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From farm to fork

We had a family dinner the other night, and we were looking for someplace special to celebrate some good news.

Both my son and daughter live in Bloomington, and when Jon suggested Station Two Twenty, I was more than eager to agree.

I first heard about the restaurant a few years ago, when a newspaper article caught my eye.

Station Two Twenty is Central Illinois’ only farm-to-fork restaurant — the other end of an enterprise that begins with Epiphany Farms Enterprise.

The concept comes from Chef Ken Myszka, a native of Downs. After studying culinary arts in New York and working in top restaurants in Las Vegas, he returned to his family home to bring his plan to life.

Epiphany Farms uses sustainable techniques to raise a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs and livestock. For example, this year they grew more than 30 varieties of tomatoes. The harvest is combined with those of other local producers to supply Station Two Twenty’s ever-changing, always seasonal menu.

I’ve been covering agriculture here at the Bureau County Republican for more than 10 years. I’ve talked with scores of people on a wide range of topics, but this farm-to-fork concept was new to me. Bureau County is covered with corn and soybeans, items that don’t directly end up on my dinner plate. Yeah, I know corn is in an awful lot of what I eat and drink, but I’m more familiar writing about corn heading off to an ethanol plant or soybeans being shipped overseas.

My only other brush with local food came when the Bureau Valley School District approved a plan to serve more local food in its cafeterias.

But while the farm-to-fork idea was new, it was also old.

My grandparents farmed, way back in the days when a farmer also had a few hogs, a few cows and a coop full of chickens. Grandma served many of the products of their labors at her dinner table, and it was a good thing.

Station Two Twenty was all I was expecting, and more.

The restaurant is located in an old fire station that has been converted to a modern dining space, but with all of the charm of the past.

People who don’t like the thought of eating “food with a face” might be disconcerted to find large photographs on the walls of previous entrees before they met up with their own personal Grim Reaper.

And this is no neighborhood steak house, with massive hunks of meat and baked potatoes.

At first I was a little put off at the appearance of what some might call nouvelle cuisine. You might have seen such places on television, where the food is pretty, exquisitely served, and seriously lacking in, shall we say, quantity?

The menu wasn’t large, reflecting what was available back on the farm or from other local producers.

We ordered, the he-men among us going for the 21-day-aged rib eyes. I opted for the Epiphany Pasture Chicken, soaked for 16 hours in a citrus and herb brine, with potato gratin. There was even a numbers of vegetarian options, and my daughter had the polenta, with mushrooms, garden turnips, braised kale and celeriac foam.

Celeriac foam?

Yes, and plenty of molded carrot puree, and they both were delicious.

Who knew? Yes, the food was pretty, and yes, it was exquisitely served, but it was also incredibly delicious and served in ample enough quantities that required several doggy bags for the trip home.

Except for the soup.

My daughter ordered a bowl of the butternut veloute soup, much to the scorn of some of us. A few brave tastes had us all reaching for our spoons, and I do believe someone used a finger to clean out the bowl before we let it return to the kitchen.

Barb Kromphardt is the agriculture writer for the Bureau County Republican.

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