By Cele & Lynn Seldon
Those who think that an area known for its sandhills – and sand traps – won’t have a farm-to-table culture would be wrong … and they won’t go hungry or thirsty in Southern Pines, Pinehurst, Aberdeen area and beyond.
Agriculture abounds in Moore County and the surrounding area, from peaches to pea pods, goat cheese to garlic and basil to beef. And much of that North Carolina farm-to-table goodness can be found on the menus at area markets and restaurants.
Naturally, the best way to get farm-to-table ingredients is at a farmer’s market. Fortunately, Southern Pines plays host to two markets – Thursdays year-round and Saturdays from spring to fall. A “producers-only” market, there are typically more than a dozen produce vendors, herbs, meats (be sure to try some of the ostrich from Misty Morning Ranch), dairy and eggs, honey, baked goods and flowers all from within a 50-mile radius.
Credited as one of the founding fathers of the Sandhills farm-to-table movement, Ashten’s arrived on the scene in 1997 and they’ve been crafting dishes curated from the ingredients coming in their back door daily from local farmers since then. Whether it’s beef tenderloin from Brasstown Beef or ostrich meat from Misty Morning Ranch on their four-course Chef’s Tasting Menu, Joyce Farms roasted chicken or Mac C’s Family Farm field pea hummus on the a la Carte menu, or Paradox Farm Cheese Louise gnudi and Tidewater Grain Company rice and gravy on their Sunday Supper, Ashten’s shines a spotlight on their “Hall of Farm.”
With a mission statement of Farm. Chef. Table., it’s no surprise that Elliott’s on Linden relies on the farms throughout the Carolina countryside to create their upscale, yet approachable, menu. From their own backyard garden to other local produce, dairy, beef, duck and rabbit farms to area mills, vineyards, and cheese mongers, EOL showcases the bounty of the region with their ever-changing and -evolving dinner menu. Check out Elliott’s Provisions next door for lunch and tasty take-away provisions.
With a commitment to quality and fresh ingredients, Chef Scott Margolis at Scott’s Table chooses to bring all their produce and proteins in from North Carolina sources for them to be at the peak of their taste. They take pride in how they respect and handle the ingredients and farmers, going as far as highlighting them on a map mural in the dining room. Whether it’s North Carolina beef, heritage pork, shrimp, crabmeat or produce, their Southern-leaning menu pays homage to the bounty of the Tar Heel State.
Featuring gourmet and unique sandwiches made from scratch – from the roasted meats to the fermented sriracha – the local owners of Roast are passionate about using fresh ingredients. Whether it’s the Ham Crack Sandwich, the creative Barbacoa Torta Dip, veggie offerings like the Truffled Egg Salad and the Ultimate Falafel or simply Chef’s Roast Beef, there isn’t an unrecognizable ingredient. Their global salads are loaded with local produce, they sport a unique made-in-house pickle menu and serve up over 25 North Carolina brewed beers.
Co-owned by a nurse practitioner and registered yoga teacher, and with a goal of sourcing the highest quality food directly from the earth, this plant-based café nourishes the soul with food that is as delicious to eat as it is pretty on the plate. Serving from morning until night, expect to find toasts, bowls, veggie and fruit platters, wraps, elixirs, juices, smoothies and so much more. They also have plenty of “Grab ‘n go” options, as well as wellness nutrition books, cookbooks and healthy cooking utensils and tools.
Located in the Village of Pinehurst, Lisi Italian is the perfect marriage of owner Jim Reale – who grew up in his grandparent’s kitchen helping to garden and can, watching his grandmother put the finishing touches on some of her traditional Italian recipes – and his wife, Mickey, who was the last of 11 children and was surrounded by family celebrations of food. Today, they serve simple and authentic Italian food that is rooted in family and captures the flavors of the seasons, like arancini stuffed with prosciutto and peas, rigatoni Bolognese, porcini ravioli, zucchini parmigiana and freshly made thin and crispy pizzas.
A French inspired bistro in the heart of downtown Southern Pines, Chef Warren’s is an intimate space that seats 60, allowing Chef/Owner Warren Lewis and his partner/wife, Marianne, the opportunity to utilize local and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Whether it’s local trout, ostrich, eggs and cheeses, or produce and herbs from their own garden and other farms throughout the area, the menu is elegant, elevated and creative. And to be sure the offerings are as fresh as possible, the menu changes daily and isn’t finalized until mid-afternoon, when all the local deliveries have been made.
The Sandhills area is home to several chains that strive for clean and wholesome eating. Clean Juice in Southern Pines focuses on fresh, organic foods that boost good health including immune-boosting snacks, juices and smoothies, as well as salads, acai bowls, toasts and sandwiches. Similarly, and also in Southern Pines, Clean Eatz’s mission is to help you take the first steps to healthy living through their tasty bowls, healthy burgers (turkey, salmon, black bean and bison), wraps, flatbreads and more. And First Watch in Aberdeen never skips a beat with the quality ingredients coming from their long-standing relationships with bakers, makers and growers for breakfast, brunch and lunch.
The farm-to-table concept can also apply to tasty beverages in the Sandhills. For instance, many of the ingredients that go into beer come from farms, like barley, hops, and varied fruits now being used for flavored brews. The destination is fortunate to have several “plow to pint” possibilities, including Railhouse Brewery, Southern Pines Brewing Company, Hatchet Brewing Co, Pinehurst Brewing Company, and Southern Pines Growler Company. Of course, local beers are also poured at many farm-to-table restaurants. In addition, the area also features a cidery, James Creek Cider House in Cameron, where they use lots of apples and more from various farms. And finally, there’s a new Southern Pines-based distillery in the works called Brad Halling American Whiskey Ko. (BHAWK), where they’ll be using lots of North Carolina grains.
Read about recharging mentally and spiritually in Wellness in the Pines by Cele & Lynn Seldon
Cele and Lynn Seldon make up the team that is Seldon Ink, and they have spent more than 30 years covering all aspects of travel. With a keen focus on the Southeast and a particular love of the Carolinas, they have written dozens of magazine and newspaper articles about the area, as well as their best-selling book, 100 Things to Do in Charleston Before You Die (Reedy Press) and have become experts along the way. Follow along on their adventures at www.seldonink.com or @seldonink.