OpenTable is pleased to announce the launch of The Cultivated Plate, a new weekly feature on Dining Check about how and from where restaurants source their ingredients. From the practical to the political, chefs and restaurateurs will share the challenges and the opportunities in bringing food from farm to table. This week, chef Michael Anthony discusses how he tells Gramercy Tavern’s story by shopping at the Greenmarket.
Watch as Chef Anthony shares his thoughts on the farm-to-table label, how he addresses diners who want fresh tomatoes in January, and where truffles fit in to his menu at Gramercy Tavern. And, read more sourcing insights from this chef after the jump.
Can you talk about your relationship with New York City’s Greenmarket?
“There aren’t a lot of farms within New York City limits, but the Greenmarket is located only three blocks away from Gramercy Tavern. The Greenmarket represents the best resource that we have as diners and as restaurateurs in the city. It’s the beginning for all the dishes that we eat at home and all of the dishes we serve at the restaurant. In terms of buying, it offers the greatest flexibilities.”
Do you source all your food directly from the Greenmarket?
“The majority of our food comes right from the market. We support other farms through other companies. But since we’re three blocks away, we have a whole team of people responsible for combing the market. The goal is to buy local, but we don’t define local by a geographic point on the map. We’re defining local by the relationships we make when we’re buying our food.”
So, you don’t have a mileage limit on how far food should travel?
“A mileage limit is one way to define local, but it’s not necessarily an accurate way.”
Do you ever find new things at the Greenmarket that you’ve not seen before?
“We are constantly discovering new ingredients. Literally this week, we found three or four new ingredients, including a variety of yellow sugar snap peas and maroon snow peas, both of which are not just delicious but also beautiful.”
Gramercy Tavern’s menu is always changing. Is that because certain ingredients get featured a single time?
“We break this rule that once this ingredient shows up on a menu, it shouldn’t be seen a second time. If there’s an ingredient that’s delicious at the market, it’s really our challenge to use it as many ways as possible — as long as we’re handling it in a distinct way and making it different in every dish.”
Back to ingredients, is there anything at the Greenmarket you won’t cook with?
“I can’t come up with one thing that I avoid in the market. It’s all fair game, but there are some things that I haven’t figured out how to cook. I still am very curious about a lot of varieties of very hot chili peppers. We’re using them more, figuring out how to tame some of that ferocious heat and use it in interesting new ways and also trying to expand the acceptable levels of heat in dishes. I also see that as a real defining factor in American food. There are highs and lows in aromatics — acidity and spiciness — that make it fun to eat in New York and which give chefs a lot more room to build flavors. We’re not as bound by a sense of harmony. We have to make smart decisions if we’re really creating iconic dishes that will be around for years to come. There must be a great sense of balance, but it’s really great being a chef in New York City right now. The sky’s the limit.”
So, you don’t feel limited by what’s available in your own backyard, so to speak?
“There’s always some inspiration that comes from looking at beautiful ingredients and figuring out what we can do that’s interesting, how we can tell our stories through these ingredients. The truth is, we could pick up the phone and have any ingredient we want overnight, but I feel like the story is much more interesting when it’s told using ingredients that are sourced right here.”