Restaurants Keeping It Real: Soma Grille
Do you like to eat out? I do! Of course, cooking at home is more cost effective and can be the healthier choice but eating out is fun, relaxing and can be a delicious culinary treat. I have to admit that I am pretty picky about the restaurants that I choose however, because I will only go if I can eat real food made with the best ingredients.
I thought that I would share how I figure that out and create a list of Connecticut restaurants that are getting it right. In the coming months, I will spotlight a different restaurant in each issue. How do I vet each restaurant? I will eat there, ask questions, talk to the staff, chef and owners if possible and look at their website.
The Questions to Ask
- Farm to table. Do they source their food primarily from local farms? Is this listed on the menu or a board?
- Oils. Do they use canola, corn, sunflower, safflower, soybean, peanut or a blended oil? Will they simply use extra-virgin olive oil or avocado oil if you ask?
- Animal Protein. Do they have menu options for 100% grass-fed meat, organic or pastured chicken, wild or sustainable farm-raised fish that is carefully vetted?
- Organic. Do they have organic options on the menu at all times (an organic salad)? Are they aware of the Dirty Dozen list from The Environmental Working Group and if so do they incorporate organic options of these foods into their menus? Are they familiar with the fact that Non GMO products also contain pesticides?
- Ingredients. Do they use real ingredients and avoid high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and preservatives, etc?
- Allergy friendly. Are the most common allergens listed on the menu (gluten, dairy, soy)? Is the staff trained to understand allergy concerns? Are they aware of the allergens in different menu items? Do they have gluten free choices? Is the kitchen willing and able to make substitutions to accommodate customer’s allergy or health concerns?
Soma Grille, Simsbury, CT
This month, I am featuring a newcomer to Simsbury. Soma Grille has been open for seven months and is located in the historic Simsbury 1820 House. I interviewed the general manager Chris Riley. He told me that the goal has been to create a restaurant that was smartly casual and welcoming with a friendly staff that provided fresh, delicious and locally sourced meals.
So let’s get to “the questions”. In the CT growing season they source locally. They mostly use Gordon Food Service who tries to source within a one hundred mile radius. They list all of their very local suppliers on a blackboard in the bar area. The goat cheese is from Sweet Pea in North Granby, the gluten free rolls are from Pure Love Gluten Free Bakery in Avon and the infused, organic maple syrups are from Maple Craft Foods in Sandy Hook. Generally speaking, their field greens and arugula are organic and currently, the asparagus and broccoli are organic. If you prefer to eat organically, just ask your sever to check with the kitchen on what is organic that week.
When it comes to oils, they always have extra virgin olive oil available and use it to make all of the salad dressings. They do use a 10% blended oil for everything else and canola oil in the fryer. If you are gluten sensitive, they have a dedicated GF fryer basket.
Soma Grille definitely has some clean animal protein options. They use Black Pearl Salmon that is sourced from the Shetland Islands and northern Scotland. This is an excellent area for sustainable fish farming due to its highly oxygenated, deep waters with raging currents. They do not use antibiotics and are raised on a specifically formulated pure feed that is similar to their natural diet. The mussels are wild from PEI and the scallops are sustainably farmed. All of their beef is Certified Piedmontese. This unique breed of cattle was first noticed by farmers in Northwest Italy in the late 1800’s and is prized for being both lean and naturally tender because of a particular gene they carry. They are never administered growth hormones, antibiotics, or steroids and they spend most of their lives grazing on open range lands. Soma Grille obtains the grass-finished variety as well.
They avoid artificial ingredients in the kitchen and they are allergy friendly. The menu denotes which items are gluten free and if you need more information regarding allergens, the staff is happy to find out for you. I have personally found the kitchen very willing to make substitutions as well. My current favorite menu item is the Short Ribs – they are absolutely delicious! I also have to say they have a lovely large bar area and it’s an excellent spot to eat on a crowded Friday night if you can’t get a table.
Submitted by Kathy Beach, MS, NBC-HWC, National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach. Natural Health & Healing, West Hartford, CT