There’s something a bit cliché about the trope of following a chef to the Union Square Greenmarket, but it still yields some magic. Recently, Oceana chef Bill Telepan took an enthusiastic group on a Saturday market tour during early November and, in a spin on the genre, everyone then went back to his restaurant to cook a meal together. Whether you visit the Greenmarket every week, you live out of town, or if you haven’t set foot in Union Square in years, seeing the market through someone a chef’s eyes is invigorating, inspiring, and educational. I learned that strawberries can still grow, be ripe and delicious in November owing to the location of the farm upstate.
We visited five different farmers, including: P.E. &. D.D. Seafood for blowfish; Cherry Lane Farms of Bridgeton, New Jersey, for Romanesco cauliflower and broccoli rabe; Mountain Sweet Berry Farm of Roscoe, New York, for Atlas carrots, Crosnes, Purple potatoes, and Fingerling potatoes; Breezy Hill Orchard for a variety of apples for dessert; and finally Norwich Meadow Farm for honey nut squash, garlic, multicolored radishes, leeks, and parsley.
Upon returning to the restaurant, everyone was responsible for cooking a different course of the meal and worked happily together like a scene from the old cartoon where Mickey Mouse is whistling while he works. Telepan encouraged us to taste-test some food just for pleasure, such as sunchokes and the unusual and satisfyingly sweet Atlas carrots.
Participating in a farm-to-table experience was immensely satisfying, the company and the guidance, delightful, and the extraordinary meal of honeynut squash soup, egg fettuccine with walnut parsley pesto, salt baked bass, grilled blowfish, roasted striped bass, sides of sunchokes, broccoli rabe, purple and fingerling potatoes, and Hungarian apple pie with vanilla ice cream and a caramel drizzle for dessert was, in a word, divine.