There is a movement among self-described "foodies" known as Locavore. Playing off the common terms used to describe a person's diet - carnivore for meat eater, omnivore for meat and vegetables, etc. - it refers to the practice of only eating food that is locally sourced. That means everything from the produce in the salad to the beef in the burger and even to the beer they are washing it down with comes from nearby suppliers. As a grassroots movement, there is no set definition of what qualifies as "nearby" but most adhere to a 50 mile radius or less.
This sounds like the type of thing that you could find in places such as New York and San Francisco, but not exactly the type of thing that Appleton, Wisconsin restaurants would embrace. The truth is that many restaurants in smaller cities across the country, especially those that feature Latin fusion menus and others that require fresh ingredients, have been doing this long before it became hip. They were not doing it to be cool or cutting edge. Partially it was because that was all they could afford, but mostly it was because they wanted to provide the best meals possible.
It may sound counterintuitive that a casual fine dining would shop locally for supplies if they were trying to save money. There are several food wholesalers across the country who could offer them the same food at a discount. This is true, but that would require buying on a bulk scale that most do not have the money to pay for or the room to store it. Most people have seen a 53 foot tractor trailer parked outside a restaurant making a delivery. Not only is that a tremendous amount of food to find a home for, you will notice that those trucks do not show up every day. Keep that in mind the next time your server tells you that the fish is fresh.
Shopping on a smaller scale allows the chefs and their staffs to ensure the quality of food they are getting matches their demands. Whereas a chain restaurant might run a special because they are looking to get rid of something, a privately owned casual fine dining restaurant will run one because they find an exceptional cut of meat or an abundance of high quality produce that day.
Regardless of how they refer to their dining habits, people across the country are becoming more aware of not just what and how they eat, but how the food was prepared and where it originally comes from. You do not have to be a Brooklyn hipster just to experience the thrill of eating locally sourced food. Just visit your local Latin fusion restaurant and experience what they can do on a daily basis with fresh ingredients, generations of knowledge and a passion for cooking.
Jack Terry is a freelance writer who has been covering the food and beverage industry for more than 20 years. http://www.osorioslatinfusion.com