Loca For Local

Chances are that you don’t know me (yet), but if you did, you’d be pretty surprised to find that my first blog for Princeton Scoop is not about shoes, decorating, or lip gloss, but about food. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind cooking… occasionally (ok, ok – ‘rarely’ is probably more accurate). When given the choice, though, what I’ll be making for dinner is, well… reservations (rimshot, please).

If your lifestyle is anything like mine (busy), you’re eating out more often than you used to, and what’s on the menu at local restaurants matters more. Whether you call it ‘eating local’ or ‘the slow food movement,’ the new food movement is all about eating what’s raised and farmed locally, and bringing together producers, local farmers, chefs, restaurateurs and consumers to link the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. That’s about a lot more than just what’s on your plate: it’s about economics, health, sustainability – yikes! That’s a bigger topic than I want to tackle here. If you chip off the little piece of it that’s about restaurants, though… well, then I’m in my comfort zone.

My first experience with eating local was about nine years ago, shortly after moving from NYC to Hopewell. My husband and I had dinner at the then new-ish restaurant called The Brothers Moon in the heart of Hopewell Borough. Printed at the bottom of the menu was a statement about how they proudly support sustainable farming and local businesses. I thought, “Hmmm. How nice. I hope the food is good.” Because no matter how noble the ambition, if the tomatoes are anemic and the chicken is tough, I’m not going back. No need to worry – the meal was great. And what was an interesting menu footnote nine years ago has now become a full-blown revolution in the restaurant industry.

You can try, but it’s hard to ignore the local food movement. Just this past month, The New York Times Magazine devoted its entire October 10th issue – The Food Issue – to “Eating Together: How the food revolution – from farm to table – is really a story about seeding and savoring communities.” Barbara Kingsolver recently had a bestseller with her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, an account of her family’s vow to buy only food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it.

Whether or not eating local is a priority, pleasure or requirement for you, there are a growing number of restaurants in our area that you don’t want to miss. The eatery where I first encountered the notion of supporting local farmers is, I’m happy to report, still a thriving restaurant. The Brothers Moon (7 W. Broad Street, Hopewell, NJ  08525; 609.333.1330) is much more than a wonderful place to have dinner, you’ll also find an incredible array of take-out options and a nearly-impossible-to-resist case full of delicious desserts. They also put their money where their mouths are (pun intended) and “Support Local, Go Local!” isn’t just a motto: they take part in and support community events, charities, and activities. In addition to featuring fabulous food and impeccable service, Elements Restaurant (163 Bayard Lane, Princeton, NJ;  609.924.0078) supports local farms and businesses such as Gravity Hill Farm, Cherry Grove Farm, and Small World Roasters. Eno Terra (4484 Kings’ Highway, Kingston, NJ 08528; 609.497.1777) operates under a “Eat Local. Drink Global.” philosophy that’s reflected in their innovative menu and superlative wine list, and they serve it all up in an elegant-yet-rustic atmosphere that’s in perfect harmony with our gorgeous neck of the woods.

I’m barely scratching the surface here. The point is that in the deft hands of our talented neighborhood chefs, locally grown and raised food is transformed to meet the requirements of the most discerning palate. So eat local – it’s good for you, good for the environment, good for the local economy… and it gives a whole new meaning to ‘jerseylicious.’

Cary Sullivan is a freelance writer, editorial consultant, and community volunteer. She enjoyed a variety of editorial roles during her 25 years in corporate publishing, and holds a degree in Creative Writing from Florida State University. She moved to Hopewell from New York City with her husband and son nine years ago.

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