Why do you buy local products? There are a lot of great reasons for buying locally, ranging from community support to global responsibility. Our world has expanded to an on-demand, instant gratification land of experiences. Every decision made is made with the inclination toward making "me" feel better. Buying local has evolved from what makes "me" happy to making the world better. A noble change in attitude to be sure, but I still feel we miss the point. If we take all the grand, world-saving ideas out of the equation, we're still left with a pretty fantastic reason to buy locally produced foods... flavor (and isn't that what it's all about anyway?).
I was amazed at how food, pulled right from the ground, tasted when I started my own small garden 5 years ago. I was going to do it right! I sprouted my seeds in the small indoor greenhouse box and transplanted my sprouts right into the soil. It was going to be amazing... until the weeds started to grow (a never ending battle, by the way). Then, I learned about overcrowding... the hard way. Plants that were growing great suddenly started to lose momentum because they were now overshadowed by the plants next to them! (You'd think I would have asked someone before starting this endeavor, but apparently, I'm quite stubborn.)
My experience with flavor though, came because of these hardships. My beautiful row of carrots had stopped growing. I was left with one measly plant. "He" held strong, but I saw the signs that he too was soon to wilt away from the onslaught of neighboring plants. Reluctantly, I pulled this sad little carrot from the ground trying to salvage at least one from my diminutive crop. It didn't measure more than 12 cm. I took this tiny trophy to my wife (for whom the carrots were for to begin with) and proudly presented to her the bounty which I provided with my own two hands. After the giggles subsided, we washed off the dirt and did the only thing we could with such a humble plant... ate it raw.
To say I was amazed at the difference between the carrots I'd spent a lifetime despising and this poor paltry specimen is an understatement. I'd eaten garden carrots before and always preferred them to the store-bought but never before had the difference been so affecting. There was a sweetness and fullness of flavor. There was an unmatched crispness. I knew then that I needed as much fresh produce as possible from gardens and farmers markets.
While it is almost impossible for a restaurant to be 100% local (I need my coffee... it doesn't grow around here), restaurants are capable of finding items to feature that are locally sourced. We can dance around the effect it has on local economies and environmental impact, and while these are positive aspects, the real star is flavor. Freshly grown produce, locally made cheeses, locally raised livestock, and more all have an inherent beauty to their flavor. They didn't spend weeks stored in a silo or travel hundreds of miles in the back of a truck. They came from the world you live in every day, breathing the same air as you, experiencing the same rain, and basking in the same sunshine. The life of your community waltzes across the palate with every bite. We got into this business because of flavor, let's try and keep it as true as possible.