When Global Goes Local: United Nations World Environment Day Comes To Sarasota

Cities and towns on the Gulf Coast have long been leaders in sustainable living. So it wasn’t a huge surprise when Sarasota County was selected as North America’s Host Community on the  United Nations’ World Environment Day 2014. On Thursday, June 5th, the Keating Marine Education Center at Mote Marine was the venue for a community forum and a call to action for environmentalism. Patricia Beneke, the Director and Regional Representative for the United Nations Environment Programme’s Regional Office for North America opened the forum by talking about how small island developing nations all over the world are affected by climate change, and how actions we perform may have a big effect halfway across the world. The message that we can help struggling nations by being aware of what’s going on in our own backyard opened up the door for a number of local speakers. Barbara Lausche, the Director of the Marine Policy Institute at Mote Marine opened up her program on Sea Level Rise with the somewhat alarming question, “When the low tide becomes the high tide, where will the high tide be?” before encouraging local leadership to use available support tools to identify threats and set planning benchmarks early before sea level rise inexorably changes the geography of the low-lying coastal areas we call home. The next to speak was Sara Kane, the Public Outreach Manager of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP). She talked about the Economic Value of Sarasota bay as determined by a report commissioned by the SBEP. There has been talk in the past about bringing offshore drilling into our area. Kane brought up the point that while that may be profitable in the short run, the risks can far outweigh the rewards.  Our pristine waters drive the economy. People want to buy homes near the water and participate in water recreation. An oil spill (or even just the unsightliness of offshore drills) could take a major toll on our water-driven economy which is worth billions and which provides for one out of every seventeen jobs in the state of Florida. In short, a healthy environment creates a healthy economy. Continuing the economic theme was Dr. Jennifer L. Shaver, the Executive Director of the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida (SEC) who discussed Building a Collaborative Business Platorm for Sustainable Ecotourism in Southwest Florida. She pointed out that while Sarasota has long been an arts destination, more and more visitors are coming to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. In fact, from 2009 to 2013 people coming to the area specifically to interact with nature increased 32%. Last year visitors spent more on nature visits than they did on culture or sports. The SEC wants to encourage this trend by becoming leaders in the ecotourism movement. They want to bring together small businesses and independent operators including outfitters, transportation, hotels, tour guides and more and create a real resource for visitors that will help out local businesses too. Finishing out the session was Tony Stefan from the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. His session on Green Building and Green Economy celebrated Sarasota County for its leadership in green building (the county is currently 3rd in the state per capita in LEED-certified buildings) but encouraged us to boost urban sustainability and resilience by reducing car traffic. Additionally, he cautioned us to always think about concurrency: namely, keep in mind that as an area grows it’s important to keep things like school capacity and traffic in mind, but it’s also important to weigh the environmental impact. Over one hundred countries participated in World Environment Day this year. But though the Mote meeting informed us about global challenges, ultimately we learned that the best way to address climate change is by focusing on our immediate environment. By doing so not only will we build a strong local economy, we’ll preserving natural treasures for generations to come. 

