Photo credit: Artis Henderson, Special to The News-Press
Article by Artis Henderson, originally published in The News-Press:
Sanibel recently got an update to its healthy-eating options.
In August, Sanibel Fresh opened in the former Bennett’s Fresh Roast space on the island, swapping out doughnuts and coffee for acai bowls, Florida-brewed kombucha and locally sourced meats, eggs and produce.
Amy Visco Schmicker is the executive chef and manager of Sanibel Fresh. She also leads the kitchen at Sanibel’s Sunset Grill, bringing more than a decade’s worth of local culinary experience to this new venture.
“They knew I was passionate about preparing healthier foods using local ingredients,” Schmicker says of partnering with owners Larry and Kathie Thompson, who also own the nearby Lazy Flamingo.
Sanibel Fresh sources its beef from Jackman Ranch near Clewiston, its eggs and chickens from Lake Meadow Naturals near Orlando, and its honey from the Harold P. Curtis Honey Co. which brings hives to Sanibel for its mangrove honey. For her oats Schmicker uses The SoulFull Project, a company started by her cousin.
“For every bag of oat grains that we use, one goes to the Harry Chapin Food Bank,” she says. “One box of oats gives 60 portions, and the food bank serves healthier food like flax seeds and chia seeds.”
Schmicker places a lot of emphasis on making as much in-house as possible.
She jars her own blackberry jam, brines and smokes her own chicken and blends her own honey-mustard salad dressing. This all feeds into a greater philosophy of sustainability and health, for people and the planet.
“All our meat is nitrate-free and raised without antibiotics. All our sodas are made with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup,” she says.
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“Everything is recyclable and green-friendly, from the to-go cups and straws to even the garbage bags. We’re investing the extra money to make it as sustainable as possible.”
At breakfast the acai bowls are popular, and at lunch the Flirty Murty already has a loyal following. The sandwich is made with uncured ham and house-roasted turkey, plus Amish white-cheddar cheese, Schmicker’s blackberry jam, sweet and spicy pecans and sliced granny smith apples on a grilled panini roll.
“People will come in and we’ll say, ‘Do you want to see a menu?’ and they’ll just say, ‘No, give me a Flirty Murty’ without even looking at what it is,” Schmicker says.
The Sanibel Fresh kids menu also has its own special features including a Jackman Ranch nitrate-free, all beef hot dog cut in the shape of an octopus and served with a side of vegetables or fruit. There’s also a peanut butter and jelly wrap made with blackberry jam, a sliced banana and homemade granola.
“We welcome children,” Schmicker says.
Schmicker herself has been gluten-free for nine years, and the restaurant offers many gluten-free options.
This approach to healthy eating and sustainability is paying off. Sanibel Fresh gets a lot of repeat customers, people who come for breakfast and are back for lunch, or who stop in for dinner and come back the next day.
“We’re getting a lot of people saying, ‘I’m so glad you’re here. We’ve been waiting for a restaurant like this for a long time,’” Schmicker says.
Where: 1020 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel
Hours: 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Prices: Most sandwiches $12-$16, acai bowls $10, salads $12