local—and fresh: Beekman Street Bistro’s Tim Meaney.
Farmers and the Chef
market with the Beekman Street Bistro’s Tim Meaney, on the
trail of tonight’s menu ingredients
market aficionados know that the best food goes fast. Diligent
shoppers arrive before the bell rings to survey the offerings.
Once the selling officially starts, they know what they want
to buy, and where they want to buy it.
Chef Tim Meaney tries to get to the Saratoga Farmers’ Market
early, but the late nights of restaurant life don’t mix well
with mornings. Still, the owner of the Beekman Street Bistro
is at the market Wednesdays and Saturdays year-round, stocking
Meaney starts at New Minglewood Farms, where he has a standing
order for mesclun mix, and asks about arugula and turnips.
three pounds too much?” the farmer asks, holding a sizeable
amount of small greens.
I’ll use it,” Meaney says. He writes a check for the vegetables
and carries them to his next stop, Saratoga Apple. He buys
a gallon of cider, and two pints of raspberries, and easily
balances his load on the way to the car. Although it is warm,
he doesn’t use a cooler; his goal is to get in and out of
the market, and back to the restaurant. This goal is frequently
sixty-six years old and I tell you that fish stew you made
me the other night was as good as any I’ve ever had, anywhere,”
a man says. His expression shows that this praise is an understatement,
and Meaney, a Massachusetts native with a gift for understatement
himself, takes this praise with a little smile.
Spanish version of Bouillabaisse,” Meaney explains, closing
the trunk of his car.
meal last night,” a customer says as Meaney makes his way
back to the market.
you get to the show on time?” the chef asks.
Madame Butterfly, it was great,” the diner continues,
and the shoppers part.
see what Anna Mae has,” Meaney says, referring to a woman
who is known for her jam. He buys two quarts of blueberries,
a few pounds of tomatoes and a flat of tall basil starts,
for the raised beds he made last fall. Arms full, he heads
back to the car, unloads and returns to the market, pays for
eight dozen eggs and leaves them at the vendor, and moves
on to Denison Farms.
that the last of the golden beets?” he asks a woman who works
at the stand. She says yes, and he says, “Gone.”
Meaney steps behind the tables to get out of the way of other
customers. He fills a bag with radishes, peels fennel bulbs
from a pile, untangling their fronds from others in the crate.
Kim fills a bag with Fairy Tale eggplant for him. Meaney will
use the mini eggplants, which are so pretty they do look like
they come from a fairy tale, as side dishes to meat entrees,
or the centerpiece of a vegetarian plate, stuffed with ricotta
This scene repeats itself at the Kilpatrick Farms, another
large stall. The chef stocks up on new potatoes, squash blossoms,
carrots, sweet salad onions, and more tomatoes. He checks
his list, and gets one more item, shell peas, from another
vendor who advertises them as the season’s last. The peas
will go into a pasta dish with pancetta, mint and cream that
will disappear from the menu once this batch of peas is history.
The pancetta is available more regularly, but Meaney goes
to the trouble of making it himself, from pig bellies he buys
from Flying Pigs Farm in Shushan. Flying Pigs’ Tamworth and
Black breeds are heritage animals notorious for their high
fat content; the breeds fell out of favor for commercial production
when lard did.
Meaney rubs the pork bellies with salt and seasonings, and
sets this homemade bacon to cure in the refrigerator for two
weeks. The salt effectively cooks the meat, and the process
must take place when it is not humid. Once completed, he cuts
the pancetta into small squares and wraps them for freezing.
The chef makes other ingredients, too. When Sungold tomatoes
are in, he buys them for salads and buys the seconds, too,
which he slices in half and dehydrates to use throughout the
year. Same with Romas, some of which he dries, and others
he roasts into a conserve; both of these he saves under olive
oil in the walk-in. Even though the tomatoes come in during
his busiest time of year, Tim takes care of them. Timing is
everything when using ripe, local foods.
guy came in here last week looking for strawberry rhubarb
pie that he’d had the week before,” Meaney says in the restaurant’s
backyard, piling bags onto a picnic table. “Happens all the
time, people want what they had. I say, sorry.”
Meaney learned about seasonal ingredients from another chef,
Dan Spitz. The two met while working at the Flying Fish, a
restaurant in Lake George. Spitz had worked previously in
Portland, Ore., where he was very involved in the farm-to-chef
collaborative. Meaney had been working in restaurants for
nearly 20 years, but Spitz introduced him to local foods.
Eventually, the pair opened the Beekman Street Bistro together.
Spitz has since moved on, but Tim continues to focus on a
seasonal menu, one that can change daily.
Meaney doesn’t just shop at the market. Staples such as olive
oil and Parmesan he gets from Provisions, a distributor in
Vermont. Fish comes from Boston via Earth and Sea, another
distributor. Farmers deliver to him, too, from as far away
as Oneonta. He likes to spread his money around and support
a variety of farmers. Rabbits come from nearby Wanabea Farm,
mushrooms from Wiltbank Farms.
food makes such a huge difference,” he says. “The farmers
are selling food that just came out of the ground, not stuff
that’s been sitting in a warehouse. It costs a little more
money, but I make the effort because I think it makes a difference
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Mill on Round Lake (2121 Route 9, Round Lake)
has unveiled its newly renovated outdoor bar and
fire pit, and if that’s not enough to persuade
you to spend some al fresco hours here, there’s
also a new bocce ball court. The indoor portion
also has seen improvement, with the addition of
another dining room, fireplace, more restrooms,
and an expanded warm-weather menu soon to come.
Call 899-5253 for more info. . . . Remember to
pass your scraps to Metroland.