Heirloom Tomatoes: 24 Chefs Share Their Favorites

Sure, the end of August signals that summer is almost over, but it also heralds the height of heirloom tomato season across the nation. There are a seemingly endless number of varietals of heirloom tomatoes from which to choose, including Black Krim, Hungarian Heart, and more (and endless debate as to what constitutes an heirloom tomato, which we won’t get into here). To narrow down the field we asked chefs to share their favorites and showcase how they’re serving what is arguably the most delicious ingredient of this year’s harvest.

Philippe Bertineau, Benoit, New York, New York
“Deliciously flavored Sun Gold, Red Currant, and Green Zebra heirloom tomatoes pack more sweetness.”
Order them in: The heirloom tomatoes from Eckerton Hill Farm with red onion, basil, sherry vinegar, and olive oil.

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Eric Brennan, Post 390, Boston, Massachusetts
“We are now getting our heirloom tomatoes from Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell, Massachusetts. Owners Carl and Marie Hills grow some great tomatoes, especially the Black Prince, Pink Brandywine, and Green Zebra. After they did some research on other areas that were growing heirlooms, they started their own in 2004 and soon became the award-winning growers of heirloom tomatoes and cherry tomatoes in the state.”
Order them in: Kimball Fruit Farm’s heirloom tomatoes + charred sweet corn with griddled halloumi, fig balsamic, and purslane pesto.

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Matt Christianson, Urban Farmer, Portland, Oregon
“At Urban Farmer, we grow heirloom tomatoes on the restaurants’ rooftop garden. My favorite variety is the Indigo Blue Berries tomato because of its rich, dark color and because they are high in anthocyanins, which protect against a myriad of human diseases.”
Order them in: The heirloom tomato salad.

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Kevin Cuddihee, TWO, Chicago, Illinois
“In-season tomatoes are one of my favorite ingredients, green zebras have a great natural acidity that goes great with burrata, and the red onion basil vinaigrette rounds out the dish nicely. We like to let the ingredient shine on the plate and in- season heirloom tomatoes are the perfect star.”
Order them in: The Green Zebra tomatoes with burrata cheese, Vidalia onions, and red onion-basil vinaigrette.

Heirloom TWO Green Zebra Heirloom Tomato Salad

Laurence Edelman, Left Bank, New York, New York
“Any heirloom tomato that is perfectly ripe is going to be the best tomato you’ve ever had. There are a few that are particularly beautiful. There’s an heirloom tomato that is shaped like a heart called Hungarian Heart. It’s a good mix of flesh and juice and they’re really big and cool looking. Sometimes they are so big that one tomato could be a light meal.”
Order them in: The heirloom tomato salad with Spanish goat cheese and marinated eggplant.

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Michael Ferraro, Delicatessen, New York, New York
“The Cherokee Purple are my favorite because they’re very plump, juicy, and large in size. Plus, they’re very flavorful and taste a bit less acidic than other heirloom tomato varietals.”
Order them in: The heirloom tomato + burrata salad with green olive pesto and focaccia croutons.

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Michael Goodman, Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada
“I like the versatility of Brandywine tomatoes. This sweet tomato has a pinkish flesh and a wonderful acidity that is great for salads. Seared or grilled, they work very well with a nice, cold pressed extra virgin olive and sea salt and paired with a sexy white wine.”
Order them in: Zucchini “spaghetti” with zucchini pesto and heirloom tomato tartare.

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Todd Kelly, Orchids at Palm Court, Cincinnati, Ohio
“I prefer the smaller Black Cherry heirloom tomatoes because they are sweet and juicy with a more moderate acidity, making them very versatile. “
Order them in: The heirloom tomato and mozzarella “balloon” caprese salad with saffron tomato gelée, pickled onion, arugula, and shallot lavosh.

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Michael Kornick, mk, Chicago, Illinois
“I love Brandywine tomatoes because of their rich flavor. Brandywines have a balanced amount of acid and are thick and meaty with a delicious juice. Their skin peels easily for quickly cooked pasta sauces and with freshly grilled fish.”
Order them in: The colorful heirloom tomato salad with watermelon, pineapple, mint, oil-cured olive, and a buttermilk crisp.

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Chris Macchia, Labriola Ristorante, Chicago, Illinois
“My favorite type of heirloom tomato is the Cherokee Purple because it has fantastic tomato flavor—and of course, it’s fun to say!”
Order them in: The caprese salad with tomatoes, pesto powder, heirloom tomato sorbet, buffalo mozzarella, and basil foam.

Heirloom Labriola Purple Cherokee Caprese (3)

Aaron Martinez, Intro, Chicago, Illinois
“The Sun Gold tomato is always consistent in flavor and texture. Very sweet tomato and not mealy. I chose this tomato for a melon dish because of its sweetness that pairs so well with the seaweed-infused tomato water. The savory and sweet combination really balance each other out.”
Order them in: The tomato and summer melon plate.

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Tory Miller, L’Etoile, Madison, Wisconsin
“We use a large variety of heirlooms for this dish, but my choices this year are Cherokee Green, Cherokee Purple, Yellow Brandywine, Jaune Flamme, and Aunt Ruby’s German Green. I pick tomatoes with low acid and small seed to meat ratios. Then, all you have to do is add salt.”
Order them in: Part of the seven-course tasting menu, Miller serves Snug Haven Farm heirloom tomatoes with baby cucumber, radishes, peekytoe crab, and pine nuts.

