From downtown Orlando, a 200-mile market basket takes a wide sweep north toward Gainesville, circles beyond Tampa to the west and Micco to the east and goes as far south as Clewiston. The loop takes in a generous portion of the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, Lake Okeechobee and the St Johns River.
It's not a grocery cart that could pass through the express line. It's an overflowing basket that includes strawberries, eggs, blueberries, chestnuts, goat cheese, snap beans, squash, mushrooms, watermelon, milk, honey, zucchini, bell peppers, fish and shellfish, grapes, okra, onions, sweet corn, eggplant, carambola, cabbage, carrots, citrus, endless varieties of herbs, beans, celery and more.
Slow Food Orlando's Eat Local Week, Nov. 9-16, celebrates this bounty at local restaurants, community happenings and farm visits. It culminates in the Winter Park Harvest Festival on Nov. 17 at Central Park's West Meadow at 150 N. New York Ave.
Port Orange's Fresh Healthy Cafe, McCoy's at the Hyatt at Orlando International Airport, Hawk's Landing Steak House at the Marriott World Center, College Park's Paxia, Merritt Island's Merritt's Table, The World of American Flavors at Disney's Contemporary Resort and more will offer prix-fixe menus featuring ingredients sourced no more than 200 miles away.
Gregory Richie, chef de cuisine at Tchoup Chop Loews Royal Pacific Resort, supports the efforts of Slow Food Orlando because using local foods is key to his culinary philosophy.
"Cooking with local ingredients allows me the opportunity to develop relationships with the farmers," says Ritchie. "I feel better knowing the source of the foods I work with. That knowledge helps our team build better relationships with our guests. Customers are more informed than ever before about the importance of eating local and its impact on local economies."
In addition to taking advantage of restaurant specials, Eat Local Week participants can explore community events designed to raise awareness of local farmers and food artisans and the Orlando Slow Food chapter (slowfoodorlando.org and Facebook):
•Kickoff Happy Hour at Redlight Redlight Beer Parlour, with local brews: 5-7 p.m. Nov. 9; 745 Bennett Road, Orlando; 407-893-9832; free.
•Farm visit to Lake Meadow Naturals Farm Store: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 10; 10000 Mark Adam Road, Ocoee; 407-399-7076; lakemeadownaturals.com; free.
•Farm visit to Heart of Christmas Farms: noon-4 p.m. Nov. 11; 21310 Fort Christmas Road, Christmas; 407-512-2004; hocfarms.com; free.
•A Taste of the Space Coast, with free farm and market tours and a dinner: noon-4 p.m. tours (Tomazin Farms, Green Flamingo, Wild Ocean Seafood Market), 4-8 p.m. dinner at Green Flamingo (398 N. Putnam Grove Road, Oak Hill); dinner is $45-$60; eatlocalweek.com.
•Meet the Producers: Audubon Park Community Market: 6-10 p.m. Nov. 12; 1842 E. Winter Park Road, Orlando; free.
•Visit Kissimmee Valley Farmers Market: 4-8 p.m. Nov 13; Kissimmee Civic Center, 201 Dakin Ave.; free.
•How to Eat Local on a Budget, a talk by Edible Orlando publisher Kendra Lott: 6 p.m. Nov. 14; Orange County Public Library, 101 E. Central Blvd. in downtown Orlando; free.
•Visit Brevard Farmers Market: 3-7 p.m., Nov. 15; Wickham Park Pavilion, 2500 Parkway Drive, Melbourne; free.
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Eat Local Week goals
•Emphasize the wealth of ingredients available within a 200-mile radius of Orlando.
•Help local restaurants, farmers and food artisans develop lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.
•Build consumer awareness of local food and farmers while promoting reconnecting with family and friends around the dinner table.
•Raise awareness about the importance of a local food economy and keeping money in our community.