Red Wagon Organic Farms: Can't beet its produce!
This is the third in a series of pieces profiling Colorado-grown products...and what some local restaurants do with them.
Why is Red Wagon Organic Farm's produce so beloved among Colorado's chefs? Simple: They know when to let it go. "If the quality isn't there, we simply don't offer it for sale anywhere," says Wyatt Barnes, who founded Red Wagon with his wife, Amy Tisdale. "A lot of farms won't do it like that."
Barnes has the plain-spoken demeanor and brutal honesty of a true salt-of the-earth farmer, the kind of guy who would (and does) let a bunch of crops waste away rather than sell poor product to a loyal group of chefs and consumers. "If it's not up to par, he'll tell me and he won't sell it," confirms Steven Redzikowski, executive chef at Oak at Fourteenth in Boulder. In fact, Red Wagon is Oak's primary local farm, and the kitchen staff shapes menus depending on what produce Barnes has available.
Practically half of Oak's menu includes something grown by Red Wagon -- from thin, green garlic scapes in a shrimp risotto, to the basil in the infused vodka, to golden pickled beets in a beet and long bean salad. Briny and tender, tossed with bleu cheese and tart honey mustard vinaigrette, these beets are treated like vital ingredients, not tossed off as garnishes. And that's the way it's meant to be, says Barnes: "The restaurants that do well with it, they just want to showcase the flavor that's there, and don't try to mess with it too much."
Photos by Chris Utterback The beet and long bean salad at Oak at Fourteenth.