Two years ago, when executive chef and owner Nora Pouillon noticed that her menu was approaching 95 percent organic, she contacted Oregon Tilth, one of the largest organic certification agencies in the world. Though the organization had never inspected a restaurant before, it created standards by applying its regulations for farms, stores, warehouses and producers.
The principles of the organic-food movement require that farmers maintain the natural environment and the structure of the soil. Additionally, no synthetic products -- including pesticides, fertilizers and food additives -- can be used in farming or in processing food items.
After Pouillon gathered the documentation needed to verify that the origins of all her ingredients met these requirements, the restaurant was inspected and certified. She commented that the designation was "extremely satisfying" for her and her staff, which has put many years into building the organic menu. "It's a wonderful feeling to be recognized by my peers," Pouillon said. "It's like I got an Oscar."
Pouillon has not focused on organic wine -- which does not yet have a nationally accepted definition in the United States, though states have their own organic certification programs -- but she said that 20 percent to 30 percent of Nora's featured wines come from organically grown grapes.
The Austrian-born chef became aware of organic foods before she ever opened her restaurant's doors. After learning about the chemicals that went into beef and chicken, she said, she began to believe that many human diseases -- such as cancer and diabetes -- were connected to the food people were consuming. Pouillon also grew concerned about the health of the planet, feeling that agricultural problems were destroying water supplies and air quality.
Pouillon is not alone in her quest to present organic alternatives. "Nowadays, you can exist by using only organic ingredients," she said, "and you don't have to change your lifestyle."
To learn more about organic wines:
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions