Fresh Local Flavor: The Floridian
Fresh Local Flavor
Slow Food Flourishes on the First Coast
By Virginia J. Pillsbury
Slow food? It’s the movement to change the current food system in a way that is more beneficial to the health of our children, communities and plants. According to the president of Slow Food First Coast, Richard Villadoniga, “It is a comprehensive movement that looks at the food we eat from a health perspective as well as how it is produced, who produced it and what are the transportation, social and economic costs of doing so.”
Villadoniga and other slow food enthusiasts believe that local food has many advantages: your farmer is part of your community and so cares about it more; you can ask and find out how food is grown, it is usually fresher because the products hit the market immediately. “When you buy locally you are investing in the community, the farmer and you are supporting open lands with less development,” he says.
Slow Food First Coast also encourages those who don’t cook to support locally owned restaurants that try to use local sources as well. To that end, the group gives out Snail of Approval Awards to such restaurants. “The beauty of eating seasonally is that you can anticipate waiting until a fruit or vegetable is at its peak or prime – there is nothing better than eating something in season,” says Villadoniga.
His favorite St. Augustine restaurant is The Floridian which opened in the fall of 2010. Owners Genie and Jeff McNally say, “It is a natural evolution from our roots as a Farmers Market stand that sold seasonal produce. We wanted a brick-and-mortar establishment because we knew that a restaurant could support more farms and artisans. By sourcing seasonally and locally, we’re able to provide regionally authentic food. This is where our “updated Southern” theme comes in. We take classic dishes and give them a new spin, while staying true to their roots in terms of where the food comes from and what it’s meant to people through the centuries for nourishment and sense of community. Food in a cultural sense very much represents a sense of place, and of belonging to a community — this comes across in dishes that have spanned generations. We want to be respectful to those dishes, while updating them in a perhaps more healthy and thoughtful way.”
The Floridian’s Local Sources:
- Fresh Start Hydroponics for lettuces and vegetables
- S&J Farm for vegetables
- CartWheel Ranch Meats for all pork and beef products
- Abundant Acres Farm for sausage
- Sweet Grass Dairy and Wainwright Dairy for cheese
- Seafood Shoppe for local fish, shrimp, clams and oysters
- The Tempeh Shop
- French Pantry for quality bread, plus many more market vendors
The Floridian’s Winter Salad
Recipe feeds 4
- 2 heads of local red leaf lettuce, washed and hand-torn into pieces
- 4 medium sized rainbow (multi-color) carrots, peeled, shredded and kept raw
- 1 butternut squash, roasted: see preparation below
- 2 beets, pickled: see preparation below
- 2 cups cooked quinoa (easy to find at any health food store; prepare according to package directions)
- 1 can garbanzo beans, spiced: see preparation below
- 1 cup goat’s cheese
- salad dressing of your choice — see what’s on offer at your local Farmer’s Market
Peel, seed and cube into 1 inch pieces; roast for approximately 30 minutes with oil, salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon fresh thyme in a 350 degree oven, until tender. Squash will start to change to a lighter yellow/orange when it is completely done.
Take 2 medium-sized candy striped or rainbow beets: peel and slice into 1/8 inch slices (as thin as you can, wear gloves, they can be messy); bring equal parts water and apple cider vinegar to a boil – enough to cover beets – then add a tablespoon of sugar, two teaspoons of salt, and two teaspoons each coriander, mustard seeds and black peppercorns. Allow beets to simmer until fork tender, approximately 15 minutes; adjust sugar and salt to your liking.
Spiced Garbanzo Beans:
Drain one can garbanzos but do not dry; toss with 1 teaspoon each coriander, cumin and cayenne pepper; roast for approximately 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven until toasty.