At the opening event, the Farm Table came out strong with a menu so fresh it felt wrong to be eating it in the shadow of the Empire State Building. Guests pulled up their chairs to plates of mixed baby greens with pickled beets, grilled kale, lentils and grilled squash, heirloom tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella all lined up alongside a whole roasted pig — one of the few things not born and raised on site. They were treated to brews from Peak Organic Brewing Company and an array of local red and white wines while they dined. If the evening was a taste of what customers at the Farm Table will experience, we’d suggest getting your reservations right away. It was simply a perfect meal in one of the most unique settings in the city.
The Riverpark Farm Table menu will be created by the culinary minds that work a few feet away at Riverpark Restaurant — led by Riverpark partner and head chef Sisha Ortúzar — and will be built as much as possible from ingredients straight off their farm. Ortúzar and his team work closely with Riverpark farmer Zach Pickens to get the right vegetables at the right time, but as Pickens noted farming isn’t always that easy. Pickens said that most chefs he’s worked with in the past demand things beyond the farm’s control, but that the Riverpark team is in complete harmony with the Farm’s output, creating dishes daily from what is being harvested.
The restaurant has been very understanding that “agriculture is not predictable. Most chefs want what they want when they want it. But here if I say the wind just knocked out one of our crops they are finding ways to work with it. Right now we’ve got so much basil and they are coming up with new ways to use it,” Pickens said, mentioning that the restaurant is currently serving Lime Basil Tea with dessert — dried and freshly steeped lime basil leaves.
The Riverpark farm is set on a stalled construction site at the Alexandria Center for Life Science on 28th street and FDR Drive. The farm is moveable, built from hundreds of black crates stacked on top of each other and lined with breathable material. The crew actually wheeled the entire farm inside the nearby Alexandria Center Lobby during Hurricane Irene to protect the plants from the wind. The hundreds of types of vegetables planted have taken to the crates as you would expect them to take to the ground and are fertilized partially with chocolate husk mulch that come from The Mast Brother’s Chocolate in Brooklyn — the mulch makes the farm smell like chocolate cake.
The tantalizing smell, the freshness of the food, and the magic of the setting make this place a real Manhattan wonder. But get in while you can, the site is temporary — once the Alexandria Center’s tower goes up this incarnation of the Riverpark Farm will undoubtedly change.