Written by Will Krisanda
Thursday, 14 June 2012 15:38
It’s a warm, sunny afternoon in Montrose, and two cars are parked suspiciously close to one another in a Sheetz parking lot. Kim Glemboski makes room in her trunk for what she is about to pick up. The other driver unloads a few baskets into Kim’s trunk while Kim writes a check. The transaction is complete and the cars leave in opposite directions of one another.
Kim is on her way back to the restaurant she owns, Summerhouse Grill, with argula, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, and some herbs taking suite in her trunk.
For the past three years, Kim has owned and operated the Summerhouse Grill on South Main Street. The restaurant is known for its use of organic, locally grown ingredients. Kim works with more than 30 different sustainable farms in Northeastern Pennsylvania and a few farms in New York.
The Summer of 2011 brought two incredible challenges to the restaurant and the farmers – the flood and Hurricane Irene. Many farmers lost crops entirely. Challenges such as these are all part of the risk involved in providing the freshest ingredients and supporting local farms.
“The learning curve was enormous with how do we work with farms when we don’t even know how many people are going to come through our door and when we never know how their crop is going to turn out,” Kim said. “It’s like trying to consistently put something through the door when you have no clue how much you need or how much is available.”
Kim is no stranger to risk. When asked to become the new owner in May of 2009, after only three weeks as manager, she accepted the position with open arms.
“I was a patron of the restaurant for years and when Marilyn asked me to come on as manager, I was excited,” she explained. “And when she asked me to take over, I felt a surge of joy from my feet all the way up to my head. I knew it was the right time.”
When the restaurant opened in June of 2006, it closed during winter months, but it has remained open year-round since 2009. Kim is excited for the future and is working with farms about producing local, organic ingredients with greenhouses.
“We just took each farm and said, ‘Let’s look five years down the road? Could you be producing year-round for us?,’” she said. “It’s building up dreams and futures with them and seeing if we can hold hands and make that leap.”
Summerhouse Grill worked with a handful of farms in the beginning, which provided everything. Once the economic challenges of 2008 trickled into 2009, the restaurant and farmers began to endure the effects of a declining economy.
“In the beginning of our first year open year-round, we started trying to really get into the rhythm of each farm, not asking them to grow anything for us because we realized what an economic investment it was for them,” Kim explained. “If we ask them to grow something and they grow it, what happens if, God forbid, we don’t re-open? They’ve invested all that money into a crop for which they have no customer. So, we’ve greatly expanded the number of farms we work with. We try to make individual relationships with each one of them to purchase out of their normal habits.”
This one-on-one relationship with farms takes a lot of time and effort, which is why many restaurants chose not to do it, but for Summerhouse Grill it is the core of its business and a way to give back to the community.
Rena Scroggins and her vegetable farm have provided Summerhouse with fresh vegetables and herbs since 2006.
“We are only a half mile away,” she said. “Summerhouse was a catalyst for us. Kim’s vision is really strong, in addition to her determination.”
The restaurant’s chef, Robert Slack, looks forward to the harvest every year. Farmers will greet him at the back door with baskets of fresh mushrooms, basil, tomatoes, leeks, onions, and many other fresh ingredients. Robert is trained in classical French cuisine and has been cooking for more than 30 years.
The Summerhouse Grill is open all year and a list of all the participating farms can be found at http://www.summerhousegrill.com/farms.htm or on the back of its menu. Reservations are recommended by calling (570) 278-2000.
Some of its dishes include organic southwestern brisket, smoked mousse trout, and grilled pasture-raised pork chops.
The restaurant can seat up to 60 people inside, with available seating outside if the weather permits. The restaurant is a converted 1920’s carriage barn, with photography from local artists hung on the walls and an open kitchen allowing customers a view of Chef Robert creating a unique dish that is truly organic.