Pushing the envelope
After Chef Debra Whiting’s passing in 2011, the Bistro pushed forward to continue to raise the localvore bar even higher, with literally 99% of everything in the Restaurant coming from the Finger Lakes. The only exceptions? Coffee, cocoa, black pepper, vanilla, cane sugar. That’s it. Connections with local farmers became stronger, and the commitment to innovation and excellence was unmatched. The region had so evolved from the early days that it seemed that “everything” could come from our neighbors… and it nearly did.
Finding a place
Since then, the Bistro has changed its face from a full service localvore restaurant serving lunch and dinner to an informal lunch spot… still utilizing meats and produce from our local farms, but serving delicious, informal food without fanfare. As the needs of visitors to the region have changed, so has our service evolved into something more sustainable and in line with the needs of our guests.
By 2014, David Whiting had passed the reigns of winemaking to Kelby Russell and shifted his focus to the Bistro. Having worked behind the scenes with Debra for 20 years did not qualify David to operate a fancy localvore restaurant, but it absolutely gave him the inspiration to parse the most essential aspects of Debra’s culinary goals and carry them forward with the pragmatism that made Debra’s efforts so successful: Focus on community, quality, and simplicity.
Looking to the future
Change and unpredictability are the words for 2020! This year David stepped back into the kitchen to launch a new lunch menu driven by local, seasonal specials. With a focus on hearty local lunch fare, Red Newt Bistro continued to source from local farms and made the example that localvore does not have to mean fancy and expensive. What it does mean is that eating local is delicious, fresh, simple, and builds communities of farmers and producers whose lives are driven by passion. Planned monthly dinners were inspired by the localvore menus of the first 13 years of the Red Newt Bistro. “Honestly, the entire year would to serve as a ‘test kitchen’ for finishing the cookbook that chef Debra Whiting had started before she passed in 2011.,” mused David. But there has been a change. “The kitchen will remain closed until it is safe to reopen, and I hope to launch a new approach to making this test kitchen and cookbook happen in time for publishing in 2021. I’ll keep you posted.”