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.
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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.
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
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.
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.
Courtesy of Luxproductions.com
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.
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.
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).
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).