After master French chef Éric Ripert paid homage to New York Times Food and Wine Writer Florence Fabricant at the cocktail hour of the Hayground Chefs Dinner, we asked which of the hors d’oeuvres she had fancied. Of course, she liked the Pork Tostados, but what really caught her interest was the New York State Steelhead Trout that Abigail’s Kitchen on Greenwich Village’s MacDougal Street was doling out. “I never eat anything but Pacific Wild Salmon,” she told us. “But, these seem to be really farmed correctly. They know what they’re doing.”
The gravlax with herbed creme fraiche, pickled turnips and baby fennel on sourdough was certainly a winner. Owner Abigail Hitchcock told us they sourced the NY State Steelhead Trout from a new hatchery near Hudson, NY. “They’ve taken over an existing one. This species is an example of a good farmed fish. And seemed to be the only farmed fish Fabricant deemed healthy.”
The dinner benefited the Hayground School, for which Toni Ross is an active Trustee. Jon Snow, a School co-founder, was honored. Previous honorees include: Jacques Pépin, Eric Ripert, Tom Colicchio, Lori Silverbush, Jonathan Waxman, Toni Ross, Tinka Topping, and Bill Telepan.
The school’s philosophy extends to healthy eating. At the school, Jeff’s Kitchen, named for Toni’s late husband, Jeff Salaway, a full-service professional kitchen and classroom provides classes in nutrition, food science and cooking for both children and adults. And a professional Farmtek greenhouse was erected by Hayground students, staff and friends with funds provided by Slow Food.
At cocktails, Estia’s Pork Tostados was the cooking tour de force. “We’ve braised pork in a citrus broth with chicken stock,” owner chef Colin Ambrose explained, “and finished it with a pumpkin seed serrano chile tomatillo salsa. It’s a puree with a little zip to it. Then, we added a little bit of sour cream and cilantro from the Good Water Farm.” We recognized the garlic flowers displayed in a vase from our own farmers market forays. Ambrose opened the flowers and let us taste the garlic seeds he was using. “They are the result of letting the scapes go to flower,” he explained. “Most farmers will harvest the scapes (the flowers) to let the energy go into the bulb of the garlic, the actual clove. But, I usually let 15 or 20% of my garlic go to flower because I like the very light garlic flavor that I get from the seeds. You can also toast them.” To like garlic is to love these.
Stone Creek Inn was represented by their Oyster Bar. “Our violet clove oysters are a little bit brinier,” our server, Martha, explained. “The Fisher Island ones are a bit sweeter.” The peach jalabeno and apple cider vinegar mignonette impressed.
We also couldn’t resist the creamy cheeses from Cavanlola’s gourmet stores in Sag Harbor, and Amagansett, a favorite, we were told, of Toni Ross. “Today we’re serving a triple creme from Burgundy,” owner Michael Cavaniola told us as he spread the divine cheese on a perfect raisin and nut cracker, “a Montenegro goat from Catalona, Spain, a Pascal from the French Pyrenees and then all the way from Australia, a marinated Feta.”
The Hayground School is an independent alternative school, committed to a program of innovation in a community of diversity, both economical and cultural. Hayground students range from 3-13 years of age. Hayground’s mission is to provide an open community school where conventional teaching methods are replaced by new ways of teaching and learning.
For more information: www.hayground.org.