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Farm to Chef Dining Options Grow Along with Demand for Locally Produced Food

Max Restaurant Group, which owns Avon restaurant Max a Mia, was on the ground floor of the state's Department of Agriculture movement. Other businesses, like J. Foster Ice Cream, use local ingredients in their food.

Renewed interest in where food comes from and buying local is a trend on the rise in Connecticut, particularly in the younger demographic, according to Linda Piotrowicz, who heads the state Department of Agriculture’s Farm-to-Chef Program

“Right now we’re in a really exciting time for agriculture and local food,” Piotrowicz said, attributing the surge in local food demand to concerns about  “food-borne illness outbreaks” and the “national obesity epidemic,” as well as awareness in schools about food and health. “All of the stars are really aligning.”

Farmington Valley and West Hartford residents can get a taste of the initiative themselves during the state’s third annual Farm-to-Chef Week from Sept. 16 to 22 in 65 locations statewide including school cafeterias and health care facilities.

Restaurants will each feature four menu items made with at least one ingredient grown or produced in Connecticut. Establishments that serve alcohol will offer at least one Connecticut wine.

“It encourages them to go above and beyond what they normally do with local ingredients,” said Piotrowicz, who helped start the Farm-to-Chef Program in Connecticut in 2006.

It’s also a way for restaurants and farmers to connect, she said.

The program was launched after the state passed legislation in 2005 establishing a revenue source from land record fees for the agriculture department to use ”to encourage the sale of Connecticut-grown farm products to restaurants and institutions,” Piotrowicz said.

Some Farm-to-Chef Week participants will host cooking demonstrations and several-course meals. The food ranges from meat-heavy dishes to vegan and vegetarian fare.

“It’s quite a bit more diverse than a typical restaurant week,” Piotrowicz said. “Participants have a lot of flexibility in menu and pricing.”

J. Foster Ice Cream, route: {:controller=>"listings", :action=>"show", :id=>"j-foster-ice-cream"} -->, which has locations in Avon and Simsbury, will serve maple bacon ice cream with bacon from Eagle Wood Farms in Barkhamsted and maple syrup from Sweet Wind Farm in East Hartland, apple brandy sorbet with apples from Gray’s Farm in New Britain, honey vanilla ice cream with honey from Jones Apiaries in Farmington, and carrot cake ice cream made with organic carrots from in Avon and Max Burger and

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