A lot of food writers don’t work with food, they just write about it.
They have deadlines and they have to grab headlines.
They are under tremendous pressure to make up "new" stuff.
A few years ago some starving food writer decided it would be a great idea to write about restaurants buying food from farms and serving it to tables.
A bold new idea.
“Farm to Table” was born.
I wonder where we were getting the food before he thought of it.
A lot of good has come from “Farm to Table”. People are finding and supporting local farms. More people are giving serious thought to where their food is coming from.
But “Farm to Table” is also being outrageously abused by restaurant marketers.
It is the major source of fertilizer that restaurants spread on their patrons.
We have Norwegian restaurants in mid-winter and Florida restaurants in mid-summer boasting about their "Farm to Table" menus.
Nothing grows outside in Norway in winter, and not much grows outside in Florida in the summer.
Take a walk in your Florida-in-July back yard.
The only really edible plant that is doing “just OK” is rosemary.
By September the only things growing outside will be barnacles and skin cancer.
Lettuces were gone in April.
The tomato guys all left for Maryland and California in May.
Peaches stopped weeks ago.
Nobody wants to eat that tough native spinach - including tough local natives.
There are a few good things still growing in July. The melons are sweet and refreshing. Roberto is turning them into beautiful salads and Fred is mixing melon mojitos. We have Island honey and edible flowers and lychee and passion fruit.
We can still get local peppers - mostly hot peppers.
There is okra. I find that one okra keeps me okra-satisfied for a long time.
And there is still some eggplant. I hate eggplant.
But the Florida restaurants boasting about their "Farm to Table" menus aren't featuring eggplant and okra. They are serving green beans and lettuces and tomatoes and little potatoes from Ohio and California. Ask the waiter where they came from.
The Bistro has always worked with local farmers and products in their appropriate season. Twenty-five years ago we were the first to feature local heirloom tomatoes and lettuces.
But as the seasons change we begin to source from specialty farms up north.
As dumb as "Farm to Table " sounds to the critical ear some great things have come from it. Our brave local farmers are working hard to raise a greater variety of sustainable product. It is raising consciousness of the damage we have done to our streams and rivers and bays.
The great news is that “Farm to Table” has people asking more questions about their food.
It is unfortunate that too many restaurants aren’t answering those questions with more integrity.
It makes one wonder if they are being truthful about their fish.
Ratatouille is a clever French trick for hiding eggplant in tomatoes and onions and garlic.
If you get stuck with some eggplant we have posted a recipe for classic Ratatouille on the Beach Bistro website. The recipe came from L’Auberge du Bon Vivant - a marvelous French restaurant that served classic French cuisine on the North end of Longboat Key for over thirty years. Those of us that worked there called it “Le Boom de Boom de Boom”.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red onion chopped 1" pc
1 TBSP rough chopped garlic
1 egg plant chopped 1" pieces
2 zucchini chopped 1"
2 yellow squash chopped 1"
1 red bell pepper 1"
1 green bell pepper 1"
4 beef steak tomatoes seeded & chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp fresh chopped parsley
1 TBSP jullian basil
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in large sauté pan-add garlic and onion, sauté until they start to brown. Add eggplant, thyme and parsley and sauté until eggplant starts to soften. Add peppers, squash and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and season with salt and pepper, add basil, sauté for 5 minutes and serve.
The Bistro has been consistently included in ZAGAT's "Top Restaurants in America".
The Eat Here restaurants were selected as some of the "Best New" restaurants in Florida by Florida Trend Magazine.
Sean Murphy has been in the restaurant business for forty-five years. He spends way too much time thinking about food.