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, 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 eat there, ask questions, talk to the staff, chef and owners if possible and look at their website.
The Questions to Ask
1. Farm to Table. Do they source their food primarily from local farms? Is this listed on the menu or a board?
2. 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?
3. 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?
4. 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 can contain pesticides?
5. Ingredients. Do they use real ingredients and avoid high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and preservatives?
6. 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 a customer’s allergy or health concerns?
Popover Bistro & Bakery in Simsbury just celebrated their fifth anniversary and they are going strong. Recently, I sat down with Sara Allan, one of the owners, to discuss “the questions”. The goal of the restaurant from the beginning was to be locally sourced, organic and non-GMO. They are able to source their produce VERY locally during the growing season and overall they achieve sourcing produce organically 98% of the time. You can see their local partners and farms up on the chalkboard. I am happy to know that I can always get an organic salad at Popover.
Extra virgin olive oil is used to make the salad dressings and is always available, as is organic butter. They do use a blended oil (EVOO and canola) for roasting, baking and frying, so be advised if you wish to avoid canola. As far as animal protein goes, they have organic cheddar cheese (and a delicious vegan cheese), the eggs are local and cage-free, the chicken is antibiotic free, the turkey and chorizo sausage are nitrate free, and the house made corned beef is hormone and antibiotic free. The animal protein is better quality than most restaurants but not organic.
They do make everything in house and strive to use real ingredients as much as possible. Real pumpkin and spices are used to make their pumpkin spice latte and they have made their own lavender syrup for drinks in the past. Currently, their flavored coffee syrups contain artificial ingredients but those can be avoided by asking for other options. Their ketchup contains high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) due to a sourcing problem but they hope to get organic ketchup back in soon. I would just avoid ketchup in general.
The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable regarding ingredients and happy to assist with food allergy concerns and the kitchen is willing to make substitutions as desired. The menu offers many vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options and offers breakfast and lunch all day. They also keep it interesting by changing the menu seasonally but always have some customer favorites like the waffles. They are amazing and happen to be gluten free so if you want a treat, check them out the next time you are near Simsbury. Visit https://www.popoversimsbury.com
Submitted by Kathy Beach, MS, NBC-HWC, National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach. Kathy sees clients at Natural Health & Healing, in West Hartford. email@example.com