Driving really far for local food (and beer)

arches national parkHello, Haute Pasture, I’ve missed you! The HP family recently returned from a multi-month road trip, seeking to experience as much local food and drink (and scenery and hiking and culture) as we could. We drove about 7,500 miles over 99 days, stayed at 42 campsites across 17 states, and enjoyed some fantastic local food and beer (we visited 78 breweries along the way). I had big plans of writing up descriptions of our favorite local discoveries as we went, but real life (as real as day after day spent hiking countryside and exploring towns can be) got in the way and I only got a few posts up from the road. Rather than writing individual posts for the remaining highlights, I’ll give an overview here, in the hopes of a quicker return to focusing on Central Virginia’s local food and drink scene.

Local favorites, not local to Virginia

The following food and drink establishments are restaurants, shops, and breweries which we especially enjoyed on our 17-state journey, that grow their own ingredients, source ingredients from local farms listed by name on their menu, or sell products created by local farmers and artisans. The local animal products sold by these businesses are from nearby farms that treat animals humanely, and the environment ethically. (See “Why should I care?” for more on that topic.)

bluff - 6 james ranch food cart durango

In Colorado, we loved
The Farmhouse at Jessup Farm in Fort Collins: Jessup Farm is a cluster of restored farm buildings housing a bakery, coffeeshop, brewery, a few boutiquey non-food businesses, and a quaint and cozy farm-to-table restaurant, The Farmhouse. Food and cocktail ingredients come from the small backyard garden (with a larger plot in the works) and chicken coop, and from nearby farms. Everything we tried was phenomenal.
James Ranch in Durango: This gorgeous family farm welcomes guests to purchase prepared foods, meats, and other farm-made products at a small market, or stroll the grounds admiring the happy animals. I wrote about our stop at the ranch here.
Farm Bistro in Cortez (near Durango): Farm Bistro is both a cafe serving locally-sourced food and a market selling locally-produced meats, honey, prepared foods, and body care items. We ate there a couple times, as detailed here.
Roan Creek Ranch Grocery in Fruita (near Grand Junction): Roan Creek Ranch raises grass-fed cattle and lambs, and pigs with no hormones or antibiotics. The animals have a peaceful, natural life and are humanely slaughtered. The little shop sells the ranch’s meat along with local produce, eggs, honey, cheese, and other handmade goods. Roan Creek Ranch is owned by a veterinarian who purchased the business so that she could feed her children meat she had raised herself, in the ethical way she desired.

hells backbone grill dinner hiking with cricket bars and 59in59

In Utah, we loved
Comb Ridge Bistro in Bluff: What luck to roll into dusty little Bluff and find a bustling bistro featuring local foods and humane meats! Plus, the food is delicious. Read more about our visits here.
Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder: This was our favorite local-food find of the trip. In the middle of the incredibly gorgeous Scenic Route 12 in Southern Utah sits this lovely, upscale restaurant featuring produce from the restaurant’s own farm and meats from the same tiny town. We loved dinner so much we went back for breakfast, as I wrote about here.
Moonflower Community Cooperative Natural Foods Store in Moab: I love a co-op grocery store, and this is a nice, big one where we stocked up on a ton of local produce. The highlight for me, though, as an entomophagy enthusiast: Moonflower carries Chapul cricket protein bars! Chapul is based in Salt Lake City, so I figured I’d run into them somewhere in Utah, but Moonflower was the only place I hit the cricket jackpot, and the crickets powered me through some tough hikes. (Exo helped friends and me hike in Texas, too; kooky friends pictured above.)

brewery terra firma lake michigan sleeping bear dunes

In Michigan, we loved
Brewery Terra Firma in Traverse City: Terra Firma grows some of the ingredients for its beers on its own farm, which employs innovative sustainability concepts to reuse and recycle: spent grain is spread on fields to improve soil, waste water irrigates and fertilizes crops, and excess heat from the brewing equipment is harnessed and used to heat the taproom. Bonus points for a dog-friendly patio and a scrumptious basil beer.
Keweenaw Co-op in Hancock: Like I said, I love a good co-op. This one is big, full of local and organic produce, and has a deli where you can pick up a sandwich made with local veggies for a day of exploring the Keweenaw Peninsula. We stayed across the river in Houghton and did a big restocking of our food supplies at the co-op.

diablo burger sedona hiking

In Arizona, we loved
Diablo Burger in Flagstaff: This small chain of burger joints sources all its beef from partner ranches in the Diablo Trust, a collaborative effort to produce grass-fed, humanely-treated cows on farms that protect the watershed and wildlife through land conservation programs and sustainable agriculture. Read about our dinner here.

We were thrilled to discover so much delicious local food and drink along our travel path, sometimes seemingly out in the middle of nowhere. To me, searching out places to try local food is an important part of experiencing an unfamiliar town or region. You may encounter an ingredient you’d never eaten, or an interesting twist on an old favorite. I can’t wait for the next adventure; until then, I’ll happily keep exploring the food of Charlottesville and Central Virginia!

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