Brion: Anything else that you dropped off that you want to call out?
Alan [to Dan]: What else did I drop off? [laughs] The parsley, the celery…
Dan: Earlier in the season we were getting a lot of onions. The cipollinis were really nice. We were doing these little gratins with those in little cast iron pans. Simple stuff—the arugula is just a game changer for someone like us. It’s real arugula. It tastes great. It looks great but we literally have people who ask us what is this on the arugula pie because they’re so used to the mass produced stuff which we have to get sometimes due to delivery days or maybe we’re busy and we run out of the really good stuff. No, that’s actually just field arugula and that’s what arugula tastes like. It may look a little different than the perfect leaves you’ll see in the bagged stuff. It really just changes the whole pie drastically.
Brion: It’s a robust spiciness.
Dan: Yeah, nice and peppery. [To Allen] We were getting two from you. We were getting your larger stuff at first. Now, it’s more the wild—a baby arugula perhaps.
Alan: Yeah, he [Dave] had two varieties. One was the regular arugula and one was the wild. He also has multiple beds planted. If you wanted smaller greens, he might be harvesting from a newer bed.
Dan: I see. We were using that for awhile. The pie was beautiful. It looked different than our typical arugula pie. Fatter, longer leaves and just so refreshing.
Brion: What’s going on with that pie?
Dan: It’s just the classic tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella. Baked, we finish it with Z Food Farm arugula and some parm. It’s a classic Neopolitan pie—definitely one of the best on our menu. The buffalo that we use is good so that combination with the good tomatoes and the really tasty arugula—it’s hard to beat.
Brian Baglin [Nomad Pizzaiola]: A customer didn’t believe that I hadn’t put black pepper on it. I was like, I swear.
Dan: Good arugula like that, it’s fun to just do a simple cheese pie and no sauce and just put arugula and lemon on top. Just simplicity, you know? That’s what I like. I’m not like a Scott Anderson. [laughs]Which is fine. I’m not trying to be. But using someone like Z Food Farms is really cool. It’s all the product.
Brion: You guys are obviously not skimping on the quality of the cheese, so why do it elsewhere.
Dan: That’s what these guys have been trying to do for awhile, being from the Hopewell area with so many farms close by.
Alan: Stalin has always tried to use local as much as possible. When they opened the Hopewell store [in ‘06] I believe it corresponded to when David was at Gravity Hill Farm and they were using them.
Dan: It’s def the coolest place I’ve worked at. The most restaurant-to-farmer interaction that I’ve seen.
Brion: What about the exchange that you guys have? Do you bounce ideas off of each other?
Dan: I’m a little biased because I’m from Lawrenceville and I know these guys for a second and it just happens to be that they’re really good at what they do.
Alan: If restaurants have a specific request, I guess we’ll sell it elsewhere, so David will invariably say yes. For Scott Anderson [of Elements in Princeton], he started growing something called celtuce or Chinese stem lettuce. It’s grown for the stalks which are like a Chinese water chestnut. The greens are kinda bitter like a dandelion green, so you can sauté them and take some of the bite out. We started growing something called ficoide glaciale, aka ice lettuce which is a low lying plant with these greens that are somewhat succulent with what looks to be little ice crystals on them. It has a mild lemon, mild salty flavor to them. You can toss them with some vinegarette as a side dish or add them to a salad. Those are special requests that Scott had. Each winter, David gets together with Scott and Mike at Elements, along with whichever other restaurants we work with. It’s, you have had a hard time getting a few things on a regular basis and we can start growing them for you. And some of it starts selling at the market. The ficoide took off slowly but there were some people—it’s a spring and fall crop—coming up to us, when’s the ficoide coming back.
Brion: Anything like that with Nomad.
Alan: This is the first year so I’m guessing David will get together with Dan soon.
Dan: It’s more go with the flow. See what they have. We typically go for the simple stuff, but any of the weird peppers, turnips, or radishes we’ll check out.
Alan: David will send out an email Tuesday with what we have available and restaurants will reply with their requests by Wednesday night.
Brion: Dan, how are you going to be using the stuff that you got today.
Dan: The beets are for a classic nomad salad for 7th St. We’ve been doing variations of it since we opened. It’s called The Roasted Root salad. Roasted beets. I’ve been throwing some celeriac in there, whatever we can find.
Alan: That might be coming soon, by the way.
Dan: Just whatever I can think of at the spur of the moment. I have this book called The Food Bible which is nice because it helps with flavor profiles. I really dig pickling stuff. The citrusy flavor of those peppers without all the heat is really awesome. The watermelon radish we’ll figure out something to do with them. We were previously using French breakfast radish as a garnish. Fennel we’ll throw on a pie, maybe with some gruyere or something like that. Last fall, we were doing something called The Fen Dog, which is a play on Chem Dog—we like to name our pies after cannabis. It’s a fun thing we do here. It’s 2015, times are changing. For the better, thank God. I love Nomad, so I give them credit. We get some really nice cheeses here, so that in combination with like a nice baby fennel or anything else from Z Food Farm turns out really well. I really like the beets we’ve been getting so the Roasted Root turns out well.
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