT works so diligently to protect. AILT.org (Photo by Carole Topalian)

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