While going to a farmers’ market and getting your own local foods is a fantastic idea (read my previous blog post: 7 Reasons to Go to Your Local Farmers’ Market), there are other ways you can incorporate local foods into your life. One of these ways is by going to restaurants that have a local focus! Usually, this means that the restaurant gets a portion of its foods from local vendors. This is great because it not only gives you the benefit of eating local ingredients, but it also helps the local economy, the community, and the environment (because there is not as much travel time from farm to restaurant).
Due to my love of nutrition and food, I have been to quite a few locally-based restaurants and cafes. I think the local aspect of an eatery adds something to the atmosphere. Usually, the restaurant or café will have a visual of where they are getting their ingredients from. I have seen some restaurants do this by listing where all the local goods came from and others do this by noting the places on a map. I love reading these because I find it interesting to know where my food is coming from. Because the ingredients I am eating are coming from the surrounding towns or states, I feel more connected with the place I live and the resources it can provide. While the price of the dishes can be a little bit more expensive than your average restaurant, I believe it is worth it because of all the external benefits to the farmers, environment, and the local economy! Another benefit to eating at locally-based restaurants is that you find unique dishes that serve the local goods in creative ways! To me, the more local a restaurant is, the more the food reminds me of a home cooked meal. Who doesn’t love one of those!
Currently, there are many restaurants and cafés around us that have a local focus. Ones that I have been to personally include the Thistle Pig, Beach Pea Baking Co., Lil’s Café, Robert’s Maine Grill, and the Big Bean Café (for more locally focused restaurants and cafés, follow this link: http://seacoasteatlocal.org/find-local-food/restaurants-that-use-local-foods/).
In order to highlight how restaurants can incorporate the Seacoast Eat Local mentality into their work, I am going to use Young’s Restaurant as an example. I love this restaurant because it is right on UNH’s campus. This place also has special meaning to me because my dad and I eat there when he visits. Young’s sources approximately 40% of its food products from local vendors such as Stonyfield Farm, Stout Oak, and DeMerritt Hill Farm. In addition, they donate food scraps to Wild Miller Farms (Lee, NH) for their pigs. This is great because it reinforces the idea of a local food system. Young’s also has a large focus on environmental sustainability! For more information about the restaurant and their fantastic work with local foods and sustainability, visit: http://youngsrestaurant.com.
Even if a restaurant is not advertising the fact it is local, it could still incorporate local ingredients into its dishes, so don’t be afraid to ask! Additionally, don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with your waiter/waitress about which local dishes he or she recommends best! That not only can result in you having a fantastic meal, but also connects you with your local community.