If you've ever visited the Union Square Greenmarket in search of ramps, chances are you've ended up at Rick Bishop's Mountain Sweet Berry Farm stand at one time or another. Rick's the guy with the sign board featuring assorted ramp recipes and the names of his more well known restaurant customers.
In small letters off to one side is the name Blue Hill, home to chef and co-owner Dan Barber, who is not only one of Rick's best customers, he's also one of his biggest supporters. Barber, who took home this year's James Beard Foundation Outstanding Chef award, wrote about Bishop and his science-oriented farming practices in the July 2007 issue of Food&Wine magazine. In the article Barber made note of Bishop's use of a refractometer, a tool used to measure the sugar content of fruits and vegetables, to gauge the optimal time to harvest his crop for the best possible taste.
Barber was making the point that while many people know about chefs who use science and technology to manipulate food, most people aren't aware that local farmers are also using technology to deliver fine-tuned meats and produce. Want a carrot with a Brix reading of 12? All a chef needs to do is let Rick know. It may require waiting an extra week or two, but the chef is guaranteed to get the exact flavor profile she's looking for.
Although Mountain Sweet Berry Farm may be best known to the public for their wild ramps, it's the quality of their regular harvest, improved by their close work with ingredient-obsessed chefs like Barber, that make their stand a required stop for every regular greenmarket shopper.
In the video below Bishop describes Mountain Sweet Berry's focus on Italian and French specialty fruits and vegetables and Barber's technique for prying his best products out of him.
[Watch this video on YouTube]
Note: This video is a part of a series of videos produced for Blue Hill by Savory Cities. You can view our previous Previous Meet Your Purveyors posts for Cherry Lane Farms and Herondale Farm or view the entire serious on the Blue Hill website.
Photo by Eating In Translation