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Trending on OpenTable Restaurant Reviews: Tomato Salad

ht-saladThis time of year is my absolute favorite — and not just because the US Open is going on. Tomatoes are at the peak of their eating in the New York area (and elsewhere, too), and I’ve been indulging every chance I get at restaurants or when strolling through my garden and grabbing ’em off the vine. Perhaps the loveliest way to enjoy tomatoes when they are in their prime is in a simple salad. Panzanella is a personal preference (because, um, croutons!), but you’ll find a wide variety of styles of tomato salad at this time of year and interesting companions (Nectarines!) that bring out the best in each bite of tomato. Find out which are winning rave reviews from OpenTable diners.

Anson, Charleston, South Carolina: “The food was incredible, the atmosphere relaxed, and the service without fault. My husband and I enjoyed the house specialty pimento cheese ‘for the table’ followed by a salad of heirloom tomatoes, arugula, watermelon relish, and buttermilk dressing.”

Cafe Mahjaic-Lotus Inn, Lotus, California: “The fish tacos we had for an appetizer were probably the best I’ve ever had, and the tomato cucumber salad was delightful! ”

Cindy Pawlcyn’s Wood Grill & Wine Bar, St. Helena, California: “The heirloom tomato and melon salad was excellent and clever.”

Della Santina’s Trattoria, Sonoma, California: “It’s a good restaurant in terms of Italian menu options with some variations on California, like the heirloom tomato salad with white anchovies.”

Extra Virgin, Kansas City, Missouri: ” If you like tomatoes, you’ll love the seasonal items on the menu. The Missouri tomato salad with pesto sauce, the panzanella salad, and gazpacho were full of perfectly ripened tomatos. With a side of bread and ricotta cheese, we had a wonderful selection of late summer items to enjoy.”

Gramercy Grill, Vancouver, British Columbia: “My mom had the special tomato and bellini cheese salad and I had the endive with blue cheese salad and citrus dressing. Both were scrumptious.”

Local 121, Providence, Rhode Island: “The food was outstanding. The tomatoes in the heirloom tomato salad melted in your mouth.”

Mayfield Bakery & Cafe, Palo Alto, California: “A must on the menu is the heirloom tomato salad with burrata cheese. I’d go back for that for sure!!!”

* Mon Ami Gabi, Bethesda, Maryland: “This week featured the most fabulous heirloom tomato salad with the tomatoes purchased from the local farmers markets.”

Oak + Almond, Norwalk, Connecticut: “Love the menu and the decor here! Had the heirloom tomato and corn salad with an appetizer of warm nuts to start.”

* Oyster Club, Mystic, Connecticut: “For an appetizer, I chose the tomato and arugula salad with burrata cheese. The creamy cheese alongside farm fresh tomatoes, spicy arugula, and vinaigrette made for a fresh tasting, salad bursting with the flavors of summer.”

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Endless Summer: Do Diners Tire of Tomatoes and Other Seasonal Ingredients?

I was dining with a good friend recently, and as we looked over the menu, I noted that there was an heirloom tomato salad on it that I must try. I usually attempt to order something different than my tablemates, so I asked if he were interested in it. “No,” he said, “You get it. If I see another heirloom tomato, I’m going to throw up. I’m sick of them.” Mon dieu! I’d never imagined anyone could tire of fresh summer tomatoes — let alone be sickened by the thought of them.

You see, I’m a tomato junkie. I always order them when dining out. I even grow them. During the high season, I eat tomatoes every single day! To me, they are the best of summer’s bounty. Their aroma is as intoxicating as the sweet-acidity that packs every bite! And not only do they taste good, they are stunningly gorgeous. Okay, so, you get where I’m coming from: I’ve NEVER seen a tomato dish on a summer menu that doesn’t draw me in like a chocoholic to Ghirardelli Square. Still, I will consider that it’s possible that some diners get tired of the ubiquitousness of ingredients during a season’s denouement. After all, I have had chefs tell me part of the fun of seasonal cooking is that the ingredients start to shift just as their interest in them wanes.

So, tell me, diners, do you tire of any ingredients during certain seasons? Do spring ramps make you want to spring forward to summer? Do you get sick of sweet summer corn? Do squash blossoms drive you bonkers at some point? Share your thoughts in our comments section.

The Cultivated Plate: Gramercy Tavern Chef Michael Anthony’s Sourcing Story

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.

GT is located only 3 blocks aways so from every single angle, the market 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.
It offers the greatest flexibilities in terms of buying. The fact that ehese folks come from up to 3.5 to 4 hours a day and are willing to be here to answer questions and provide information. This is the greatest flexibility for buying food.
The majority of our food comes riht from the market. We support other farms through other companies. But sincer we’re three blocks away, we have a whole team of ppl responsible for combing the market. The goald is to buy local, but we don’t define local bye a geographic point on the map. We’re defining local by the relationships we make when we’re buying our food. We’re trying to builda dialogue. There’s a healthy evolution between diners and chefs.

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.

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