"Dear Ms. Okun: I love to eat, but I find I don't dine out often. However, when I do, I want my money to have as much impact on our community as possible. What are some local restaurants that source their food (meats, vegetables, grains, etc.) from local food producers?
"And, what are some of the farms they get their food from?"
-- Joe from Buffalo
Dear Joe (and by the way, call me Janice, will you?): You've put your finger on what is the hottest trend in the culinary world today -- a trend that has inspired the coinage of a new word, "locavore."
A locavore can also be an omnivore, an herbivore or even a carnivore. It is someone who strives to eat food that is grown or produced within 100 miles of his plate area and, as you point out, it's a win-win situation. Great for the growers and producers, and great for the diners who get the best taste.
I'll give you a few names to start with, but there are plenty of restaurants out there that try to buy locally -- especially at this time of year, when all the good stuff is coming to market.
But before I do, I want to make one point: Eating local is the responsibility not only of the restaurateur but also of the customer. It helps if you have at least a faint idea of what is grown in Western New York -- and when.
That means diners should stay alert for dishes that use apples, pears and local potatoes in the coming months. (Nobody raises better apples than Western New York does.) You also need to know enough to forgo peaches and strawberries in January, because the poor things have been picked unripe and are tired from traveling a long, long way.
That also means you should be overdosing on tomatoes and corn right now -- and zucchini and summer squash and eggplant -- because that is what is ripening even as I write this.
Here are a few places to get started:
The Roycroft Inn, 40 S. Grove St., East Aurora, has a strong Western New York identity because the handsome old inn was a center of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Food and beverage director and owner Dan Garvey and Chef Andrew Nuernberger are committed to buying as locally as they can. Right now, the emphasis is on greens and heirloom tomatoes; Roycroft pizza sports bacon from Spars on Amherst Street.
Carmelo's, 425 Center St., Lewiston, which has been mentioned before on these pages in connection with Artpark, is another good place to keep in mind. Chef/owner Carmelo Raimondi is a real stickler for ordering local, even to listing the farms he buys from on the menu.
Trattoria Aroma, 307 Bryant St., and its sibling at 5229 Main St., Amherst, list purveyors, too. Examples: Blossom Hill Farm and even Buffalo's Massachusetts Avenue Project.
Bistro Europa, 484 Elmwood Ave., is quintessential local. Steve and Ellen Gedra list purveyors, and this place is one of the few restaurants in the area to offer stuffed squash blossoms (from Oles Farm in Alden).
There are plenty more. Many fine restaurants send their chefs to local markets. Hint: They tend to be small, chef-run places rather than chains or franchises.
And here's another note. You might be interested in drinking local, too. Flying Bison beer is produced in Buffalo; Johnny Ryan pop is bottled in Niagara Falls; both are readily available all over the area.
And if you eat at the Pearl Street Brewery, 76 Pearl St., know that beer is produced on the spot.
Right now, there's a summer lager, but Pumpkin Ale is on the way!
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