Farm to Chelsea

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Chelsea Piers has everything. Ice rinks, golf driving ranges, and now Chelsea’s Table restaurant, the latest venture by my friend and eco-leader Gary Hirshberg.

The restaurant, in the river corner of the building at Pier 62, looks like a nice casual café at first glance. And while it certainly is that, what goes on the plates makes this place special.

Breakfast through late night snack, Executive Chef David David Siegal’s menu, emphasizing locally-sourced ingredients, will please any palate. Eggs from a fourth-generation upstate family farm, all-natural deli provisions from Applegate, hormone-free cheeses from Vermont Creamery, chicken from Pella Farms in Bethel, NY and young lettuces and herbs from North Fork Long Island farms are just some of the locally-sourced ingredients taking center plate.

(from The Sacramento Bee)

Gary and his team are doing all this sourcing with one goal in mind – make great food because, as Gary is fond of saying, “we can’t guilt you into eating organic, we need to make it taste good.”

Last night the HandPicked Nation crew: Staci Strauss, Craig McCord, Katey Parker and I (Tomiko was previously engaged) had the chance to go to the opening of the restaurant and also enjoy the catering side of the café at the Sunset Terrace on Pier 61. (We got there by dodging many a young hockey player coming off of the two rinks, I might add.)

Chelsea’s Table, the restaurant, is in a great spot with the stories of the local suppliers posted where you order so you know, for example, that your meat is coming from the above mentioned Applegate Farms. (The HPN crew enjoyed chatting with Steve from Applegate Farms and Adrian Grenier of “Entourage” and

The tables are reclaimed wood rubbed almost free of original paint, but not completely. There’s an organic dairy café from Stonyfield, complete with (I am told) frozen yogurt for the summer.

The catering program that Gary has worked out with Amerivents showcases why I think Gary is so smart about how he is approaching trying to change how we eat, and how we vote with our dining dollars. Instead of trying to create an entirely new catering outfit from scratch, Chelsea’s Table is partnering with Amerivents and already this past year, when the restaurant was just being planned, they served 15,000 people at the US Open Tennis Tournament.

Standing with Gary and chatting, you are struck by his absolute belief in the mission, his passionate support of those on the journey with him and just the strength of his decency.

You also realize that he knows time is short and I am sure he wakes up every day thinking, “this is good, we need to do more.” This sense of a clock ticking is, I am sure, what pushed Gary and his team to build the restaurant in just 12 weeks.

We were chatting about the warm weather and Gary asked if we knew where the center of maple syrup production was in 1945. “Pennsylvania, and soon it will be Quebec.”

It was a sobering thought on a beautiful night, but somehow standing next to Gary, you think maybe it won’t quite get all the way there if he has anything to do with it.

And he will.

What’s your favorite farm-to-table restaurant? Tell us in the comments!

Photo credit: Staci Strauss