July 11, 2007 / 12:41 PM / 12 years ago

Chef cuts carbon footprint with "Close to Home" menu

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - Like many Americans concerned about global warming, Neal Fraser’s tipping point came after watching the movie “An Inconvenient Truth” and worrying about the future for his young daughter.

So the chef set his mind to cutting the carbon footprint in his kitchen — that of acclaimed Los Angeles restaurant Grace — and ended up with a “Close to Home” menu with 90 percent of ingredients sourced within 400 miles.

With Southern California’s sunshine, fertile fields and long coastline, this might be one of the best places to become a “locavore” — one who eats food produced locally rather than consume foods trucked or shipped thousands of miles.

Bur Fraser, 38, says it was no easy feat locating the local, organic and artisanal goods to meet his standards and that of his Hollywood clientele. He was forced to go a bit further than intended to get his best results.

“With 400 miles, I could go to the Napa Valley and use products I couldn’t get locally,” said Fraser.

Although California’s coast isn’t brimming with the fish he would like to serve, Fraser says the fish part has been easier — mostly because he has a fishmonger committed to environmentally friendly catches closer to home.

Julee Harman of Ocean Jewels supplied three of the six courses on a recent “Close to Home” menu — a Santa Barbara prawn with a sea urchin emulsion, fresh Monterey Bay sardines and a pan-roasted California white sea bass, a fish with a recovering population.

The sardines were incredibly fresh, with none of the intense fishy flavor that makes the sardine “the hardest sell on the planet,” in Fraser’s words.

For the meat courses, Fraser offered braised lamb with California’s Humboldt Fog goat cheese and a grilled filet of beef from the Brandt family north of the Mexican border.

Desert, a strawberry shortcake with peach and brown sugar ice cream, caused no supply headache in the abundant summer fruit season.

Like many of his fellow L.A. chefs, Fraser sources a lot of his vegetables and fruits from the famed Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, just 5 miles down the road.

With a plethora of new wines coming from central California (remember the movie “Sideways”?), diners can opt for a respectable “Close to Home” wine pairing. One wine, the Moraga Red, comes from the nearby hills of Bel Air.

Now that he has gone out and seen what is on offer closer to home, Fraser is convinced a 100-mile menu is just around the corner.

The changing “Close to Home” menu is offered on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, at $70 per person plus $45 for the wine pairing.

Grace is located at 7360 Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. For reservations, call 323 934 4400.

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