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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jeremy Nolen, Whetstone Tavern, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
“My favorite type of heirloom tomato is the Brandywine. Growing up in Berks County, Pennsylvania, there have been heirloom tomato plants and seeds available since I was a little kid, and my parents always grew heirlooms and that tomato was one of the ones I remembered the most. It has such a great tomato flavor to it.”
Order them in: The “burratina,” featuring heirloom tomato, burrata, olives, caper berry, basil, and garlic toast.
Jon Oh, Scarpetta, New York, New York
“I’ve never met a tomato I didn’t like. I don’t have a specific favorite variety of heirloom tomatoes, but I use the large heirloom mix from Eckerton Hill Farms. Tim Stark produces top-notch tomatoes for New York City restaurants and his product has become a staple in my kitchens.”
Order them in: The burrata with heirloom tomato, black garlic, and eggplant.
Viet Pham, Ray’s and Stark Bar at LACMA, Los Angeles, California
“Brandywine and Marvel Striped tomatoes are so sweet, juicy, and hearty that you should not do anything to manipulate the flavors.”
Order them in: Heirloom tomatoes, burrata, “everything bagel crumble,” basil, garden arugula, and Saba.
Ben Pollinger, Oceana, New York, New York
“I really enjoy the Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes. They’re a great deep red-purple, and quite big for heirlooms. They are also meaty tomatoes and have a robust, full tomato flavor. “
Order them in: The heirloom tomato salad served with basil panna cotta and roasted yellow peppers.
Wes Shaw, Presidio Social Club, San Francisco, California
“My favorite type of heirloom tomato is Cherokee Purple. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, and the acidity makes it taste just like a tomato should. They’re a dark red color with deep purple running through them and are always a crowd pleaser.”
Order them in: The heirloom tomato salad.
DJ Tangalin, JRDN, San Diego, California
“The star of this salad is the Brandywine tomato. It’s my favorite because its true tomato-y flavor just screams summer. Plus, it has great acidity that helps the zucchini sott’olio pop.”
Order them in: The heirloom tomato salad with burrata cheese, zucchini sott’olio, black garlic, and green goddess dressing.
Louis Tikaram, E.P. + L.P., West Hollywood, California
“I personally love the Green Zebra heirloom tomato varietal. They look amazing, and I love their firm texture and acidity. They’re the star attraction in my summer persimmon and tomato salad.”
Order them in: The vegan persimmon + tomato salad featuring heirloom tomato, ginger, persimmon, cilantro, and black bean.
Danny Trace, Brennan’s of Houston, Houston, Texas
“I love the heirloom tomatoes from Covey Rise, a farm in Louisiana, especially the Cherokee Purple, Zebra Stripe, and the Louisiana Creole (“Celebrity”) tomatoes. The Celebrity is a beautiful, red, medium-sized fruit, and the flavor is just pure tomato.”
Order them in: The fried soft-shell crab dish, with crab atop slices of the tomato (pictured below); a red fish Provencal, in which the grilled red fish is served over sliced tomatoes with marinated white bean relish; and the five tomato salad with fried green, cherry, and grape tomatoes, avocado, and aged balsamic.
Ari Weiswasser, Glen Ellen Star, Glen Ellen, California
“We have a bounty of dry-farmed heirloom tomatoes at our disposal from the Benziger Winery’s biodynamic garden just minutes from the restaurant. They grow Green Zebra and Purple Prims, as well as Sun Gold cherry tomatoes.
Order them in: Gazpacho with tomatoes, cucumber, red bell pepper, and basil with olive oil and baby basil also from Benziger’s (pictured below), and the housemade merguez sausage with butter and tomato marmalade-glazed cranberry beans.
Niki Star Weyler, Mesa, Costa Mesa, California
“My favorite tomato is the Cherokee Purple because of its deep flavor, beautiful colors, and firm-yet-velvety texture.“
Order them in: The CA BLT salad with heirloom tomatoes, crispy bacon, Bibb lettuce dressed in a white balsamic vinaigrette, blue cheese, and avocado.
Brad Wise, Draft, San Diego, California
“I like to use the Oaxacan Jewel variety because the melon undertone is a good match with a fruity olive oil, and the rich yellow color makes for a beautiful presentation.”
Order them in: The caprese salad with burrata cheese, heirloom tomatoes, and olive oil.
Martin Woesle, Mille Fleurs, Rancho Santa Fe, California
“Cherokee Purple and Green Zebra are my favorite heirloom tomatoes. I love to use them because they are visually appealing, firm but juicy, and sweet with the perfect dose of acidity.”
Order them in: The tomato tower with heirloom tomatoes, grilled eggplant, red onion, basil, Greek olive oil, and aged balsamic vinegar.
What do you think is the most delicious type of tomato – and how do you like it served? Tell us here or over on Facebook, G+, or Twitter. Then, book a table to feast on tomatoes while there’s still time left in the growing season.