Restaurants cater to organic products for health, taste and economy

There’s a growing awareness throughout the food market today, and it’s quickly making its way into restaurants, as well. Restaurant owners, patrons and farmers alike are all learning and sharing the benefits of organic products in our diets.

Coastal Point • File Photo: Bethany Blues recently held an organic dinner event that featured jumbo organic scallops, grilled pear salad, Berkshire-breed pork chops and flourless chocolate cake.Coastal Point • File Photo
Bethany Blues recently held an organic dinner event that featured jumbo organic scallops, grilled pear salad, Berkshire-breed pork chops and flourless chocolate cake.

One of the latest advocates of organic eating are the owners of Bethany Blues, whose organic dinner this past Thursday helped enlighten many diners.

“The organic dinner is something that Kevin [Roberts] and I had been interested in,” said Jim Weisgerber, co-owner of the Bethany Beach barbecue hot-spot. “It was something we had tried at our restaurant in D.C., and we wanted to do something local for this area.”

On April 3, the restaurant hosted a special dinner, complete with jumbo organic scallops, grilled pear salad, Berkshire-breed pork chops and flourless chocolate cake.

“I have friends who specialize in organic wines,” Weisgerber said, “so we decided to do a number of pairings in the evening.”

The evening was capped off with enlightenment from Good Earth Market’s Susan Ryan, who worked closely with the owners of Bethany Blues to help develop the menu.

“Susan Ryan has been great,” said Weisgerber. “She knows organic foods inside and out, and she understands the aspect of organic farming. She’s been a great resource.”

Depending on the outcome of the evening, Bethany Blues may soon see another organic evening, or may even consider adding organic options to their current menu on a regular basis.

“We’d like to incorporate a couple of items,” Weisgerber said, “but just a few. The cost of organic products is typically more, and with the volume that Bethany Blues puts out, too many organic menu items just wouldn’t be feasible.

“Whether or not there will be more evenings and events like this will be determined by demand,” he said. “We’re not really trendsetters at Bethany Blues. We’re more of trend-followers, but if we see that customers want it, we’re going to try to incorporate more.”

To accompany the growing awareness, many local establishments are jumping on board to both promote the health benefits of organic and local products and to give back to local farmers.

“Some restaurants are actually working through the Chamber of Commerce in an effort to get more local, organic produce to the table,” said Weisgerber. “Organic foods are catching on these days. People are realizing that the ingredients are, above all, healthier, but they also taste a lot better.”

Ryan, along with her husband and members of Good Earth’s staff, were on hand this week at Bethany Blues to talk about the benefits of organic food.

“The idea of organic farming and products is finally dawning on people,” she said prior to the dinner. “They want clean food that’s raised humanely and properly.”

The growing understanding of the organic concept is quickly expanding.

“There’s more media and research coming out daily,” she said. “I receive five trade magazines a week, and the cover stories on all of them have been the growing popularity of organic foods.

“Organic produce doesn’t have the pesticides and herbicides you find in a lot of things,” Ryan said. “They are more nutritious. They’re not killing the soil, but building it. By consuming healthier food products, you get the antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients that your body needs. Studies are focusing more on what’s in ‘healthier’ food rather than what’s not in it.”

Ryan said she is pleased to see such a tremendous surge in poluarity over the past few years when it comes to organic products.

“People these days are really into their health,” she explained. “There’s a big awareness now. I’ve known the benefits of organic and locally-grown and -raised products in my heart for a long time. To actually see the research coming is really exciting. It’s exciting to finally have a market for all of this. These products are for absolutely anyone, whether people are dieting or choosing their meals based on illnesses. These are all factors that play.”

Bethany Blues isn’t the only restaurant taking advantage of this surging health following.

Restaurateur Matt Haley, owner of local restaurants such as Fish On, Bluecoast, and NorthEast Seafood Kitchen and West Fenwick’s new Catch 54, and co-founder of SoDel Concepts, has been incorporating organic foods into his establishments. He also has worked closely with Ryan and her store, constantly trying out new ideas for his customers.

“Personally,” said Haley, “I’m a big advocator of natural and organic style of eating. It’s obvious through studies that these products are better for you.”

While the health position is definitely a viable stance on the matter, Haley reflected upon another conscious factor.

“One of the main components is that it keeps me involved with the community and local farmers,” he explained.

Haley, who works closely with contributors to the area’s farmers’ market and other local growers, said he’s happy to keep money within the community.

“There’s a real strong local economy aspect to it all. Their products are amazing — healthy and nutritious, and, in turn, I am giving back to them,” he said. “I love to buy as much as I can from Good Earth when I’m trying new organic meals.”

He classifies many of his organic menu items as “regional, seasonal cuisine.” And he says that supplementing the economic aspect, features of organic food can even keep certain costs down for restaurant owners.

“It saves on fuel charges,” Haley explained. “I don’t want to pay for three tanks of gas just to get the product here.”

The growing popularity of the organic market, he noted, is one well-worth familiarizing yourself with.

“You never know what you’re buying when you go to some places,” Haley explained. “There are a lot of imitations and ‘pirated’ organics. I’ve walked through the fields and farms, though. If you go over to Good Earth Market, you can see their products. It’s much more satisfying to see where these products are coming from.”

His research into organic and natural products has even coaxed Haley to the famous Napa Valley in California, known primarily for their vineyards and wineries.

“I met with farmers out there,” he stated, “and I think Southern Delaware is really starting to make a similar movement. Organic farming begins with quality. It’s not just healthy, but community-oriented, too.”

Many of his restaurants feature items made solely from organic products.

“Getting involved was not a tough decision,” Haley said. “Sue [Ryan] and I share the same passion. It’s been great working with her. She’s unpretentious and sincere. Good Earth is really the cream of the crop.”

Similar to Weisgerber, Haley has noticed a catch when it comes to devoting too much of his restaurants’ menus to organic meals.

“It can be a tough market, because a lot of people are still intimidated,” Haley said. “Putting too much organic food in a menu is not a big seller. I’ve placed a selection of organic items on the menus of my restaurants, though. Lately, the idea of organic meat, chicken or produce is becoming more and more attractive to people.”

For more information on organic products and nutritious habits, stop by Good Earth Market in Clarksville along Route 26 or call them at (302) 537-7100. Matt Haley will once again return to the market to offer insight to his cooking style this Saturday, April 5, at noon.