At Food and Thought’s farm-fresh market and café, you might find yourself questioning all you thought you knew about organic health food stores.
You know the place. Your personal haven, where you feel absolutely at peace, calm, happy, serene; a place where time just seems to stop, better known as your “happy place.” Ring any bells? NO? Geez, maybe you should slow down for a sec and say a few “namastes” (oh wait, that’s another article). Well, for now, you can borrow my happy place: Naples’ very own Food and Thought.
Ahh… I remember my first time there like it was yesterday.
As we walked through the front garden into the grocery area, taking in the scent of fresh rosemary commingled with coffee, patchouli, oranges, and eau de hippie, I already felt healthier. There was an unmistakable essence of organic freshness everywhere. Walking slowly up and down the aisles was like being given a tour of (a much less processed version of) Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. I kept grabbing every interesting thing in sight to show my husband: “Oh my gawwd, honey, LOCAL. VEGGIES. And lookie, Kombucha! Local grass-fed beef! Organic coconut-rolled dates! Staaaahhhp it! I. Can’t. Even.” Okay, so I might’ve gotten a little carried away. And, bonus for me, he isn’t easily embarrassed.
Signs posted throughout the store very plainly read, “100% organic. No need to worry,” and it’s true: Food and Thought is a place where sustainability-conscious folk, vegans, paleoliths, and real food junkies can come together in harmony and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they’ll be eating only local, fresh, pesticide- and GMO-free food. Did I mention that even the cookies and brownies are freshly made and organic, with sprouted, vegan, and gluten-free options, too? They even have an organic clothing section filled to the brim with cotton, hemp, and sustainable blended garments that are as cute as they are good for the earth. Was I dreaming, or had I truly found nirvana, right here in Southwest Florida?
After going on an impromptu shopping spree and grabbing everything from free-range organic eggs and nitrate-free bacon to raw butter and sulfate-free wine, then gushing on and on to the knowing cashier about how divine the place was, we had naturally worked up a major appetite (there may have been a little drool). Luckily for us, the café was but a few steps away. Now, as a gluten-intolerant nutrition specialist (read: picky health nut with a bad tummy), finding something I can and will eat at a restaurant is like setting out to find definitive proof of the Loch Ness Monster. However, as we walked past the raw juice and coffee bar, which serves organic, made-to-order juices from fresh local produce, organic coffee drinks, smoothies, and milkshakes made with almond, coconut, soy, or whole milk or water, along with the option to add in clean protein sources, I had the sneaking suspicion that perhaps this place was a bit different from other restaurants. Later, as I pored over the menu itself, I realized I could eat ANYTHING ON IT. Um. That sound? Was me dropping the mic and ordering everything in sight.
So how does the fare, well, fare? For starters, the café offers different seasonal, local, organic options such as Mahi Bites (Mahi and homemade bread crumbs tossed with olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, garlic and paprika), Spanish chicken, summer squash quiche, and rosemary salmon, along with a soup du jour and green salads with or without protein. There are also vegan options for soups, salads, and even pizza. My personal favorite is a Food and Thought staple: the “Cranberry Fields” salad, made with raw spinach, romaine, onion, tomato, dried cranberries, and oranges with a scoop of chicken salad and/or egg salad. But the real coup d’état? The juice from the oranges is the perfect light, tangy “dressing” — no creamy or drippy drizzling required!
Because I’m a bit of an awkward nut who likes to know who is preparing her food, I asked to speak to the chef. I learned that her name is Freedom (it doesn’t get any more awesome than that), and that she’s been with Food and Thought for over 10 years. So how does she decide what goes on the menu? “I get creative and use whatever seasonally available things they bring me in fresh that day,” she explains. I don’t know about you, but for me, [Tweet “it just doesn’t get any fresher than the “seed-to-table” concept,”] especially when much of the produce is sourced straight from Food and Thought’s very own farm in east Collier County!
Straight-from-the-farm fresh food aside, let’s get to one of my very favorite parts of the Food and Thought experience: the outdoor café seating area. It was like entering another world; I felt a sudden peace wash over me. The ambience was absolutely breathtaking — people greet you with huge, welcoming smiles, and the lovely brick patio with picnic table seating is built around big, gorgeous, flowering trees and surrounded by organic plants from their farm. It’s truly awe-inspiring, and the good vibes and energy at work here are something special. The outside operations manager agreed, and told me, “I love watching people enjoy this place.”
It’s as if you’ve stepped out of the hustle and bustle and crazy snowbird traffic right into a Zen retreat. The trees provide shade and cover from the city noise. The staff is smiling and happy, and the diners are downright pleased as organic punch to be there. It’s like a little slice of the charming bohemian hospitality you’d find in Austin, Texas, right here in Naples.
If you’re attempting to win the heart of a natural foodie and sustainability-conscious hippie like myself, take him or her to lunch or dinner at Food and Thought. Fresh, local, quirky, friendly, healthy, and light-hearted, it’s pretty much perfect — not to mention, pretty organically delicious.