In today's Times, food section editor Leslie Brenner, more fire-breathing than S. Irene Virbila could ever be, tears into Santa Monica's new Abode restaurant for playing "the eco-friendly card." In what reads more like an editorial from the Opinion page, Brenner is on the attack from the get-go: A media blast from two weeks ago (the same one we received) claims Abode's chef Dominique Crenn sources "all of her produce from local farmers, fishers and ranchers who use sustainable practices." This really sets her off---Brenner has an organic bone to pick.
First and foremost, she admits that Abode's design is stunning and that chef Crenn's food is quite good. After all, isn't that why she's writing, to give a first look of a brand new restaurant? But this gets lost in her diatribe about where the ingredients come from and how "green" it all really is:
As I later learned, the cobia was flown from Vietnam, the Serrano ham was from Spain (of course), and though there's perfectly good Wagyu raised in the U.S., Abode's was flown in from Australia. The menu listed it as market price, and yes, I should have asked how much, but I never imagined it would be $75 for a 6-ounce serving. Jet fuel, I suppose, is expensive. John Dory is on the menu too — that's flown in from New Zealand. Black cod is from Alaska, the lobster's from Maine. Sustainable? Local?Excuse us while we jump on our own little soap box, but yes, these are sustainable ingredients. Sustainability means using products that will not be permanently destroyed for future use, allowing the resources to regenerate before being used again. So ingredients from the Santa Monica farmer's market and a fish like copia, which isn't on the Seafood Watch list, is indeed sustainable. (Slow Food's "Good, Clean, and Fair" manifesto has more on the subject; look at point number two.)
Local? Not always. But chef Crenn and owners Anastasia Israel and Kelly Gleason never said they were serving all local ingredients. Chalk that up to a poorly written sentence on the press release. We think the writer meant to say that the chef gets "all of her produce from local farmers, and fishers and ranchers who use sustainable practices." More maddening is this ultimate question: Does the fuel and energy used to ship food from across the country or around the world negate the fact that it's organic or comes from a fishing fleet that's not wiping out an entire species? It's a tough on-going debate.
So, is everyone jumping on the green bandwagon these days just make a buck? Hell yes. Green is hot. Is it really such a bad thing? Absolutely not. Even if some of Abode's building materials are reused and recycled rather than brand new, aren't we half way there? And should a critic complain about the use of leather chairs when she's eating foie gras and $75 Wagyu beef for dinner? We're just sayin.
And what do you say? Let us know your thoughts, and we'll publish them.
· Reach for the green: Abode, tucked away in Santa Monica, plays the eco-friendly card [LAT]
· Abode Revealed: Opens Wednesday April 18 [~ELA~]
· Post-Plywood: Abode Pre-Opening Party [~ELA~]