First, eating on the road is NOT the time to settle for anything less than great-tasting REAL food!
In fact, whether traveling for business or pleasure, this is the perfect opportunity to discover local “gems” where your meals can make for some of the best moments from your trip! Our son still talks about the Cuban sandwich he had from a locally-owned Columbian restaurant in Florida last October…we had an amazing trip and that meal is one of the things he talks about the most.
You can find these gems in just about any city!
We were intrigued by their approach (fresh, sustainable, from scratch), their mouth-watering menu and their use of fresh, in-season ingredients. And, we were shocked to see that they change their menu every day…WHAT?!...they change their menu EVERY DAY?! All the more reason to make sure we visit what sounded like an extraordinary local restaurant.
After our first-ever Uber ride, we sat down at a beautiful rustic wood table on the cozy and quaint covered patio (only outdoor seating here!). We were delighted that Coral (who, with her husband, Russ, opened the restaurant a little over a year ago) agreed to sit down with us to share more about Garden Kitchen...
Where did your passion for food come from?
Growing up, my father was a lobster fisherman and I learned to cook from my mom. Even at the young age of 11, I realized I loved spending time in the kitchen!
Later, my husband introduced me to the importance of buying and eating organic and how this affects our health and the environment. This helped open up a whole new world!
What inspired the idea to start a restaurant?
My husband and I would go out to eat…we ate out all of the time. But sometimes we would be disappointed and we got tired of eating the same things over and over. We found ourselves wanting to try new things. We started cooking more at home and fell in love with the meals we were making – I couldn’t believe how delicious and affordable these meals were, using fresh and in-season ingredients! So, how can I combine my passion for organic, in-season ingredients with my love of cooking and pleasing others? It hit me…I wanted to open a restaurant!
Eat REAL America comment: this same thing happened to us — we would eat out and realize…we can easily make that at home. These home-prepared meals, using fresh ingredients, tasted even better than what we would get at a typical restaurant. This lessened our desire to go out to eat (except at those truly special restaurants) and was part of the inspiration behind Eat REAL America!
What made you decide to offer the “different menu each day” concept?
We wanted to teach people how to eat in-season!
We wanted to offer an ever-changing unique variety, but it is really based on local in-season ingredients available from the farms. We use the best quality local ingredients that are sustainable and fresh and we let the ingredients lead the ideas. We then develop our menu based on ideas and recipes we find, along with flavor combinations we like. We are sometimes asked “why are beets on the menu 5 times?” It’s because they are in season…and when they’re not, you won’t see them on the menu at all. This is why we will offer menu items in the spring with local asparagus and menu items in the fall with winter squash.
Eat REAL America comment: our meal was incredible! We started with an appetizer that included cheese, pickled beets, strawberries, sausage, mustard, jam, grilled bread and more.
That was followed by a salad that included in-season ingredients like fennel, strawberries, arugula, beets, radishes and a lemon vinaigrette. Then, we had a pizza with a crust that was made from zucchini and almond flour, which was topped with sun-dried tomato pesto, mozzarella and basil…it was delicious!
And, if that wasn’t enough, we had a flavor-popping curried lamb stew…the ginger, garlic and curry, along with the other ingredients, gave this truly amazing flavor…we practically licked the bowl clean!
What is your philosophy on REAL food?
You don’t have to be the best cook, but if you have great ingredients, you will have great results. We make everything from scratch. Everything from our sauces to our dressings, our croutons and pizza crusts, and even our desserts are made from scratch with fresh ingredients. We also try not to waste anything. For example, we don’t throw away our beet greens – we use them in soups or pesto or other creations.
What is the most rewarding part of owning a restaurant?
I still get chills when we have a packed house…I want to pinch myself…this is what it feels like to build your dream.
So, if you are in the San Diego area, add a trip to Garden Kitchen to the top of your list — you will be so glad you did!
As you gear up for your summer travels...here are a few other tips to make the most of your meals on the road:
- Search out local farmers markets! You can "Google" them or go to http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/. This is a great way to meet locals, get some flavorful (and sometimes unexpected) foods, and pick up some healthy snacks for the rest of your trip.
- Find local REAL food restaurants. We have had a lot of success doing some advance research on TripAdvisor and Yelp. We also find that talking to the locals is a great way to find some hidden gems. For example, asking local farmers what restaurants they sell to can provide some great leads.
- Stay at B&Bs (bed and breakfasts)! Have you ever stayed at a bed and breakfast? This required us to get out of our comfort zone when it came to staying in someone's home and enjoying breakfast with strangers, but we now love it! We have met some incredible people (both owners and guests) and it doesn't get much better than a home-cooked breakfast and freshly-brewed coffee in the mornings! You can also get great ideas on what to do and see (and, of course, where to eat) during your trip. B&Bs are fantastic when traveling without kids, but many will accommodate kids as well. We find that a great B&B typically doesn't cost any more than the chain hotels, especially considering breakfast is included.
- As always, get out of the box! Traveling is a great opportunity to try new things and find new discoveries you didn't know you liked! If you think you don’t like Thai food, but someone says there is an unbelievable Thai restaurant just down the street, go for it! This may become one of the most enjoyable parts of your trip!
Eating REAL on the road, and enjoying some absolutely amazing meals, can be among the highlights of your trips!
So, what are you going to do the next time you travel? Search for farm-to-table restaurants and put a little preparation and thought into your meals and come up with a plan that will make your travels even more memorable! And, don’t forget to take pictures — your whole family will thank you for it!
Food is essential to life, therefore, make it good!