April 23rd, 2024

Eat at Humble Spirit; It’s Good for the Planet

A hand holds a homemade oreo cookie dipped in milk, with a drop of milk falling down.
Dipping a TRFO. Photos by Kate Knapp.

Who knew a cookie could have so much meaning? Not only are Humble Spirit’s TRFOs (Tabula Rasa Farms Oreo) delightfully nostalgic and addictive, but these sweet treats encapsulate how this Third Street restaurant works with its farm to make the world a better place.  

Co-Executive Chef Brett Uniss explained why the TRFOs are a genius solution to a potentially wasteful problem, “Lard is one of the delicious abundances in a farm that raises forest-pastured hogs. You can only [sell] so much lard at a farmstand … but if you whip it with vanilla and sugar and sandwich it between chocolate cookies, it’s like an Oreo.” 

A smiling man with glasses stands in front of a marble countertop and a flowering plant behind him.
Chef Uniss.

Humble Spirit, however, is so much more than just desserts. The restaurant is dedicated to highlighting ingredients grown or raised using regenerative agricultural practices, with most sourced directly from their own farm in Carlton. Humble Spirit is an integral part of The Ground group of businesses, owned by Brenda Smola-Foti and Frank Foti, which includes Tabula Rasa Farms, Source Farms, and others. Uniss sees Humble Spirit within this ecosystem as “a farm that has a restaurant, not a restaurant that has a farm.” 

This is a different way of thinking for a chef because the restaurant typically dictates its needs to the farm rather than the other way around. Humble Spirit is often tasked by Tabula Rasa Farms with cooking the remaining products that aren’t sent to the Source Farms CSA or the markets. This provides a way for the farm to cut down on waste while also providing the opportunity for people to see how even the ugliest ingredients or lesser-known cuts of meat can taste incredible. The seasonal menu highlights nutrient-dense and flavorful ingredients with items like a double cheeseburger, a braised vegetable ragout, and a daily cut of meat from their farm.

A spread of delicious looking food, including carrot hummus with fresh and pickled vegetables, a beef dish served over risotto, a hamburger with a fried egg on top and fries, and a salad with shaved carrots and pea shoots.
A sample selection of Humble Spirit’s farm to table offerings.

“If we have a chance at living in an enjoyable climate with food in abundance, we need to correct some of our past misguided agricultural practices and work on improving the environment with our agricultural techniques,” said Uniss, “The food at Humble Spirit is inspired by this due to the fact we are born of a regenerative farm. We allow the role of the seasons and our available production to dictate much of the menu. We also get excited when we can support other farms using these techniques.” 

Uniss has cooked in some of the best restaurants and yet he joined The Ground when it didn’t even have a restaurant. He said, “I really wanted to be a part of growing the idea that regenerative agriculture should not be for a niche audience; that it could be something that creates a more prosperous future for everyone.” 

Two cocktails, one with pickles vegetables skewered across the rim and another, fuschia in color with an orange twist.
Even the colorful cocktails showcase produce from the farm.

As for continuing to grow, The Ground Farm Campus now encompasses 440 acres of land and raises cattle, heritage hogs, and poultry, as well as grows more than 150 fruits and vegetables. Chef Sarah Schafer also recently joined the Humble Spirit team as Co-Executive Chef, bringing new ideas to the table, as well as her famous fried chicken–served Mondays and Tuesdays.

The restaurant also has a new hot sauce that was created to utilize an excess of peppers, naturally. “Regenerative agriculture, to me, is deliciously all-encompassing,” said Uniss. It’s hard to argue when the proof is in the cookies—and everything else served for brunch or dinner.  

Humble Spirit
411 NE 3rd Street
Dinner – Daily, 4:30-9PM
Brunch – Saturdays and Sundays, 9 AM–2 PM

Kate H. Knapp (she/her) works as a writer, recipe tester, and editor in McMinnville. She loves nothing more than sharing the beauty of food with her little one and has been cooking since she herself was stove-high and whisk-strong.