A majority of our planting and harvesting team members have returned to their homes and families in places as far flung as Vietnam, Philippines, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Russia, Hungary, Ukraine, Moldova, Mexico, Turkey, Brazil and Puerto Rico. For the first time, some will finally hold babies born during their long absences.
Working with Winter
But winter is not an end for us. It is merely another opportunity to make the most of Mother Nature’s schedule. Falling temperatures means our ice spinach is sweetening due to the crucial freeze/thaw cycle it needs to reach the peak of flavor.
Soon, beneath a warmed tunnel shielded from the wind and snow, we’ll unearth our winter crop of Oca, a Peruvian tuber with an 11-month growing cycle and one-day harvest. Young, tiny, tender farm-fresh lettuces, carrots and a meadow of edible flowers are under cover in greenhouses, while men wielding machetes harvest stalks of Brussels sprouts no matter how brutal the weather.
Listen to Your Mother
At this moment in time, Mother Nature knows intuitively that we need heartier sustenance to face the season. Trudging through slush and snow from now until spring builds an appetite for foods that warm and comfort both body and soul. And so, she has provided us with a rich and colorful array of winter vegetables you might have found in a farmhouse root cellar generations ago. Sure our root cellars today are a little more high-tech, but they provide the same thing ─ a cool dark place to store turnips, beets, potatoes and winter squash.
Traditional Winter Menus and Chef Dan Peretta’s Modern Spin
Innovation and Imagination Spark New Ideas
Chef Dan Peretta is “really excited about Matsutake mushrooms right now.”
And, even though he’s dealing with the aftermath of a flooded apartment at the moment, his enthusiasm about the winter menu at Next restaurant cuts through the noise of the high-powered blowers drying his carpet.
“Seasonally we do a major swap,” he said. “Fall is the most exciting time of big change.”
“I’m not a big fan of just swapping out one ingredient for another,” he said. “I tell my sous chefs and chef du cuisine that it’s very easy to put a dish on a menu. What’s difficult is creating an entirely new concept. It satisfies our creative needs to come up with a new dish.”
Seasonal Menu Makeover
Chef Dan has been implementing new seasonal dishes at Next since the beginning of October. He is particularly enthusiastic about a Matsutake mushroom tartare involving braised pine nuts and pickled huckleberries. “There are some Chef’s Garden mini lettuces in there, and plum sorrel and marigold, too,” he said.
He’s also currently experimenting with a way to preserve summer tomatoes by pickling them using a technique inspired by some that his friend Tony Dee served atop lamb sliders at Roots Cultivate 2018.
“I did a batch right after the event,” Chef Dan said. “Right now, I’m kind of just snacking on them, trying to see how well they hold up. The green zebras really hold up very well.”
As a tip of the cap to Chef Tony’s lamb sliders, Chef Dan said he’ll “probably do a play on braised lamb stew with pickled tomatoes.”
A modern take on a duck cassoulet is also in the works, as is a wink toward the holidays ─ a one-bite serving of roast goose and a small stuffing “tarte” that is part of a 3-bite tasting menu.
Chef Dan said he’ll feature a salad with room temperature roasted winter squash on the new menu, and will amplify the cold weather tastes and aromas from persimmons, quinces and warm spices. And, of course, those Matsutakes.
North Carolina Chef Carl Schultz Treats Locals to Culinary Winter Gifts
The horses are in their stables, but off-season customers are racing in
Horse racing season has come to an end but, at Tryon Equestrian Properties in North Carolina, business is better than ever.
The equestrian season ended the last week in October and, along with it, so did the flood of competitors and fans who attended large events. Executive Chef Carl Schultz said his culinary staff served 300,000 people from 68 nations during the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games, hosted at the club from September 11th to 23rd.
Even though the crowds have gone, Chef Carl said local diners are filling the void.
“This past Saturday we had a packed house. There were no riders or anything. It was local people choosing to come dine with us,” he said. “They don’t have to be there. They’re there by choice. This is a testament to what we do. They can see the difference and taste the difference.”
Winter Gifts on the Menu
Fair weather guests miss out on the transition to seasonal winter fare. But the locals are being treated to culinary winter gifts. Ice spinach, for instance.
“I talked to Farmer Lee back in the day and he told me about how the cold nights affect the spinach,” he said. “I definitely fell in love with that product.”
Chef Carl said his winter menu includes a Kansas City strip steak with pancetta and potatoes in purple, pink and yellow. “I cook it in cast iron. I render the pancetta, throw in the potatoes and, at the last minute, wilt the spinach on top.”
He serves the spinach whole on top of the steak, complete with stems and pink root intact. “I want to show that it’s not spinach out of a bag. It looks like it’s picked right out of the field. When else can you get that close to the earth?”
A winter squash soup of Butternut and koginut squash is a winter staple.
