Chefs use monthly dinners to promote local ingredients

SOUTHWICK- When a chef and a farmer are friends, delicious things can happen.

Friends Colin Fontaine, a farm professional, and Joshua Houghton, a chef, have paired up to offer a unique culinary experience that highlights simple, local ingredients. They call their venture the Joshua Colin Experience, a pop-up dinner hosted at the Daily Grind on College Highway that they call The Undergrind. 

The pair has been hosting monthly five-course meals at The Undergrind as a way to promote the use of local foods and to change the way we eat in the 21st century.

The Joshua Colin Experience is into its second season, with another monthly dinner taking place thisSaturday and Sunday. Each month, the pair aims to have a certain food group or type of food be highlighted as the main ingredient of each five-course meal. In November, that ingredient was peppers. In December, the pair focused on different ways to incorporate squash.

This weekend, Fontaine and Houghton will be using potatoes in different ways for all five courses in the sold-out dinner. 

The main goal, besides showing different ways to make the same type of food, is to highlight and promote local food producers. While Houghton is mostly in charge of preparing the food, Fontaine seeks out the ingredients.

“We try to reach about 90 percent local ingredients by volume,” said Fontaine, “It is pretty hardcore with the local aspect. More so than anything you would see in a normal restaurant.”

Another aim for the pair, as well as a byproduct of using mostly local foods, is to promote seasonal eating, a practice which is now uncommon in urban and suburban areas. 

Before most foods could be shipped just about anywhere, certain foods would only be available for harvest and consumption at specific times of the year. 

“I have always been intrigued by the idea of seasonal eating. In our culture, every food is pretty much always available. Now, as a culture, our recipes reflect that,” said Fontaine.

For Houghton, his challenge and drive for these dinners is to create meals with the relatively limited amount of ingredients provided and to do so while keeping it affordable. 

To accomplish that this month, Houghton will be making a five-course menu of potato hummus, vichyssoise, smoked hash browns, potato pierogi alfredo, and sweet potato waffles.

Each dinner experience is around $50 to attend, and lasts around two hours. 

“What we do to get this at $50 is absurd,” said Fontaine.

He added that similar events taking place around Boston or Hartford would likely end up costing more than $100. 

“We thought this would be a good model to us in order to get high quality ingredients at an affordable price,” said Fontaine.

While this weekend’s dinners are sold out for both days, Fontaine said that they are already preparing for the February and March dinners. 

Next month’s focus will be on different ways to make carrots, and will take place on Valentine’s Day weekend. The March dinner will feature different vegetables from the brassica family, which includes Brussels sprouts, broccoli, rutabaga, and other vegetables. 

Tickets for those  dinners are available at 

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