One course at a time, David Siegel consumes five gourmet dishes remarkable for their flavor and also for where the ingredients came from: sardines and sand dabs from Monterey Bay, Calif., squab and veal from the state's central coast, and strawberries from Oxnard, Calif.
"Ordinarily, I would be gun-shy and run the other way when I hear the word 'sardine,' " says Mr. Siegel. But "because they didn't have to preserve it in salt, this had a freshness and nonfishy taste I've never experienced. It was delightful."
The comment is music to the ears of Neal Fraser, chef of the well-known Grace Restaurant here, who designed a "Close to Home" menu where 90 percent of the ingredients are sourced within 400 miles. Advancing a so-called "socially and environmentally responsible" agenda throughout his restaurant – which includes serving filtered local tap water rather than bottled water from afar and fueling his own car with leftover vegetable oil – Mr. Fraser is part of a growing nationwide restaurant movement to go "green." The ideas are not new, say experts, but they are gaining fresh currency because of the burgeoning global environmental movement and new generations of youth with budding enthusiasm for long-established notions of sustainability, ecological health, and food safety.
As exemplified by Grace Restaurant, one key idea is to leave less of a carbon footprint wherever possible – choosing local meats, vegetables, fish, and fruit over those shipped from thousands of miles away. Another push is to support smaller local ranchers and farmers who avoid the kinds of animal diets and pesticides that are typically used for produce and meat and are often served in the nation's 1 million restaurants.