The Freshest Farm-to-Table Meal in New York City: Dinner at Edgemere Farm in Far Rockaway
“One challenge of this kind of farming,” says Matt Sheehan, “You’re growing different plants that go real quick. For instance, different types of lettuce come and are really nice for three weeks and then they’re gone. Sometimes you can sell it all and sometimes you can’t.”
“We’re growing on about 8,000 sq. feet at the moment and this year we really bumped up our variety,” says Matt Sheehan. “We’re trying things like okra, broccoli, cabbage and a lot of different potatoes for the first time, some of which are requests from restaurants, but a lot of the suggestions come from our neighbors.”
“Having these ingredients prepared and served right where they were grown is something that some people may overlook, but the coolness factor of that is not lost on me,” says Grindhaus chef, Kevin Speltz. “You’re a lucky chef if you get the opportunity to break bread with your farm.”
As guests trickled in and enjoyed a beer or glass of wine amongst the crops, the sense of place was inescapable. “The bounty of what they’re able to produce with such a small space is such a testament to the passion and talent of the people here,” says Grindhaus owner Erin Norris.
Each dinner features a different chef and caters to about 50 guests. At the Hooked On Edgemere Farm dinner, guests shared five communal courses, including this farm salad with local leaves, corn, poblano and green beans in dill buttermilk dressing.
Chef Speltz attributes the menu’s inspiration to the great produce from the farm, like the shishito peppers and baby turnips, which he says really influenced the roasted farm veg, and new herbs like opal basil that really amplified the flavors on the rib plate.
Speltz also used the farm dinner as an opportunity to let out a bit of his, “rustic, carbon covered, heavy handed side,” as can be seen in the night’s meat course: Haus-smoked baby back ribs with fish sauce, palm sugar, jasmine rice and Edgemere farm herb salad.
One of the highlights of the evening’s dinner: Cool pasta made with squid ink shells, Haus-smoked Long Island striped bass, grain mustard and fronds and tomatoes straight from the farm.
The perfect mash up of Edgemere Farm and Grindhaus’ flavors and one of the most popular dishes from the event: Farm vegetables with hard roasted root, topped with crème fraiche and fennel.
Black and red raspberries are at their peak at the height of summer. For baker and pastry chef Jessie Sheehan that means using them in her mixed berry slab pie. “I think about what to bake based on what Edgemere has, as opposed to what I am craving, but often—like it has with the raspberries—those two things magically match up.”
A former lawyer-turned baker, Sheehan has been making slab pies, like the mixed berry version she made at the farm, for years. “I love their rustic good looks and the fact there are often leftovers, not to mention that the crust to filling ratio cannot be beat.”
“I am a sucker for a berry pie,” she adds. “One of my most beloved food memories is eating Pepperidge Farm raspberry turnovers as a child.”
“It’s really inspiring to be able to set up a kitchen here for a night at a place like this,” says Grindhaus’ Norris. “Almost everything we’re cooking with was grown here and to be able to build a meal around that while you’re sitting amongst the crops is so great.”
As dusk settles in, crickets and fireflies fill the buzzing void left by the now dormant honeybees and for everyone in attendance, they forget for a moment that they’re still within the New York City limits. For anyone who visits the farm, their journey out to the Rockaways is likely to mirror Matt Sheehan’s own. “Finding this location in the Rockaways,” he says, "really was just sort of serendipitous.”