It has been a wonderful time to celebrate the season of local agriculture. Thursday evening was the fruition of a dream to host an urban Farm to Table dinner, not unlike the dinner in the fields we had hosted 2 weeks ago. Billed as 'Country Mice/City Mice; Choose your Dining Option', this was the week for the Katchkie Farm to come to the big city.
The setting; our Hudson Square commercial building courtyard, the size of half a city block, bound on one end by the Great Performances loading dock and on the other, by City Winery. Typically a gritty urban open space it was the ideal location to lay out rows of tables (like rows of vegetables), set up buffets & bars, build a pit to roast the pig, wait till the sun began its descent and open the gates to our guests.
What follows is an account of the preparations for this dinner, written by Dan Obusan, Production Sous Chef.
It was quite funny that on the day we planned to show off Mother Nature's splendor, she was quite adamant in showing off on her own. It started out with a little drizzle, then a sexy peek at some sunlight, then a little more down pour and finally breaking into a beautiful sunny day as our second Farm to Table Dinner began.
While nature played coy with our emotions, we set out to prep a great menu that was built to show off the bounty of New York State Farms albeit with a little twist- Local Food with a Latin flair.
It is a beautiful thing to see in our kitchen that the food we work with can be taken on such a personal level, but since most of our cooks come from Mexico, Ecuador and the Latin Americas, the menu was amazingly personal to each cook who prepared it. Tomatoes from Katchkie Farm, Corn from Roxbury and Chicken from Pigasso Farms all made its way down to Manhattan and into our kitchen all fresh and ready to be made into one great dinner.
The tomatoes, jalapenos and onions from our own Katchkie Farm was lovingly transformed by our Resident Saucier Antulio into beautiful Salsa Rojo, not to be confused with the run of the mill jars we see in the local grocery. This was the stuff he eats at home, learned from his own family and food he grew up eating. It was humbling to watch him make it with such care and precision as if he was making it for his own family. This is the time when being a chef in this kitchen becomes less about direction and more about admiration as these fresh and beautiful vegetables meet someone who cares enough to make it shine.
Then there was Flor, or Flower as we like to call her in our kitchen who made and prepared her signature Radish Escabeche. Flower use to make this escabeche at family meal, just enough for her and a select few cooks- she never thought to share it with the world, for it was just some humble attempt to connect with her old home. It was actually by accident that we stumbled upon it, as we got curious to know what the small following was all about during lunch time. After we tasted her family's recipe it was all but over and we became fans of Flower's Radish Escabeche.
The corn from Roxbury came down green as can be on the outside and when peeled back exuded such an amazing smell that it felt silly to doctor it up with anything else. So grilling it in its own husk peeled back and grilled again. Topped off with classic Latin garnishes like chili powder, cotija cheese and lime salt made for good corn eating- so good that we almost ran out. Someone out there had way too good of a time with Roxbury's corn.
So many flavors peppered the block around Hudson and Spring that it was probably difficult to focus on work all around the neighborhood. Taylor grilled the corn outside in front of our guests that evening and made sure that we all got a taste of how corn is eaten outside our own little world.
Pigasso's Chicken came in smelling fresh and firm. The direction for cooking it was simple enough. Cook it the way we like to eat it ourselves. With that directive, our own butchers Leo and Orlando gleefully made quick work of the beautiful chickens.
While all these great flavors could stand alone on their very own merit, they were today, mere co stars to the biggest Diva of the Evening. A whole pig came down from upstate earlier this week, ready to play star attraction to our farm to table dinner.
As Chef Marc rolled in thru the first round of drizzle early in the AM, first thing he told me was, "Great day for a barbeque..."
It turned out to be more prophetic then he expected. It was a good day to make an open pit, fill it up with charcoal and roast a whole pig in the middle of Manhattan. The pig was roasted for hours in what was a very fickle afternoon in terms of weather but luckily the clouds made way for sunny evening and we got to taste a pig roast on a Thursday. Paired with arepas and pickled farm onions and it was a great way to end a work day for everyone involved.
With the food all ready to go we watched our front of the house crew transform our concrete backyard into one fashionable dinner space. Tables pulled, plates put down we were ready to show New York how real food, cooked with care and passion can make for one great evening; a farm fresh dinner under the bright lights of the Big City and in the shadows of towering skyscrapers.
I think our Kitchen today truly enjoyed making this dinner happen, all proud to share their own experiences through the food they lovingly prepared and with the understanding that they were working with some of the best products available in New York.
Photo Credit: Johannes Courtens