Seasonal Restaurants Are a New Gourmet Trend

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A chef harvests fresh vegetables on a rooftop.

JBryson / Getty Images

Seasonal restaurants are all the rage, and they should be at this time of the year. With fresh from the field vegetables and fruits available on an hourly basis, chefs are featuring recipes on their menus that take advantage of these ingredients. All great chefs have done it forever, but now it has a name (seasonal restaurant) and it is trendy. That's great news for restaurant goers.

Some chefs are also starting to grow-their-own. What a pleasure to be able to pluck a fresh sprig of parsley from outside your back door, or make pesto out of your own basil. But it takes up a lot of space, which most restaurants in downtown locations don't have.

George is a Toronto restaurant that describes itself as serving "local, natural and sustainable food". They have taken urban growing-your-own to a new extreme: 20 blue recycling boxes on a balcony overlooking the restaurant's courtyard (pictured). The large plastic boxes are chock full of long beans, basil, nasturtium (edible flowers for the salad), baby eggplants, rosemary and cherry tomatoes. A staff member serves as the gardener.

The chef sources the rest of his tomatoes from his mother's garden. Seasonal cooking means that the menu changes three times a year with the seasons: baby lettuce greens such as romano and arugula in the early summer. Lots of blueberries, plums and tomatoes right now. Mushrooms in the autumn. In the winter they move towards rutabagas and squash. The chef publishes a weekly newsletter/blog (called Ecclesiastes 3) which tells the story of his search for fresh specialty foods and has interesting insights into the restaurant and food business.

Cowbell is another restaurant that is serious about the provenance of its ingredients. Their specialty is meat from local farmers. They can tell you where every cow was born and raised, what it was fed and what it got for Christmas last year. And that's just what the waitress tells you when you order your steak. Their website includes a list of all their suppliers and a special featured farmer of the week. It is fascinating to read about the range of people working in Ontario to supply foods such as elk, red deer, trout, and mushrooms. Kawartha Ecological Growers (KEG) is a collection of over 15 small scale farmers in the Kawartha Lakes growing fruits, vegetables, herbs and meats. The menu changes daily in response to what is available.