Feeding the hunger for greener, purer and more authentic products – the 21st century trendsetters, each bringing a distinct sensibility to an evolving marketplace.
Truth in Truffles
The only producer of 100 percent USDA-certified organic truffle products in the country, Rosario Safina advocates tirelessly for the exotic subterranean mushroom. While fresh truffles may seem like an unaffordable luxury, Safina has developed a line of truffle oils and butters surprisingly accessible to restaurants up and down the food chain. He insists, however, on using real truffles sourced from Italy’s Umbrian Valley. His latest, a line of single-serve packaged truffle-infused oils, honey and mayonnaise, is “a game changer…the first time truffle products will be offered in such quantities en masse,” he says.
The appeal? Authenticity. The synthetic chemical compound used to develop most products cannot compare to the nuanced flavor profile of real truffles, contends Safina.
“Diners may not have ever tasted a truffle, but chefs certainly appreciate the full flavor of these products,” he continues. Only a small amount is required to suffuse recipes with the unmistakable truffle taste. And should you doubt its drawing power, consider that it’s gracing menus from small specialty fry places to Nobu restaurants worldwide. www.darosario.com
“Diners may have never even tasted a real truffle, but chefs certainly appreciate the full flavor of these products…” – Rosario Safina, daRosario Organics
What a difference a few years makes. For Gotham Greens, it’s meant phenomenal growth, from niche specialty producer to multi-regional supplier to customers such as Chicago’s Gibsons Restaurant Group and fast-casual chain Tender Greens. Co-founder/CEO Viraj Puri is justifiably proud of establishing the country’s first commercial scale urban greenhouse in 2011.
“We are seeing significantly increased demand as operators recognize the reliability, consistency and premium quality of crops grown under protected cover. For a chef, this can equate to freshness, better shelf life, less food waste and a better tasting product,” he says.
Pesticide-free and ecologically sustainable describe the company’s top sellers, including Butterhead lettuce, sweet basil and pesto. Everything is fresh from a morning harvest that ensures produce goes from farm to fork in hours.
“Microgreens are the type of high-quality ingredients key to top chefs who are looking to create amazing dishes.” – Brendan Davison, Good Water Farms
At Good Water Farms’ 32 organically cultivated acres in New York, founder Brendan Davison nurtures dozens of microgreens to their fullest potential. “Human touch is the secret ingredient,” he says, sounding like the shamanic healer he was previously. In fact, the healing power of microgreens, containing many times more nutritional value than mature greens, was the impetus for Good Water.
Biodynamic farming, based on a philosophy that treats the farm as a living, breathing organism, represents the future, believes Davison. “The only way we’re going to heal the planet and the people inhabiting it is to return to farming as it was done thousands of years ago.”
For operators, the vibrant color and enormous flavor punch contained in each tiny leaf of a microgreen is hard to overstate. “In a side-by-side comparison, microgreens will win 10 out of 10 times,” he predicts.
A Vertical Slant
Founder of the first indoor vertical farm in the Midwest, Milan Kluko is heading into his seventh year tending the 1,715 growing stations in New Buffalo, Mich. Demand has steadily ramped up for his products, including arugula, tomatoes and leaf-only basil.
“Most produce coming to Chicago from the West Coast is already a week old upon arrival. We offer a fresh product that’s cut and delivered within six hours,” he says. “You can taste that difference.”
Kluko continues to look for ways to reduce what he calls his “foodprint.” As he’s asserted since the beginning, “the vertical farm to table concept is the right approach at the right time.” www.greenspiritfarms.com.