Home to one of the world’s great estuaries and blessed with year-round growing seasons, it’s always been easier to source up local provisions here in Louisiana than some other places.
Still, building your diet completely on foods produced nearby is no cinch. But those are the marching orders for people participating in the second-annual Eat Local Challenge, which begins next week and asks people who sign up to eat foods produced within a 200-mile radius of New Orleans during the month of June.
They will get plenty of help from the local foods enthusiasts behind the Eat Local Challenge, however. Pay your $25 registration fee and you get a starter kit with a local food products resource guide, a 10 percent discount on locally-grown products at the Hollygrove Market & Farm, access to the Eat Local Challenge online recipe forum and invitations to official events, among other perks. On the Eat Local Challenge Web site, you’ll also find listings for 14 weekly farmers markets around the region, a local planting guide to grow your own and resources for kids.
Living up to the spirit of the challenge is strictly an honor system proposition, but organizers have devised different levels of rigor for people to help keep themselves honest. These include “ultrastrict,” which is just as it sounds; “strict,” which allows for joys like chocolate, coffee and, say, Chardonnay grapes, which don’t work well in Louisiana; and “lenient,” which grants more non-local splurging.
Participants don’t have to rely entirely on home cooking either. More than a dozen New Orleans restaurants have promised to offer at least one Eat Local Challenge-compliant dish on their menus in June, ranging from the nonprofit soul spot Café Reconcile to the upscale and very modern Root.
Events include a kickoff party on May 31 on the rooftop of the Rouses Market location in the CBD. The party goes from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and features all-local mojitos, Louisiana-made wines and Eat Local Challenge starter kits to bring home. Register online or at the event. The following Saturday, June 2, the Zeitgeist Arts Center in Central City will host its OCH Locavore Market, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with local foods including rabbit, flour, pecan milk and tofu.