September is the great confluence of summer and fall ingredients to savor from the garden, farmers market and farm stand. Tomatoes are abundant, hot peppers zing, garlic is well cured, squash, melons, greens, sweet corn, potatoes and dry beans are amongst the late summer bounty. It’s all happening in the garden and fields.
It was all happening when I encountered Mark Firth and Stephen Browning hard at work, paint rollers in hand, at the Bell & Anchor, in Great Barrington, Massachussets — Mark’s newest venture as a restaurateur.
Mark had established a solid reputation with Partner Andrew Tarlon at several food establishments in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York: including Diner, Marlow and Sons, and Marlow and Daughters, a butcher and grocery shop. Their restaurants were well respected for unpretentious locally based eclectic menus, with dynamic selections, and constantly evolving offerings based on seasonal and daily ingredients and great atmosphere.
Mark wanted to move himself and his family closer to the source of food, away from the city life and to start a farm. With the help of a local farmer, he found an ideal location in the Berkshires. His newest venture promises to be a true farm-to-table restaurant replete with simply made cherry tables from two trees near his garden site.
He teamed up with Stephen Browning, “the other half of the brain,” who had been sous chef at Marlow and Sons. Stephen started cooking at the age of 11, worked in New Jersey delis as a teenager, and then trained at the Culinary Institute. As a chef he began in New York landmarks such as Lutece and Bayard’s. At Marlow and Sons the formula was straight forward: “Create a few good dishes to build around, keep it simple, keep it seasonal …”
That guiding wisdom will be applied at Bell & Anchor. According to Browning, the plan is to “Use ingredients that come in the door together. Tweak classic dishes to be seasonal. There’s not just one approach and one right way …”
Firth and Browning agree that the dining should be ingredient-driven, based on what is available on the farm, not from the food purveyor’s truck. They like using heirloom anything and assured me they will “serve a decent-sized plate.”
Chef-generated recipes are often as much cooking guide as a precise recipe. The assumption they often make is that you have an ability to cook, are able to make judgments about quantities, and can improvise as required.
In the following recipes from Stephen Browning, you’ll see that not every ingredient has an exact measurement and thus proportions will vary depending on the size of your vegetables and your individual taste. The emphasis here is on simplicity and the combination of good local seasonal ingredients. You really can’t go wrong.
• Crostini with Marinated ‘Delicata’ Squash, Grilled Radicchio, and Ricotta Recipe
• Late Summer Succotash and Confit Heirloom Tomato Recipe
• Spaetzle Recipe
• Warm Autumn Vegetable Salad with Sage Lime Citronette Recipe
Lawrence Davis-Hollander is an ethnobotanist, founder and former director of the Eastern Native Seed Conservancy, and long-time heirloom gardener.