When it comes to creating scrumptious meals that continually set a higher standard, chefs at local Raleigh restaurants are always in search of the freshest and most delicious ingredients. In an ongoing effort to exceed expectations, many are exploring sources remarkably close to home. North Carolina is home to a growing list of them, including produce and pork farmers, dairies, and more. And we, the diners, are the truly fortunate beneficiaries!
Chefs at upscale restaurants might search for the nuanced flavors of a new or heirloom variety of produce not available from an “economies-of-scale” sized vendor. They may set an exacting standard for consistently, superbly, tender pork. Or hunt for the unique tang of local cheese that could only get its start with cows or goats grazing on Piedmont grass.
Restaurants nearly always have to balance taste with cost, but at fine dining spots, they’ve fine-tuned the decision-making in favor of flavor, and buying and serving local helps on both fronts.
What makes local produce, meat and fish so appealing to local Raleigh restaurants?
Taste: First and foremost, freshly harvested and/or fresh-made foods are at their peak flavor. There is less time between harvest, catch or preparation, so when you sit down to dinner, the more amazing most foods taste. And since our local Raleigh restaurants are (possibly) even more passionate about taste than the patrons who frequent them, local foods can be a real boon to their menus.
Confidence: When chefs buy from a local company, they’re able to look the producers in the eye, build relationships—and hold them to account if they’re not happy. They’re also able to find out the real deal about specific products, and exchange creative ideas for their use. Plus, not only can chefs be more confident, purveyors can too, resulting in a win-win relationship: consistent commitments help purveyors’ businesses be more stable, so they can work with local Raleigh restaurant buyers to keep prices competitive.
Variety: Locally sourced foods tend to have more varietal options. Unlike massive farms, local growers can carefully propagate types that thrive close to home, but can’t hold up to long-distance shipping, or compete in stores oriented to mass-market appeal. And the differences in varieties can make a world of difference on your taste buds!
Do local varieties work at an Italian, Mexican or French restaurant in Raleigh NC?
Local is for everyone. Each regional cuisine leans heavily on and is even defined by the unique flavors of its roots. Classic dishes and their modern twists often rely on produce, seafood or dairy products available only in the area where they originated. Talented chefs in any locale can adapt and build on classic recipes, adding or substituting local ingredients to create new classics.
So whether you’re settling down at a soulful southern table, or an eclectic French restaurant Raleigh NC, chefs will undoubtedly tap the many local purveyors that make our area a gastronomic thrill.
Why else should you be happy that neighborhood restaurants are sourcing locally?
Better for the local environment: Local farmers have a vested interest in supporting the health of the local ecosystem. They keep the soil fertile, preserve wildlife habitats, and help ensure resources aren’t overtaxed. They’re often grown in smaller batches, with fewer chemicals. And of course, just like eating at a local Raleigh restaurant (vs a chain), buying local foods helps keep money in the community, which is better for everyone.
Nutrition: In the same way that locally sourced foods are tastier because they’re eaten more quickly, they’re also more nutritious. Shorter shipping distances mean they don’t have to be picked as early and can instead be allowed to ripen naturally. And since they’re eaten more quickly after harvest, the nutrients haven’t yet dissipated.
So, the next time you’re in charge of choosing where to have dinner, look for a local Raleigh restaurant that highlights its local food purveyor partners—and prepare to savor each delicious morsel.