BRISTOL — Crisp apples, acorn squash and bright green Brussels sprouts.
In the hands of any chef, autumn’s harvest of local flavors is welcome bounty indeed.
Over at the Red Oak Restaurant in Bristol, the season is cause for excitement as staff members prepare comforting cool weather dishes using local, fresh ingredients for its October-November menu.
On a recent morning, with oak and maple trees dressed in shades of orange and red visible through the picture windows on three sides of the dining room, Executive Chef Krista Roslof prepared autumnal dishes.
Roslof set about whipping up two of the dishes from the current menu: Chicken Breast with Cornbread Stuffing and Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Stuffed Acorn Squash with Chorizo, Kale and Goat Chevre.
As with every item on the menu — up to and including all condiments — the dishes were compiled from ingredients sourced within Southeastern Wisconsin.
“Local, fresh, regional” has been the mantra of Red Oak Restaurant since it opened its doors a little over a year ago.
In September of 2016, Mary Acuna and her mother, Adeline Carney, who live in the area, debuted the restaurant at 4410 200th Ave. with the vision of a restaurant focusing on dishes made from local ingredients.
“My mother and I wanted to offer some quality food in a specific niche,” Acuna said. “We knew there were so many people doing so many amazing things (with local products) it seemed silly not to take advantage of that.”
To carry out that vision, they sought out a culinary arts professional through Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy.
Roslof, as it happened, was looking for a kitchen in which to carry out her culinary credo of focusing on fresh, local and seasonal dishes.
Acuna says they fell into instant alignment.
Capitalizing on seasonal produce, Roslof revises the menu every two months.
Without exception, all components of a meal are made in-house — from the pickles and apple jelly to salad dressing and cocktail syrups.
“We prep all day so we can cook all night,” Roslof said.
Acuna noted that the current menu’s produce is from Turtle Creek Gardens in Delavan. The acorn squash is from “a guy down the road,” also known as Griffith’s Grounds in Bristol.
“We make sure every part of the dish is local — completely clean food,” Roslof said.
For ingredients where this is not logistically feasible, such as white flour for baking, Roslof relies on a trusted brand like King Arthur Flour.
The restaurant grows its own microgreens and herbs so they can be on hand during the winter months.
Roslof says finding recipes to match the seasons in this area is easy because Southeastern Wisconsin has a lot to offer.
“This (area) is the Tuscany of Wisconsin,” Roslof said. “We have rich soil and craft products, yet not everyone is aware of how rich and special and biodiverse this area is.”
Roslof’s stated mission is to introduce others to her perspective. “I want to celebrate Wisconsin like we celebrate Tuscany.”