Welcome to Table Scraps, a monthly series on the growing problem of food waste and what some eateries, officials, farms, institutes, and everyday people are doing right. This isn’t a guilt trip, just a way to unpack initiatives attempting to reduce kitchen waste and food loss, as more than 40 percent of all food is wasted in the U.S. We’re exploring backyard composting to city programs, restaurant tips to technology, and anything related to this global issue. Heat up those leftovers, and settle in.
Many times, my poor, patient partner has watched me scrape food scraps from my plate into a makeshift baggie and place it in my purse … at a restaurant. "Those are coming home with us for the compost," I’ll say, though he’s fully aware.
I figure if I want to make our evening as romantic, and sustainable, as possible, I’ve gotta do my part — no matter how wrecked my bag liner gets.
Some restaurants are beginning to lean more fully into environmentally responsible policy lately, though, by reducing food waste, using hyper-local and organic ingredients, plating sustainable food, finding alternative packaging. All while keeping the atmosphere amorous.
Here are a few of my favorite examples.
Anhelo628 East Adams Street
One of the more romantic-looking spots in town is the 1900-built Silva House, home to Anhelo. Ivan Jacobo is the executive chef at this contemporary restaurant at Heritage Square, and he seems to have a keen sense for the ol' "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" mantra. As we reported after our first visit, “Rather than junking old wine, he uses it for braising. He trades carefully managed kitchen compost to Grace Farms in Chandler and gets microgreens in return. In a warming world, this is the kind of mindset a young chef needs to have." The menu also supports local and organic farming and uses Arizona-based Alaskan Pride Seafoods. You’ll also want to take a gander at that cocktail menu. Anhelo’s tequila drinks are incredible.
The Farish House816 North Third Street
Another restaurant in historic digs, The Farish House has set up shop in the 1899 brick home near downtown Phoenix. Its French-leaning menu is served inside the extremely quaint dining room or out on the (now larger) twinkle-lit patio. Ambiance aside, owner Lori Hassler is careful in her kitchen, aspiring to the French ethic of cooking. “You pretty much use as many pieces as you can,” is how she explains it. She’ll put short-shelf-life arugula into a pesto when it's past its literal salad days, use fats procured from duck confit for the duck-fat potatoes, and save drippings from the short rib process to make peposo stew — to name just a few practices. And the rest of the vegetable scraps? That goes to her friendly backyard tortoises, Sandy Sam and Lollipop Sugarface.
The Breadfruit & Rum Bar108 East Pierce Street, #2051
A major player in this realm is The Breadfruit & Rum Bar, the dark and dreamy downtown restaurant serving modern tropical cuisine. Co-owner and chef Danielle Leoni has an Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership, was a 2018 Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership Program fellow, has a Seafood Sustainability Seal award, and is a member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue-Ribbon Task Force. Aside from this impressive resume, Leoni uses all parts of the fish, and her kitchen saves tens of thousands of gallons of water per year by using specific nozzles in the dish pits. She composts with R. City. She knows her shit.
Note: As you may know, The Breadfruit & Rum Bar is not currently open for dine-in service, but the small team here has been hosting pop-ups. Check the eatery's social media accounts.
Restaurant Progress702 West Montecito Avenue
It’s right there in the name: the small team at Restaurant Progress, led by owner-chef TJ Culp, is full of progressive folks. Capping the east end of the Melrose District’s old Wagon Wheel Building, this extremely petite eatery serves a seasonally driven, five-course tasting menu of new American fare using local purveyors (Proof Bread, Arcadia Meat Market, Two Wash Ranch, and more). Aside from partnering with Arizona-based suppliers (a sustainability practice in and of itself), the team composts food waste, uses reusable metal straws in its (very tasty) cocktails, and recycles as much as possible. As for the ambiance, where do we start? There’s a 10-seat bar popping with plants, intimate tables against exposed brick, and a patio with bistro lights, flowers, wood tables, and wine glasses at the ready. Walk-ins are welcome but reservations are highly recommended.
Mr MesquiteMultiple Locations
No, we don’t get a Sustainable Packaging Expo in 2020 and don’t hold your breath for 2021, but some Valley eateries are shoving ahead without the helpful event. On American Recycles Day (November 15, 2020), the local taqueria chain Mr Mesquite announced it would phase out plastic in its restaurants by November 2022, subbing in eco-friendly alternatives for plastic containers, cups, bags, straws, and packaging — all of which have unfortunately seen a huge uptick in use in the COVID era. The taco joint estimates this action could reduce its carbon footprint by 8,000 to 10,000 bags, 30,000 to 35,000 pieces of plastic silverware, and 50,000 to 55,000 to-go containers per month company-wide. In the romantic department, Mr Mesquite might be ideal for a quick lunch with your SO, a casual supper, or takeout on the couch.