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!

Comb Ridge Espresso Bistro, Bluff, UT

bluff - 7

Bluff is a tiny, dusty town in far southeastern Utah, surrounded by incredible scenery including Monument Valley, Goosenecks State Park (pictured above), Valley of the Gods, ancient ruins, canyons, the list goes on. The town itself, while a central base for exploring the surrounding area, is nothing to write home about (granted, we were there in April, which is still technically the off-season). Comb Ridge Espresso Bistro on the main drag in “downtown” Bluff was a welcome and delightful surprise, a oasis focused on high quality, local ingredients and wonderful service, in a desert of dining options. We went for wifi, an appetizer, and local beer on our first afternoon in town, and returned a couple nights later for dinner and dessert(s).

Comb Ridge only serves local humanely-raised meat, and sources ingredients locally when possible. It’s a charming, cozy spot serving upscale comfort food in a place where you’d least expect it!

bluff - 6 bluff - 5 goosenecks state park bluff

James Ranch, Durango CO

james ranch market durango

Last Friday we were driving from Durango to Silverton and Ouray (on an incredibly scenic road–if you are in the area, do it), and just north of Durango we saw a sign for James Ranch Market: Open Saturday. It being mid-April, farmers market-type places are in short supply, so we happily returned the next day to check out the James Ranch offerings. It’s a gorgeous property, with rolling green fields dotted with cows, a mobile chicken coop, picnic tables, and a little burger hut serving their own beef and cheese, in addition to the shop selling the farm’s products. We were disappointed that we’d already had breakfast so didn’t get to try a burger, but we did buy some ground beef, flank steak, and eggs, and strolled the grounds hoping to spot some baby animals.

james ranch food cart durango james ranch durango cheese james ranch durango meat cooler

James Ranch raises beef cows on a 100% grass diet with no chemicals or hormones. The beeves (a new word to me since spending time out West and I love it) spend their entire lives with the family herd in a stress-free atmosphere. The dairy cows and goats also live on grass, or rather leaves, bark, and shrubs for the goats. Pigs are new to the farm, living in herds on pasture, able to root and wallow like pigs do. Chickens are pastured too, happily eating fly larvae from cow pies to keep the fly population in check–and they have a guard donkey to protect them from predators!

james ranch durango picnic area james ranch durango pasturesjames ranch durango pastures james ranch durango

The James family practices sustainable agriculture in preserving soil and water quality, and believes in transparency in farming: they encourage consumers to visit the farm to see where the meat, eggs, and milk come from and how the animals are treated, and if you have questions about the animals or the meat, they are happy to answer them. It’s how a farm should be!

james ranch durango james ranch durango grass fed beef

The Farm Bistro in Cortez, CO

the farm bistro cortez

It’s always exciting to pull into a tiny town in the middle of nowhere and find a bustling restaurant focused on local and sustainable food and drink sources. We stopped for lunch in Cortez, CO on the way to Durango and chanced upon The Farm Bistro, a charming little equine-themed (decor, not food) restaurant with a small retail area full of local meats, eggs, produce, grains, prepared foods, and body products. We picked up some local pastured eggs, steak, sausage, and a phenomenal (local) honey dill mustard. Lunch was lovely, and a few days later when we spent a couple nights in Cortez, we were happy to return for dinner.

the farm bistro cortez local goodsthe farm bistro cortez

The Farm Bistro sources much of its produce from its own organic farm in the next town, and the owners are dedicated to purchasing as many ingredients as possible from local farmers. The bar serves local beer, wine, and spirits, and the service and food are great!

the farm bistro cortez principlesthe farm bistro cortez local meat

(Note the yak ranch meat in the photo above–how often does an East Coaster see that?) We were in Cortez to visit Mesa Verde National Park to see the large, well-preserved Native American cliff dwelling ruins. The Cortez/Dolores/Mancos area is also home to fantastic hiking and mountain biking. All three towns have breweries too, if you like local beer as much as you like local food!

