I’m not sure whether to call it fitting or ironic that Café Modern, the restaurant located in the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, is throwing aside present food conventions in favor of the traditions of the past. Although Modern art “is usually associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in a spirit of experimentation,”¹ Executive Chef Dena Peterson is serving up anything but Food Noveau.
The Circle of Responsibility
Just a few steps away from the kitchen you can stroll by Dena’s charming little garden, a living symbol of the “Circle of Responsibility” philosophy behind the restaurant. Bon Appétit Management Company, which runs this restaurant along with many others, is the first of it’s kind. It’s goal is to offer:
Food choices that celebrate flavor, affirm regional cultural traditions, and support local communities without compromising air, water or soil, now and in the future.
Here are just a few of their Kitchen Principles:
- Menus are written based on seasonality and availability of regional fresh product. Whenever possible, these are produced locally using sustainable and organic practices
- Stocks are made from scratch, the day before use to ensure the removal of fats
- Shell eggs are produced cage-free and Certified Humane
- Seafood should be purchased fresh when available locally. Salmon is wild caught. They support the Seafood Watch guidelines as recommended by the Monterey Bay Aquarium
- Trans fats are not used in their kitchens
- MSG and peanut oil are never used in the preparation of their food
- All salad dressings are made from scratch, which means no hidden MSG and nasty preservatives. (Nonfat and low-calorie dressings may be purchased as necessary)
- Gluten-free options available
I find it really refreshing that a large company is making the effort to seek locally produced products rather than buying in bulk and shipping the same thing to every location. The menu prices were not outlandish, proving that it can be done affordably.
Okay, art might be too lofty a term, but I’m trying to keep with the theme here ; – ) How about artisanal? Yes, that fits nicely. Many of the ingredients used at Café Modern come from local farmers and artisans. Here’s the short list:
- The ground beef for their burgers is from Burgundy Pastures. As the menu evolves, Dena will be incorporating other cuts of beef from Burgundy, but as of yet the burger is the only item so far.
- Dena regularly purchases many different products from Dallas Mozzarella Company, Latte Da Dairy (featured on their menu right now) and Polan Cheese out of Austin. Future menus will include Deborah’s Goat Cheeses, Brazos Valley Cheese and other local products.
When I asked Dena about their eggs, she told me “All of our shell eggs are cage free, certified humane (usually Phil’s brand). (My produce supply company and broadline distributor both carry them) Though I am interested in getting local, free range eggs – I raise chickens at home – and there is no substituting the flavor of a farm fresh egg!”
Regarding produce, Dena told me:
I buy as much as possible from the Cowtown Farmer’s Market each week. I also utilize my produce company that provides various produce from local farms which changes weekly. I also grow a bit in my garden here at the restaurant and a bit at home. There is nothing better than knowing exactly where your food has been!! At the moment, I am purchasing Tomatoes from Scott Farms, radishes, lettuces, asparagus, herbs, strawberries, turnips, etc.. As the season changes I will be buying more and more fruit such as peaches, melons and plums.
I like this woman!
Did I forget something?
Oh yes, the food! Sorry, I am such a sucker for good ingredients sometimes I just go on and on. Daniel ordered “Susan’s Duck PB&J.” Yes, a duck peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Shredded Smoked Duck with Cashew – Peanut Butter, Mild Jalapeno Pepper Jelly and
Grilled Red Onion on Toasted Multigrain Bread.
I’ll admit I was very skeptical, but it was delicious. The jalapeno jelly was the clincher for me. If you stop in don’t be afraid to give it a try.
I vacillated between the Grass-Fed Cheeseburger and the Lobster Pot Pie. I went with the pot pie, but if I’d known Daniel was about to go on a 21 Day cleanse I would’ve gotten both. I sure did miss beef during those three weeks. I loved the flavor of the pie but wished the sauce was a little creamier. That may be a pregnancy thing, though. I would probably drink cream if I could get my hands on the raw stuff for a good price!
One Quick Caution
Personally, I would avoid the chicken. It’s “produced without the routine use of antibiotics as a feed additive,” but more than likely fed GMO corn and soy.
Overall, I would say that Café Modern is a lot like Tillman’s Roadhouse. The food is delicious, and both are headed by chefs that are passionate about local, organic ingredients and sustainable practices. The menu is still a work in progress when it comes to implementing these ideals fully, but I would say it’s pretty easy to walk in and order something that easily qualifies as real food.
¹Wikipedia, Modern Art