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The Constant Gardener

Chef Brian Bistrong gardens on his days off because it relaxes him—and because it gives him great raw materials for his menu at The Harrison.

"Gardening is therapeutic for me," says Brian Bistrong, chef at The Harrison in New York City's Tribeca. "It relaxes me and it's exercise at the same time." On his days off, he can be found at his 18th-century country house in East Haddam, Connecticut, among rows of heirloom lettuces, fava beans, collard greens, fingerling potatoes and other vegetables that often end up in dishes at The Harrison, like sunchoke and arugula salad with Parmesan or corn and tomato salad with shrimp and watercress. Bistrong plants the tomatoes but buys the cress—for now. "I'm tempted to grow some on the banks of the brooks in our backyard," he says. "There's nothing like fresh watercress."

Brian Bistrong's Healthy Attitude

On exercise "When I get home from work, I run. It's about midnight, but nobody's out and it's safe. We live in a great neighborhood in Brooklyn."

On grilling "We cook a lot on our Weber, especially soy-and-ginger-marinated hamachi kama (yellowtail collar). My wife is Korean, so we'll have a bunch of different kimchees with it."

On butter and cream "When I worked at Bouley, I learned that you don't really need butter or cream to make sauces or cook vegetables. You can use vegetable purees as thickeners."

On skin care "The kitchen can be such a greasy place, so I get facials. I'm a member at Toto Beauty in Chinatown. I go there about once a month" (202 Hester St.; 212-226-8288).

Bistrong's Favorite Gardening Gear

Grubbing gloves "For heavy-duty jobs I wear sturdy West County Gardener waterproof gloves" ($32; westcountygardener.com).

Stout boots "I don't wear special gardening shoes, but I practically live in my Blundstone boots" ($140 for TPU series; blundstoneusa.com).

Sunscreen "I rub on lots of Kiehl's SPF 25 lotion" ($18 for 2.5 oz; kiehls.com).

Bug repellent "I use Burt's Bees Herbal Insect Repellent. On me, not on the garden" ($8 for 4 oz; burtsbees.com).

Hand cleanser "I like Caldrea Lavender Pine Hand Soap. We use it at home in Brooklyn, too" ($10 for 16 oz at Broadway Panhandler; 866-266-5927 or broadwaypanhandler.com).

Published May 2006
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