Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Garden to plate

A few years ago I wrote a series of articles about restaurant chefs who garden. I remember touring the Montreal Casino and being amazed by the extensive rooftop herb garden planted (and tended) by the executive chef of its main restaurant. And I can still recall how Andrew Sutton, the executive chef at Napa Rose, came out of his kitchen to enthusiastically talk about the plants (mostly herbs) he was growing in his small garden behind the high-end, award-winning restaurant in Anaheim, California. I was equally impressed by the chef at Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck, who grew a small patch of herbs outside the hospital so he could use them in his dishes to brighten patients’ meals.

Chefs clearly recognize that a short distance between garden and plate usually makes for good eating.

Last summer, during a golf course photo shoot for Hudson Valley Connoisseur, I was also able to visit the gardens overseen by Executive Chef Jeff Raider outside Valley Restaurant at The Garrison. At the time, the gardens produced a good amount of fresh food used in his American seasonal menu, including heirloom tomatoes, greens, and herbs. This year, workable farmland at The Garrison has more than doubled to about two acres over three different plots, including the original kitchen gardens. There’s an organic grower, Brian Bergen, in charge of them and he has planted more than 20 varieties of heirloom tomatoes alone. That’s a lot of salads and appetizers!

The folks at Valley say that if the weather cooperates, the first of the fresh vegetables – including lettuces, herbs, sorrel and about six varieties of Asian baby greens – should be arriving in Chef Raider’s kitchen at the end of this week.

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