Spotlight On Sustainability: Circus City Architectural Salvage

Here at The Waterfront Restaurant, we strive to be sustainable when it comes to selecting and preparing all the food that we serve to our customers. But we don’t just celebrate sustainability in the food world: we appreciate all businesses that serve an eco-conscious function, especially when they’re independent and local. In a new monthly series, we’ll be shining a spotlight on some of our favorite businesses who are eco-friendly with a fun twist. And right now, there’s no place we’re having more fun than at Circus City Architectural Salvage. Image Source: Facebook.com/CircusCitySalvage Circus City Architectural Salvage is nestled in Sarasota’s Rosemary district, an area which is known for its eclectic mix of unique businesses. The space has an unassuming façade at first: you can find it in one of the many large, dusty, industrial buildings that line Central Avenue. But once you pull into the parking lot you start to get a glimpse of the charming wares that lurk inside, like large realistic bird sculptures crafted from tin. Once you walk through the glass doors, it’s a bit like stepping into a well-appointed time warp. The shop is filled with vintage goodies: some untouched, some carefully restored, and some cleverly upcycled into something else entirely. But unlike many shops that specialize in previously owned goods, it doesn’t feel cluttered or overpowering. There are plenty of neat treasures just waiting to catch your eye. Image Source: Facebook.com/CircusCitySalvage Circus City runs the gamut when it comes to its offerings. There is gorgeous restored furniture with an artisanal twist just across the aisle from whimsical pink flamingo lawn ornaments crafted out of tin. Old lockers have been painted and spruced up and turned into a funky bookshelf. A box overflows with plastic army figurines from a bygone era. A 1940s sound mixing board with all its original wiring still attached perches near collectible glass jars. An antique vanity has been stripped and repainted in a deep sea foam green shade so that it almost looks like it was pulled from a mermaid’s lair. Every single piece is loaded with history and meaning and a unique beauty. Many of the items have purpose: some are intended to serve more as pieces of art. But what they all have in common is that they have preserved some part of our cultural history. And though the shop seems like it already has plenty of gems to go around, more are on the way. Soon, owner Greg Pemberton will be expanding to carry a whole range of salvaged building materials. Image Source: Facebook.com/CircusCitySalvage New furniture can be great: there’s nothing like buying a couch for the first time that has never been slept on by cats or college friends or touched by the sticky jam hands of a toddler. But buying revamped furniture from places like Circus City is incredibly important to our planet’s future. Purchasing well-made sturdy furniture that is already in existence consumes far fewer resources than buying things new, plus it keeps serviceable (and even sophisticated) pieces from ending up in the landfill just because a previous owner was ready for something new. Image Source: Fred LaCrosse So next time you’re in Sarasota go visit the ringmaster Greg Pemberton at 1001 Central Avenue to see what new finds he has in his collection (note: you won’t find the aforementioned mixing board, because I already bought it). He or one of his talented associates is there Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm. You can also visit the Circus City Facebook page, where they constantly post sneak peeks at their latest merchandise. Sustainability has never been so stylish.  

A Preview Of Things To Come

Here at The Waterfront we believe in making our customers happy, so we’re always listening for your feedback. Over the past decade, by far the most common request we’ve gotten is to expand our drink menu. Now, we’re pleased to announce we’re doing just that. Several weeks ago we were finally approved for a full liquor license, and we’ve spent the intervening time making sure that when we do roll out our new spirits menu it is just as thoughtfully sourced and crafted as our food menu. Here’s a little bit of what you can expect in the near future from The Waterfront’s new craft bar: Image Source: Cocktailia.com Handmade Ingredients In our kitchen we make nearly everything from scratch: we do our own butchering, bake our own bread, make our own stocks, and much more. We will continue to bring this ethos into the front of the house by making as many individual cocktail components as we can ourselves. Everything from simple syrups to sour mix will be made in-house, something we strongly believe will take our spirits menu to the next level. Image Source: Zastavki.com Variety We cook in the New American style of cuisine, which means we offer classic dishes with a variety of influences from all over the world. Our spirits menu will be similarly eclectic and wide-ranging. One thing in particular you can look forward to is a wide assortment of whiskies from various locales. Image Source: Offbeatandinspired.com Sustainability We always do our best to cook with local and organic ingredients whenever possible. We source fresh seafood from independent vendors, and seek out produce that is grown nearby. We’ll continue this theme in our drinks. We’ll be offering choices of several organic spirits, and our garnishes and finishing touches will all be fresh and fabulous. Image Source: Rock-ur-party.tablespoon.org Historical Influence The building where The Waterfront Restaurant makes its home started out in 1922 as a quaint cottage. We have always embraced that history, and will continue do so thematically through our spirits menu. You can be on the lookout for some classic cocktails with a modern twist. Image Source: Longmilescoffeeproject.com Individuality We know that not every diner has the same dietary needs. Some people suffer from food sensitivities and must avoid dishes that contain gluten or other allergens. We make it super easy for our customers to get dishes that meet their dietary needs by being flexible and accommodating, and also by knowing our ingredients inside and out. Because our cocktails will be individually made and not produced in big batches, you can expect a similar level of attention to detail. 

