In this series, we take a trip to the farmers market with chefs across the Eater universe to find out what's in season, why they choose what they do, and how they plan to transform the goods into their best dishes. The series is sponsored by Naked® Juice, makers of delicious, all-natural juices.[Photos Courtesy of Angelica Galan]
Eating House is all about the traditional and getting back to basics. At the pop up turned permanent and highly coveted restaurant, locally grown, seasonal vegetables dictate the dishes and not the other way around. That means if beets are in, you'll definitely find a dish entirely designed around them, and per chef/owner Giorgio Rapicavoli's liking, used them in new and creative ways.
Eater tagged along with Rapicavoli, for whom local means three blocks away (in his restaurant's own backyard), to the weekend Coral Gables Farmers Market, where he shared his passion for locally sourced ingredients and small-scale farming.
Why is shopping locally important at the Eating House? It's really important to us to get closer to the people that supply us with what we use. It's also nice to learn some people's names and learn the story behind all of it. You can get a giant case of tomatoes from anybody, but it makes a difference when you know the people that are growing it and you know where they're growing it and how it's grown and that they care about it. Local tastes better, and you know it could all be psychosomatic in your head, thinking that it tastes better just because you see where its coming from, but at the end of the day it does make a difference.
What's really nice about coming to the farmers market is that it's where a lot of these dishes get created. Sometimes we'll see the way they arrange the produce and we try to think about maybe putting a dish together from them.
You are a part of the Slow Food movement. How does that affect what you use and how you use it? The Slow Food movement started off in Italy back in '84 and it just grew. My family's worked for Slow Food their entire life. It started in the town that I'm from in Italy, so it feels very close to my heart. We've always had that mentality of good, clean and fair food. It's kind of like an oxymoron because then we serve Cap'n Crunch pancakes for lunch, but you know, you give and take a little bit and you do what you can to make sure it's being done right and it's being treated well. Coming here to the market and really using small farms and making sure we're using meats that are grass fed and can roam free and they're happy animals is really important to us at the restaurant. What's really cool is that we change the menu every other day or every day so it's not necessarily that we figure out a dish and then source all the ingredients. It kind of works the other way around.
What makes this farmers market and what they do special? I think it's special because at the end of the day it benefits the city that we're in. It's OUR farmers market in the Gables. Coral Gables is very generous to us. I think they like us. A lot of the markets have the same produce; it's the same farms that go around to all different ones. But there's a great guy that sells awesome salts here, which I really like. It's our hood and I think it's good to represent and support.
What are you getting today? I don't really know yet. I like these gardenias. We'd like to make our own liqueur with it to the likes of St. Germaine. Maybe not necessarily a liqueur, but flavor our spirits with gardenias. What I like to do is just kind of walk around first and see what they have to offer and kind of focus on the spots that I really like.
What are you going to use these radishes for? We're going to use the radishes to finish the duck dish. Grilled duck with puree of charred cauliflower, burnt broccoli and then we garnish it with cucumber and radish, just sliced fresh and dipped in sweetened rice vinegar. We'll just slice the radishes super thin on our meat slicer. We have one of those really nice deli meat slicers that we don't even cut meat on, we just cut vegetables, oddly enough.
And the sweet potatoes? Scallops. We'll roast these, puree them with brown butter at the base of the dish and then we'll use these little mini organic yams, which we'll grill and will go with the dish. We'll serve it with a puree of roasted nectarines and some raw nectarines to finish.
What are you getting next? I was going to check out some of the plant shops. See if we can get anything for the garden in the back. It's cool to get some nice, beautiful new plans. We like having lots of foliage to put on the dishes.
What will you use the beets in? These will end up in a pudding of elderflower, a frozen yogurt of Japanese mandarin and grapefruit. I'll get some citrus too. We could use this for our new aperitif program. We got a whole bunch of different aperitifs and we make a couple of different drinks with it, so we'll get some nice Florida citrus to go with it, which will be really tasty. Citrus grows really well in this state, so no point really of outsourcing when you can just have lemons from around here. These garlic chives too. These garlic chives will be inside of our tartare, which will be in a garlic sauce. We do a puree of roasted and pickled garlic, paired with sherry vinegar, powdered olive oil and a whole bunch of delicious flavors, so it'll be really nice.
How long will everything last that you're getting today? It'll be gone by tonight. What's nice about the market is sometimes we'll do dishes as specials and just run a limited amount. Say we have ten portions of a dish, we'll just sell what we were able to buy.
How often do you visit the farmers market? I try to make it to this one every weekend. What's nice about companies like Seriously Organic is that instead of us having to go to the farmers market, they can bring it to us. A lot of the major companies are also starting to get more in tune with getting local vegetables and produce.
For the rest of the time where do you get produce from? Sometimes we hit up Whole Foods. A lot of the stuff we grow too; all our herbs, all our plants. We're starting to get our tomatoes now so we can stop buying tomatoes. We saved tomatoes from Tina's Pride down in Homestead and started growing them. And then Seriously Organic really makes it easy to connect with the farmers. We'll get bread from Acme and tomatoes and eggs and the Winterpark Dairy. That's where we get our stuff during the week. Weekends we'll come here and do our farmers market specials.
Do you see a lot of people and chefs you know when you go shopping here? I see a lot of restaurant patrons here. And it's cool when they see you here because they know you're actually doing what you say you do. It's validation for them. It's also cool for them to see and realize that what they're getting at home is what we're getting at the restaurant.