Farm-to-table ingredients create “genuine food”
From the fresh vegetable and herb gardens, to the charming courtyard surrounded by tropical foliage, to the small and intimate dining spaces, to the friendly faces greeting guests at the front door, virtually every characteristic of Merritt’s Table exudes charm, elegance and southern hospitality.
Before settling into the former home of Courtyard On Grove, Laura Farrelly and Chris Bolton, owner and chef of the Merritt Island restaurant, spent two years searching for the ideal location. Their search took them to Charleston, S.C., Key West and even Santa Fe, N.M., but it wasn’t until their second visit to Brevard County that they discovered the 1926 historic home (converted into a restaurant in 1992) that would eventually be known as Merritt’s Table.
“We knew just by peeking in the windows that this was ‘the place,’” says Farrelly, who describes the restaurant’s atmosphere as “upscale family,” with tables tucked into cozy dining nooks.
The delectable fine-dining creations on the restaurant’s ever-changing and evolving menu are credited to Chef Bolton, who rarely prepares a meal exactly the same way twice – the result of only using fresh and primarily local ingredients procured seasonally.
“Whatever fish is being landed at Canaveral the day prior, that’s the fish we’re serving for dinner. Whatever basket of produce farmers bring us from their gardens, those are the ingredients Chris uses to inspire the day’s dishes,” explains Farrelly.
Why the emphasis on local? “Ingredients just don’t get any better than when they come from home, were picked the day before and were handled by a few people … And when you start with something fresh and delicious, there’s no need to over season or over sauce,” she adds. In fact, the owners place such a premium on this idea that many times dishes will be flavored with edibles straight from the restaurant’s grounds. It’s not uncommon for Bolton to incorporate a pepper or sprig of basil that was picked an hour prior into a dish.
While patrons of Merritt’s Table are always in for a pleasant surprise, the menu tends to retain an aptitude for southern eats. Shrimp and grits, duck breast, and scallop dishes are almost always featured, however, the chef dreams up different ways to prepare them almost every day.
Similar to the changing menu, the wine list of Merritt’s Table is never static. Bottles are mainly selected from boutique vineyards, allowing guests the opportunity to most likely try something new. “It requires a lot of trust from our guests since they may not be familiar with the wines on our list,” says Farrelly. “We go through a process of discovery on the types of wine they usually enjoy, and then choose a bottle with similar characteristics from our list. That’s my favorite part of the night!”
Because the concept of Merritt’s Table is so unique, trust is something the restaurateurs have had to work to gain since opening in October 2010. But with their friendly demeanor and exceptional food, Farrelly and Bolton are easily winning diners over one-by-one.
“There’s something like home in the atmosphere here. We try to really get to know our guests,” says Farrelly. “You may come into the restaurant for the first time as a stranger, but we endeavor to make sure that you leave us as friends, and return on your next visit as family.”
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