Wine Cocktails Will Mix Up Your Wine Wednesday

It’s Wine Wednesday! Usually we celebrate by posting an amusing wine ecard, but this week we thought we’d try something a little different. See, we know not everyone shares our enthusiasm for wine. Some people are intimidated by the vast history and selection of wines, and by the perceived level of expertise needed to select and appreciate it. And some people just plain don’t like it. Whatever your reason for being wary of wine, we offer a solution: the wine cocktail. These clever concoctions appeal to wine newbies by letting them come into the world through a sneaky sideways entrance. And even wine connoisseurs may find new ways to appreciate their favorite libation. Here are some of our favorite wine cocktails to get you started (and don’t worry: we’ve still got funny ecards for you). First, we start with the classics. You may have actually already tried one of the traditional wine cocktails. There is, of course, a wine spritzer, which is essentially ¾ wine and ¼ chilled sparkling water. It’s light, refreshing, and summery and makes wine a bit more palatable to the nervous novice. There’s also sangria which is wine mixed with fruit juice (and sometimes liquor) and poured over chopped seasonal fruit. (I mean, let’s be honest. The wine-soaked fruit is pretty much the best part of sangria, right?) But as cocktails in general have gotten more innovative and craft-oriented, wine cocktails have had an evolution as well. These days you can find wine cocktails that are embracing the same garden-fresh herbaceous flavors that are so prevalent on our own cocktail menu. Some of our favorites we’ve tried out and about at parties this summer? First, there’s a Gewürztraminer Agave Ginger Ale that is sweet and fizzy but also packs nice kick thanks to muddled fresh ginger and a dash of – believe it or not – hot sauce. Then, there was the Sauvignon Blanc-based contest-winning La Dame Blasée, which contains (among other things) a Polish vodka made from bison grass and homemade parsley-lemon bitters. And finally, we enjoyed refreshing Peach and Honey Sangria Slushies made from Riesling, orange and peach liqueurs, fresh fruit juices, and frozen peaches.   Wine cocktails are an easy entrée into the wine world, plus they’re an exciting way for wine-lovers to try their favorite beverage from a whole new prospective. And while they’re definitely trendy this summer, we predict they’ll be around long after the season is over. In fact, we can’t wait for fall: we think this Falling Leaf Fizz made from sparkling wine, pear vodka, and pumpkin butter will be the perfect way to welcome autumn.  

Why We’re Psyched About New FDA Gluten-Free Labeling Requirements

There’s been a lot of controversy of late in the restaurant industry over the validity of gluten sensitivities in diners. Some chefs like Mark Ladner are going above and beyond in accommodating people with gluten issues by developing tasty gluten-free alternative products and concepts. Others, like Marc Vetri, are on record with their beliefs that a) most people are making up their gluten sensitivities, and b) they’re doing it wrong when it comes to their gluten-free diets anyway. (Yes, Mr. Vetri. Heaven forfend a diner with celiac disease should want “faux pasta”. Obviously, once they get their diagnosis they should never want pasta again.) Clearly, we’re in the school of thought that diners who choose to go gluten-free for whatever reason, whether they have a celiac diagnosis or just plain feel better when they give up gluten, should always have plenty of options to choose from. For that reason, not only is a large percentage of our menu already automatically gluten-free, most of our other dishes can be tweaked to reach that standard with just a few minor changes which we are always happy to make. After all, it’s your meal: you should get to enjoy it just the way you like it. And, because we clearly have strong views on gluten, we’re extremely happy that the FDA  has finally set and will be enforcing a policy on what foods can acceptably be labeled gluten-free.  This kind of regulation can only serve to increase the integrity of the gluten-free market and remind people that there is, in fact, illness associated with gluten, and that people who give up gluten aren’t necessarily just embracing a trendy fad diet. Who knows? Maybe this new emphasis on the gluten-free food industry will even help someone develop a “faux pasta” that meets Marc Vetri’s stringent standards. We hear Mark Ladner’s Pasta Flyer should be pretty amazing.