Three summers ago, I devoted one of my first Taste This! columns to telling you about the heirloom tomato sampler that was then being offered at Elaine's on Franklin in Chapel Hill. I was excited about the sampler partly because, for me, sun-ripened tomatoes from a nearby garden are one of the defining glories of summer. But I also saw the offering as one of the early signs of a movement that was just beginning to take root in the Triangle. As hard as it is to imagine now, most of us hadn't even heard the term "locavore" three years ago.
My, how times have changed. Evidence of the eat local movement's popularity can be seen everywhere, from crowded farmers' markets to restaurant menus, where terms such as "locally grown" and "heirloom" are cropping up with increasing frequency.
Here's a sampling, harvested from recent menus of some of the area's foremost advocates of local sourcing. Naturally, since these menus are dependent on the local crop, the offerings change frequently. Personally, I think that's a good thing.
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Acme Food & Beverage, Carrboro: fried green tomato and fresh mozzarella Napoleon with tomato confit, sweet corn and a balsamic reduction
Bloomsbury Bistro, Raleigh: "no bread" BLT of local garden tomatoes and romaine hearts with black pepper country bacon, marinated fresh mozzarella, basil aioli and balsamic syrup
Elaine's on Franklin, Chapel Hill: Peregrine Farm's heirloom tomato sampler with fried green tomatoes, celebrity goat cream, balsamico and extra virgin olive oil
Enoteca Vin, Raleigh: Heirloom tomato salad with mixed greens, Cabot clothbound cheddar and balsamic vinaigrette
Four Square, Durham: Heirloom tomatoes and Burrata cheese with field peas, balsamic-brown butter vinaigrette and grilled ciabbata
Magnolia Grill, Durham: Celebrity Dairy goat cheese mousse on warm black-eyed pea salad with sliced heirloom tomatoes and basil oil
Nana's, Durham: Peekytoe crab with cucumbers, radishes and an heirloom tomato salad finished with vanilla sea salt
Piedmont, Durham: local tomato salad with red onion, sherry vinaigrette, fresh herbs and fried mozzarella
Watts Grocery, Durham: Local tomato salad topped with crumbled Elodie Farms chevre, fresh corn and red onion relish
Zely & Ritz, Raleigh: Celebrity Dairy goat cheese wrapped with Swiss chard and green and red tomatoes