Over the past year, Tucker Curtin, owner of Lake Effect Diner (and Dug’s Dive & The Steer), has been working hard with local farmers and members of his staff to bring fresh, locally grown food to the table.
“About a year ago, we closed for 6 weeks to do some re-vamping of our recipes and our staff. I was just not happy with the flavors. I wanted our food to bring people back to their childhood–like when your grandmother used to make you pancakes.” Curtin decided that the best way to do this is by having more control over the raw products that make the food.
“We did research on ways to process everything in-house. We asked the local farmers for their input, and we made commitments to each other.” It’s all about supply and demand. “Smaller farms don’t want to produce more than they know that they can sell, so not a lot of things are readily available. Restaurants don’t want to order things that they can’t get consistently.” Sounds like a vicious cycle.
“We went to the farms and saw where everything happened. The farm where our cows come from is great. They have the happiest cows, and a very happy bull named Bucky–he keeps the other cows motivated.”
So far, Lake Effect Diner has committed to processing their own meat and making all sauces from scratch. This involves grinding their own Italian, pork, and turkey sausages, making their own dry mix for pancakes, along with making hummus, blueberry and strawberry toppings from scratch, and soon they will be making their own mayonnaise.
Curtin only uses eggs provided by Clarence’s Kerher Farms. The egg yolks are more dense, and the whites are so much more flavorful than what you’d get elsewhere. Lake Effect also cures their own bacon from unprocessed pork belly from local farms, resulting in thick, crispy pieces of yummy bacon.
The pancake batter is the result of trial and error. “We really played with the pancakes a lot. Now we have all different kinds.” Curtin made a stack of fresh blueberry pancakes topped with homemade blueberry sauce and real whip cream. “You can’t have good pancakes without real maple syrup.” N.Y. Wendel of East Concord provides real maple syrup and sugar, along with their gluten free, hormone free chicken. Curtin is also expecting whole, local, hormone free, USDA-inspected beef and pork in early August. “Buying local food sometimes means waiting around for it, but I hope that more local restaurants will join this trend and start building better partnerships with our local farms.”
Biting into that blueberry pancake was heaven. Every bite had a burst of fresh blueberry. The salty-sweet bacon held its own–it’s so refreshing when a bite of bacon does not get mixed in with everything else. It’s a real country breakfast in a 50’s style diner. Lake Effect also serves over 25 flavors of milk shakes and fresh squeezed orange juice from a machine on the diner counter. The fresh orange juice is a must! It’s like putting a whole orange in your mouth!