the sweet life: farm tour with sweetgreen

You write / read about food enough, you’re bound to hear a regular deluge of food trends. Going into 2017 alone, predictions included:

One trend that never goes out of style: sustainability.

It’s this very tenet that brought me to A.T. Buzby Farm in the middle of  Pilesgrove, NJ (of Cowtown Rodeo fame) with the team from sweetgreen. We were going to get behind the scenes at the family produce farm to celebrate summer, sustainability, and locally-sourced goodies.

sweetgreen’s four food ethos (scratch cooking, transparency, sustainability, and local sourcing) were all highlighted on this tour, as we were seeing exactly where they source their zucchini for the NY locations. PLUS – gorgeous day (minus a few drizzles) exploring a gorgeous farm with this dapper dude!

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Eric Buzby – Second generation farmer, full of life lessons and pride

Eric and his mother, Dawn (one of the cofounders of the farm) brought us around just a small portion of their 170 acres, showing off their gorgeous sweet corn fields, a pretty cool pickling process, and their friendly farm pups!

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It was incredible to hear the (honestly, quite romantic story) of his parents deciding to buy a farm together (which served as an informal proposal of marriage, because who buys a farm with someone unless they’re truly in love?)

We discussed the importance of a values driven market, and how sustainability is more than just environmental. Other discussions of sustainability included:

  • Financial – A.T. Buzby Farm was able to stay afloat in the early years using the mechanical skills of the founder, Andrew Buzby, who fixed many of their used machines by hand. They also have adapted their business model to include revenue from multiple sources, from local farmers markets to their popular CSA to wholesale with groups like sweetgreen!
  • Social – Less than 2% of Americans make their living farming, and the average age of farmers is over 40. A.T. Buzby employs local high school and college students to keep the  culture of agriculture going in the next generation.
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These cherry tomato plants are meant to be metaphorical – only by tending to the new crop of farmers can the agriculture industry stay alive and well!

(The metaphorical tomatoes were also delicious, as Dawn plucked us a ripe one right from the vine to nibble.)

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Sifting through the cuke crop to separate the pickles from the rejects

I was not alone in leaving the farm feeling energized, more connected to my food, and overwhelmed by how much effort and time goes into growing the veggies that are tossed into those tasty salads I happily shell out $9-12 for on a regular basis.

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Meet me in the Kiwi Berry Fields

If you’re dying to try some of the Buzby Farms produce (which I’d totally recommend), you can nab some at the Headhouse Farmer’s Market on Sundays in Philly, from 10am-2pm.

Or, you can check out one of the 15 New York sweetgreen locations and add some zucchinis to your harvest bowl.

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Summer at Opa: Cheese Pies & Blue Skies

Summertime in Philly…

The temperatures are sweltering, the weekend trips to the shore test our patience, and Center City Sips has filled the streets every Wednesday with drunken 20-somethings rocking suit jackets and teetering on heels.

But there’s a distinct joy that comes with some of the sweat – Summer Menus are hitting the Philly Restaurant Scene. Seasonal produce and ingredients, seafood, and creativity galore. And Opa, known for contemporary Greek plates in Center City, is bringing out the big guns. Or, in this case, the small plates.

The highlights?

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Dakos – Barley toast with sour cherry marmalade, fresh chevre, and fennel.

I may be on a toast kick lately (check out my latest post from Fitt for the Top 9 Spots Artisan Toasts in Philly!) and Opa’s take on the dish features a tart cherry marmalade that I want in all food and drink in the future.

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Aritchokes stuffed with crab, fresh herbs, Meyer lemon, & squid ink romesco. Then topped with cheese. Whoah.

Anything stuffed with crab is a-okay in my book, but this artichoke dish had us scraping the plate clean.

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Beet Cured Salmon – carpaccio style, melon, vidalia, arugula, pickled pepper

Lox comes to dinner with Opa’s beet-cured salmon. The little melon cubes add a hint of sweetness, though the pickled peppers are ENTIRELY too hot to eat.

So, ya know, don’t make the same mistake I did.

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Spaghettini – lobster, spicy tomato, olive oil crumbs

That spicy tomato is NOT A DRILL. But neither are the chunks of juicy lobster scattered throughout this dish. A small enough portion to not weigh you down, but large enough to satisfy for a summer dinner.

