The "farm-to-table" concept is being used in quite a few restaurants these days, but it's refreshing to find a kitchen where its meaning goes beyond marketing.
Chef Windus of Winter Park's new Hamilton's Kitchen regularly visits the Winter Park Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings and goes from stall to stall, visiting, tasting and talking with local purveyors who come from some of the best small farms in the state.
He aims to keep it as local as possible, visiting a farm in nearby Ocala to choose his grass fed Wagyu beef and sourcing his flounder from Cocoa Beach, red shrimp from Cape Canaveral, and sturgeon from Sarasota.
"I like to know the story of where everything comes from," says Chef Windus. "It's all about building relationships with the farmers. There are a couple of guys we see pretty regularly. Lake Meadows Naturals is where we get all of our eggs from. There's a local honey purveyor and another farmer who has the best citrus, things like pink tangerines and giant pomelos.
"I also purchase from a couple in their 80's who have a farm in Georgia and they bring down amazing persimmons. These are all small farmers who are proud of their product, and should be."
The three-month old "refined rustic" restaurant has already earned the title of Best New Chef in the Silver Spoon Awards from Orlando Life magazine.
"I'm taking comfort food and trying to refine it a little bit. The dishes may seem simple but there are a lot of things going on to layer the flavors," says Chef Windus.
You certainly get that rustic, flavorful feel when browsing menu items like Kale Caesar Salad, Pulled Pork Shoulder with charred broccolini and caramelized onions, and a Florida twist on shrimp and grits made with Gulf shrimp, Bradley's North Florida Grits, and a datil pepper vinaigrette.
"My work in the kitchen," he adds, "really comes down to finding like-minded people who can help us highlight what's in season right now."
And it certainly is the season for dining out with friends and family over a delicious meal.
Hamilton's Kitchen is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. For reservations and more information, visit http://www.thealfondinn.com/