Quarter Barrel and the Institute for Food: A Love Story

One word: Lavosh. Sesame cracker, herb aioli, and balsamic glaze come together together in a sultry combination that would make any patron swoon. Who creates these mouth watering combinations? None other than Quarter Barrel Brewery & Pub, the one stop shop for craft beer, wine tasting, and a variety of unique dishes. And better yet, many of their delicious meals are created with the use of produce from a community partnership from Miami’s very own Institute for Food.

In an interview with Quarter Barrel’s executive chef, Patrick Karousis, we discussed their partnership with the Institute for Food and the benefits of sustainable agriculture:  “The more I support the local growing industry the better ingredients and products I have access to. I want to use the best ingredients as often as possible.” Quarter Barrel receives a plethora of produce when in season, including tomatoes, beets, romaine lettuce, carrots, radish, spinach, basil, and red bell peppers. A few of the dishes that contain these produce include the Bacon Lavosh which uses red bell peppers, the Margherita Lavosh which uses tomato and basil, and the House salad which includes tomato and radish.

Karousis describes the benefits of sustainable agriculture noting that, “most sustainable growing programs are very proud of the upkeep of the plants and the land around it. Growing many different types of vegetables on the same land helps keep the area fresh with nutrients. Growing too much of the same item can, over time, strip the land of its ability to grow healthy fruit bearing plants. Over time, this can do serious damage ecologically while lowering the nutritional value of the edible product as well. In addition, the wide blanket spraying of pesticides are decimating insect populations. Smaller farms that are proud of being organic/sustainable use much less destructive forms of pesticides, if any at all.”

While doing  further research into the community partnership between Quarter Barrel and the Institute for Food, I decided the best way to research was to do some taste testing of my own. Conveniently located three blocks away from my house, my roommates and I headed to the restaurant with our stomach’s empty and our mouths watering.

There was no need for me to scan the menu. I knew what I wanted and that was the Bacon Lavosh and a Caesar Salad. My roommates decided to order the Margherita Lavosh so we could all share.

My Caesar salad was the first to arrive, a simple delicacy. Layers of romaine lettuce, abundantly coated with a creamy Caesar dressing with the perfect hint of salt and tang. Piled high with parmesan cheese and home made croutons, it was the perfect precursor to an exquisite meal.

After my salad, the Lavosh arrived. Decadent with melty cheese and balsamic glaze, each bite had its own blast of flavor from the sweetness of the red peppers to the added texture of the green onions all atop a melted bed of cheddar, herb aioli, and sesame seed cracker. I had to stop myself from eating the entire platter.

bacon lavosh

Before stuffing my face too full of the Bacon Lavosh, I knew I had to have a few pieces of the Margherita–a tomato lover’s dream. Each piece had a heavenly layer of Mozzarella topped with juicy tomatoes, ripe to perfection and lightly sprinkled with basil.

The pizza likely tasted so delicious because of the fresh tomatoes. Patrick Karousis describes the differences between fresh and store bought tomatoes, “the flavor profile between a freshly picked locally grown tomato and that of a massive industrial farm couldn’t be further apart. Vegetables provided by industrial farming lack any true sense of flavor. Picked while still very green and gas ripened in large storage facilities, the hard-as-rock light pink tomatoes found at most grocery stores are near flavorless. Freshly picked tomatoes have a beautiful aroma, floral and fresh, acidic in smell and taste. Just a wonderful array of flavors and smells.”

margherita lavosh

Elizabeth Collins