Ten years Gotham’s senior, the Union Square Greenmarket has been a natural part of our R&D every day since we opened our doors. For the past three years, Gotham’s commitment to the greenmarket has deepened with the emergence of the Greenmarket to Gotham program, which we launched in the summer of 2010.
Since then, we have created an all-vegetarian prix fixe every summer, changing the menu and purveyor each week. Why? Because corn is at its prime in August and September (not June), and heirloom tomatoes are at their peak precisely mid-July. Having built a kinship with local purveyors, Gotham wanted to highlight all the hard work that goes into your plate before the ingredients even get to the kitchen.
This program would not be possible without Chef Alfred Portale’s two right hands, chefs Livio Velardo and Jacinto Guadarrama, who spend hours each week developing a vibrant menu for Greenmarket to Gotham. We followed them one week to see just how they come up with these weekly new menus.
Step 1. Go to the Greenmarket.
Every Monday, the chefs walk over to the Union Square Greenmarket to survey the produce and chat with purveyors about the progression of their crops. Here, Jacinto chats with Franca Tantillo of Berried Treasures, known for her very fine tomatoes, green beans, and potatoes, not to mention the berries. The chefs choose whom to work with based on what any given farm may be bringing to market and how it might be incorporated in the Gotham menu.
Steps 2 and 3. Develop a recipe around the ingredient. And test it!
For Livio and Jacinto, the biggest challenge is creating a menu that truly reflects Gotham’s multidimensional cuisine—layers of flavor, texture, and color—while bringing a simplicity and freshness to each dish, allowing the “hero” ingredient to shine. After extensive tweaking, they present the dish to Alfred, who settles on flavor and plating.
Once Alfred approves, it’s time to teach the kitchen how to execute the dish. Jacinto often tapes and texts his plating technique to the kitchen staff for their reference. (Gotta love smartphones!)
Step 4. Develop language for the menu.
The chefs enlist General Manager Bret Csencsitz to help best describe the multifaceted dishes in just a few words.
Step 5. Serve! And start thinking about next week . . .
This year, we decided to extend Greenmarket to Gotham to take advantage of the fall harvest—beautiful squashes, sweet peppers, just-picked apples, and more. Here we share the all-vegetarian recipe for a roasted squash and sweet pepper fricassee.