One Manhattan chef operates a rooftop farm that allows a Kips Bay restaurant to keep its menu as fresh and up-to-date as possible. Edible Manhattan’s Rachel Wharton filed the following report.
Lots of chefs buy from farmers but at Riverpark, Chef Sisha Ortuzar employs one to tend to 165 kinds of vegetables and herbs just outside the restaurant. Not only can he serve super-fresh tomatoes but he can decide in advance what kinds he'll have and how large to grow them. But Mother Nature can’t always be controlled, even in Manhattan.
“The menu in the kitchen has to react pretty quickly to what the farm is producing at the time because although we know what's on the ground and we have a forecasting report from the farmer telling us, 'alright, expect these crops,' we really can't tell what's going to be ready on a day-to-day. Because you get a heat spurt and all of a sudden the eggplants are all over,” Ortuzar says.
As a result, Riverpark's menu is a flexible thing, ready for whatever variety of eggplant or gourd is good to go.
Ortuzar showed some of the vegetables currently growing in the garden.
“This is zucchini. We have pattypan squash, different colors. This is called an avocado squash and we have a few other varieties. We're doing a dish with ‘summer squash.’ So Zach harvests whatever's ready and it goes in the kitchen and we're like, ‘alright, this is the squash that we're going to be serving today,’” Ortuzar says.
The same thought process is behind a best-selling okra special. He decided to grill it just like other summer vegetables. He chars each pod then immediately marinates them in olive oil and lemon so they'll soak up the entire flavor. That's the important part, says Ortuzar, who also adds spices like chili flakes, fennel seed and whatever herbs are fresh in his city fields.
Last year, that was usually basil.
“We had basil, just basil bushes. I mean it was huge. We had 150 basil plants that were just producing like crazy. It was just like bringing cases of basil in at a time every day,” says Zach Pickens, farmer.