As the weather cools and the green wilts, we reflect on the summer past.
To be a chef is to appreciate product – not only those with a high price tag, but also those we use everyday; the onions, carrots and lettuces of the world. We are lucky here at L’Espalier to work with a Chef who takes his produce seriously, so much so, he grows it himself. Chef Frank has been working the fields at Apple Street Farm for several years now with the help of a small farm crew and the occasional cook-turned-weeder. From their labor we, who toil in the flame rather than the dirt, reap the benefits of a tomato ripened in the morning sun and served before that same sun sets.
Nathan, one of many chefs from L’Espalier to offer his labor at ASF, transfers seedlings in the greenhouse. A very tedious job indeed. All of the plants, not directly seeded into the ground start here. They are raised to the required size and transferred to their permanent home in the fields. At least once a week, but never enough, we visit the farm to plant, weed, harvest, forage, and slaughter.
From seed to seedling, to plant, and ultimately vegetable. The amazing truth of the green world…from one seed infinity can grow.
Over the course of the growing season we are able to purchase up to 80% of our produce from ASF, during peak production. This translates to 500-1000 pounds of fresh vegetables a week, with deliveries coming sometimes up to 5 days a week. Of course, shear volume is not enough to satisfy the discerning chef; variety and quality is what we are truly looking for. On any given delivery we would sort through up to 50 different varietals; everything from eggplant to onion, tomato to potato, tatsoi to sheep sorrel, strawberries to nasturtium and everything in between. This produce drives our creativity and ultimately our daily menu.
Above our “Walk through Apple Street Farm”, a cool salad comprised of 100% ASF vegetables, lettuces, flowers, and herbs; below, “This week’s harvest with Ibérico and brown butter”. Both with strong Bras overtones. Both a real joy to prepare during the height of the season. Both an expression of the best ASF has to offer.
Beyond fruits and vegetables, ASF grows many varieties of edible and decorative flowers. Nasturtium, Bachelors Button, Calendula, Borage and many more graced the plates and tables of L’Espalier this summer. One of my favorites, sunflowers, for their shear beauty, cut flowers, seeds, and the edible flower head once past its bloom.
And of course there is honey from the hive, a task only Chef dares to undertake…
Apple Street Farm also supplies us with dozens of multicolored eggs, heritage chickens, and Berkshire pigs for everything from charcuterie to whole roasted for our farm dinners. As I think back to those happy summer days I wish I could have done more with the vegetables I received. As I plan for next summer’s bounty; I hope that my creativity can match that of mother natures. A task I am sure to lose…