I travel a lot on business, and every time I am in a new town, I specifically look for restaurants that serve locally sourced produce, cheeses, fish, and meat. My husband and I also do this when we go on vacation. The last time we were on vacation, we went to two great restaurants in Pawley’s Island, SC which stated on their website that they serve local foods, Chive Blossom Café and Perrone’s . We do this because we are passionate about supporting restaurants that support the local farmers and artisans. These restaurants and chefs need our commitment to support them, because they in turn are supporting the local providers and their community.
Local products are rarely the cheapest, although they are almost always the tastiest. Every Saturday at Atherton Market in Charlotte, NC, we see a dedicated handful of chefs come by searching for the freshest and most beautiful produce, cheese, and meats. Chefs from restaurants like Heritage, Heirloom, Passion 8 Bistro, 300 East, Fork, The Asbury, and more. Some of these chefs have already been to several markets before they even arrive at Atherton. They are truly on a hunt for the best. Think about this: Most restaurants have a dude with a big truck and a dolly, hauling in boxes of food from a food service company. Much of that food is washed, cut and ready to toss on the plate. That system is so much easier for a restaurant than spending half a day sourcing the best and freshest the local farmers have to offer. Not only is commercial food easier for restaurants, it is also cheaper. Local foods are normally more expensive and require more time and effort to buy, but oh how much better the taste and quality of the food when the chefs source it locally!
Here is a great example. When I was in Charleston, SC last week on business, I went to two different restaurants. One of them, Muse Restaurant and Wine Bar, specifically featured local produce. The tomato mozzarella salad I ordered had gorgeous, multicolored, perfectly ripe, local tomatoes and a local mozzarella that was like silk. Words can’t describe the beauty and taste perfection of this dish. It was a simple salad that plenty of restaurants serve. The quality of the local ingredients they used in the dish made it something amazing. Conversely, the second night I was there; I ate at another restaurant and ordered a similar salad. This time the salad, although less expensive, featured “food service” tomatoes with little taste or color, and non-descript cheese. Fail! The quality of the food served at restaurants featuring local ingredients will top that of restaurants working with food service ingredients every time, hands down and amen (not to mention nutritional value, but that’s a whole other post)!
Not only do chefs, who source their products locally, make a sacrifice of convenience and cost, they also have to change their menu weekly (or even daily) to accommodate what is available locally. Every week they put their creative energy into coming up with beautiful and delicious dishes that highlight the ever changing seasonal produce. This isn’t easy. Imagine the pressure of creating something amazing every week, with a room full of people ready to judge your heart felt creation. If you have ever perused the restaurant reviews on Open Table or Yelp, you know customers have no mercy when it comes to restaurants. Life might be easier for the chef who could come up with a great menu once, and only need to change it a couple of times a year. Chefs who feature local produce don’t have that luxury. They put it on the line anew every week or more. Wow, talk about stress!
This is why we love chefs who serve locally sourced foods. They go to a lot of trouble, spend more time, money and creative energy, risk more, and sacrifice more to source high quality ingredients in their restaurants. This not only supports the local economy and a host of small farms and businesses, it also brings the very best to their tables. We understand how challenging this is, and appreciate what it brings to our local community. If you have not had “local foods” as criteria when choosing a restaurant, reconsider. These are some of the best restaurants in town. These Charlotte chefs rock!
Eat your veggies,