Eat Local at La Merenda Restaurant, Milwaukee

Eat Local at La Merenda Restaurant, Milwaukee

Part of Ep. 1906 Grow Local, Eat Local

Eating local doesn’t have to mean you’re restricted to your own kitchen.  Many restaurants such as La Merenda of Milwaukee are serving up local produce, meat, and cheese.  Owner and chef Peter Sandroni serves up some of his favorites including roasted beet salad.

Premiere date: Jul 13, 2011

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan

We are in the cooking classroom at Milwaukee Public Market. I am with Chef Peter Sandroni of La Merenda Restaurant in Milwaukee. Peter, tell me about your restaurant. This is rather a special restaurant.

 

Peter Sandroni:

La Merenda is an international tapas restaurant. We focus on food from around the world and source ingredients locally as much as we can.

 

Shelley Ryan:

International food with it grown right here in Wisconsin.

 

Peter Sandroni:

Correct.

 

Shelley Ryan:

What dishes are you going to make today?

 

Peter Sandroni:

Today I'm going to make a roasted beet salad and a sauteed rainbow trout.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Well then, lets get to it. While you're working with this I actually took a cooking class from you, that's where I met you. One of the things that excited me is you mentioned an RSA. As a gardener, I know what a CSA is, Community Supported Agriculture. How does an RSA differ? What is that?

 

Peter Sandroni:

An RSA, the R stands for restaurants. Restaurant Supported Agriculture. It work very much the same where you pay up front. The money is used by the farmers as seed money. Literally, seed money to buy seeds to get their farm going for the season. Then through the course of the year, what makes us a little different than a CSA is we get to choose kind of what we want. So it doesn't come to us in a box like a CSA does, but at the beginning, we've kind of told the farmer things that we would like to see through the course of the year.

 

Shelley Ryan:

All of this that you're assembling into the roasted beet salad is from local farmers, local places.

 

Peter Sandroni:

Correct.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Well, let's talk a little bit about this.

 

Shelley Ryan:

You've got lettuce you put in there, I saw that.

 

Peter Sandroni:

The mixed greens come from Sweetwater Organics. It's an urban agricultural farm. The beets come from Springdale Farm. The gold beets come from Kiwi Dean Organics. The fennel comes from Tepee produce. The cheese is from Honey Chevre. It's Honey Chevre from Mon Chevre in Belmont, Wisconsin.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Local, local, local. The beets look like they've been cooked already. Is that correct?

 

Peter Sandroni:

They have been roasted and brined.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Brine, so they're pickled?

 

Peter Sandroni:

We've pickled them in apple cider vinegar, salt, and sugar. We've added red onions to the brine as well.

 

Shelley Ryan:

You're mixing it up with the cheese. What was in the dressing you just threw in there?

 

Peter Sandroni:

That is a champagne vinaigrette.

 

Shelley Ryan:

It smells wonderful.

 

Peter Sandroni:

Thank you. We're going to add a couple of beets on the plate just for presentation purposes.

 

Shelley Ryan:

People don't realize that golden beets are beautiful. I mean they are such a contrast to the red ones.

 

Peter Sandroni:

It does really add to the plate, especially when your using a nice white plate like this.

 

Shelley Ryan:

It just stands out, it glows. If food can be said to glow. Your restaurant is a relatively young restaurant and has already won a prestigious award, hasn't it?

 

Peter Sandroni:

It has. We were voted by Milwaukee Magazine's diners, so by the subscribers. The Diner's Choice award is the fourth best restaurant in Milwaukee.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Congratulations, that's fantastic.

Peter Sandroni:

It's very humbling.

 

Shelley Ryan:

That's fantastic, too.

 

Peter Sandroni:

Thank you.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Wow. That's the roasted beet salad. We will have the recipes for both of these on our Website. We're moving on to trout.

 

Peter Sandroni:

Can you pass me the trout and the flour please.

 

Shelley Ryan:

You need the flour, too.

 

Peter Sandroni:

Thank you.

 

Shelley Ryan:

We're heating up these pans already, right?

 

Peter Sandroni:

Correct. We're going to brown butter to put on top of the trout. Then we're actually going to cook the trout in butter, as well.

 

Shelley Ryan:

As a person who has messed up fish are these both on high?

 

Peter Sandroni:

They are on high heat. I will probably turn this one down shortly after putting the fish in there.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay.

 

Peter Sandroni:

We're going to keep the brown butter on high, because the best way to get it to brown is on high heat.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So, a little seasoning.

 

Peter Sandroni:

I'm going to season our fish. We're going to lightly flour them.

 

Shelley Ryan:

I'm guessing salt and pepper is not local.

 

Peter Sandroni:

No, unfortunately, I can not get salt and pepper local. We're working on getting local flour. There are a couple of mills. We're working on getting some other fats. People are doing walnut oil.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Wow, really? If you had to guess, what percentage of the food you serve at your restaurant is local?

 

Peter Sandroni:

Right now, at the heart of fall, with some stuff still remaining from summer, I'd say we're at 75% to 80% of our items are locally sourced.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Wow, okay.

 

Peter Sandroni:

In the oven, we've already started roasting some vegetables.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay, I'll back up.

 

Peter Sandroni:

I'll check on that real quick. We've got a little bit longer to go with that. We'll wait for the fish to finish up.

 

Shelley Ryan:

About how many minutes for these thin filets?

 

Peter Sandroni:

This is super quick. We're going to do this in probably a maximum of three minutes. About a minute and a half on each side. The fish is so fresh.

 

Shelley Ryan:

This is local, too?

 

Peter Sandroni:

This is local from Rushing Waters in Palmyra, Wisconsin. It was butchered yesterday morning, the day I ordered it, and it was delivered to me. It was alive in the morning, butchered in the afternoon, delivered to me that day.

Shelley Ryan:

I love the concept of eating international flavors, and yet still it's from our own backyard.

 

Peter Sandroni:

I love it too, it's fantastic. I can source things.

 

Shelley Ryan:

You're browning that one.

 

Peter Sandroni:

We're going to let that go just a touch longer. We're going to go about a minute and a half longer on the other side of this fish, and we'll be ready to go. While we wait for that, we can plate our vegetables.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay.

 

Peter Sandroni:

By the time we get that all out, we should be ready to go.

 

Shelley Ryan:

What is this?

 

Peter Sandroni:

This is roasted fingerling potatoes, Swiss chard shallots, and garlic.

 

Shelley Ryan:

It smells heavenly, already. I'm not going to touch that plate.

 

Peter Sandroni:

We're going to shut both of these off. Smell that nutty brown flavor.

 

Shelley Ryan:

I can smell the butter browning. Really, the fish cooks just until they flake?

 

Peter Sandroni:

Correct.

 

Shelley Ryan:

What are you going to do with the brown butter?

 

Peter Sandroni:

Instead of a sauce on here we're going to put a little bit of brown butter on each filet.

 

Shelley Ryan:

And that's the flavor?

 

Peter Sandroni:

That's the flavor.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Wow. Boy, if this is cooking local, I'm going to cook local more often! And I'm taking this with me!

 

Peter Sandroni:

Please do.

 

Shelley Ryan:

La Merenda Restaurant, thank you so much, Peter.

 

Peter Sandroni:

My pleasure, thank you for having me.

 

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