10 Farm to Table Spots to Try in NB
“Farm to table” is a beautiful term. While the cynic can argue its usage has veered into the realm of marketing jargon, the authentic intent of the phrase isn’t rooted in seat-filling schemes. It’s about creating and cultivating the relationships that exist throughout a dish’s journey, from the connection between farmers and the seasonal, sustainable ingredients they nurture to the bond between a restaurant’s kitchen and its patrons. It’s an organic rapport capable of producing moments of great joy, such as the magical time of year when heirloom tomatoes are at long last back in season.
The following Newport Beach venues can be viewed as ambassadors of joy. To them, “farm to table” is not a catchy buzzword. It’s the perfect adjective for a perfect plate of food, made with perfect ingredients and served at the perfect time of year. Culinary experiences simply don’t get much more beautiful than that.
The Resort at Pelican Hill has a lot to brag about. Its grounds are meticulous. It’s home to a killer golf course. Its aesthetic transports you directly to Italy. Yet one of the things its most boastful about is the strong relationship its restaurants have with Irvine Farms. The property’s flagship venue is a brilliant beacon of the relationship’s sturdiness, as its pitch-perfect Italian fare is lovingly created with as much influence from OC’s growing conditions as is from the Old Country.
This charming Newport Coast venue and East Hamptons transplant is a big proponent of “clean food.” What is clean food, you ask? It’s food that upholds the principles of the farm-to-table milieu: organic, sustainable, and seasonal, emphasizing strong partnerships with farmers and growers that value quality over corner cutting. It’s also a philosophy that creates an excellent mélange of contemporary fare with an enticing emphasis on vegetarian items. A feast for the senses can be had here, and not just because the 1987 movie “Babette’s Feast” inspired the venue’s moniker.
Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens
Rich Mead was practicing the farm-to-table concept well before the phrase was coined. His adherence to the local and the sustainable was the backbone to Sage, the beloved Newport Beach restaurant he helmed from 1998 to 2013. His new venture, located in the beautiful and legendary Roger’s Gardens near Fashion Island, seamlessly continues his legacy. Mead’s elegant, contemporary “field to fork” menu and the venue’s open-air design perfectly captures the true essence of the culinary movement. Of course, being ensconced in seasonally rotating gardener’s paradise doesn’t exactly inhibit this feeling.
Juliette Kitchen + Bar
When you’re committed to crafting farm-to-table cuisine, you’re committing to authenticity. Ideally, this mindset should flow from the kitchen and touch all corners of your restaurant concept. Authenticity is something this warm, inviting restaurant near John Wayne Airport does incredibly well. Chic yet utterly unpretentious, the restaurant’s hyper-focus on using seasonal and local ingredients to build its contemporary menu dovetails nicely with the dining space’s organically communal spirit. This combination forges a completely convivial space that demonstrates just how much good food and good company are intertwined.
If you think that hotel restaurants couldn’t possibly care about the farm-to-table movement, allow the main eatery in Newport Beach’s Island Hotel to kindly prove you wrong. The sophisticated contemporary menu is designed around the concepts of seasonality, locally sourced ingredients, and solid relationships with farmers and purveyors that wouldn’t think of doing things anyway other than the right way. It’s a philosophy that tastes pretty fantastic – especially when you’re chilling on the patio under the Southern California sun.
Pandor Artisan Boulangerie & Café
It may be quite easy to overlook bakeries while pondering the farm-to-table concept. Yet you shouldn’t skip past what this outstanding bakery and café near Newport Back Bay is doing. Everything served here is crafted in the classic French style much like you’d see in the arrondissements of Paris. This means nothing but fine, pure ingredients devoid of preservatives or anything artificial is used to create their edible magic. It also means an around-the-clock baking schedule that ensures each baguette, croissant, and pastry is made slowly, traditionally, and perfectly. The only thing missing is a view of the Eiffel Tower.
Step onto the patio of this Eastbluff neighborhood’s restaurant, and you’ll enter a lush, 1,300 square-foot garden utopia of organic fruit, veggies, and herbs. Owner/Executive Chef Cathy Pavlos carefully tends to this flourishing bounty of seasonal produce throughout the year, and her green thumb and fierce commitment to sustainability results in a finely crafted “garden to table” menu of Napa-inspired delights; replete with dishes that burst with bright color and fresh complexity. It’s one garden party you do not want to miss.
Not all commitments to the farm-to-table cause are land based. This Balboa Peninsula joint is arguably the city’s finest example of this fact. Founder/Chef Andrew Gruel’s passionate “boat to plate” philosophy is built upon crafting an eco-friendly seafood menu that emphasizes replenishing the water’s bounty and strong partnerships with organizations like the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. Gruel’s ardor and the culinary craftsmanship of his team create a bevy of ridiculously delectable seafood dishes that you can feel good about eating. This is good, because you may find yourself eating here a lot.
True Food Kitchen
It almost goes without saying that the restaurant co-launched by health and wellness guru Dr. Andrew Weil would be committed to the farm-to-table movement’s principles. Of course, this doesn’t mean they aren’t worth talking about. The menu at this health-conscious Fashion Island restaurant is a splendid showcase for the power of fresh, sustainable ingredients. The dishes served here can lay the delicious groundwork for a healthy lifestyle, but they can also provide you with a clear conscience along the way.
The farm-to-table concept is not a movement solely designated for the restaurant set. It’s something you can do at home – with a little help from this artisanal food wonderland in Fashion Island. Every section of the store reinforces the company’s stern commitment to offering the best natural, organic, and local foods, including the dreaded “middle aisles” that are usually considered anathema to clean, sustainable eating. And if you don’t actually feel like making anything, you can always swing by their Prepared Foods bar and taste their adherence to the farm-to-table motif.