Monday, November 3, 2008

Old McDonald

As a resident of lower Manhattan, I am, sadly, quite familiar with the South Street Seaport.  For those who have not had the pleasure, the Seaport is a historic district that, until a few years ago, was home to the Fulton Fish Market.  In fact, my grandma tells me that my great great grandfather, who was a fishmonger in Jersey City way back when, used to bring a fish cart (I'm actually not sure if there is such a thing, but let's use our imagination here) over each day to buy his store's stock for the day.

The Fish Market was relocated to the Bronx in 2005, an event that has been a bit of a boon to the area.  The Gap no longer smells like old fish, and I do not trip over abandoned branzino on my way to early morning dentist appointments (this has actually happened to's a distinctly depressing way to start your day).  Cobblestone streets have been restored, merchants are coming in, and some fairly decent restaurants have actually taken up residence in the area.  The one remaining blight in the area is the collection of middle market retailers in the horrendously ugly mall on Pier 17.  The owner of this bastion of mediocrity, General Growth Properties, thankfully wants to upgrade the place and from what I understand, wants to turn it into some sort of a market.  So to this end, one weekend this past June, GGP hosted a sort of farmer's market next to Pier 17, just under the FDR.

I thought the event was a massive success.  Sullivan Street Bakery, which bakes what I consider to be the best bread in New York (the lemon confit and olive bread will change your life) was there, Saxelby Cheesemonger and the chef of Peasant both attended, along with various produce purveyors and, I'm told, even some representatives of Marks & Spencer were there to show support on behalf of London's Borough Market.  But the highlight of the day for me was easily my introduction to St. Brigid's Farm.  

I was having a bit of a domestic moment at the time, and was sort of obsessed by the idea of making various kinds of stocks and freezing them for later use.  I think I had just read this book and was inspired by Colin Cowie's absurdly organized and well-stocked kitchen.  Anyway, I was on the lookout for soup bones, and came across this lovely stand... by this lovely man.

Given all of the gorgeous roasts and unusual organ meats they had for sale, I think they were a bit taken aback that I wanted something as pedestrian as bones, but they were happy to comply.

When I got home I was pleasantly surprise at how much they had given me for my piddling $5.  I had an entire veal femur and loads of neck bones, both with a generous amount of meat still attached.  I don't have a pot big enough to accommodate a whole femur so the knobby end ended up sticking out of the simmering was very Fred Flintstone.  Or Hannibal Lecter, depending on your point of view I suppose.  And yes, I'm aware that the bone should have been cracked to as to get the benefit of the marrow flavor, but I really do cut the line at sawing away on a leg bone on my kitchen floor.  

Despite the uncracked bone, the stock was deeply flavorful, so much so in fact, that I felt compelled to email Robert Fry, one of the proprietors of this wonderful farm, to tell them exactly how much I loved their product.

We struck up a bit of an email conversation, he assumed from my email address that I lived in Philadelphia, so invited me down to Maryland to visit the farm, I expressed my regrets that I had moved to New York, etc.  Anyway, now I'm on his email list so I am the happy recipient of his occasional blog posts  about the farm.

I've always had a secret desire to go work on a farm (for like a week, not long term) and make artisanal cheese or something.  I don't see this happening anytime soon, so in the meantime Mr. Fry's seasonal updates about the fields, the cows and the weather will have to sate this want of mine.

A bucolic field during autumn grazing:

The happy cows in said bucolic field:

Said happy cows grazing:

I love that my fantasy that I'm eating blissfully happy animals has born out!  Unfortunately St. Brigid's doesn't have any retail outlets in New York (they sell mostly to restaurants in the area instead), but once my stash of stock begins to dwindle I fully intend to order some bones by mail. 

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