The availability of organic food seems to be more accessible, and generally more affordable, than ever before. Combine that with the fact that tidal waves of information keep sweeping in about the FDA and the truth about products we once considered healthy and nutritious, and you have an equation for restaurants going green – right? Surely restaurant owners see a niche and want to fill that with sustainable, organic foods that consumers are now expecting – after all, there are many diners that would be willing to invest a bit more if the food served could be trusted to nourish (take note, restaurants everywhere).
After finding a handful of restaurants in my area that were latching onto the idea and riding that wave, I started looking elsewhere to see if it was merely a trend, or if it could be the beginnings of a new way of dining out. Apart from traveling to locations that are known for healthy, sustainable living, what about vacation destinations where food and entertainment enthusiasts converge? What about Disney World?
Emailing the special diets department at Disney proved useless, as they only sent back the information that could be found on their website, along with a listing of all organic and allergy-friendly company’s they use mainly for packaged or quick service purposes. These are great options when needing something on the go while in the parks, but what about when you sit down to a meal? I began doing my own bit of sleuthing, channeling my inner Nancy Drew. I wanted to get to the bottom of this case – after all, the Disney Company won Travel and Leisure magazine’s Sustainability award in 2009, making me assume that if the company was on the forefront of sustainable energy, they would be thinking about how to provide conscious food choices, as well.But you know what they say about assuming…
Simply from perusing menus and noting a few new eateries, I noticed that The Wave, located at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, featured a Sustainable fish of the day. There was also a salad with local greens, drinks that included organic liquor and beer, and organic coffee served in a press pot. While not having an abundance of options, it was nonetheless a great start. Unfortunately, this restaurant hasn’t received very high reviews from guests, and is one of the only dining spots consistently available for last-minute reservations even during the high season. So while this is Disney’s only “health conscious” restaurant on property, with an emphasis on fresh, local or regional ingredients, it also doesn’t seem people are paying it much attention, either.
Disney Signature Dining is the other area that has taken strides to suit their clientele’s increasingly aware palette, with menus beginning to feature words such as “local”, “free range”, and “all natural.” One thing I noticed on my last trip was the increasing number of times I spotted a food’s origin on the menu listing. More often than not, if food has been brought in from right down the street, you can bet it’s healthier, has less pesticides, and will ultimately be much more sustainable than something that has flown across the US to arrive on your plate. Cheese and produce are the safest bets when desiring something that will fall into this category.
My belief is that with Disney being such a huge company, with many different hoops to jump through in order to make any changes, it will be a long time before we really start seeing a difference in the quality of foods that are being sourced. Until then, I am just going to keep my eyes peeled for local ingredients and organic products while on vacation, and make conscious choices in my day-to-day life.