And now my FAVORITE two dishes:

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Lamb Loin – filo, lamb demi, charred spring onion, potato purée

Beef Wellington goes Greek! The filo is crispy, flakey, and buttery. The onion is perfectly charred, and the lamb is juicy AF. For only $10, this dish is the star of the new menu offerings.

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Tiropita Kataifi – kefalograviera & robiola, filo, orange, honey

Cheese. Pie.

Typically speaking, that’d be enough for me. BUT for your sake – I’ll hit you with some thoughts. Crunchy pastry strings surround a core of kefalograviera (a hard Greek table cheese typically made with sheep milk) & robiola (y’know – more cheese). The whole mess is drizzled with honey and tastes of bright citrusy orange.

Dessert has arrived. It’s unexpected and whimsical and delights the tongue.  Try not to fight over the last bite.

Chef Bobby Saritsoglou and his team are making a serious name for themselves in Midtown Village, and I can’t wait to see what fall brings. Just try to keep your visits limited to Thursday through Tuesday – those Wednesday SIPs crowds are an unforgiving lot.

 

 

Zahav x Momofuku: Isreali Breakfast

“Oh, you write about food? What’s your favorite restaurant?”

It’s a question I field regularly, from travelers coming to Philly for the weekend to casual acquaintances at networking events; from friends and family to total strangers that ALSO wanna gab about food. And, to be honest, there’s an easy answer, but it hurts to share.

Zahav hits every checkbox in my dream resto:

  • Diverse array of tastes served in one meal
  • Impeccable service, from the hosts to the folks tidying up the table between courses
  • Killer soundtrack (seriously, who’s curating the Zahav Spotify playlist, and can I get your info?)
  • Masterful presentation (from the open kitchen to plating of individual dishes)

This is unfortunate because, in addition to being one of the most wonderful places to dine, it’s also one of the toughest reservations to get in Philly, so I try not to boast too much when I do manage to get a meal on my calendar. But this… this was something special.

Zahav collaborated with the team from Momofuku’s Ssäm Bar (known for some killer Korean-style meat and Asian fusion dishes) for a one-time Israeli breakfast for the ages.

When I saw the tickets go up live Thursday, May 18 I’d purchased a table for 4 before 7:30am. When an opportunity like this occurs, you pay first, ask questions later. I had no trouble finding three willing dining companions and, Saturday at noon, we were seated with no idea what we’d be eating (but a certainty that it would be delicious).

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I’m going to do that thing that some people love and others hate, which is rehash the menu, so if you don’t care for that kinda thing, feel free to scroll through the photos.

First Course:

  • Israeli Breakfast Breads – we’re talking Kubaneh (linking to David Chang’s Lucky Peach article, keep it in the family) and a sweet Rugelach (perhaps date flavored, I must admit that detail was hazy)
  • An insane rose(?) and strawberry jam that I wanted to drown in (yes, we ordered extra)
  • Bentons Bacon Salad – frisée, poached egg, and smoked / cured egg yolk
  • Country ham – sliced paper thin, served with red-eye coffee gravy
  • Beef tartare – made with Yuzu Kosho (an incredible citrus chile condiment you should put on all dishes) and MORE egg yolk
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That beef tartare, though…

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Making frisée fun again…

Second Course

  • Short Ribs Al H’aesh – this was an incredible dish that was (I believe accidentally) brought to us three times. I apologize, Zahav, for not mentioning our second and third portions, but if you bring me short ribs on a skewer, I will eat them all without question.
  • Shakshuka – with smashed English peas, tomato, Saffronella, and an egg. I wish Zahav offered this for dinner, too.
  • Spicy pork sausage with rice cakes – easily my favorite dish, this dish had texture, heat, and an egg. What more could a girl ask for?!
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Shakshuka & banchan (Korean side dishes like kimchi and ginger scallions, that went with EVERYTHING!)

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Added bonus to spicy sausage dish – when your friends can’t take the heat, you get extra.

We were promptly rolled out of Zahav and into the street, where we blissfully walked the 20 blocks home on cloud nine, stuffed with the best foods around.

Zahav – you dog. You got me again. I’m unabashedly enamored with the entire CookNSolo restaurant group (and like to maintain a healthy obsession with Federal Donuts), so just keep doing what you’re doing, and I’ll keep blindly throwing my money your way.

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Gratuitous food pics