Tierra Sana: Healthful Food and Big Ideas

April 9, 2008 at 10:40 pm Leave a comment

I’ve been really curious about Tierra Sana because it is such a welcome but unlikely addition to the food scene in Forest Hills. Lucky for me (and readers of Splitting Hairs), Stephanie Fiallo took some time to chat with me about Tierra Sana and the thinking behind it. “Lucky” because I was delighted with what I heard. Here are the highlights—

Why there? You’d think a happening place like Tierra Sana would have angled for prime real estate on Austin Street. But the owners (Fiallo and her husband, Vic, plus two others) were clear in their belief that space trumps place. Simply, they could either pay obscene amounts of rent on Austin for a hole in the hub or they could go a bit off-path and get a space that would allow them to do what they want.

And what do they want? Here’s where things get interesting at Tierra Sana. Stephanie Fiallo told me that serving up healthful food is just the beginning, that they want Tierra Sana to become a venue for community activities—poetry readings, music, health fairs (real ones), homework gatherings, knitting meet-ups, and so forth.

Why do they care? Indeed, why not just sell food and concentrate on profit? Because Fiallo and her husband conceived of Tierra Sana as a solution to their problem, which was how to make Forest Hills feel like a real home for them. They had been living here for a while and were the parents of two children when they realized they wanted and needed more people in their world. But how to do that when living in a building where most people lock themselves inside their apartments or leave for work or friends away from where they live? The Fiallos were considering leaving Forest Hills when Vic Fiallo had an inspired thought: open a restaurant that serves up the food and living philosophy they believe in and see who comes. It would be a win-win situation, bringing good, healthful food to Forest Hills while attracting like-minded souls into their world.

So how organic is Tierra Sana? It’s pretty organic, as much as it can be for now, but the Fiallos are also very committed to buying locally, from farms within a few hours of Forest Hills. The farms use organic techniques but may not be certified organic because of the increasingly prohibitive cost for doing so. Good move for them, because locavore-ism is very much on the minds of people who want both quality food and to limit the impact of their consumption on the environment.

Speaking of costly certifications, is it true that Tierra Sana is now kosher too? Fiallo says yes, they’ve gone for the kosher certification because it opens their French doors to other members of the community, the kosher-eating set. I could not verify which certification they have, but I think it’s a strict-standards one.

What can Forest Hills residents expect from Tierra Sana going forward? More! Tierra Sana is seeking a baker or a bakery that can supply the restaurant with breakfast items like muffins and croissants made from all-natural ingredients. (They now serve spelt bagels with cream cheese.) Their chefs are constantly experimenting with innovative recipes. The staff is excited to work in an atmosphere that is about healthful living. And the Fiallos hope that people will come to see Tierra Sana as a place not only to eat but also to forge connections with other people, ideas, creative experiences, and new ways of looking at things.

Sounds ambitious? Yes, and it’s one of the things that really excites me about the place.

Tierra Sana, 100-17 Queens Blvd. 718-830-0544
Monday-Thursday 7 a.m.–10 p.m.
Sat 8/11:30; Sun 10/9

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Entry filed under: Forest Hills.

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