Thursday, April 17, 2014
Chef Masa Miyake at Wolfe's Neck Farm with American Guinea Hogs
Once upon a time, there was an innovative chef who raised heritage breed pigs at his home in Freeport, Maine. He enjoyed watching the pigs grow and educating the staff from his restaurants about them. Then one day he realized he wanted to raise more pigs, but did not have the available land. A few miles away was a historic farm with 626 acres on the Maine coast dedicated to sustainable agriculture and environmental education that wanted to raise heritage breed pigs, but not on their own. One day the chef went as he often did to buy hay from the farm, and as it happened this particular day the director of the farm was there and they got to talking about pigs, the farmer’s need for land and the farm’s need for a partner to raise pigs. After further discussion, the chef brought nine young American Guinea Hogs to the farm, where they turn the soil and visiting families love watching them eat apples and pile on top of each other.
Since the 1950s, Wolfe’s Neck Farm has been welcoming the public to learn more sustainable farming. Each year the farm’s programs, camps, and classes welcome thousands of participants who want to learn more about agriculture, exploring the natural world, and learning about the economics and science of taking care of livestock. The idea of exposing Miyake’s heritage breed pigs to people who visit the farm is exciting to the farm’s staff.
“Just having pigs here as another addition to our integrated diversified farming programs offers tons of benefits, said David Herring, executive director of Wolfe’s Neck Farm. “We see ourselves as kind of the antithesis and throwback farm compared to where large industrial farming has gone over the last couple of decades. We were really drawn to the educational perspective and just (having) an opportunity to begin a partnership with an innovator.”
In 2007 Masa Miyake, a chef from northern Japan who was working in New York City, moved his family from a one-bedroom apartment in Queens to Maine after having vacationed along the famous coastline. That same year he opened his first restaurant Miyake in Portland’s west end. Since then he has created a culinary dynasty in what has become known as one of this country’s great food towns. Later this month, Miyake will open his third restaurant in Portland – Miyake Diner on Spring Street, which will join Pai Men Miyake on Longfellow Square and his flagship restaurant, Miyake on Fore Street.
A few years ago he purchased a home in Freeport with 3 and ½ acres and began growing vegetables for his restaurants. At Miyake Farm, Masa is developing a breeding stock of American Guinea Hogs (according to his farm manager Emily Philips, the pigs at Wolfe’s Neck Farm are not destined to be bred), and raising Mangalistas (large woolly pigs from Hungary known for their size and taste), Ossabaw Island Hogs and a couple Landrace cross pigs. Miyake is taking farm-to-table dining a step further, because he enjoys learning about their behavior and being able to control what they eat (in addition to apples, they eat spent grains from local breweries In’finiti and Maine Beer Co.
American Guinea Hog at Wolfe's Neck Farm
To find out more about Miyake Diner and how the menu will take advantage of Miyake’s pigs, I connected with Will Garfield, director of operations for all of the companies within Miyake Restaurants.
Food Notes with Will Garfield
SK: How will the new restaurant differ from the two existing ones? How is the food different from the food at the other restaurants?
WG: Miyake Diner will differ from the existing restaurants in a couple of ways. First the menu. We will be serving items that could be considered Japanese comfort food in many ways. This will consist of curry, doria, pork cutlet, udon, shabu-shabu, okonomiyake etc. Though seemingly simple dishes we will strive to have a menu that is concise yet dynamic in a manner that we will be offering authentic Japanese fare that Portland residents have not had the opportunity to sample in not only our current restaurants but also in Maine. Another major difference is the size. We will only have 16 seats, which is very traditional to a neighborhood sized restaurant in Japan. This will give us the opportunity to interact with our patrons on a direct basis again and also give the kitchen the means to create a unique menu that can change with availability of local ingredients from our farm and other local vendors. With the size of the space we also will be able to highlight Miyake Farm and any meat products or eggs will be directly sourced from our farm 90% of the time, which we have not had the opportunity to do in the other locations based on volume. Also the beverage program will be primarily based on sake for the first time and this will be a chance for us to educate the public on all of the wonderful varieties of sake that we can source in Maine now and shed the stigma that sake is only good for a bad hangover.
SK: What influenced the decision to open this restaurant?
WG: We wanted to reopen a casual yet interesting space in our original location that will cater to our loyal local West End demographic, which allowed us to grow our business in the early years. The price point will be affordable (all dishes under $10.) and with only 16 seats it will be a tight neighborhood spot where we hope to interact with our patrons on a first hand level and also have friends, family, and patrons be able to have a comfortable and causal meal in an environment that will be a cross between an American Diner and a Japanese Izakaya. Our main goal was a space that we could create a menu that would serve the neighborhood by offering Breakfast, lunch and dinner in a comfortable and affordable location. Breakfast and lunch will be very traditional and focused on simple ingredients and dinner will be a wider variety of small plates with a focus on the beverage program.
SK: What are a couple examples of dishes that best represent this new restaurant?
Miyake Farm Pork Cutlet with panko with julienned cabbage $ 9.50 Napolitano spaghetti original Japanese style tomato with Miyake Farm Ground Pork $9.50 Cortijoin (intestine sautéed with miso and scallion) $7.50 Meat Curry (Miyake Farm Pork) $9.50 Yako plain tofu with bonito flake and scallion with dashi shoyu $4.50 We will be using Miyake Farm Pork widely on the menu but also will be offering many vegetarian and macrobiotic options as well.
Images by Winky Lewis.Tweet
Sharon Kitchens is a neo-homesteader learning the ins and outs of country living by luck and pluck and a lot of expert advice. She writes about bees for The Huffington Post and stuff she loves on her personal blog, deliciousmusings.com.
When she is not writing, she enjoys edible gardening, reading books on food and/or thinking about food, hanging out by her beehives and patiently tracking down her chickens in the woods behind her old farmhouse.
In her blog, Sharon profiles farm families, reports on farm-based education and internships, conducts Q&A's with master beekeepers, offers tips on picking a CSA, and much more.