Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bits and Morsels - Farm to table

Cauliflower and Broccoli salad at Ruschmeyer's.

by Erin Frankel


Summer is officially here. Slimmer waistlines, weekend jaunts to greener pastures, nautical adventures, and green markets are in full effect. New Yorkers can get their summer locavore groove on in a number of new and notable farm-to-table restaurants. If you are looking to get close to the source of your food, then I advise you to bring along a health-conscious friend to dinner. I brought my good friend Arielle Fierman, a Certified Health Coach (www.bewellwitharielle.com).

Arielle, an arbiter on New York City sustainable produce, always tells me to notice what foods we are craving now that summer has arrived. Foods that are light and naturally cooling to our bodies like crunchy lettuce, sweet peas, watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries. In the winter, we crave heartier dishes like butternut squash, turnips and sweet potatoes, which are naturally more dense and warming to our bodies. Her words of wisdom: “Treat your body well and support your natural farmers. Shop at your nearby farmers markets, splurge on a share with your local CSA, stop at that roadside vegetable stand or even better, eat at your nearby hip restaurant offering sustainable produce. The lettuce will feel literally as though its melting in your mouth and you may even recognize the chefs who were tasting the summer peas and who you saw schlepping the chives near 14th Street!”

Here are some of my new favorite restaurants that support healthy and sustainable eating:

Goat Town

Nestled on a quiet street in Alphabet City, you will find a small, cozy farm-to-table newcomer called Goat Town. Goat Town is an American Bistro that sheds the typical rustic elements you would expect to find. There are arched tin ceilings, a wood paneled weathered copper bar, subway tiled booths, a long red banquet, and 12 seats all squeezed into a tight space dimly lit by candles.
The bar at Goat Town.
Subway tiled booths at Goat Town.
General Greene and Cookshop alums, Nick Morgenstern and Joel Hough, have created a sustainable menu that specializes in seasonal offerings. All ingredients are local, and most are grown in the restaurant’s real backyard garden and pickled on the premises. The dishes are all rather unique concoctions of local, sustainable vegetables, cheeses, and poultry so I suggest sharing for those who want to taste the inherent flavors of the garden’s crops.

A great choice off the Snacks section of the menu is the goat town ricotta. It's soft and light and complemented with a sweet fruity jam and honeycomb and crispy grilled bread. I highly recommend both garden-inspired seasonal salads currently on the menu. The scarlet red bean is a flavorful mixture of local mushrooms, wax beans, radicchio, garbanzos, and charred bulb onion, while the shaved raw veggies is made with carrots, celery, beets, and fennel (the trendiest vegetable on the market right now) and radished in a light house-made walnut vinaigrette dressing. You will hardly think you are eating pure vegetables for dinner. Even meaty classics like the cast iron chicken get a homegrown garnish of roasted carrots and almonds all drizzled with a garlic agresto sauce. Pair this with a side of farm turnips, flavored with black honey and sea salt for a pristine local and fresh produce-driven meal.

Goat Town
511 East 5th Street
212.687.3641
The Scarlet Red Bean Salad at Goat Town.
The Shaved Raw Veggies Salad at Goat Town.
The Goat Town Ricotta.
Farm Turnips at Goat Town.
Greensquare Tavern

Greensquare Tavern is the newest uber-local, market-focused restaurant on the scene. Chef John Marsh has created a menu that highlights sustainable meats and fish with some tasty vegan concoctions, too. Some of my favorites included both the Kohlrabi Remoulade with avocado and jersey tomatoes seasoned with a mixture of mustard, mayonnaise, gherkins, capers and fine herbs, and the quinoa salad with grilled shrimp drizzled in a zesty lime ginger dressing.

But, the real reason to come here is for the house-created Greensquare veggie burger, a vegan version of a bright orange patty (you know you are getting some great local vegetable produce in this one) loaded with minced vegetables. Add more flavor with Greensquare’s red chili vegetable aioli and some mesclun greens before slapping on the hearty (and healthy) seven grain bun. Omnivores, you may want to try this one ... it's sustainably sensational.

Greensquare Tavern

5 West 21st Street
212.929.2468

Mezze platter at Greensquare Tavern.
Kohlrabi remoulade salad at Greensquare Tavern. Quinoa salad with shrimp at Greensquare Tavern.
Roasted chicken at Greensquare Tavern.
Greensquare vegetable burger.
Fat Radish

Chinatown seems like an unlikely place to host a modern farm-inspired market-driven eatery, but those locavore fiends are flocking to Fat Radish. The ambience is immediately inviting, rustic, breezy, and modern with white-washed walls and distressed farmwood tables lit by votive candles. The farmhouse shabby chic vibe prevails in the Modern-British menu. Start with some complimentary radishes to wake up your palette. Any number of the sustainable vegetarian selections are innovative and filling. The spring market salad with avocado sprinkled with a light and flavorful sesame vinaigrette, and Garden State asparagus over an herb salad topped with a savory mustard and egg dressing are both excellent choices.

The most creative vegetarian dish on the menu is the celery root pot pie, a crispy and flaky puffed crust draped over creamy chunks of celery root that are seasoned with garlic and gruyere cheese.

In case you are wondering (for those of you craving meat), the cheeseburger is pure deliciousness.

Fat Radish
17 Orchard Street
212.300.4053

Spring Market Salad at Fat Radish.
Grilled Cheese at Fat Radish.
Garden State Asparagus at Fat Radish.
Celery Root Pot Pie at Fat Radish.
The Bacon Cheeseburger with Duck Fat Chips & House Pickles.
Golden Spotted Tilefish, Miso Glazed Turnips, Radish.
Ruschmeyer’s (In Montauk)

This huge hotel, restaurant, lounge, and outdoor camp ground feels just like summer camp, except for the food. The kitchen is run by the same folks as Fat Radish and, like Fat Radish, has constructed an often-changing seasonal menu around whatever is at its peak on local farms around Montauk. As I sat for dinner with my close friend Arielle, she explained that fruits and vegetables are more delicious and nutritious when they are eaten during the season and in the regions they were grown. This chic eatery may be better suited to Manolo Blahniks then Birkenstocks, but the sustainable grub is more accomplished than the Manhattan party-bus crowd might suggest.

The menu is filled with mindful greenmarket-inspired salads like the cooked cauliflower and broccoli drizzled with a thick curried yogurt, and the raw heirloom tomato salad sprinkled with shaved parmesan. Wood-fired pizzas get a seasonal kick from the garden too with fresh tomato, basil, mozzarella. For the meat eaters out there, the cheeseburger is thick and juicy and enriched with a spicy ketchup. Start to finish there is a garden on every plate, and as Arielle explained, “eating fruits and vegetables that are locally grown, in season (and organic) helps ensure that our food, and in turn our body, is full of energy and the best nutrients.”

Ruschmeyer’s

161 Second House Road
Montauk
631.668.2877
Heirloom Tomato Salad at Ruschmeyer's.
A delectable rice dish at Ruschmeyer's.
Margherita pizza at Ruschmeyer's.
Prosciutto and Basil pizza at Ruschmeyer's.
Cheeseburger at Ruschmeyer's.
Photographs by Erin Frankel.
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