by Sarah Strong
photography by Ryan Liu
This article was published in an earlier issue of Downtown Magazine.
NOTHING MAKES US HAPPIER THAN STROLLING through a New York City Greenmarket, accompanied by a chef who is seeking the best radishes or the season’s first ramps. We tapped a few of our favorite chefs, filled our reusable market bags, then headed back to their kitchens to cook with the spoils. All of these dishes made with fresh produce can be modified as peak season for fruits and vegetables come and go, but if you aren’t ready to try your own modifications at home you can visit the restaurants to see what the chefs come up with next!
BOMBAY BREAD BAR: Floyd Cardoz has been a celebrity chef for years, building up an obsessive following at his restaurants in both India and New York City, where he has helmed kitchens such as Tabla, North End Grill, and now Bombay Bread Bar. When we met up at Union Square Greenmarket, he knew exactly where to head: the Mountain Sweet Berry Farm booth. That’s where the well-known farmer and forager Rick Bishop offers delicacies from the Catskills to some of the best chefs and home cooks in the city. Ramps are all the rage, and Chef Cardoz picks up a dewy bunch of them. He also selects wintered-over kale from Migliorelli Farm of Tivoli. Back at the Bombay Bread Bar, Cardoz is prepping a simple side dish he has featured on special menus. He chose the wintered-over kale but says early spinach also works well and is less bitter than the kale. In other seasons, ramps can be replaced with garlic cloves or scapes. The dish, which Cardoz describes as “simple and delicious,” is seasoned with dried Kasmiri chiles (a cross between a New Mexican Chile and a Serrano pepper), ginger, asafetida, cumin, and mustard seeds. He suggests serving the greens, which he gobbles up with his fingers, with roast chicken or a piece of fish. As he wipes off his counter, I ask him about the openmouthed lion painted on his wood-fired oven. He tells me he wasn’t looking for a wood-fired oven in the service area, but the lion sealed the deal. thebombaybreadbar.com
HIGH STREET ON HUDSON: Where can you find a chemical engineer and a would-be forensic psychologist collaborating on a tartine? High Street on Hudson, the all-day restaurant in the West Village, where head baker and partner Melissa Weller and chef Mary Attea have teamed up to revamp the menu. I met Weller and Attea at GrowNYC Grains in the Union Square Greenmarket to pick up 25-pound sacks of einkorn, the world’s oldest known variety of wheat. Weller makes a dense bread with einkorn flour and whole grains that she slices thinly for the base of the tartine she and Attea collaborated on. We also picked up a bunch of breakfast radishes from Eckerton Hill Farm in Berks County, PA and beautiful radish microgreens from Windfall Farms of Montgomery, NY. Weller’s einkorn loaf is best the day after it is baked. The untoasted slices are slathered with a thick layer of butter that Attea has infused with lemon. Chunky slices of pink radishes are topped with shaved breakfast radishes and microgreens. Another splash of lemon covers the dish before Attea cuts open a beautiful soft boiled egg and showers the whole thing in Bottarga, a luxurious cured mullet roe beloved by chefs. The radish tartine is a dish that truly reflects Weller and Attea’s new partnership. highstreetonhudson.com
KHE-YO: Phet Schwader and his family fled Laos when he was only three and ended up in Kansas, where his mother still lives in one of the largest Laotian populations in the US. We started at the Blue Moon Fish booth. Every Saturday Schwader buys enough fish from them to last halfway through the week. They don’t deliver or go to markets any other day. With his fish in tow, Schwader and I headed back to the restaurant to cook up a traditional Lao dish called phoun pa poached fish. A tray of roasted apple eggplants awaited us. While they cooled, Schwader poached the porgy in a fish broth with aromatics like lemongrass and galangal along with plenty of funky fish sauce. Schwader then removed all of the meat from the bones and combined it with the roasted eggplant, some of the poaching liquid, and more funky fish sauce. Once stirred together, the mixture was topped with torn cilantro and tested to see if it needed even more fish sauce. Schwader says you can make this dish with any river fish, and some of his preferred alternatives are black bass or snapper for their chunky flesh. kheyo.com
CAFÉ CLOVER: Café Clover is our go-to spot for healthful but flavorful cooking from executive chef Garrison Price. He visits the Union Square Greenmarket, which is quite close to the restaurant, multiple times each week and encourages his staff to visit their local markets and seek out interesting and unfamiliar ingredients. The entire menu at Café Clover changes at least twice a season, but individual menu items can change daily depending on what their local farmer and forager contacts bring them. Global flavors and local ingredients mingle within individual dishes and throughout the menu, showing up in the use of a Japanese robata grill with non-Asian ingredients or Mexican chiles in an octopus braise or burger sauce. The seed crusted salmon with baby artichokes and preserved lemon that Chef Price made for us was just about to hit their late spring menu and highlighted their work to eliminate food waste by doing things like using the entire lemon instead of just the juice and zest in the preserved lemon. cafeclovernyc.com
LADUREE: There are many ingredients Jimmy Leclerc, head pastry chef for Laduree USA, can get in Paris but not in New York City, but he likes that challenge. As someone who wanted to be a pastry chef since he was eight and who has been cooking since the age of fourteen, he is definitely up to the challenge. He started with Laduree in 2007 because he knew if he wanted to be great he had to go to Paris and learn from the best. Laduree brings a piece of Paris to New York, especially once you step into their garden café, and Leclerc says it has been an honor and a challenge to represent the brand here and strive to keep the same perfection Laduree is known for in France. His Saint Honore is puff pastry topped with pâte à choux and Chantilly, the combination of which serves as a canvas for seasonal flavors like this strawberry and coconut version, which uses coconut mousse, strawberry glaze, and fresh strawberries. No matter the season, Leclerc says, “we welcome the challenge every day and keep customers happy one macaron at a time.” laduree.us
SENZA GLUTEN: A bread boat filled with molten cheese is probably not the first thing you expect to find at a gluten-free restaurant, but chef Jemiko Solo couldn’t not put Georgian cheese bread on his menu as a nod to his first cooking job in the country. He learned to accommodate allergies while cooking beside great chefs, but surprising his friends with Celiac disease with favorites they thought they could never eat again brought him so much joy that he created a totally gluten free restaurant. A lot of people miss Italian breads, pizzas, and pastas when they give up gluten, so Italian cuisine is prominently featured on the menu. This Georgian cheese bread is filled with a mixture of cheeses in a blend that a single variety could never replicate. Because gluten-free flour has such different properties than all-purpose flour, Chef Solo uses a specific combination of gluten-free flours to replicate the taste and texture of the traditional dish. Cheese is never out of season and neither is the crisp glass of white wine Chef Solo recommends you pair with this dish. senzaglutennyc.com