One of the dishes I am most proud of is the carrot tartar we serve at Eleven Madison Park. I never tire of watching the carrots pass tenderly through the meat grinder. Their minced, bright orange flesh is nothing short of magnificent. Presenting carrots in lieu of a protein, particularly as a tartar, showcases the versatility, flavour and beauty of this vegetable. My love of carrots has been supported and enhanced by Alex Paffenroth and Paffenroth Farms, located just outside of New York City. Alex plants his carrots in very dense, dark soil called muck soil, which yields carrots rich in nutrients and sweetness. While it’s possible to find great carrots year-round, one of the things I look forward to most about fall and winter is that this is the time when carrots are at their peak.
Cherriesalso have unlimited potential. They can find their place in any dish on the spectrum from sweet to savory. One of the reasons for the cherry’s versatility is its acidity, which can balance out a wide array of other ingredients. Mead Orchards in the Hudson Valley harvests incredible cherries, all handpicked and perfect for a salad, a dessert or a simple snack. In fact, there are few things I enjoy more than sitting down with a great magazine, a view of the horizon and a big bowl of cherries, and snacking until my heart’s content.
I believe a roast chicken can be one of life’s great pleasures. It’s an incredibly simple dish, but one that provides comfort, sustenance, and can be enjoyed any day of the year. It is essential to start with a great product, and I think that Violet Hill Farm has some of the best possible chickens in the New York region. Violet Hill is inspired by France’s legendary Label Rouge program, which means their heritage-bred poultry is free-range and raised in a comfortable, sustainable environment. I can really taste the difference in the birds from Violet Hill. The meat is supple and holds its moisture and flavour. It almost seems to bask in the heat of the oven and drink in the seasoning I apply. And I just love the way my kitchen smells after I’ve made this dish.
I have an emotional connection to honey, as my mother used to pour it into my warm milk when I was a child. Honey is a lot like wine, with its variety of colours, scents, flavours, and nuances. Each honey is unique, with its own tasting notes. I love all the variations in honey, even in batches made by the same producer. My palate is always challenged to isolate and articulate the particular notes I detect. I love hunting for the perfect honey for a dish I may be working on. Tremblay Apiaries produces supreme honey, each with different characteristics, aromas and uses. It’s always a joy to taste a new batch of honey, experiencing how each flower can produce a wholly unique product.
When in season, the tomatoes in New York are simply beautiful. I love walking to the Union Street Farmer’s Market and seeing such a vast selection of tomatoes in all colours, shapes and sizes. On any given day in the summer, I might find 60 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes available. We love to work with Eckerton Hill Farm, whose tomatoes are some of the best I’ve ever tasted. We showcase the tomato every summer in various ways, including a tomato tea that’s a precise distillation of the tomato’s intense flavour and aroma. While tomatoes inspire my creativity, sometimes I love to keep it as simple as possible and just slice one open, sprinkle a little sea salt, and savour every bite.