If residents have heard anything about a food hub lately in Talbot County, it is more than likely they are thinking about the rather ingenious idea of providing local, small acreage farmers with a distribution center to jointly sell their produce competitively to national wholesalers.
While it seems reasonable that this form of cooperative commerce should be entitled the title of the Talbot County “Food Hub,” it might be best to come up with an imaginative term for Talbot’s other food hub – that being its restaurants, cafes, coffee houses, specialty shops, farmers markets, and high-quality grocery stores.
And food hub means that every day of the year, a certain percentage of the fine people of Kent, Queen Anne’s, Caroline and Dorchester Counties, decide to get in their cars for the 30 to 50-minute ride to Talbot County for its surprisingly large and diverse food scene.
From picking up fresh produce, grabbing some sushi, or finding a venue for such important celebratory moments as anniversaries and milestone birthdays, the surrounding Mid-Shore counts on Talbot County to play that role.
When one pauses to ponder how far Talbot has grown since the days when the Rustic Inn in the Talbottown Shopping Center was the bee’s knees, with its generous supply of mini bread loafs and unlimited butter, it is a stunning example of what a food revolution actually means.
There are more than a few local heroes to thank for this remarkable turn of events. Early pioneer Amy Haines at Out of the Fire immediately comes to mind, as do the excellent team that brought us the Railway Market in the late 1970s. But the list is long, including the likes of the innovative Masthead in Oxford in the 1980s, the Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels in the 1990s, or the opening of Scossa on Washington Street.
And this tradition is continuing in the 2000s with the likes of a Bartlett Pear, Rise-Up Coffee, Lyon Distilling Company, Gina’s, and more recently the charming addition of Sunflowers and Greens on Federal Street, the return of the sports bar with The Barn in Easton, or Trappe’s new hip BBQ Smokehouse.
There are certainly still some remaining gaps in the Talbot County portfolio. We still are lacking a serious bread company, Thai or Indian options don’t exist, we don’t have a food truck culture yet, and we lack an organization committed to significantly expand local produce in our community schools and food-assistance programs.
However, none of these seem outside the world of possibility as Talbot grows in reputation as the Eastern Shore’s best incubator climate for food entrepreneurs of all kinds.
All of this adds up to a remarkable moment in Talbot County’s economic history. It is this kind of regional food hub that not only allows locals to enjoy high-quality food experiences but provides an incredibly important incentive for families to come to Talbot for dining, but to coordinate those trips to take care of many of their other needs, be it from big box chains, the boutique stores on Goldsborough Street, or health and legal services. The aggregate impact of this kind of traffic is a really, really big deal now and in the future.
One simple way to show appropriation of our foodie leaders is, of course, through patronage. In short,we should all buy and eat their food. And there is no better time to start doing that with the launch Sunday of Talbot County’s annual Restaurant Week.
Participating restaurants also feature special prices and menus throughout the week. Two-course lunches will be available for $20.16 while three-course dinners are priced at $35.16.
And perhaps before every dinner starts this the week, we might also remember in a secular way the true meaning of the traditional Grace of “bless this food to our use and us to thy service, and make us ever mindful of the needs of others.”
Now let the meals begin.