The Hudson Valley is on par with the Napa Valley when it comes to the local bounty of excellent ingredients, believes Eric Gabrynowicz, executive chef at Restaurant North in Armonk, New York. And he makes the most of it, especially when produce is at its peak in summer. Growing up in the area, he developed a personal connection to the land and its farmers—a connection that works in his favor to source the best.
“I played Little League with Kevin Smith, whose parents owned Sycamore Farm and were founding members of the Union Square Greenmarket,” reports Gabrynowicz. “Now Kevin comes to Restaurant North regularly, drops off about $700 worth of produce and I feed him burgers and beer.” His coveted summer crops include fairytale eggplant, several varieties of mint and basil, beets and corn. Last fall, Gabrynowicz arranged to buy 900 pounds of squashes that Sycamore Farms waxed to preserve through the winter.
The chef also works closely with Ty Jones of Blooming Hill Farms and about seven other local farmers, “all of whom have free reign to drop off anything at the back door. Our responsibility is to support local as much as possible,” says Gabrynowicz, who also sources local goat cheese, wines, duck and more for his menu. In the off-season, he works with a produce vendor who lives in Armonk. “He updates me about what’s beautiful in the market and delivers consistent product,” Gabrynowicz explains. “I feel I’m supporting the community by working with a local purveyor.”
One of Restaurant North’s signature summer dishes is Tomato Salad with Tomato Consomme and Basil Pesto (left). July is when local tomatoes start coming in, and Gabrynowicz can’t wait to get this intensely flavorful dish on the menu. He also incorporates tomatoes into a Fairytale Eggplant dish. “I split the eggplant in half and confit them in olive oil with tomatoes,” he says. “Last year, I went through hundreds of pounds of tomatoes, and even ended up jarring 300 pounds to store over the winter,” he recalls.
“The Hudson Valley is an inspiring place to cook and eat,” Gabrynowicz reaffirms. “I thoroughly enjoy surrounding myself with passionate people in an area where my passion is understood."