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Earth-to-Table Ideas

Chefs have a favorite new ingredient: soil. F&W's Kristin Donnelly reports on the trend and identifies the cooks, artists, artisans and wine pros who truly worship the ground that they walk on.

Visionary Chefs with Dirty Minds

Chefs have become so obsessed with farms that they're creating delicious dishes that honor the soil.

Attica

© 2009 Gaal Creative Pty Ltd. All Rights Reserved

Ripponlea, Australia: Attica

Ben Shewry studs dehydrated beets and berries with weeds to resemble the landscape in New Zealand, where he grew up. Inspired by the Maori's earthen ovens, he also cooks potatoes in soil. attica.com.au.

Gilt

Courtesy of Gilt Restaurant

New York City: Gilt

Justin Bogle grinds dried maitake mushrooms for a dirt-like base for vegetables. giltnewyork.com.

Atlanta: Pura Vida

To create a tasty garnish that looks like soil, Hector Santiago (a former Top Chef contestant) mixes Jamaican curry spices with graham-cracker crumbs. puravidatapas.com.

Girona, Spain: El Celler de Can Roca

Avant-gardist Joan Roca distills soil with a Rotavapor (a device that's used by the perfume industry) to create an earthy foam. cellercanroca.com.

Tokyo: Les Créations de Narisawa

Yoshihiro Narisawa creates a faux soil using toasted mustard seeds and olives. He also distills dirt for soup. narisawa-yoshihiro.com.

Chappaqua, New York: Crabtree's Kittle House

Brad McDonald's gnudi with dried-olive "dirt" reflects his training at Noma, a Danish restaurant famous for its botanical cuisine. kittlehouse.com.

Earthy Flavors

Laura Parker

Courtesy of David Matheson Photography

Art of Terroir

At Laura Parker's latest installation, Taste of Place—now at San Francisco's Intersection for the Arts—gallery-goers smell soil, then sample vegetables grown in that earth. theintersection.org.

Dar Ahlam

Courtesy of Luxproductions.com

Earthen Dwellings

Half the world lives in earthen houses by necessity, but only in the past decade have architects glorified the material. Wine regions like Napa are dotted with rammed-earth buildings. In the Moroccan desert, at the edge of the Atlas Mountains, a rammed-earth fortress is now the Dar Ahlam hotel. From $1,000 per night; maisondesreves.com.

Dirt cake

Photo by Gabe Palacio for Caramoor

A Potted Dessert

"Dirt cake"—chocolate pudding served in a flowerpot topped with crumbled chocolate cookies—is a children's-party favorite. But when New York City caterer Great Performances served it last summer, the sophisticated version came adorned with sprigs of mint.

Curbside Composting

Thanks to a new law, San Francisco collects residents' food scraps to use as nutrient-rich compost for farms and wineries like Napa Valley's Far Niente. Other cities with similar programs include Seattle; Boulder, Colorado; and Minneapolis.

Composting Goes Chic

Made from cedar, the Valentina composting box on wheels is so attractive, it could double as an outdoor table ($300; priscillawoolworth.com). For apartment dwellers, NatureMill is an energy-efficient indoor alternative (from $300; naturemill.com).

Dirty Movie

Gary Vaynerchuk, host of the wildly popular video blog Wine Library TV, has a cameo in the documentary Dirt! The Movie, now on DVD. "Dirt might be more alive than we are," he declares. Like winemakers, he even tastes vineyard soil ($25; dirtthemovie.org).

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Published June 2010
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