My direct flight on Christmas Eve was canceled and I was sent through Chicago (O'Hare) on route to LA. Thankfully, I had just enough time in the lay-over to get a sandwich from Rick Bayless' place- Torta Frontera. I bought a very satisfying pork sandwich with beans and pickled onions and a side of guac and chips. The sandwich was on nice chewy baguette style torta bread and the meat was seasoned well and could be tasted along with the onions.
A 12/29 NY TImes article about the farm-to-table movement improving airport dining describes the security and logistics issues that farmers need to overcome and specifically references Torta Frontera:
Greg Gunthorp, a pig farmer in LaGrange, Ind., experienced that challenge himself.
Mr. Gunthorp’s family has supplied the celebrity chef Rick Bayless with pork and poultry for at least 14 years. But when Mr. Bayless opened his Tortas Frontera at O’Hare four years ago, Mr. Gunthorp could not find a way to get his pork the 170 miles to the airport in time for the brief nightly window when food deliveries are allowed.
With the help of FarmLogix, an intermediary that connects farmers with large businesses and institutions, Mr. Gunthorp and other small-scale farmers have found a lucrative new market in airports. Mr. Gunthorp, who now provides bacon and chorizo to Tortas Frontera, has had to add employees and farmland to keep up with the O’Hare demand.
“They’re our biggest bacon customer by far,” he said. “At times it’s been hard to keep up, to be honest. It’s been rough, but it’s been fun.”
With the farm-to-table movement breaching previously untouched frontiers like airports, chefs and farmers say that it can only benefit small producers, who have not had much in the way of good news in recent decades. The Department of Agriculture has predicted a 25 percent decline in farm income this year.
“We’re just starting to see how this farm-to-table movement can revitalize rural America,” Mr. Gunthorp said.
Early evidence shows that the farm-to-table concept has at least revitalized airport dining. In Chicago, Mr. Bayless’s airport outpost has proved so successful that he has developed an app that allows travelers to order food from Tortas Frontera before they arrive at O’Hare.
One lesson Mr. Bayless said he had learned from Tortas Frontera was that the old restaurant-management theories do not work in an airport. Restaurants can provide fresh, local ingredients in airports, he said, but their survival will be difficult unless the agricultural system changes.
“There’s the boutique farm-to-table idea, and it’s very romantic,” Mr. Bayless said. “But the only way it really makes sense is to grow farms that are a bit bigger, and then we have to develop these middlemen like FarmLogix.”
Airports mentioned in the article include: EWR, JFK, DEN, and ORD. The article also links to two road warrior blogs: StuckAtTheAirport and JoeSentMe