Florida's Top Sustainable Eateries
In line with the evolution of a more environmentally conscious and health conscious society, a select few restaurants have finally surfaced in Florida commingling the likes of natural resource conservation with hale and hearty body preservation. While scouting out organics and green products is relatively easy at a place like Whole Foods Market, Florida in general has yet to embrace the locally-sourced , farm-fresh, sustainable revolution that has taken hold in other states like California, Oregon, and Maine. Luckily for the more enlightened consumer, five South Florida restaurants have taken the situation in their own hands, supporting small organic farms and/or employing critical tools like the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s online Seafood Watch guide to sustainable seafood in creating their menus and sourcing their products. With an easy system of green, yellow, and red “lights,” the latter has provided a long-needed detailed resource for both consumers and restaurants about seafood consumption and avoidance. This simple guide can help prevent overfishing as well as the unnecessary death of sea turtle, dolphin, and shark by-catch
Area 31: Miami Executive Chef John Critchley prepares Florida’s most sustainable and savory seafood eats in his intimate open kitchen. Cutie Critchley takes great pride in his daily sojourns to the local Casablanca fish market, perusing the day boats for renewable catch from reliable community fishermen in Area 31 and then filleting his prized possessions in-house. Upon preparation, Critchely keeps the fresh seafood as the center of attention with delicate and mild sauces, accents, and accompaniments to bring out the most succulent tastes. Much like a French Master Chef, he focuses on simple preparations for the discerning palate, where each carefully chosen ingredient is easily recognized. www.area31restaurant.com, 305.424.5234.
-The Setting: On the 16th floor of the gorgeous Epic Hotel in Downtown Miami cast over a modern, comfortable space of high ceilings and swaying chandeliers and an interactive open kitchen.
-Specialties: The Ocean to Table fish selection is a fun mix and match between six types of fresh catch and four different light sauces.
-Must-Tries: “Yellowfin Tuna and Escolar” – raw and tender with Peruvian peppers, radish, and mint in passion fruit puree; “Cassoulette” – a mix of seafood prepared in light coconut milk with kalamansi lime, sea beans, served in fresh white clams and topped off with sea foam; Grilled Yellowtail Snapper in Salsa Verde; “Chittara” – thin strips of pasta, spicy crab ragout, and fried garlic.
-Green Factor: Strict adherence to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program and regular conference calls with the Aquarium to discuss menu selections; support local fisherman with small day boats; veggies from local, organic markets and farms.
Ireland Steakhouse: Fort Lauderdale. There’s finally a reason to visit Weston other than chilling with your Venezuelan “panas.” The relatively new Ireland Steakhouse brings a slough of new concepts to the Fort Lauderdale ‘burbs – sustainable cuisine, a non-chain restaurant, and a resto that doesn’t reek of Sisco and Restaurant Depot products. But don’t let the name fool you. While steaks are indeed on the menu, the focus here is on sustainable seafood, and lots of it. Sous Chef Jeremy Miller uses only seasonable products and goes to great lengths to have a menu of mostly “green” items from the Seafood watch guide. www.bonaventure.hyatt.com, 954.616.1234.
-The Setting: Part of the enormous Hyatt Bonaventure, the restaurant is an warm and woodsy enclave behind the lobby and the other hotel restaurant, converted from a storage space into a “Steakhouse.”
-The Eats: In keeping with trends of other Steakhouses like BLT, STK, and the Forge hearty mains (like the “Orange Glaze Wild Canadian Arctic Char” or the “Cherry Balsamic Yellowfin Tuna”) are paired with loads of decadent sides made for sharing (like “Lobster Mac n’ Cheese” and “Lobster Fries”).
-Must Tries: “Lobster Mac and Cheese” – the best Mac n Cheese concoction I’ve tried to date, with tons of lobster, lots of cream, and a small price tag ($16); “Pan Seared Wild Pacific Halibut” topped and coated with jicima, watercress, and a warm vinaigrette; “Florida Orange Crème Brulee” – Grand Marnier crème brulee with Florida Oranges segments.
-Green Factor: Strict adherence to the Monterey Bay Aquarium restaurant guide and working closely with organic seafood farms in Florida and Texas.
Sublime - Fort Lauderdale: Pam Anderson isn’t the only veg that loves this vegan powerhouse. The vegan sushi, the Portobello stack, and innovative pizzas and pastas surprisingly satisfy all carnivore cravings! www.sublimerestaurant.com, 954.615.1431.
Darbster - Palm Beach: The effortlessly trendy outdoor resto is a new West Palm Beach casual hot spot with uber creative organic vegan cuisine like the phenomenal “Palm Cakes “(think crab crakes but heartier with hearts of palm and lemon pine nut sauce) and the unbelievable “Chocolate Mousse” (made from avocados, dates, raw cacao, and agave nectar). www.darbster.com, 561.586.2622.
Cobalt - Vero Beach: Perched on the quiets sands of Vero Beach, Cobalt is Florida’s third restaurant to support the Seafood watch program. Menu highlights include “Seared Scallops” with beluga lentils, dried apricot, parsley root puree, and herb dressing and the wildly popular $3 appetizers (including fabulous soft shell crab sliders) during the hotels two “happy hours.” www.verobeachhotelandspa.com, 772.469.1060.