It’s no secret that the food industry has a big sustainability problem. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, around 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide come from the food system (and farm animals in particular create 40 percent of methane gas emissions in the United States). There is no one cure to this very large issue, but there are a few ways people can contribute to a more eco-friendly food system—like prioritizing farm-to-table food and restaurants.
It’s not just a buzzword. Essentially, “farm-to-table” describes food and restaurants that use local (and often in-season) ingredients, whether that’s vegetables grown on a nearby farm or meat from a small area rancher. The movement has been around since the ’30s, but it’s seeing new life as more and more people are interested in eating sustainably. Experts argue that using local ingredients when they’re in season is better for the environment, since it requires less transportation (and thus creates a smaller carbon footprint). Many also argue that this is a healthier option for consumers, since produce in general retains fewer nutrients the more time there is between harvest and consumption. To make this work, chefs maintain a direct relationship with their farmers and purveyors, and often prioritize vendors who use organic and sustainable farming methods.
Speaking of organic, here’s the deal with that whole “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” thing:
Certainly, some places just use this term as a buzzword. But legit farm-to-table restaurants will back up their claims by being up-front about who and where they source their ingredients from, right down to the name and city of their suppliers. When done right, it’s an easy (and delicious) way to make your dinner out a bit better for the planet.
Want to try out this type of eating yourself? Below are seven farm-to-table restaurants to visit in New York City for yummy plates with roots in sustainable practices.
Foragers Market sells local and sustainable products and has a butcher counter with meat from sustainable and organic ranches throughout the state. They also have a sit-down restaurant called Foragers Table with a farm-to-table menu stacked with produce, herbs, and eggs sourced from their Hudson Valley farm. A cauliflower steak with sweet potato and tahini spices up any old night.
Foragers Table, 233 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10011, (212) 243-8888, https://www.foragersmarket.com
This quaint spot sits in the site of a former historic jazz club. Produce, meat, fish, wine, and spirits are sourced from small local suppliers in New York, Long Island, and Pennsylvania. Feast on roasted beets with pickled jalapeno, or braised daikon with root vegetables and quinoa.
Clay, 553 Manhattan Ave, New York, NY 10027, (212) 729-1850, https://www.claynyc.com/
Lower East Side
The Fat Radish whips up rustic, simple dishes like shaved summer squash with peas, mint and parmesan, and crispy trout with cider-mustard wild greens and avocado. Local purveyors include Migliorelli Farm, which uses sustainable practices to cultivate healthy soil, promote food safety, and preserve open space, and White Star Growers, which produces pesticide-free lettuce hydroponically at a farm run by solar energy.
The Fat Radish, 17 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002, (212) 300-4053, https://www.thefatradish.com/
You’ll find free-roaming animals, a hydroponic greenhouse, and honey bees at Blenheim Hill Farm in the Catskills. At their NYC farm-to-table restaurant, their homegrown practices come to life on a seasonal menu featuring fava bean falafel with cucumber and mint yogurt and chilled pickled farm veggies.
Blenheim Restaurant, 283 W 12th St, New York, NY 10014, (212) 243-7073, http://www.blenheimhill.com/
When it comes to farm-to-table restaurants, Blue Hill is the cream of the crop. Chef and co-owner Dan Barber is a prominent voice for ethical farming and seasonal cooking, and inspires diners to bring more intention to food choices. Tasting menus are built around the week’s harvest, largely sourced from their own Blue Hill Farm and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Tarrytown, NY. It’s a bit pricier than other options on this list (dinner starts at $95 per person for four courses), but it’s well-worth the splurge.
Blue Hill, 75 Washington Pl, New York, NY 10011, (212) 539-1776, https://www.bluehillfarm.com/dine/new-york
Helmed by a brother and sister, Lighthouse keeps farm-to-table dining accessible, casual and mission-driven. They shout out purveyors and farmers by first name on the website so you know it’s real (hi Jacob from Greenpoint Fish & Lobster!), compost with BK Rot, use reusable to-go containers, and collaborate with local eco-conscious organizations like Slow Food NYC. Opt for a simple salad centered around seasonal veggies, or shakshuka with tomato chile, soft egg, and tahini if you’re a brunch gal.
Lighthouse, 145 Borinquen Place Brooklyn NY, 11211, (347) 789-7742, http://lighthousebk.com
Prospect Heights (Brooklyn)
From grilled yellowfin tuna with roasted artichokes and sungolds to chamomile sour mocktails, the creative, seasonal menu at Olmsted can satisfy even the most skeptical of vegetable eaters. Chefs pluck fresh herbs from a backyard garden, which also holds a repurposed bathtub with crayfish and a quail coop for fresh eggs. To cut down on food waste, scraps are often incorporated into future dishes.
Olmsted, 659 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238, (718) 552-2610, http://www.olmstednyc.com/
Trust me: Eating seasonally really does matter for your health and the environment. And here’s how to make the most ethical and sustainable choices when eating meat, dairy, and eggs.