J.A. Heneghan’s Tavern Takes Farm-to-Table to a Whole New Level
By Kerriann Flanagan Brosky
Many restaurants across Long Island are serving farm-to-table meals to their food savvy and health conscious customers. Consumers want to know where the food they are buying in stores and restaurants come from. They want to know how produce is grown or how cattle is raised, if pesticides are being used, or if hormones are given to the animals.
“We definitely think the farm-to-table movement is not a fad,” said Jack Heneghan, owner of J.A. Heneghan’s Tavern in Point Lookout. “We believe it’s a real trend.”
At J.A. Heneghan’s, the idea of farm-to-table has been taken to a whole new level. They actually own their own farm in Coxsackie, New York where they not only grow their own produce, but they raise their own cattle as well.
The tavern is named after the patriarch of the family, New York City fireman John Anthony who died twelve years ago. Jack, along with two of his brothers, has owned the Irish gastro pub since September of 2013. Heneghan’s serves high-quality, American comfort food where everything from sauces to dressings, to soups are homemade. Oftentimes the wives are involved in the business, as are the fourteen children amongst them.
“At one time or another every family member has worked at Heneghan’s Tavern,” said Emily Heneghan who is a server and a bartender, but is also in charge of the farm-to-table aspect of the business. At least once a week, Emily, who is one of Jack’s five children, meets her cousin Moriah halfway Upstate where they exchange food from the farm and compost collected from the restaurant kitchen.
The Heneghan farm is located in Coxsackie, which is about twenty miles south of Albany. Bart and Carol Heneghan have eleven children and bought the seventy acre farm in 2001. They initially grew fruit trees and raised chickens for their own use. By 2012 the children were older and started to get more involved in farming. Their oldest son John went to butchering school, and the family decided to start raising grass-fed beef. Bart and Carol spent a lot of time researching cattle that do well on a grass fed diet. They discovered a hardy breed from the county Devon in England called Red Devon. This type of cattle has a smaller bone structure, compared to other big boned breeds. Because of the smaller frame, much of the food energy is used in developing muscle which becomes beef.
The Heneghan family pride themselves on taking organic approaches to how they raise their produce and their cattle. They started out with a small number of Red Devon cattle, and now they are up to a total of forty. The cattle are GMO and antibiotic free, and all the beef has been inspected by the USDA. After several years of selling the beef locally to their neighbors and farmers market, they were ready to start sending it down to Heneghan’s Tavern.
Two years ago the family farm started to expand their produce, and they are now growing twenty-five varieties. They currently have one greenhouse, but are looking to erect a second in order to extend the growing season. Moriah Heneghan is in charge of produce along with family friend, Julie Ferenczy who worked on an organic farm in California for two years. She brought back with her many of the organic practices she learned. Moriah’s brother John continues being in charge of the cattle and meat business. Down the road they would love to make jams and relishes for resale as well.
Back at Heneghan’s Tavern in Point Lookout, a large menu board displays a list of items which has come from the farm that week. Farm items are also highlighted in red on the menu. The staff has been trained to educate the public when it comes to grass-fed beef which has less marbleized fat and is much leaner. Two of Heneghan’s top sellers, prepared by CIA graduate Chef Phil Wienstein, are grass-fed burgers and shepherd’s pie.
Since July, Emily and Moriah have also been organizing CSA boxes which were available for consumer purchase every Thursday at the tavern until November. Boxes contained produce in season, and customers could add on fresh eggs and ground beef if they desired. Each box contained a weekly newsletter and a recipe idea for items in the box. It was very well received.
“This is just the beginning,” said Jack Heneghan. “We are looking on both ends to expand what we are doing farm-to-table. We have brought something different to Point Lookout, which has always been known for its seafood restaurants. Now we are bringing a little more beef to town, as well as farm raised produce. People seem to really like it, and they appreciate having a good farm-to-table meal right here in town.”