Saturday, June 07, 2008
The Tomato Lady
DISCLAIMER: I DON'T HAVE VIDEO CAMERA, HAVEN'T FIGURED OUT HOW TO EDIT VIDEOS YET AND APPARENTLY DON'T KNOW HOW TO CHARGE A DAMN DIGITAL CAMERA BATTERY. YES, I KNOW THE VIDEO QUALITY IS CHOPPED AND BAD, BUT I'M A COOK.....MAYBE I COULD GET A FILM CREW AND MARTY SCORSESE TO WORK UP MY VIDEOS....ARE YOU LISTENING PBS? ARE YOU LISTENING DIARY OF A FOODIE? ARE YOU LISTENING, DARE I SAY IT, FOODTV????
I recently had the opportunity to spend part of an afternoon with Kathy Glahn of Gettysburg Heirlooms. Kathy was the first grower I met upon arriving back in Hanover who shared my crystal clear vision that food and, produce more specifically, should be amazingly flavorful and also very in tune with the movement of the season. Folks who have visited the Mansion from the beginning may remember Kathy more specifically as 'The Tomato Lady'. That's the first product of her's that I started using; amazing heirloom tomatoes. From those early days, my relationship with Kathy has become something that I think most chef's really would be jealous of. In mid-January, Kathy, Scott and I sit down with seed catalogs and we order our produce for the season. Yep, you read that correctly. The produce that is hitting our menu right now was actually thought out in the freakin' cold ass month of January. What makes this so special is that if I point it out, Kathy will grow it. Custom growing. In Central PA. Not just carrots, potatoes and onions either, but specific varieties of turnip (milan is on the menu right now), specific varieties of potato, loads of heirloom tomatoes, the list goes on and on. Kathy is one of those folks who shares my drive for amazing foodstuffs and works very hard to give the restaurant the very best and I have to say she delivers....every week. Here's the point in the story where all of you in blogger land are very lucky....Kathy operates stands at the Gettysburg Outlet Market on Friday's and the Gettysburg Farmer's Market on Saturday's. You can get the same produce I'm using at the restaurant and have the opportunity to meet an awfully inspiring person. Honestly, if you're buying produce at the grocery store right now, you should be ashamed of yourself. Seek out the small markets....shoot me an e-mail...I'll tell you the little farm stands I like to frequent(hhmmmm, should that just be another post?) Buy it local and support folks in your backyard. Give them feedback and become their friends. If you don't and you keep buying no name produce from the store, your food will suck. It just will. Cook with some soul and give your food an identity. KNOW FARMS, KNOW FOOD. P.S. Please don't write me and tell me how busy you are and that you just don't have time. That's a weak excuse...you should be ashamed of yourself. Actually, please do write me and also include your mailing address so that I can send you an autographed Andy Little baseball bat that you can hit yourself over the head with. OK, enough with that. Do you get the point? Buy great stuff from folks you trust.
This is a cool shot of Kathy's lettuce blend that she harvests for us. We get the first cut and always sample the lettuces when they come in the back door. Here's an interesting point for all of you budding 'know farms know food' converts. The food we cook with ebbs and flows with nature. So, for example, the strawberries we got this week tasted markedly different from the strawberries we got two weeks ago. Were they still good? yes, but they were different. The difference was made because we had a pretty impressive spell of rain in the weeks before they were harvested. So, they were different. You need to keep in mind that when you are working with products that are produced outside of a factory farm vacuum there are going to be nuances to their flavor. Celebrate them. If I hear one more person in the grocery store fawning over strawberries in December, remarking how 'beautiful' they look I'm gonna go cheftal on their ass (FYI, cheftal is my new term. It's like going postal for chefs). Those strawberries 'look' great. Cut into one and savor the sweet aroma of.....nothing. Enjoy the luscious beauty of their pithy white interior. Put them back, grab a fruit cake and wait for May. Here's Kathy talking about her lettuces.
Next trip was over to the tomato plants....like I said, tomatoes were the first thing Kathy supplied to us and I have to say that they are the most amazing tomatoes and I feel very lucky to be able to work with them when the season hits. Here's a little secret for optimal tomato flavor. Don't refrigerate them. If they are simply picked and used you'll have the full advantage of the warmth of the sun with no muted flavors from refrigeration. Remember, mother nature is the true genius, we're just technicans. If you have no other choice but to refrigerate them, I recommend that you take them out of the fridge very early in your day and let them sit in a window sill and warm up.
Finally, the potatoes. Not just any potatoes, but multiple varieties of potatoes....it's not good enough to just be a potato. It has to be a German Butterball or a swedish peanut potato or a yellow finn or, you guessed it, la ratte. Yes, I know I have a problem. I'm seeking therapy.....