The farm to table concept is a food trend that does not appear to be budging from the top of every best restaurant list. Whether it be the restaurant of a James Beard Award winning chef or a small fast food chain the shift toward locally grown and distributed ingredients continues to draw the attention of eaters.
Locally grown, seasonal foods are attractive for a host of compelling reasons. Produce, for example, tastes better when it is able to be picked closer to peak freshness and delivered to the eater when the flavor profile is at its most vibrant. Often the ingredients are more visually stunning as well. For example, fresh egg yolks are a deep shade of saffron and come in shells almost too beautiful to crack. Locally grown and raised ingredients are typically better for the eater; grass-fed beef is higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and raw produce, when subject to less processing is able to carry a wider variety of healthy probiotic flora.
Purchasing farm raised and locally cultivated ingredients offers financial support to your restaurant’s food community. Emboldening and supporting the businesses surrounding your own is a potentially good advertising practice for both parties while benefiting the consumer directly.
Smart Buys and How to Use Them
- Vegetables: Quite possibly the most obvious item on the list, purchasing local vegetables can liven up otherwise drab menu items like salads or sides. Offering a seasonal fall vegetable roasted to perfection, or a summertime salad comprised tomatoes, scallions, lettuces, and herbs picked across town yesterday will attract plenty of attention. Don’t forget to pickle some for later!
- Eggs: Truly fresh eggs can only be purchased locally from farmers who feed their chickens a diet rich in variety. The difference in flavor and appearance between locally grown and conventional eggs is undeniable. Keep this change budget-friendly by purchasing local eggs for egg dishes only while continuing to use conventional eggs in baked goods.
- Fruit: While it may throw your regular budget out of whack, it is a good idea to stock up on fruit while it is in season. Use as much as you can while it is fresh and cook the rest down into preserves to extend their lifespan. Spread that on your toast!
- Meats: Locally raised meats are typically treated more humanely than those grown on factory farms. While cost-per-pound it may be more expensive, you will be participating in a more sustainable practice while supporting local small farms and their families.
- Baked Goods: If your restaurant does not have a pastry department consider buying baked goods from a local bakery. This inspires goodwill between your business and the others in your community.
Buying locally grown, seasonal ingredients is possible with a little extra effort and forethought. Check with the group that runs your nearby farmers markets (they often have a booth set up at the entrance) to see if they have an ordering system set up for restaurants. If not, send your head chef on a weekly field trip to the market or directly contact your neighborhood farmers.