Farm-to-table is a hot buzz phrase in NYC’s dining scene right now, but what does it really mean? Unlike organic food, which requires certification, farm-to-table is often left open to interpretation. As one chef put it, “A carrot served at McDonald’s could be considered farm-to-table.”
Luckily for New Yorkers, the city’s chefs who tout a farm-to-table menu take the responsibility to source locally seriously, by changing their menus seasonally and making genuine connections with the farmers who provide their ingredients — sometimes making the trip to the farm themselves.
We delved deep into the farm-to-table phenomenon, getting to know the chefs of these Earth-driven eateries who make the motto their personal missions. You don’t have to leave the city to find farm-fresh fare.
5 West 21st St.
Situated in the Flatiron district, this restaurant uses locally sourced ingredients, right down to the chocolate in its desserts. Its diverse menu offers everything from fresh soft-shell crabs to Italian favorites including Monday-night lasagna, not to mention an impressive cocktail list. When asked what farm-to-table means to him, chef John Marsh didn’t hesitate to answer, “I know my source.” Bonus: Grab a “Real Bar” on your way out; it’s a delicious organic energy bar (yes, there is such a thing) made by Marsh and his wife.
Bell Book & Candle
141 West 10th St.
It doesn’t get more farm-to-table than lowering fresh produce down to the kitchen in a bucket from an aeroponic tower garden on the roof of the building that houses this cozy West Village restaurant. It’s not chef John Mooney’s first rodeo with the setup — he’s grown gardens of the aeroponic variety for restaurants around the world, including several in India. The sprawling greenery against a city skyline backdrop with the scent of fresh herbs mingling in the air is inspiring, to say the least. The lobster taco and the “Gin & Tinoc” wild salmon are standouts.
1 Margaret Corbin Drive
Tucked away in lush Fort Tryon Park, this romantic restaurant channels its surroundings via a farm-fresh menu. As an extension of actress Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project, New Leaf’s very existence is based on utilizing available resources and restoring NYC parks, so it’s appropriate that chef Scott Campbell calls on local growers like Paisley Farms and Windflower Farms for ingredients. Reserve a table on the restaurant’s spacious patio and order the baby artichoke and avocado salad and the bacon banded pork tenderloin.
18 Wyckoff Ave.
Enjoy a feast fit for King Arthur. Or, rather, feast on King Arthur, the boar that bears the monarch’s name. The animal is currently being harvested in preparation for an Aug. 10 pork-tasting menu with 20 courses ($130 per person) at this Bushwick hot spot. Chef Kevin Adey frequently makes the drive to King Arthur’s upstate New York farm, where he feeds the boar homemade treats and mentally braces himself for his first time slaughtering an animal. It’s an experimental step in the restaurant’s ambitious plan to move toward a whole-animal menu in which customers will dine nose to tail on locally sourced animals until all of the meat has been consumed — at which point the menu will change.
Arthur on Smith
276 Smith St., Brooklyn
This fairly new addition to Carroll Gardens has already garnered a devout following of regulars who line the bar come dinnertime. Chef Joe Isidori (of recent Iron Chef fame) opened this casual-chic Italian farm-to-table as a tribute to his late father, Arthur, also a chef. Isidori draws on a long list of local farmers he knows personally to source a fresh menu that he says “changes when Mother Nature tells it to change.” Be sure to sample the smoky Spanish octopus “a la plancha.”