New idea sprouts up inValley

YOUNGSTOWN – A locally sourced meal was served in a half thrift shop / half art gallery to the music of a string quartet Sunday evening. The One Pot meal hosted by The Sprouted Table at the Greyland Gallery is a mouthful to describe, though the approximately 50 people in attendance found it an appetite pleaser.

The Sprouted Table- brainchild of chef Adam Lee, 29, and Rasul Welch, 32 – is an underground kitchen that hosts dinners around the city while promoting the use of locally grown produce and locally raised animals. The dinner Sunday included a winter greens salad, a Thai vegan curry and toasted pears.

“The over-arching goal is to provide a progressive food experience and to expose people to food seasonality and even eating in nontraditional spaces,” Lee said.

The Sprouted Table’s meals are announced on its website and Facebook page. Typical meals hosted by the group consist of several courses highlighting four to five local growers, but Lee said he hoped the “One Pot” meal would be more laid back and allow a different set of attendees to enjoy the experience.

“I would say 95 percent is local – all the whole foods, or the main components of the dish anyway,” he said.

Most of this came from the Iron Roots Farm, not far from the downtown dining location. Liberty Merill of the farm stood to speak at the dinner and shared the farm’s progress over the last two years. It has provided first job experience for teen-agers and training for other urban farmer hopefuls.

Sitting to eat with her and a group of friends was Vince Krpicak of Boardman. This was his first Sprouted Table experience.

“It was definitely different than what I am used to. It expanded my range of food,” Krpicak said, “Recently I’ve been more about convenience, but this has a lot more flavor.”

Lee said he used to live the same way; he said he ate what he did without a care about where it necessarily came from or how it was grown. Several years ago, however, he began attending the the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Youngstown where he learned more about food justice.

Food justice? “It’s about sustainability and accessibility accessibility being that people don’t have access to food like produce,” Sprouted Table partner Gianna Cioffi said.

In other words, what you eat is not just what’s on your plate. There are the matters of intentional sourcing, care of the animals, the rotation of crops throughout the growing seasons, and even “intensive grazing management, paying close attention to the cycle of nature,” Cioffi said. “If you go to Cleveland or Pittsburgh, you’ll see this is happening everywhere.”

Cioffi, along with Lee and Welch, hope to play a part in bringing the lifestyle of conscious eating to the area. They aren’t alone. Matt Alspaugh, pastor at Lee’s church, said the church began a farmer’s market on the Northside to help address local inaccessibility to fresh produce.

The recipes for the vegetables and other food products are endless, which is one of the reasons he said he enjoys attending Lee’s dinners.

“It’s always surprising,” said Alspaugh, “Local food around here people might think has a limited repertoire, but folks like Adam are pushing the envelope.”

The melange of good food and goodwill resonated through the gallery as the meal came to a close and Cioffi said hopefully it will be taken outside by the attendees, whether it means buying produce locally or being more conscious of what they are consuming.