March 21 – California Strawberry Day
Today’s national food holiday is a bit of a touchy subject. It’s California Strawberry Day–not plain Strawberry Day, but California Strawberry Day. It was created for the very powerful California Strawberry Commission (can I call them “Big Straw”?) to celebrate the fact that the Golden State produces almost 90% of the strawberries we see in our grocery stores, and provides a living for hundreds of strawberry farmers in the state. However, recent concerns about the pesticides approved to be used on California strawberries has made foodies question if the California strawberry should reign supreme in the produce kingdom. And we’ve all become aware in the past few years about the importance of purchasing locally grown foods and reducing the carbon footprint of produce. So, in light of all these new environmental factors, should we be celebrating California Strawberry Day in New York City at all anymore?
So, you, an environmentally-conscious New York eater, have a few choices: shrug your shoulders to the issues this national food holiday brings up and pick up a pint of California Strawberries at Trader Joe’s; postpone this holiday until June, when local strawberries start growing and you can feel socially responsible while munching away; or give in to the temptation that good strawberries possess and head to a great restaurant for strawberry-insipired dishes. Personally? Today I’m doing both option b and c. I live close enough to a farm out in New Jersey where I can pick my own wild strawberries; they may not come from California but man are they tasty! And for those who just want their strawberry fix without the environmentally irresponsible feelings coming along with them, here is a selection of dishes at fine restaurants (where I’m sure they properly vet their produce!) where strawberry meets savory, a different take on the Californis Strawberry you may not have considered before!
The reason that “Momofuku” gets its own tag on the NYC Food Days blog is because, well, it’s Momofuku. The chain of restaurants, each with it own quirky, innovative take on a classic aspect of dining, has made waves in New York City ever since their inception, and Momofuku Ma Peche is no different. Using all local, fresh ingredients (all of their seafood comes in daily from Long Island fishing boats), Ma Peche’s menu changes daily with their daily foodstock. Nothing coming out of the deep freezer here! While you’re there, check to see if the fluke is on the menu. This fish comes fresh out of local waters and is served with arugula and strawberries, and I’m sure David Chang wouldn’t compromise freshness and flavor by importing his strawberries all the way from California. The strawberries are pureed to make a wonderful sauce complementing the sashimi-grade fluke, which is served raw to really highlight the fish and its flavor.
Momofuku Ma Peche
15 W 56th St
“Like a proper steakhouse, Ma Peche serves killer shellfish, raw fish and cocktails. Homemade cola syrup gives a concentrated taste to a whiskey and coke unlike any other I’ve had in the city. The drink washes down great, plump-bellied oysters and shelled crab legs (paired with calamansi mayo). Strawberry puree gives just a hint of sweet acid to delicate fluke.”–Bloomberg
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The fluke with arugula, strawberry, and pistachio, was served as a firm sashimi that was quite tasty.”–Steph C.
“Same with a fluke dish served with pistachios and strawberries. While the additions accented the fluke, it was not enough to make it taste beyond what it was: a really good piece of Long Island fluke.”–Chief H.
If sashimi and strawberries doesn’t really catch your fancy, then why not try “sushi?” Wasan in the East Village, known for its unconventional “sushi” dishes, makes a foie gras appetizer that is served in the shape of a sushi roll. It’s complemented by an endive lettuce “wrap” instead of seaweed and a drizzle of strawberry basalmic vinaigrette instead of a spicy wasabi. It’s an inventive dish that looks and also tastes different from anything you’d expect to find in another Japanese restaurant. The bright, acidic flavor of the strawberry vinaigrette cuts the thick, fatty foie gras nicely, and it’s a fun, new, inventive way to have your strawberries for this food holiday 🙂
108 E 4th St (between 1st Ave & 2nd Ave)
“Wasan has foie gras sushi too. Nicely vinegared sushi rice and pan fried foie gras with strawberry balsamic vinegar glaze on top, all these on a bed of crispy endive. I have tried foie gras sushi here and there, but this was one of better ones.”–Chowhound.com
“This Japanese restaurant marries the culinary zeitgeists of East and West, applying Japanese techniques to locavore ingredients. Two chefs, one classically trained and the other more experimental, collaborate on the menu of sushi, sashimi, appetizers and mains, offering some unexpected dishes like shrimp tempura with tortilla and foie gras rice, in addition to standbys like eggplant with garlic sauce and shrimp tempura rolls.”–Time Out New York
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The foie gras rice was a foie gras with strawberry balsamic glaze sushi on top of a little endive leaf. It melted in my mouth and I could taste how perfect all the flavors were together.”–Marie T.
“Foie gras sushi has been done before, but the strawberry balsamic vinegar glaze on the foie gras here paired perfectly with the vinegar of the (very respectable) sushi rice, everything melting together blissfully. And a simple bedding of crisp endive gave the sinfully fatty piece of “sushi” a fine textural counterpoint.”–Lawrence C.
Finally, if light, delicate savory meals are still not your cup of strawberries for bucking convention on California Strawberry Day, how about trying some strawberry glazed ribs? Would you ever even think that would be a sentence you’d see on this blog?! But Traif in Williamsburg thrives on making unconventional pairings and dishes. It’s named, after all, for the Hebrew term for non-Kosher foods, and serves a pork-heavy menu in the heart of Hasidic Williamsburg. It’s gutsy, but it’s certainly paying off with the way the critics and patrons flock to this new restaurant. I wanted to make sure the day I highlighted this eatery would be a special one, and I don’t think you can get much more “special” than strawberry and cinnamon glazed ribs. The sweetness of the strawberry mixes well with the spicy cinnamon, and though you expect both of those flavors to play better in a pie than on a slab of meat, they play perfectly with the baby back ribs. Traif is all about being wrong but so, so right, and this dish is the perfect combination of wrong that makes a sweet marriage of flavors–as sweet as the strawberry slices atop a rack of baby back ribs.
229 S 4th St (between Havemeyer St & Roebling St), Williamsburg
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The Ribs came out last. The meat was so tender and basically faling right off the bone. Who knew Strawberry + Cinnamon + Ribs go together but they really do! What was nice too is that they gave us a little finger bowl to wash our fingers after getting down and dirty with these ribs.”–Melissa M.
“And then…the “Strawberry-Cinnamon Glazed Baby Back Ribs” Yes. I’m talking about fall-off-the-bone succulent baby-back ribs that was so flavorful, I had to hold down my friend and shove a strawberry-cinnamon explosion into his mouth. Was it worth it? You bet!”–Yosh H.