Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Suburban Drum Circles or Farm-To-Table Bravado

The other day I was driving through my mother-in-law's neighborhood on my way to see her and I spied a new restaurant in the chain ridden stucco jungle that is South Orange County. Seeing that it had something to do with craft beer I was naturally interested, so I looked it up online.

“..we are independent and locally owned. We do things differently and believe in using only the freshest and highest quality ingredients. Our foods are largely organic, our brews and signature cocktails are all craft...Our Eats are farm to table, local, in-season, sustainable and organic. [Chef] visits the farmer’s markets and tours local farms weekly. Our meats are of exceptional quality and are all-natural, antibiotic and hormone free. Our [beers] are strictly craft and our [wine is] largely boutique. Our menu will change frequently as we transition seasons to provide for only the freshest and best products available. Like we said, we do it differently.”

Tammy Farrugia
Seems normal, right? Seems like a place I'd like to eat for sure. However, if they're a locally owned, sit down, non-chain restaurant, shouldn't they naturally be using only the freshest and highest quality ingredients? Where I grew up we have many family owned restaurants. They aren't chains, they're locally owned and run. Their menus note the like of “Covelo Beef” or “Roundman's Smoked Bacon” or “Cypress Grove Lamb Chopper” reflecting that the menu is indeed local and mostly organic. I have indeed been spoiled, however my spoilage has perhaps turned to the resentment of people I feel are trying to make a quick buck.

I'm at the point that when I see a restaurant boasting their organic, fresh, slow, sustainable, morning-greeted, tucked-in-at-night, holding-hands-sing-kum-bay-ya produce I immediately associate it with snobby beertenders, stingy portions and a wallet enema. The best example was the first episode of that show “Portlandia” when they want to know the name of the chicken they're going to eat! It's gotten ridiculous. No one expects Denny's or Coco's to be farm-to-table here, no one expects healthy food at Taco Bell, but it is not too much to expect your typical family owned restaurant to do it's best in the name of sustainability and health without trying to appeal to the thick framed hipster crowd.

So, what were they trying to accomplish here? Were the new owners scared of their potential customers' past experiences being tainted by the ubiquity of the TGIF's, Chilli's and Applebees which more or less bookend their new location? In all honesty, I've never eaten here. But I intend to. I can't wait to check out their beer selection. The food might even be sensational! What I'm curious about is why did the new owners feel the need to publish their mission statement and menu in such a grossly hipster fashion? Was it the the above-mentioned fear of customer ignorance? Was it a desire to cash in on a growing trend in urban/suburban cuisine culture? If so, I have to question their strategy. The suburbanites living around them who are content with BJ's and Sizzler's are likely not their target audience anyway. And the slightly more dialed in yoga mat toting crowd ,no doubt plugged in to Twitter and Yelp and those platforms, will have obviously come to expect a family owned restaurant that isn't pretentiously self congratulatory of the fact that they aren't using Sysco distributed foods!

I intend to eat here for my husbands birthday in May and I can't wait to pick the owner's brain about their philosophy behind all this bravado. And I will report back to you, gentle reader, on my investigation. I'm not ragging (too much at least) on the slow food movement here but it reminds me of a story: An investor was getting his shoes shined early in October of 1929 when the guy shining his shoes started giving him investment tips. The investor, quite worried, thought to himself, “If everyone is investing how long could this possibly last” and pulled out of the market before Black Tuesday hit later that month.

Living in urban San Diego this would be “so ten minutes ago.” A marketing pitch like this would have been eaten up and spit out in the blink of an eye. Hell you try this in North Park and I bet it would be less than a week before you were shaken down for some sort of holistic “protection” money with the understanding that if you did not pay up you would get worked over by a fixie chain. San Diego is beyond saturated with hipster rhetoric: farm-to-table, chicken's holding hands etc. (Yeah it's a love/hate thing.)

These guys are more than likely sincere in their love of real food, and I'll find out more about what motivated their angle when I eat there. But for the record, I can't wait to live in a world when the platitudes expressed in their menu are taken for granted by most restaurant goers, and such adjectives need not be thrown in my face. Instead I would get intrigued by a bold advertisement that reads “Cheap Sit Down Stoner/Gamer Food: Fast!” “Come to Joe's, I will deep fry your pre-packaged Sysco snacks and have them to your table in under seven minutes—and there's never a charge for extra ranch.”


that last restaurant, (“Cheap Sit Down Stoner/Gamer Food: Fast!” “Come to Joe's, I will deep fry your pre-packaged Cisco snacks and have them to your table in under seven minutes—and there's never a charge for extra ranch.”) sounds pretty awesome if you ask me!

Cisco products are some of the most terrible "food" products in existence. I would rather eat at some overpriced hipster joint than consume that garbage.

I don't eat at those hipster resturants but it does sound good ! I would rather eat organics or Farm to table products only to stay away from pesticides and other cancerest chemicals . The food industries car make anything taste good that is the scary truth!!

Let us know if it is "gluten free".....

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