Ribeye Steak at Cress Restaurant (Photo: Courtesy Cress Restaurant)
In the “farm to table movement,” restaurants forge alliances with local farmers and purveyors, then offer fresh meats and produce on their menus for the restaurant-going public to consume. It’s the “farm-to-table” trend and it’s catching on in every hamlet across the nation. In Orlando, there’s certainly no shortage of restaurants for the ethical and eco-conscious locavore. Here are the notables:
Long before terms like “locavore” and “farm-to-table” became industry buzzwords, K Restaurant chef/owner Kevin Fonzo was a champion of farm-fresh, locally produced ingredients. That dedication, and his prowess in the kitchen, earned the Culinary Institute of America grad a 2010 James Beard Award nomination. His converted College Park bungalow even has a backyard herb and vegetable garden, which is picked daily for dinner service. Needless to say, Fonzo’s menu changes regularly with the seasons — but if you see his braised Lake Meadow Farm goat ravioli on the list, do yourself a favor and order it.
Perhaps no chef in Central Florida is as involved in food sustainability issues as Cress Restaurant’s Hari Pulapaka. The multiple James Beard Award nominated chef is an unabashed supporter of local purveyors, and his Deland restaurant (a 45-minute drive from downtown Orlando) is the first in the state to partner with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program. In so doing, Pulapaka has committed to sourcing seafood as defined by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, allowing guests to enjoy tarragon-crusted golden tile, or the lionfish with charred brussels sprouts, sugar snap peas and tomato coulis guilt-free.
When chef Kathleen Blake burst onto the culinary scene at Melissa Kelly’s Primo in 2003, she began cultivating alliances with local farmers and food purveyors right away — a practice that paid immediate dividends when she eventually opened the Rusty Spoon. The fare at her self-described gastropub is about as down-to-earth as the Iowa native. Her Florida-only seafood policy means local wild clams and octopus grace her menu, though you’ll find that the beef (Deep Creek Ranch), pork (Palmetto Creek Farms) and chicken (Lake Meadow Naturals) are also locally sourced.
For this inviting lobby eatery at the J.W. Marriott Grande Lakes, “farm-to-table” isn’t merely a buzzword, but it’s very raison d’etre. The resort’s on-site Whisper Creek Farm means chef Jason Shapiro has an arsenal of hyperlocal herbs, vegetables, fruits, honey and eggs with which to fashion his comfort dishes, be it the smoked ham sandwich with farm-fresh fried egg, avocado, and mustard frills served on a house-made honey-pecan roll, or seared Florida grouper with leeks, ham hock broth and grits. Oh, J.W.’s on-site brewery (the only full-service hotel with a license to brew and serve beer) churns out five legit craft quaffs to boot.