Mmm, good: Buy local movement shines at Government House

Chef Paul Bartlett of Phillips Crab Deck dishes up a soft shell crab delicacy at the governor's Buy Local Cookout.
Chef Paul Bartlett of Phillips Crab Deck dishes up a soft shell crab delicacy at the governor's Buy Local Cookout. (By Pat Furgurson , Carroll County Times)

Cucumber and Watermelon Salad. Rockfish sausage with heirloom tomato. Roasted corn relish. Chesapeake crabcakes on corncake with Eastern Shore Melon Salad.

Just like grandma made, with all Maryland-grown ingredients.


Chef James Barrett has deep Anne Arundel roots - his grandmother grew up on a farm on Pindell Road in southern-most South County. And his kitchen at Azure Restaurant at the Westin Hotel in Annapolis uses as much local food as possible.

"In a hotel it's challenging because of the volume of food, but if it touches Maryland we will use those sources," he said, proudly dishing out Rockfish sausage will all the trimmings.

It took six years for the Buy Local Cookout to get a break in the weather. But Thursday's event at Government House was devoid of the unforgiving mid-summer heat.

The picnic, hosted annually by Gov. Martin O'Malley and First Lady Katie O'Malley, celebrates the bounty Maryland offers by land and by sea. It urges residents to take part in Buy Local Challenge Week - a pledge to have at least one locally grown, produced or harvested product in a meal each day.

"Maryland in summer. It's glorious," said chef Paul Bartlett of Phillips Crab Deck, as he turned morsels of soft-shelled crab in a cast iron skillet. The Maryland delicacy was served with Road Stand Relish, made from vegetables easily found across the state this time of year - tomato, cucumber and red onion tossed in a bit of vinegar and sugar.

Bartlett helped develop the new concept for the Phillip's seafood brand.

"It is simple," Bartlett said. "Like when Brice and Shirley Phillips first opened their crab stand in Ocean City. Local food, cooking in cast iron... at 21st Street."

He said the company's Crab Deck restaurants, here in Annapolis and Baltimore, are dedicated to buying their products from the mid-Atlantic. He spends much of his time scouting for local sources, working on relationships with producers, farmers, watermen.

Thirteen chefs whipped up tasting portions of the state's bounty - most marked by similar simplicity.

Touching Maryland is his definition of local food; if it's produced in the Old Line State or in a state that touches it - Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia - that's where he'll find the goods.

Craig Sewell, chef at A Chef's Table in Annapolis, made the decision to serve only local food several years ago. He has been leading the charge since - not only using locally produced food in his restaurant, but offering a CSA, community supported agriculture, via the business as well.

"The CSA this year is gorgeous. Great products," he said.

He also offers popular cooking classes.

"I like to make that connection," Sewell said. "Bringing local food from the farm into the kitchen. Family cooking together, eating together."


O'Malley spent Thursday morning touting a statewide program to battle global climate change and tied the evening's events to that wider scope.

He said eventually there will be a shift from "economies of depletion ... and extraction to local economies that replenish and renew."

One example of that, he said, was people and companies turning to solar power installation and geothermal heating.

"The other place you see it is in this shift in market demand and consumer demand for locally grown and locally raised food," O'Malley said. "It tastes better, it's more nutritious, it's better for the environment and the local economy."