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Thinking beyond the faucet

Sublimely refreshing and environmentally friendly, infused water has come out of the spa and into public consciousness. It’s seen in lobbies, beside tennis courts, inside meeting rooms and convention centers, and of course on restaurant menus. While lemons and cucumbers are fine, some restaurateurs are approaching water with the same artistry they bring to their food arrays, infusing the life-sustaining liquid with fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.

  • Jeff Rossman, owner and executive chef at Terra American Bistro in La Mesa, CA, infuses highly filtered drinking water with the same local, organic produce he also uses in his seasonally-driven menu.
  • If you’re already infusing water with fruit and herbs, consider offering H20 cocktails. Infused water creates a lightly flavored mixer. By moving the flavor to the mixer, you can cut back on the alcohol (and calories!) for a lighter cocktail, like the Rum Curry or Block Party at Poppy in Seattle.
  • Agua fresca is a traditional Mexican drink of blended fruit, water and ice, served fresh and cold. It’s not as heavy as a smoothie, and doesn’t require as much sugar. Dorado Tacos & Cemitas in Boston serves a seasonal variety for $1.75.
  • Earlier this year, UNICEF’s Tap Project asked restaurant patrons via a table placard to pay a dollar for tap water and help bring clean water to children around the world. They plan to run the campaign again in 2012.

Former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Brunei, was recently told to “make a memory” of the water served to him at Romera New York. Each of the 11 courses of his meal came with a different water pairing. The frivolity negates the practice of “choosing water over wine,” but there’s no denying it’s a brave menu move.

If patrons are worried about the tap water being “safe,” ask your local utility for a copy of the Annual Water Quality Report. It will allow you to educate yourself and your customers about the local water sources and quality. The report details local tap water sources and testing results.

Remember when water sommeliers started hitting the scene? These guys may get to keep their day jobs.

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