20 The NaTioNal CuliNary review • February 2014
loCal/sus TaiNable a taste of place
OCAVORE, SUSTAINABLE, FARM TO TABLE—words and phrases rarely heard just
a decade ago. Now they are part of the daily culinary lexicon and, sometimes, overused.
While some chefs and restaurateurs merely give these concepts lip service, an increasing
number take them to heart.
CLOSE TO HOME
Manhattan’s Lower East Side is a burgeoning dining destination and one of the few areas
in the city with rents still low enough for innovative young chefs to open restaurants. Among
them is Sandy Hall, whose restaurant, Black Tree, occupies a space that once housed a discount
While working as a bar manager at Monument Lane, a tavern in the city’s Greenwich Village
area, Hall informally apprenticed himself to one of the sous chefs, who introduced him to using
ingredients sourced close to home. “I followed him around for several months,” says Hall, “and
one of the things I realized is that much of restaurant food cost is a result of labor. For instance,
look at the time involved in peeling carrots or potatoes and making each one a uniform shape.
There’s also a certain amount of waste, as well.
“I wanted to figure out how I could make a restaurant work using the same type and quality of
ingredients as, say, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC or Dan Barber’s Blue Hill, but not having
to charge the same prices. I came up with sandwiches.”
To call Black Tree a sandwich place, though, doesn’t do it justice. Everything is sourced
within a 300-mile radius of the city. When possible, Hill buys whole animals and fabricates—
during his off-hours—on the small prep space at the end of the bar. The vendors read like a
locavore’s wish list, with everything from Van Etten, N.Y.’s, Tremblay Apiaries honey to eggs
from Interlaken, N.Y.’s, Meadow Creek Farm.
A late-fall pickle plate included ginger, plum, pear, beet and green tomatoes. Short rib is
braised with Caffé Vita coffee and Southern Tier Brewing Company stout and served with quince
preserves, mint and cheddar. Fall Mushroom is a balsamic-braised portobello, pan-roasted beets,
pickled beets and Di Palo ricotta. Small plates include duck wings with a housemade hot sauce,
honey and butter, or tacos with pork belly, carne asada, octopus or duck.
Beer, wines and liquors are readily available from the area’s growing network of distilleries and
breweries. Cocktails, though, present the greatest challenge. Lemons and limes are not available
Chefs use locally sourced ingredients
to offer a region’s unique flavor. by JaN greeNberg
oPPosi Te CloCKwise FroM ToP
leFT 1) black Tree’s winter pig
sandwich. 2) & 3) at Firelake grill
house, bison bone marrow with braised
lamb and a balsamic/maple jus, top,
and a lamb duet with a smoked and
braised lamb shoulder fritter and
lamb chops. 4) urban Farmer’s locally
sourced cheese cart. 5) & 6) Jori
emde’s whole cabbage kimchi, bottom,
and tomato vinegar.
A TASTE OF PLACE