Specialty Food Magazine

Spring 2018

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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A s part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of the American Indian draws visitors from all over the world and they can find a unique taste of the Americas at the Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe. The eatery, which is operated by Restaurant Associates, a contract foodservice company owned by London-based Compass Group, features ingredients that are indigenous to the Western Hemisphere. Sometimes these ingredients are showcased in tra- ditional Native American dishes, and other times they are used in more modern ways that illustrate the potential of the ingredient. "A museum exhibition talks about the past, it talks about the present, and it also talks about the future," says Freddie Bitsoie, executive chef at the museum. "We highlight what can be done with an ingredient." The cafe—whose name means "Let's Eat" in the language of the Delaware and Piscataway—is divided into five stations based on regions: Great Plains, Northern Woodlands, Northwest Coast, Mesoamerica, and South America. Each features its own traditional and modern Native American cooking techniques and ingredients. Bison, of course, appears as an ingredient in several dishes and in both the Great Plains and Northern Woodlands menu sec- tions. Other ingredients, however, often take some persistence to source, Bitsoie says. He is frequently in contact with specialty food suppliers around the country to track down authentic indigenous ingredients and products that suit the menu. He has been working with one specialty supplier based in Albuquerque, N.M., for example, to source an authentic green chili that could be used in the cafe. Bitsoie—who is Navajo and grew up in various locations in the Southwest—was disappointed with the green chili that was being offered before he arrived in 2016, and he set out to find an authentic New Mexican green chili. "New Mexicans think of their chili the way the French think of their wine," he says, noting that the terroir of the product even comes into play. One example of a traditional Native American dish that Bitsoie has adapted for modern sensibilities is the North Atlantic Clam Soup. Originally a very simple dish made by Native Americans using seawater, clams, and sun chokes, it was adopted by English settlers and has morphed into the thick, creamy dish today known as New England clam chowder. While Bitsoie decided against using actual seawater to create his version of the original dish ("I think the ocean was a lot cleaner back then," he says.), he experimented until he came up with a recipe that appeals to modern palates but remains true to the style of the original recipe. Bitsoie's version is made using chicken stock instead of seawater, and seasoned with thyme and bay leaves, in addition to the sun chokes and clams. Dishes such as this present a learning experience for custom- ers, he says, if they take the time to read menu descriptions or speak with the staff. Bitsoie changes the menu at least four times a year with the seasons, and often creates dishes that complement other exhibitions in the museum. For the recent The Great Inka Road exhibition, for example, he created three Peruvian dishes—Lomo Saltado, Ceviche, and Cilantro Roast Chicken and Rice. Bitsoie, who studied anthropology before deciding to embark on a culinary career, was the winner of the museum's Living Earth Festival Native Chef Cooking Competition in 2013. He says cus- tomers seem to appreciate that the chef is actually Native American. In addition, several of the staff are from El Salvador, he says, and they excel at preparing dishes from that region. "When it comes to making pupusas or other things from that area, it is very genuine and very real, and it is delicious, but they may not be familiar with the flavors of bison, or the flavors indigenous to California," says Bitsoie. "That's where my expertise comes in." 4 MITSITAM NATIVE FOODS CAFE, NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN: Showcasing Indigenous Foods Executive chef Freddie Bitsoie (right) incorporates his Native American heritage in the menu at the National Museum of the American Indian. Authentic Ingredients like New Mexican green chilis and bison flavor offerings that range from North Atlantic Clam Soup to Fiddlehead Fern Salad (middle). PHOTOS: MITSITAM NATIVE FOODS CAFE SPRING 2018 31

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