Tagging Along – Chef John at the Greenmarket

tumblr_lbxyx176YC1qap52bBefore Chef John Adler of Franny’s rocked our world with a delicious Pumpkin Crostini on HiB: Pumpkin, he invited us to join him on his tri-weekly trip to the Union Square Greenmarket, where he procures all the fresh and local produce for the restaurant.  Perhaps he was excited to teach an eager pupil about the ins and outs of the Greenmarket, or maybe he needed a couple extra hands to help him carry his loaded bags back to his stash pile (I’m a lousy choice for such manual labor).  Either way, I jumped at the chance, excited to see what it means to be a part of a restaurant and a movement that’s changing the way we eat, one customer at a time.

I’m not necessarily a morning person, so when John asked me to be at the market by 8 am, I thought the place would be empty. Instead, there was a very real and different energy: it was full of chefs at every stand, picking up their pre-orders and filling their bags with produce they may have missed.  John had been there since 7:30, stocking up on the good stuff before us common folk arrive. Early bird gets the worm.

Above, John picks out some beautiful squash at Paffenroth Gardens.

Ever wondered how to tell if you’re getting a fresh butternut squash?  John says to feel where the stem is cut from the squash.  If it’s moist, you’ve got a just-picked squash on your hands.

After picking up some romanesco cauliflower and broccoli, John enjoys a nutritious breakfast in the form of greens.

Next, we head over to Berried Treasure Farm where John and some chef friends bartered over beans.  They were all interested in these dried cranberry beans here – which John was able to secure for himself.  I was delighted to try the Tomato and Cranberry Bean soup at Franny’s not-to-soon after.

So what do you do when you have a heavy sack full of beans that need to be shelled by hand? Call in the prep cooks, of course. But no prep cook would be happy about the size of this bag.  To bribe the prep cooks, or at least just sweeten the deal,  John looked for Union Square’s best kept secret: the Wednesday morning tamal lady, who discreetly sells her homemade tamales out of a push cart.  These were the real deal.

It was almost 9 am, the chef rush was dying down and John had all of his bags piled in his not-so-secret hiding place under a truck near 15th St.  I was very curious about how he was going to get all of this back to Franny’s, until he stepped into Union Square West and hailed himself a cab.

We both loaded all his goodies into the trunk BEFORE he got in to proclaim a cab driver’s least favorite phrase:  ”I’m headed to Brooklyn.”  There’s no turning back once your trunk is filled with a few hundred pounds of fresh produce.

Here Chef John makes room for his flat of chestnuts, which I enjoyed later that week on a trip to Franny’s in the form of a crostini.

To see more photos of our Greenmarket shopping trip, check out the next post!