Farm-to-table’s inroads in Nassau County.
JERICHO—Back in 1997, when Bill Holden opened Carle Place’s West End Café with Bob Caras, he got his first taste of the global food supply and the ease of unlimited selection and year-round availability. But he also saw the downside. “We were excited to get raspberries from New Zealand or asparagus from South America when they weren’t available on Long Island,” says Holden. “But you forget about the week of travel time for that food, and the freshness.”
So, when Holden opened Market Bistro in November 2011 with longtime partner Caras and Adam Acerra, a former bartender at West End Café, the team knew their supply chain would be different. “If we can get asparagus here on Long Island, then why not?” Holden asked, adding that Market Bistro is built on the union of community and food.
Though synonymous with Suffolk County’s vast expanses of arable land and its restaurants’ seasonal-driven menus for seasonal-driven inhabitants, farm-to-table on Long Island is slowly creeping west to Nassau. And Market Bistro is a pioneer within the area, offering a menu with local food and liquids proudly displayed on a blackboard above an eight-seat communal table. Greens and vegetables come from Satur Farms (the Cutchogue farm’s only drop-off in Nassau County is Market Bistro’s shopping complex, which also contains Whole Foods), Hampton Bays’ Cor-J provides fresh striped bass and scallops, and Oceanside’s Barrier Brewing Company and Centerport’s Blind Bat Brewery are often pouring at the restaurant’s eight-draft bar. Even pickles are local, from Horman’s Best Pickles in Glen Cove. If an item isn’t seasonally available, another is temporarily substituted. And customers understand.
“It’s great when our regular customers come in
every week asking when we’ll have fresh tomatoes,” says Acerra. “The seasonal approach is more natural, and people won’t get sick of things on the menu.”
While Holden is executive chef, Charles Treadwell is responsible for the kitchen’s daily operations. Holden’s son, Chris, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, helped to open the restaurant. He was a sous-chef at New York’s DB Bistro Moderne, and had spent eight months volunteering on a farm in Céret, France, in 2003, surrounded by “as much fresh stuff as one could imagine.” The stint strengthened his desire to educate on seasonality, nutritional balance and the path of food from soil to plate.
“There is still a disconnect between food and people, and the masses aren’t demanding to know where our food is coming from,” says Holden. ”We’re seeing a lot of farm-to-table in Brooklyn and in the Hamptons, but the middle of Long Island has nothing. It’s the land of Italian restaurants and steakhouses. There needs to be more balance.”
Treadwell, formerly of Bay Shore’s the Lake House, agrees. “If we’re promoting local and practicing sustainability, it’s only going to benefit the area we live in and help better the Earth. We’ll always support our farmers and fishermen and meat purveyors as best as we can.”
Holden and Treadwell started a small garden in Market Bistro’s backyard. It produces heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce varietals and herbs. But it also serves as a symbol of what’s possible—an oasis of edible landscaping and transparent food supply within suburbia.
“Even if one person sees our tomatoes growing, and then it’s right on their plate, it helps them see the connection,” says Holden. “We’re putting energy in our food on a subtle level. We want people to leave here feeling positive.” •