Coppa Café: Restaurant Leads the Way in Local Eating

The local food movement has gained a lot of momentum over the past decade with farmers markets and CSA’s popping up all over the country, but what does this actually mean? Unfortunately, the answer to this question varies from person to person. According to Sustainabletable.com, a 2008 survey stated that 50% of people questioned categorized locally sourced food as food grown within 100 miles of their home, with 37% of people categorizing local food as grown within their state. One Café, located in Flagstaff, Arizona, has taken this trend and turned into into a focal piece of their menu. Tucked away in an inconspicuous shopping centre is the Coppa Café, described as “a taste in Europe in the mountains of Flagstaff”. Owned and operated by husband and wife, Brian Konefal and Paola Fioravanti, the Coppa Café combines European flavors with a Flagstaff twist by incorporating locally foraged mushrooms, flowers and meats.

Sam Phalon, Assistant Chef to Konefal, describes his role as “helping Brian create art… making sure the artist’s brushes are in the right order”. Phalon describes Konefal as an artists not only due to his unique dishes, but also due to his ability to create new dishes based on the local ingredients available at the time. This is an integral part of using locally sourced ingredients. The lobster mushroom, which only grows during the fall months between September and October, used by Konefal is foraged in the Ponderosa Pine forests of Flagstaff. Wild dandelions picked from Konefal’s property are used in a lemon vinaigrette to adorn lamb. A greenhouse located in the back of the Coppa Café provides fresh sprouts for the beef tartare.

Though eating locally is supported broadly by mainstream society, some warn of the dangers associated with eating locally and ask the question, is growing foods locally always the best? Pierre Desrochers, author of the book “Locavore’s Dilemma: in praise of the 10,000-mile diet”, argues that taking the local foods movement too far can lead to serious problems, mainly a rise in famine and world hunger. Desrochers states that it was development of long-distance transportation and year round food supply that largely put an end to this.

Despite these concerns, the local eating movement is growing every year. The Strolling of the Heifers locavore index records the amount of farmers markets, CSAs, and food hubs in each state every year. According to their index, the amount of farmers markets grew by 4% between 2013 and 2014. Arizona, despite seeing a small rise in the amount of farmers markets, has consistently been ranked in the bottom three of all states in terms of amount of farmers markets and CSA’s per capita. Even with Arizona’s general lack luster local food movement, the Coppa Café continues to push forward using local ingredients to create “a taste in Europe in the mountains of Flagstaff”.