Farm to table dining began as a backlash against the industrialization, commoditization, and centralization of our food production system. The farm-to-table “movement” first began in the 1970’s with the public’s recognition of the benefits of organic vegetables.
By the end of the 1990’s the initiative slowly picked up steam and moved beyond vegetables to meats. First, grass-fed beef. Then, free-range chicken. Later, pastured pork. The production and consumption of lesser known livestock species soon began to gain momentum.
These days, “farm-to-table” is a fairly ambiguous concept used in a variety of different ways in restaurants’ marketing, as well as in their kitchens. While some sales and marketing executives and journalists continue to use the term, most chefs and independent restaurant owners have stopped. “Farm-to-table” is an improperly and overly used adjective to describe various levels of food items on a restaurant’s menu which are sourced from local farms and markets.
Very, very few restaurants are purely, entirely “farm-to-table.” Any restaurant using a single garnishing flower picked from outside can now call themselves, “farm-to-table.”
However, we are happy to offer up a handful of fabulous local restaurants in North Fulton that do a pretty darn good job of it: Table & Main, Osteria Mattone, Foundation Social Eatery, Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails, Vin25, Secreto, La Casa Italian Grill, South Main Kitchen, Anabelle’s Table and Peach & Pork Chop. These restaurants seem to us to go out of their way to source regional cuisine using locally grown, organic ingredients from the restaurants’ own gardens, as well as from local farms and markets.
Anabelle’s Table is a new restaurant in Alpharetta, off Windward Parkway. The owners Scott and Anabelle Parry’s love of good food had them sourcing local purveyors the minute they got to Alpharetta. Satisfied that the farm-to-table movement– with sustainable and environmentally conscious farming practices– was alive and well in Georgia, they decided to open Anabelle’s Table. Their passion for the business is evident in all the details from the bars homemade mixers to on premise baking, open kitchen and flawless service. They show their dedication to the consumer, farmers, growers and environment by offering seasonal menus that are fluid and changeable to optimize your choices.
Ryan Pernice, Owner of Table & Main and Osteria Mattone in downtown Roswell explains, “We make every possible effort to source through local farms. In fact, our Executive Chef Woolery Back (“Woody”) is the President of the board of the Roswell Farmer’s Market.”
Farm-to-table is not just a restaurant philosophy, but is beginning to evolve as a lifestyle choice for many.
“Thanks to the many food television series, social media, Pinterest and blogs, consumers are more educated and excited about what’s going on with their restaurant fare. They’re also more savvy and want to know exactly what they’re being served,” explained Chef Woody.
At Foundation Social Eatery in East Roswell, Chef Mel Toledo offers, “If you’re a really good restaurant and really good at what you do, then you’re going to try to source from local farmers and use fresh food from local markets as often as you can.” He goes on to explain how the term “farm-to-table” has been abused by some to simply mean, “We’re healthy!” When, in reality, it is much, much more than that. “The use of locally grown food is a win/win/win for the restaurants, the patrons and the local farming industry…not just a ‘healthy choice.”
Toledo uses seasonal ingredients from local farms like Buckeye Creek Farms in Woodstock. He frequents the local farmer’s markets in the area. He works with Sweet Apple and Artisans Market Owner Christy Hood who fills his wish list of farm foods.
He elaborates, “How can I use in-season ingredients and make them shine? How can I treat an ingredient differently to get a different texture– like his menu item which turns cauliflower into a scallop dish with almonds, apple slices and cauliflower puree.
One thing that Chuck Staley knew when he opened Peach & The Porkchop is that today’s dining guests want to know exactly where their food is coming from.
In designing the menu, Staley researched the local farms that couple provide hormone-free, all natural foods that would fit into his North meets South menu. “We found the best local farms with the most responsible practices to supply us with fresh eggs, produce and meats…not only for our adult menus, but for our children’s menus as well,” reflects Chuck.
“At many restaurants, the adult menu is filled with garden-fresh ingredients, while the kids are given a choice between frozen chicken fingers or pre-packaged Mac & Cheese. One of our focal points at Peach & The Porkchop is to provide the same high quality ingredients for both adults and children. There are more than 20 different farm fresh dishes on our children’s menu,” he adds.
Local farms which provide these ingredients to our best restaurants are all located within a 25-mile radius of North Fulton and run by local Georgians who take pride in the products they produce. Some of these farms include Circle-A Farms in Cumming, Fat Land Farms in Roswell, Morning Glory Farms in Cedartown, Maxwell Farms in Dallas, Georgia, Gazaway Farms in Cumming and Buckeye Creek Farms in Woodstock.
Chef Derek Dollar at Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails in Alpharetta sources his ingredients not only from local farms but from the restaurant’s own “Milton’s Acre.” The acre behind this local, fine-dining establishment provides fresh, in-season produce year-round. Dollar says, “People are doing ‘hyper-local’ dining, choosing eateries that have fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.
The “Garden Dinner Series” at Milton’s is a local showcase for diners looking for a special ‘farm-to-table’ experience including dining right in the garden itself. Many different varieties of heirloom fruits, vegetables and herbs from the restaurant’s own backyard are used to create a family-style, memorable four-course meal with wine pairings and desserts.
The newest ‘farm-to-table’ restaurant in Alpharetta is Secreto. Chef Boyd – prior Chef of Milton’s Cuisine and pioneer of Milton’s Acre—says, “Responsible chefs will always use fresh ingredients from nearby farm sources. The demand for higher-quality ingredients is strong and growing. As long a local chefs are up to the challenge then restaurant guests and the farming community will benefit.”
- Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails miltonscuisine.com
- Foundation Social Eater foundationatl.com
- Table & Main
- Osteria Mattone
- La Casa Italian Grill
- South Main Kitchen
- Mill Kitchen and Bar
- Anabelle’s Table
- Peach & the Porkchop