Editor’s note: Although it’s technically not part of this same farm dinner series, Untitled’s sister restaurant Gramercy Tavern is hosting a similar Kitchen Cultivars dinner on February 6. The evening is part of a Glynwood Farm and Hudson Valley Seed Library effort to promote the Long Island cheese pumpkin. Chef Michael Anthony has also put a cheese pumpkin soup on his tavern lunch menu that’s served with a pork belly torta with avocado and cabbage salsa verde.
“With the Camporosso Farm dinner at Untitled, we were able to continue welcoming our neighbors in inventive ways. Usually it’s the chef in and outside the kitchen who’s visiting and leading, whereas when we worked with Chris and Jesse [of Camporosso], we’re letting them lead the dance. They told us what they had. And we figured out how to build a menu around what they grow,” explained chef Michael Anthony about “Untitled’s Open Kitchen: Farmer Dinner Series.”
Though not the dance’s leader throughout the evening at Untitled, chef Mike’s choreographic support was present in the way that Merce Cunninghams’s influence might seep into the gestures of the most avant garde companies in American dance. In Untitled’s case, framed by the Whitney Museum’s exploration of American art, the restaurant’s team has dedicated considerable event time to welcoming neighbors and those chefs, winemakers and farmers who share a common bond for “like-mindedness and a passion for diversified seasonal ingredients,” said chef Mike.
While Untitled’s name might suggest ambiguity of identity, the chefs and farmers are anything but anonymous. Rather Untitled’s team is searching, adapting and redefining new points of view for American food. And like my imaginary of the greatest potential of American art, together they each bring homeland histories into the studio kitchen.
Camporosso, a farm in Berks County, Pennsylvania, is operated by Chris Field and Jesse Okamoto and sustainably grows specialty chicory among other delicacies. Crops of their hearty vegetables mature in the fall and extend through the winter seasons, which was perfectly timed for Untitled’s concluding 2016 Open Kitchen series event. Five bold courses played with Camporosso chicory that I had never pronounced, let alone tried: puntarelle, castelfranco and the meal’s final act, a blood orange panna cotta, which featured a whole, PA-grown hibiscus.
During the Open Kitchen series, farmers and food makers walk from table to table, sharing with diners those growing stories and anecdotes that made the evening possible. Rare chicory was new to me; but Jesse and Chris detailed their farming schedule, the strengths of chicory’s flavors’ bittersweetness and a much needed PSA on how to prepare a whole hibiscus without being poisoned. My lack of knowledge of chicory didn’t have to be a point of embarrassment at Untitled. Throughout the evening, we were encouraged to ask what we didn’t know and to above all enjoy. The vibe echoed chef Mike’s ethos about Untitled: “We are interested in creating a sense of solidarity and togetherness in the neighborhood.”
As guests and neighbors for the night, our head of biz development Meg Savage, editor Ariel Lauren Wilson and I sat at the bar and watched the courses appear and quickly disappear, not afraid to snap photographs of the plated color wheels. “We’re on social.” Chicory, I said aloud (after wine glass four, five?) is really pretty.
The third course, smoked arctic char, sat atop *romanesco, *pickled petit marseillais, Rick’s potatoes, +Primordia mushrooms, Witchgrass cheese, *tardivo, and *sage-onion jam. I told Meg and Lauren that it was the showstopper for me because the base reminded me of potato salad from church dinners down south. For a lot of my dining life, that’s been American food. When later telling chef Mike, he smiled and introduced me to chef de cuisine Susanne Cupps, originally from Aiken, South Carolina, and the contributing mind to the potato base. I wasn’t off the map at all.
We were neighbors in a room, a chef and a diner, hometowns separated by three degrees longitude, points of view pretty close. Two degrees east, that global line moves right on up through Manhattan. Two degrees east that line moves down through Las Tunas, Peru, Quito, Ecuador, Lima District, Peru: all Americas.
*from Camporosso Farm
+from Primordia Farm