This is the first in a series of posts on places committed to going local. Wanda and I celebrated our thirtieth anniversary in San Francisco and the Napa Valley a couple weeks ago. It’s almost embarrassing to admit because hotel restaurants are so often ordinary, but the only place we ate more than once while we were there was Aurea, a little light-fare restaurant in the Stanford Court, which is the hotel where we were staying near the top of Nob Hill.
The first notable thing we discovered about Aurea was their commitment to local food. It’s illegible in this tiny photo, but the thing that looks like a grey border running around the edge of their menu is actually a listing of their dozens of food and wine suppliers from around the region. We ate at some notable places, most of which busied themselves explaining why they had to fly their food in from halfway around the world. Whereas if you went to those exotic places, they would be just as likely to get their food from somewhere else. It reminds me of a trip with my family up the eastern seaboard of the US when I was a kid. Maine lobsters were always highly-desired in the South, but when we finally got to Maine and my dad said something to the waiter about Maine lobsters, the waiter sniffed and said “we get our lobsters from Newfoundland.”
Meanwhile, while the other restaurants were making excuses, Aurea was quietly doing excellent dishes with largely regional ingredients, many of which came from less than a hundred miles around San Francisco. Their herbs traveled the shortest distance of all: from their rooftop herb garden just outside the window.
And then a curious thing happened: we started paying attention to other aspects of the place, and found that not only was the food local and excellent, but the service was exceptional, too.
Accepted wisdom has it that if you’re going to be remarkable in one aspect of your operation, you’ve got to sacrifice somewhere else. But Aurea makes me wonder if exceptional commitment to excellence in one respect elevates your entire operation instead, as I blogged about here. Aurea certainly made believers out of us.
~ Steve Mouzon
Tuesday, June 30, 2009 - 12:25 PM
Many seafood restaurants in New Orleans get their seafood from the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana