“Camden was originally an accident — but I shall never be sorry. I was left over in Camden. It has brought me blessed returns.” — Walt Whitman
Anyone who lives in South Jersey, has lived there previously, or visits frequently to be with friends or family knows the majesty of the place. Walt Whitman certainly understood; the people, the community, the land — all of it so perfectly reflects the region’s best qualities. Our intention, as far as Spring Restaurant Week is concerned, is to continue in that way of thinking — to reflect South Jersey’s best attributes, what Walt Whitman calls his “blessed returns”. It gives us pride to be participating alongside so many independently-owned eateries, planning entire menus around the mission of including local and sustainable food.
One such participant in Spring Restaurant Week, Elements Café on Station Avenue in Haddon Heights, has been hard at work in anticipation of next month’s celebration. Elements proudly serves as much local, organic, and sustainable food as possible, most of its produce coming from 1895 Organic Farm in Lumberton, including onions, basil, oregano, radish, zucchini, and bok choy just to name a few. All of those and more will be included in some form for their menu for the week.
Serving food to customers is imbued with a kind of qualitative responsibility. As a chef, it can be easy to cut corners; to sacrifice proper ingredients to make an extra dime, so making the decision to buy local is an intentional one. You wouldn’t trust the seafood in Kansas like you would in Massachusetts, right? Local cuisine tells a story about what it is and where it comes from. It paints culture, tradition, and history. Joel Salatin, American author and farmer has this to say, “This magical, marvelous food on our plate, this sustenance we absorb, has a story to tell. It has a journey. It leaves a footprint. It leaves a legacy. To eat with reckless abandon, without conscience, without knowledge; folks, this ain’t normal.”
The dishes comprising Elements Café’s Tasting Menu; the Strawberry and Beets Salad, the Chicken Confit Eggroll, Sesame Crusted Filet Mignon, and many more are complemented by the tastes and textures of South Jersey; the product of the region’s “blessed returns” are what Spring Restaurant Week will be chock full of, come March 19th. Each dish tells its own story and has its own history. From field to table, doesn’t it just feel better knowing where your food is coming from? As much as we enjoy fast food there’s sometimes that little bit of mental dissonance that comes from not knowing where your burger or burrito is coming from. Knowing that Elements’ produce is coming straight from 1895 Organic Farm twenty-five minutes up the road makes it easy to be confident in what’s being placed before you.
When it comes to the Panzanella, the Pork Belly Lollipops, and the Five Spice Marinated Duck Breast on the Elements’ Menu, you can have the satisfaction that you’re receiving the very best that South Jersey has to bring to the table.
Spring Restaurant Week will be held from March 19th-24th.