“We serve it all winter. I can’t get away from it,” he said. “We cut it in half and scrape out the seeds, then pour maple syrup in the hollow cavity. Then we roast it off and let the syrup soak into the squash. Its dairy free. I don’t want to cloud it with cream.”
Salt Roasted Beets are a Cure for Winter
Chef Carl said he has “been ordering beets like nobody’s business.”
Salt roasted beets are one application. “We just roast it in its jacket. We don’t peel them or anything. Then we preserve it in a salt-filled container in the refrigerator. They’ll stay preserved in that environment for months.”
Some make their way into a beet and endive salad. “You get sweetness from the beet, saltiness from the salt, and bitter endive and creamy goat cheese.”
Others might make their way into a five-gallon container of pickle brine with an eclectic mix of other vegetables. “We’re constantly dumping into that,” he said. “The longer it sits, the better. It increases the flavor.”
“One of my favorite things to pickle is those little pineapple tomatoes,” he said. “They pickle delightfully.”
During late fall Chef Carl forages for mushrooms in the Blue Ridge Parkway ─ chanterelles, lobster, oyster and turkey mushrooms ─ which he also preserves in salt to last throughout the winter. And he cures meats, such as prosciutto and country ham.
Serving seasonally, sourcing locally, partnering with The Chef’s Garden and caring enough to preserve seasonal rarities is part of what keeps Chef Carl’s customers coming back.
“It’s not about anything but making people happy,” he said. “Love is the secret ingredient. If you’re not willing to put that love back into it, people won’t come back. You guys are definitely a part of that. You’re the best in town. Nobody can dispute it.”
Hearty and Filling Winter Menu Satisfies Appetites
Chef Prepares Stick-to-Your Ribs Meals for Active Winter Guests
Winter comes early in Park City, Utah. But then, you’d expect that at an elevation of 8,150 feet.
Come September, the first snow arrives like clockwork at Stein Eriksen Lodge, nestled among the mountains of Deer Valley. As temperatures dip into the 20s, Chef Jonathon Miller said seasonal vegetables are vital to winterizing his menu.
“It always snows in September. It’s a desert mountain climate,” Chef Jonathon said. “October is the beginning of winter. Around Halloween we get a couple feet of snow. The ground is frozen and we start gearing up for winter.”
Working Up an Appetite
Stein Ericksen is a mountain getaway with a distinctly Norwegian vibe. When the snow flies, it’s a destination for downhill skiers, snowboarders, ice skaters, snowmobilers, snow-shoers and sleigh riders. With so much outdoor fresh air and exercise, Chef Jonathon said he is tasked with feeding the voracious appetites of famished guests. “You start feeling that winter feel. Physically, you feel it,” he said. “We’re right in the heart of it.”
Chef Jonathon said the natural surroundings of the lodge are an obvious draw for people pursuing a healthy lifestyle. “We have a highly active population of guests,” he said. “People are concerned about nutrition that supports the high level of physical activity. They want high calories and big protein. We want them to be able to burn energy and not feel empty. We go to more fulfilling starches and grains to make people feel warm and full.”
Fitting in Filling Food
A stick-to-your-ribs winter meal at the lodge may mean giving up warm weather favorites, but in a good way.
“We definitely switch it up from sweet corn and tomatoes and give in to heartier food,” Chef Jonathon said. “You shouldn’t have tomatoes in winter. It’s not going to be good. It’s a struggle to make a nice tomato plate. So we’ll substitute a roasted squash plate.”
Chef Jonathon said root vegetables and more substantial greens dovetail nicely into the nutrition-conscious mindset of Stein Eriksen guests.
“We’re a Norwegian facility. I always have beets on hand, and fall vegetables. It’s a big menu,” he said. “Swiss chard has a hearty texture. I’ll chop it and toss in some shallots, feature more of its stem. There are great vitamins in that stem. Maybe I’ll do a brunoise as a garnish. It’s like hitting it with fireworks. We call it chard confetti.”
Root spinach is another favorite wintertime green, he said. “It’s a nice and hearty braised green. It embodies the same transition for guests. It’s a more complex flavor for a salad.”
Fall squash is a reliable, long-lasting winter staple, as well. “Put it in a cellar or cold environment and they hold for a really long time,” he said.
Speaking of cellars, Chef Jonathon said he preserves some summer vegetables to use throughout the winter, such as chow-chow, a pickled northern European condiment featuring cabbage, cucumber, onion, peppers, turmeric and mustard.
“It’s really good on pastrami and big hearty grilled meat,” he said. “And you have a great preserve that can last forever.”
Pickled beets give him a year-round supply. “Root vegetables hold better.” And he jars tomato jams and gastriques to perk up heavier winter flavors. “It makes things have more flavor and brightness that balances the dish,” he said. Leftover greens lend themselves nicely to kimchee, and preserved berries are a Stein Eriksen staple.
“A lot of chefs do harness things this time of year,” Chef Jonathon said. “You say ‘I need to take care of this.’ We can it and then have it for the whole winter.”