CONNOR MABON-Opinions Editor
The roots of all cooking begin at the harvest.
Working on a farm for three summers just outside of Pittsburgh, I grew to understand the importance and meaning behind the process of what feeds locally-sourced menus like the one chef Patrick Sartin of Harvest Mobile Cuisine in Dayton drew up for enthusiastic patrons.
When I caught wind of Sartin’s mission to harness the bold flavor of Earth’s simplest ingredients like local greens, free-range meats and freshly baked bread in an area where Gordon Food Service reigns supreme, I knew I had to track him and his nomadic kitchen down.
Growing vegetables and raising animals the way nature intended is noble in its own right. It’s when these humble ingredients are complimented by an artist who’s experienced in drawing out the essence of real flavors that brilliantly showcases the thriving relationship between chef and farmer. This culinary connection is as vital to our well-being as photosynthesis is to the mixed greens that travel with the truck.
Keeping his menu as simple as the resident products he seamlessly combines, Sartin focuses on normal brunch and lunch items while skillfully incorporating his own spin on things. Once I located the truck’s ever-changing position I ordered the Harvest Burger with rosemary laced french fries for $10.
An immediate sign of Sartin’s own take on the conventional classics was his use of free-range turkey in lieu of an all-beef patty and a nicely toasted ciabatta roll instead of hamburger buns. The smear of Dijon aioli (French for mayonnaise) was a nice addition to it that didn’t overpower the other ingredients, but it would’ve benefited from a touch more mustard. Lettuce greens from Hungry Toad Farms in Centerville, Ohio rested atop the turkey and aioli carrying a tremendous fresh, almost sweet flavor.
What went off-road for me, though, was the Sriracha ketchup that thankfully was offered on the side for dipping. I love the spicy chile sauce on its own and the same goes for ketchup. The two together, speaking for myself, reminds me of oil’s attempt at mixing with water; it just wasn’t meant to be.
Surprising me was Sartin’s Phish Bite sandwich with lemon aioli and the ubiquitous mixed greens for $7. Normally I wouldn’t think of ordering seafood in a landlocked area like Dayton, but I’m glad I dedicated some greens of my own to
see if Sartin could pull it off.
Light, non-greasy batter eloquently cradled a thick, flaky piece of wild caught cod and crackled with each bite. The fish tasted like it actually swam in the open ocean having that distinct sea water taste. What would’ve made it taste much better is a squeeze of lemon to really emphasize the cod’s delicate flavor.
Other notable menu items are the Harvest Tacos (two for $5) filled with your choice of slow roasted, fatty pork belly, cod or falafel for a vegetarian option. Hand tossed jicama coleslaw, citrus splashed cream and a warm corn tortilla that tasted like it was made just the other day completed the vibrantly colored picture.
Taking the back roads of the culinary world, as many food trucks like Harvest Mobile Cuisine do, you get exposed to new tastes and smells, new landscapes and passionate people who take the time to give back to the community and create something real.
The geographical juxtaposition of rural backcountry and urban development is the exact essence chef Sartin captures in his mission to deliver the freshest local ingredients from the region’s farmland to bustling city streets.
The roots of real cooking thrive when every element of this farm-to-table concept is brought to a beautiful equilibrium, and Harvest Mobile does just that.