If you've ever paid a premium for "locally sourced" food in a neighborhood restaurant, there's a decent chance you've been ripped off. That's the inescapable conclusion of an investigative piece in the Tampa Bay Times by veteran food critic Laura Reiley. The main headline "Farm to Fable" catches the gist. She took a deep dive into the claims of 54 restaurants making claims about where their food comes from and found a common theme: "Just about everyone tells tales. Sometimes they are whoppers, sometimes they are fibs borne of negligence or ignorance, and sometimes they are nearly harmless omissions or 'greenwashing.'" The piece begins with a restaurant named Boca that features Reiley's own words from a glowing review on its website: "local, thoughtful, and most importantly, delicious." Her new conclusion: "I’ve been had, from the snapper down to the beef."
Reiley checked into the local vendors the restaurants boasts about. One's been closed a while, and others say they don't sell to Boca, including a fish vendor who doesn't even catch the type of fish he was supposedly providing. But Reiley makes clear Boca isn't alone. Over and over, she finds the same deceptions. The well-regarded Italian restaurant Pelagia, for example, has "Three Suns Ranch wild boar ragout" on its menu, but that ranch owner doesn't sell his meat there. Pelagia and other restaurants "want the story and they don’t want to pay the price," he complains. "I consider it theft. It’s stealing our hard work.” Restaurateurs confronted offer a range of excuses that boil down a common refrain: "I guess the board needs to be updated." Click for the full piece. (Read more locally grown food stories.)