Luma on Park

Luma on Park

Aug 21

I know I just wrote a post about not wanting to eat out, but John and I went out last night to Luma on Park. We heard about them through one of John’s co-workers who ate there and said they source only local and organic food. We found a coupon for $25 off on their website, a promotion that ends this month, and headed off to check it out. Unfortunately, it was a bittersweet experience.

Our view of the kitchen from the pastry bar

The food was delicious, the service excellent, and the atmosphere trendy but not intimidating. The meal was easily the best we’ve eaten in Orlando. Ever. On the day of our reservation, the hostess called us to confirm the time. Thanks to a tip from John’s co-worker, we were able to secure a place at the pastry counter, which is a bar (just next to the coveted chef’s table) with only five seats that overlooks the salad and dessert stations of the open kitchen. The surface of the bar was one large butcher’s block. Not only was it fun to watch the chefs running around and making these amazing dishes, but we were close enough to the action that we became fast friends with Brian, the pastry chef. Since the kitchen staff were working right in front of us, they handed over some free dishes along the way.

Instead of the customary bread, we were handed a bowl of truffled popcorn with chives and shaved parmesan cheese on top. (John’s not a big fan of truffle, and it’s a new acquisition for me, so we left much of it uneaten.) Brian introduced himself pretty quickly and handed us a complimentary tilefish ceviche. The fish sat on a watermelon broth, with avocado cream and a tomato sorbet. We each ordered an appetizer (or ‘small plate’) and before they came, our friend Brian served us a pair of creamy black bean soup topped with basil creme fraiche. So before we even started our (paid) meal, I was already feeling like my hunger was quenched from all the gifts from the kitchen! Who needs a meal when people give you free food? But that didn’t stop us of course :)

Tilefish Ceviche with Tomato Sorbet

Black Bean Soup with Basil Creme Fraiche

I loved my starter of Georgia peach salad with spring greens and yogurt vinaigrette, but John’s chive ricotta gnocchi with corn cream were to die for! I ordered two more small plates as my main course: A black mission fig and leek pizza with a side of broccoli siciliano, which was a whole broccoli stalk halved and grilled with pine nuts and a balsamic reduction. For his main course, John orderd the duck breast, which was served on a corn cake and topeped with a blueberry compote. The head Chef, Brandon McGlamery, then saw us ogling some wagyu beef he was carving for the chef’s table and gave us a complimentary taste! (John says it was the best beef he ever ate.) Add in a couple glasses of wine each and we enjoyed quite a splendid meal.

Duck Breast with field pea ragu, blueberry compote and a corn cake

Broccoli siciliano beneath a fig and leek pizza

This was all promptly followed by a dessert trio compliments of Brian (because we said we were first-timers). The fried peach pie pockets were flaky, tender, and fresh, and the brown sugar ice cream offered a nice counterpoint; the lemon-basil pound cake with roasted cherries and cherry vanilla ice cream broadened our dessert horizons to include all kinds of herbs; and the chocolate cremosa (thick and creamy, like a ganache, somewhere between a chocolate mousse and chocolate fudge) was so decadent that we both decided we could be happy swimming in it. I was in heaven, and we somehow found room to finish off most of it.

All that's left of our dessert trio.

Clearly, this was a foodie experience to remember, but it turned bittersweet this morning for us. Luma’s menu states that the restaurant is “dedicated to using local, organic farmers, artisanal products, and sustainable pureyors.” This was the foundation of our decision to not only go out to eat, but to go all out and eat whatever looked good. The menu, which changes every day, offers the comforting reassurance of listing farm names with most of the main ingredients. For instance, John’s duck was Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast, while the chicken was Ashley Farms Chicken, and a salad was Rabbit Run Farms Artisanal Lettuce. We were so trusting of this transparency, especially when Brian said they get eggs from a local farm we recognize, and the vegetables mostly come from a hydroponic farm in South Florida.

Boy, were we fooled.

This morning, we excitedly started researching the farm names on the Luma menu, only to find out that most of them are not only NOT local, but are also confinement operations. It’s true that their websites list detailed animal handling and care methods, placing them a step above the most industrial forms of animal raising, but it’s clear that they are not traditional farms with traditional methods. We found that only one of the proteins on the menu is actually traceable to a local farm. One!

Our research cast a bit of a pall over our memories of the evening. In fact, although Laura started out writing this post, she gave up because she was so disheartened. I will certainly be sending Luma a note about this disappointment, and when they call me to make sure my meal was satisfactory (which they did for my co-worker), I will mention it.

All in all, the restaurant is amazing. The quality of the food was better than I’ve tasted before in Orlando, the friendliness of the staff was pleasant, and the kitchen’s generosity was unrivaled. However, I now wonder how a duck breast from a confinement operation can cost $26, and why so many of the “artisanal” products are suspiciously mass-produced. We feel lied to, and that’s enough to make me refrain from supporting any establishment.

2 comments

  1. Lenny

    I completely understand why you would feel misled by Luma’s advertisement of local sources. However, correct me if I’m wrong, but I understood your primary motivation to be support of healthier and happier animals and not to become localvores. It sounds like Luma falls in line with your commitment. Perhaps they don’t satisfy your desire to stick to local suppliers (and should not falsely advertise that they do!) but it seems that you had a mouthwatering experience that still allowed you to stick to your core goal. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts so far, thanks for sharing. – Lenny

    • John V.

      Lenny, I appreciate your comment, because it really made me go back to our menu from Luma and look more at the sustainability of the sources than the geographic location. Our experience there was indeed enjoyable and delicious. And we ARE more concerned with healthy and happy animals than with local fare. It’s possible that most of the meat on the menu came from some of those healthy, happy animals. However, the sources on the menu we saw (which changes every day) include Ashley Farms and Maple Leaf Farms, both of which do not seem to be sustainable providers. I understand that the head chef is surely more concerned with quality and taste than anything else, because that’s what his patrons are mostly concerned about, and I don’t begrudge him that. But if even one of his listed providers doesn’t meet with the standard he prints right on his menu, how do I know how far I can trust everything else? Suddenly, I have to investigate everything. Just like the trust between individuals, the trust between diner and chef is difficult to restore once broken…

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