Hell’s Backbone Grill, Boulder, Utah

What a surprise to find, in the middle of nothing but glorious hiking, hiking, and more hiking: an upscale farm-to-table restaurant in Boulder, Utah. Hell’s Backbone Grill is committed to sustainability and sources ingredients from their own organic farm a few miles away and from local grass-fed lamb and beef raised in Boulder. We went for dinner and had such a great experience from service to cocktails to food that we made another slightly harrowing trek over the Hogback on Scenic Highway 12 for breakfast. If your travels take you anywhere near Boulder, Utah, you owe yourself a visit to Hell’s Backbone Grill.hells backbone grill menu hells backbone cocktails hells backbone trout pate hells backbone salad hells backbone dessert menuhells backbone grill breakfast

Sharing the cricket love in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

A few weeks ago we visited Guadalupe Mountains National Park in northwest Texas, just south of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. While there, we went for a spectacular hike with the guys from 59in59. They travel with a truck loaded with quick energy food, but were happy to fuel up for our hike with some cricket power in the form of Exo protein bars from my stash. Reviews were positive!

hiking with cricket bars and 59in59

The 59in59 guys, Darius and Trevor, quit their jobs last June and began a mission to visit 59 National Parks in 59 weeks to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Learn more about their adventures, and get inspired to get outdoors, on their site, 59in59.com.

Diablo Burger, Flagstaff AZ

HP has been quiet lately because we’ve been on the road, searching the country for the best examples of sustainable meats and animal products! Last week, we had the pleasure of eating dinner at Diablo Burger, in Flagstaff, Arizona.

diablo burger flagstaff

Diablo’s burgers are made from local, grass-fed, pasture-raised, antibiotic- and hormone-free cows from their partner ranches. All the beef they serve comes from the Diablo Trust, a collaborative land management group that focuses on sustainable agriculture, watershed improvements, wildlife protection, land conservation, and education.

Diablo Burger sources as much as they can from “local farmers, ranchers, bakers, cheese-makers, brewers, vintners, and other producers… from within a 250-mile radius.” A Diablo Burger is especially good paired with a local beer!

Diablo Burger also has a location in Tuscon, and is coming soon to Phoenix. Go eat a happy burger if you’re near a Diablo in Arizona!

diablo burger

Boston Public Market

Lucky Boston: earlier this year the city got an indoor, year-round farmer’s market housing local and regional vendors of food and farm products in the North End, right next door to the Friday-Saturday Haymarket produce market. HP hit the road a few weeks ago to visit Boston Public Market and we wanted to share a little tour with you here.

Boston Public Market

At the Boston Public Market, farmers, fishermen, and food producers from Massachusetts and throughout New England offer the public a year-round source of fresh, local food and an opportunity to taste, buy, and understand what our region has to offer.


Chestnut Farms raises grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, pork, lamb, goat, poultry, and eggs, in Central MA.

Meat counter at Boston Public Market

Inside Boston Public Market

Stillman Quality Meats is unique in that they have their own meat processing and butchering facility on-site, which spares the animals a stressful truck ride to the slaughterhouse. That translates to more ethical meat, obviously, but also more nutritious meat: the stress of transport and rough handling before slaughter cause the animals to release fear-induced adrenaline, cortisol, and steroids into their bloodstream, which humans then ingest. Yum!

Happy poultry at Boston Public Market

Happy farm at Boston Public Market

More happy beef, pork, lamb, and poultry from Lilac Hedge Farm, also in Central MA.

Happy meats at Boston Public Market

There’s much more than meat at Boston Public Market: produce, nuts, flowers, cheeses, honey, ice cream, doughnuts, beverages, chocolate…

Boston Public Market

Boston Public Market

Boston Public Market

The Kitchen at the market hosts cooking demonstrations and discussions, and non-food health offerings such as yoga and a run club.

We’d already had lunch (lobster rolls at Warren Tavern in Charlestown, a required stop when we’re in Boston), so did not try any of the prepared meals also sold at the Market, but we had a doughnut from Union Square Donuts and it was so good that it was gone before I could take a picture.

Boston Public Market is a phenomenal addition to the community and I look forward to visiting again with an empty stomach!

