This season is in full swing. We have never been so thoroughly exhausted as we are this year even with the help of four new fabulous farm interns. Today was a celebration of sorts: my birthday, the beginnings of the edible forest garden we got under way last week and the welcome warm spring weather. It's been many moons since we dined like we did tonight. In our area, 25 miles north of Manhattan, farm to table restaurants are surprisingly rare. Aside from our much loved Blue Hill at Stone Barns, "farm-to-table" is starting to become a term tossed around without much meaning. This is what happened to the words "organic" and lately, "artisinal." When Kraft foods starts using the word artisinal as a marketing tool for Wheat Thins, we know the word has taken a meaning far from its intended defintion. We have seen this in Rockland county where the term is used loosly, but when you inspect closely for the restaurant's definition, all it means is the food came from some farm somewhere likely far away and conventionally grown. So, sure they aren't lying by saying this food came form some FARM somewhere and ended up on this TABLE. But the true definition lies in a restaurant that supports local small farms and cooks seasonally.
Restaurant North is a new Hudson Valley restaurant in Westchester which describes itself as "refined farm to table new American fare". Many of the farms they support are listed on the menu including Blooming Hill Farms in Blooming Grove, New York. Guy Jones' famous phrase, "Don't buy food from strangers" is one of their "loves" listed on their website. Also prominent are Ronnybrook and Rainbeau Ridge Farms in nearby Bedford, New York.
Our first course consisted of three amazing appetizers both in taste and presentation. We ordered a beef carpaccio, grain mustard, fried shallots and capers. The thinly sliced beef looked pink orange just like lox and the crispy capers with a hint of mustard solidified the dish. Yum!
The second appetizer was a whimsical looking heirloom beet and arugula salad under a smear of soft Rainbeau Ridge goat cheese. The arugula is the same that we grow at HMG: wild Sylvetta arugula: bold, spice and peppery and the beets were a mix of chioggia, gold and red beets. Top notch in flavor and presentation. So colorful, you probably can get any kid to eat this.
The third appetizer was the classic Hudson Valley Foie Gras in two ways. The peanut-butter and jelly foie gras was original: crushed sweet peanuts made the foundation for a seared foie gras with a mild tasting Sambal oelek jelly. Really incredible. It's twin was a root beer and pickeled shallot foie gras. We didn't taste the root beer component but enjoyed it as a counterpoint to the peanut butter and jelly foie gras. Sure to become a classic at this establishment.
Dinner was a beautiful soft shelled crab with purple potatoes and roasted carrots. Crabs were cooked to perfection and I was mesmorized by the vibrant purple color of the potatoes. I wonder how they kept it looking so bright. The roasted carrots were dry, however, putting that aside, I would easily order this again.
What was interesting was the presence of gluten-free pasta at such a high-end establishment. HMG's other half did not go for gluten-free but had the Rigatoni with peasant ragu, spring greens and ricotta salata. Hearty but not overly filling, this was a solid flavorful pasta dish.
To top it off: dessert. This one you HAVE to order: A chocolate chip cookie baked in a mini cast-iron skillet known as "super awesome" with Ronnybrook vanilla ice cream. It tasted like homemade chocolate chip cookies that just came out of the oven and you ate anyway before they cooled down. Super awesome indeed. A little less sugar in the cookie would have made me even happier.
I had a light beautiful panna cotta made with Ronnybrook yogurt, granola and blood oranges. I never had panna cotta made with yogurt before and I know that doing so not only is more healthful but is lighter and tastes just as decadent as the real thing. So good!
We spoke with our waitress about our micro-farm operation. Everyone here was truly interested in the local farm movement which made the experience even better. We were actually shocked when we got our bill and the waitress said dessert was on the house because the restaurant supported and believed in what we at Hook Mountain Growers were doing. Restaurant North is a true farm to table restaurant which serves absolutely beautiful food in a relaxed hip setting!