That all nicely ties into what you were saying about working with creative chefs.
Farmer Ian: The whole point of all of this that we do—myself, my dad, and the guys I work with—is that we only grow for chefs. The whole point is to be creative. To introduce them to new things and new ways of doing things. As a grower, you have to be creative as well.
You can’t just throw hum-drum things at them while doing the same things year and year out. There’s always going to be some things that I do no matter what because everybody likes and wants it. But there’s also a lot of leeway to play around and grow new things and to be more creative.
It’s our job to explain to the chefs what exactly it is. That in itself causes them to figure out interesting ways to try and use that ingredient. It’s a lot of us helping each other out. If I didn’t have creative chefs, I would get really bored really fast. But because the chefs in Philadelphia are really creative, I can go out on a limb and grow something that’s kind of bizarre but still makes sense and know that there’s a lot of chefs who’ve never heard of it before but are willing to give it a shot. That’s huge.
[Sitting outside with Christina De Silva]
Tell me more about the benefits of using Green Meadow Farm
CDS: With other purveyors, I know exactly what they have. It’s the same all the time. With him, I get his email, I open it up and I look down it, there’s always new herbs, new greens, new proteins. They have a really cool variety of things. Even if it’s something completely new, the accompanying description really helps. I have to do specials Thursday through Sunday every week. Sometimes, it’s hard to think of new dishes so often. His list really helps me—having things you’ve never heard of gets you intrigued.
CDS: Chervil. There’s that. Salad burnet is now one of my favorites. It’s a really cool herb. It’s great not only for cooking but also for garnishing a plate. Another one is pineapple sage. It’s a type of sage that literally smells and tastes like pineapple. I’m a big fan of using herbs. They develop a lot of good flavor.
I had the salad with the burger. You had arugula and something funky—
CDS: Red watercress.
I really like bitter greens. You’re Italian. Did you grow up eating them?
CDS: Yeah. When I sat down to have dinner with my family, we always had a salad. All the time.
What you’re getting from Ian is only a small portion of your total ordering though, right?
CDS: Yeah. But his prices are very, very reasonable. When I started working here, I was actually very surprised by that because it’s such special products and he’s so far away [an hour]. It’s definitely a low amount compared to all the other produce I get in, but if I incorporate one or two things into my dishes, it definitely does bring them up to the next level.
Like an accent.
As with the burger. Everyone knows Farmer Ian bacon.
CDS: It’s not as cured and it’s thick cut, so you get more of this amazing flavor [they also offer bacon from 1732 Meats].
What are some other things that you use?
CDS: They also offer a lot of cheeses that they make at the farm that I’ve never heard of before, or if I had heard of it, it’s better than anybody else’s. Their Lancaster pepperjack is the best I’ve ever had. It’s actually pretty spicy compared to regular pepperjack. It’s perfect for melting. I’ve used it on my grilled cheeses before. He also offers a horseradish cheddar which is amazing. He has an amazing baby Swiss. With grilled cheese on the menu, I always have really good cheese options.
I’ve used the herbs for cooking proteins. A lot of times, I like to braise things. I’ll put herbs and spices in stock or water. Every week, we do taco Tuesday. I really like to do pork shoulder. It’s a large cut of meat. I use a lot of herbs to help make it flavorful. A brine won’t penetrate all of it, so you need the herbs. I also get a lot of bones from Green Meadow for stock.
With Silvert, I feel they’re a little more expensive even though they’re closer for things like bones. His herbs are always cheaper than Giordano. And he’s sending me stuff I can’t get elsewhere. When I first started getting chervil from him, some other places had it occasionally, but Ian always has it. I know Giordano’s never has much of the specialty stuff that he sells. That’s why he likes to sell that stuff.
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