Forage LA - Forging On
Growing up in rural Missouri, summers meant plastic bags on the porch when we got home. They were garden grab bags, full of zucchini, green peppers, tomatoes, berries, and other surplus from the back yards of friends and family. After weeks of zucchini bread, zucchini soup, or stuffed zucchini ( "zucch-anoes" if you prefer) they'd run out of use for the stuff and gave the rest to us.
Translate this phenomenon to a business model, plop it in the rootsy bougie Los Angeles neighborhood of Sunset Junction, and you get the new restaurant Forage.
Ingredients are local, seasonal, and come from farmers markets and neighborhood suppliers. That's more sweet than novel as the Localvore Age continues. But then there's Jared with his loquats, and Laura with her lemons. These are customers who bring in their bounty from the hills of Loz Feliz and the plains of Sherman Oaks, and get some trade to put toward lunch or dinner.
And the idea was to turn food from the neighbors into that week's menu. Your cucumbers might wind up alongside some Jidori chicken. Your citrus could marinate beets for a Rainbow Salad.
I say "was" because last week Forage dug up some trouble - from the Los Angeles Board of Health. Turns out restaurants are only allowed to serve food from certified sources. No more found food can be sold to customers.
I definitely shook my head at "the man" shutting down a beautiful idea when I heard this. But there are serious issues that come into play. When people show up at your restaurant with food, how do you know whether it was grown in safe soil? How do you know it hasn't been stolen from someone or somewhere? You can see where the law has a point on this one.
For now, Forage is still accepting food from folks in the 'hood. But they're not able to cook it up. Instead, they can only donate it to food pantries and the like. Which begs the question: Why is found food ok to give away, but not to sell?