Summer in the Russet kitchen is an embarrassment of veggie riches. Plump tomatoes are ripe for the picking in chef Andrew Wood's backyard. Cilantro arrives from a friend's garden in Northern Liberties, complete with white blooms that add their own snappy flavor. As for Lancaster's first eggplants, they're already roasting on the grill, preparing for a date with some wild striped bass in the dining room of the converted 1800s townhome.
"Farm-to-table has become a buzz word, but it's the only way we could think to do it -- it's the only thing that would sit with my conscience," says Wood, who opened the Center City BYOB over the winter with his wife, pasty chef Kristin Wood.
We checked in with him for a little fresh inspiration.
Your menu changes daily. Were people disappointed when the strawberry ravioli vanished?
We're trying to foster not an infatuation with dishes but a reputation that whatever the offering is, it's going to be good. It's important for us to adhere to seasonal restraints, and I think people are pretty flexible. There's always something new on the horizon -- strawberries might be gone, but then there are tomatoes.
You're a Philly guy -- you must have a favorite tomato.
Summer is tomatoes to me. My very favorite is actually the Early Girl. It's a pretty standard issue looking tomato, but they don't have very many seeds and they're super dense.
You opened on Valentine's Day. Was it tough to make a special occasion meal with East Coast winter ingredients?
You'd be surprised. The growers that we use are pretty crafty. There's a lot of cellaring that goes on. And in my opinion, kale kind of improves in the winter -- there's less light, so it stores all of its energy as sugar. You actually get a sweeter vegetable.
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1521 Spruce St.
Dinner: Tuesday through Sunday from 5:30 p.m.; Brunch: Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.