Yoder’s Country Market, Madison VA

Yoder's Country Market

Coming home from a recent work trip to DC, I stopped (as I am wont to do) at one of the big Mennonite country stores on Rt 29 north of Charlottesville. Yoder’s Country Market moved into a huge new location earlier this year, now with more than twice the space for baked goods, bulk items, groceries, gifts and gadgets. I hadn’t been to the new location and was wowed by the variety of local products available, including meats, fish, fruits and vegetables, beverages, prepared foods, and body/health/home goods. It’s a great stop on a road trip for a snack, or to pick up some groceries on your way home.

Here’s a quick tour of some of the happy meats and local products Yoder’s carries:

Local trout from Madison Rainbow Trout, which is also sold at the Charlottesville City Market!

Madison rainbow trout

Natural chicken from Sunrise Farms, producers of grass-fed beef, and free-range chicken (and eggs), turkey, and pork. They also sell non-GMO feed and honey at their farm store in Stuarts Draft.

Sunrise Farms chicken

Happy beef from Wolf Creek Farm: born at the farm, raised on pasture only, antibiotic and hormone free, and not exposed to chemicals in fertilizers or pesticides.

Wolf Creek Farm beef

Salsas, tzatziki, dill dip, and pesto from The Farm at Red Hill, a small organic produce farm in North Garden:

Salsa, pesto, dips from The Farm at Red Hill

A huge selection of local honey of all sorts of types and flavors, including their own Yoder’s honey:

Local honeys

Gray Ghost Craft Soda, all natural, caffeine-free sodas in creative flavors (cotton candy?) from Madison.

Gray Ghost Craft Soda from Madison

Sugar scrub made with essential oils, from Raindrops in Virginia, a Charlottesville company:

local sugar scrub

And, of course, bulk goods as far as the eye can see.

so many bulk goods

Bulk goods

Yoder’s is worth a stop on a trip through Madison on Rt 29 whether you need car snacks or want to stock up on local meats and other goodies. I’ll be back on my next DC trip later this month!

Yoder's Country Market

A visit to Vermont’s Shelburne Farms

Another sustainability adventure from Cheenius. Thanks for sharing, Cheenius; sounds like a wonderful trip!

Cheenius and Mr. Cheenius ventured north! First stop was Shelburne Farms near Burlington, VT.

Descendants of this Vanderbilt “country house” decided in the 1970s to put their tremendous acreage to work for sustainable agriculture and education:

We believe that soil, plant, animal, environmental and human health are interconnected and that agriculture is the base of a healthy culture and civilization. Our goal is to be a diversified, organic farm that supports a healthy local food system and creates an inspiring learning environment.

Shelburne Farms country house

They have a large herd of dairy cows, make their own cheese, and manage the manure in an amazingly responsible way through a system of field filters. Cheenius was excited to try their cheese, and was impressed with the variety of cheddar they were able to produce through aging or smoking.

Cheese samples

They grow organic produce and raise chickens and goats too. They also have an entire herd of solar panels! Their plan is to be completely energy self-sufficient in the next few years.

Shelburne Farms solar panels

Their main focus is much broader than just another sustainable farm, however. They partner with schools in and out of the area, and have brought THOUSANDS of kids to learn where their food comes from, and about sustainable agriculture in general.

We care about the sustainability and quality of life on earth. We care about young people having hope for the future. We believe that sustainability is grounded in individual awareness and action in our own communities.

Today at the Farmyard
The day we were there they were preparing for kids to come in and bake their own bread — starting with wheat from the field! I’m sure later they were going to smear homemade butter on it, and probably sing this song:

The Butter Song

Shelburne Farms offers visitors a Welcome Center and Farm Store, and general admission to the property gets you access to walking trails, a Children’s Farmyard, and cheesemaking viewing. For the ultimate Shelburne experience, stay at the Inn and have dinner at the restaurant:

At one of Vermont’s premier farm-to-table restaurants, our menu items are built around what’s being harvested in our Market Garden or from area farms on any given day or week.

Have you been to Shelburne Farms? Let us know in the comments!