Blue Hill, Dan Barber and Coffee Get WastED

Photograph by Daniel Krieger.

Photograph by Daniel Krieger.

Last month, Irving Farm Coffee Roasters was delighted to participate in Blue Hill‘s transformation into wastED, a one of a kind pop-up restaurant that invited diners to reconsider food waste while some of the country’s top chefs daringly innovated their way through 600 pounds of ugly vegetables (including 350 pounds vegetable pulp), 150 pounds of kale ribs, 30 gallons of beef tallow, 475 pounds of skate cartilage and 900 pounds of waste-fed pigs, creating 10,000 unique dishes over the course of three weeks.

Irving Farm’s contribution was cascara, also known as the skin or husk of the coffee cherry. When coffee is de-pulped, the discarded cascara is traditionally composted and repurposed as fertilizer (or ends up as a pollutant in the surrounding waterways) but it also contains a delicious mucilage with a sweet, earthy flavor and up to 25% of the caffeine found in a normal cup of coffee. The Ortiz Herrera family at Finca Talnamica in El Salvador generously hand-picked and sun-dried 150 pounds of cascara from their Bourbon plants for this event, and producers Hermann and Nena Mendez were able to dine at wastED with their daughter, Mayita, who has worked for Irving Farm since 2013. Their Talnamica coffee was recently featured in our limited edition Horchata Chocolate Bar from Raaka Chocolate, and it was thrilling to see the husks turned into a delicious infusion that challenged us to rethink the idea of after-dinner coffee.

All of this was made possible by the incomparable Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, NY. We count ourselves very lucky to partner with chefs who are deeply committed to understanding and honoring the scope of how food is grown, prepared and consumed—physically, intellectually and emotionally. Dan is at the forefront of this conversation and our Director of Wholesale, Teresa von Fuchs, was able to chat with him about a few of his takeaways at the conclusion of wastED.

Photograph by Daniel Krieger.

Photograph by Daniel Krieger.

 

TvF: What was your aim behind the wastED pop up?

DB: One goal was can we create something that disrupts our daily routine, wakes us up and really focuses our efforts? I really believe that in cooking (as well as in life, but I don’t give advice about life) you only become better by working outside your comfort zone.

And wastED was hard. It stretched us as a restaurant and built camaraderie in really surprising ways.

Another aim was to really wear our heart on our sleeves more everyday. Whether we were pushing this agenda because of environmental reasons or economic reasons, could we really highlight our use of craft and not hide the fact that restaurants work to use as much of every ingredient as possible everyday?

Beef tallow candle at wastED. Photograph by Noah Fecks.

Beef tallow candle at wastED. Photograph by Noah Fecks.

 

TvF: You mentioned camaraderie. Was one impetus of including guest chefs to help spread the mission?

DB: Not at all. Our intent wasn’t to inspire other kitchens but to recognize that this is what Chefs are already doing everyday in their kitchens. Actually we were all a little surprised by the interest! The crazy long lines late at night and all the social media attention. Also that we attracted such younger crowds. It feels like we’ve given the restaurant a new life.

TvF: Irving Farm helped source a special cascara (or coffee cherry) preparation for the coffee course. What was your first reaction when you tried it?

DB: I really fell in love with it. The fullness of the sweetness was just so surprising. It was really a revelation. I remember standing in the kitchen with Adam Kaye, our Chef and Kitchen director at Stone Barns, and being totally amazed by the flavor. It was one of my top three experiences in this whole process. I can’t wait to keep using it. I want to cook with it.

TvF: That’s fantastic! We’re so happy we could share it with you. Now that the pop-up is over, how has it changed—or will it change—the menu at Blue Hill?

DB: We’re still figuring that out. I’d really like to keep pushing how we can wear our heart on our sleeve. Most of our menu already addresses waste, so how can we keep calling attention to it without losing diners’ enthusiasm. I hope we keep working on it together.

Huge thanks to Chef Dan, Finca Talnamica and everyone who took the plunge with us at wastED. Stay tuned for more cascara collaborations popping up around the city in the coming months!

Blue Hill’s Chef Dan Barber on the G9…and the Perfect Cup of Coffee

Blue Hill Chef Dan Barber

Blue Hill Chef Dan Barber

The G9 Chef’s Summit, an annual meeting of the  International Advisory Council of the Basque Culinary Center, aka nine of the world’s top chefs, met close to our home this year in Pocantico Hills, NY, at the revered Blue Hill at Stone Barns farm and restaurant. We spoke with Blue Hill chef and G9 member Dan Barber about what the meeting was all about…and how the world’s top chefs liked our coffee.

What was this year’s G9 conference all about?
This year’s G9 was about bringing together the original producers of grains and seeds together with chefs to get them to think about the products and produce we use before they even hit the field. We all think about sourcing ingredients, and the further back along the chain we go when we think about it, the better. If we get to know the people who are imagining the flavors and textures of the future, we can work together to create that future.

What thing struck you most about this years’ conference?
Mostly the recognition that we may have overlooked breeders in our pursuit to eke out specific flavors and textures. That, and the chance to facilitate the meeting of so many incredible artisans.

So we have to ask, as we talk about the specific ingredients you choose to use at Blue Hill, how does coffee fit into your master plans?
The same way it fit into the conference this year. You have a collection of incredible chefs, breeders, this room full of incredible tasters and people driven by the pursuit of great flavor and we wanted to fuel them with great flavors in their cups. In our restaurant, it’s the diners who we want to provide the best possible tastes. And when we don’t screw it up, I think that’s what we do with your coffee.

 I was really happy at this year’s conference to be able to introduce so many people to Irving Farm and the work you all do. So many people came up to me and said they couldn’t believe Irving Farm Coffee tasted like that.

What’s on your mind, and what are you most excited to work on for this coming year? In terms of seeds/your restaurant/anything?
I’m most excited for good coffee!

Here’s to that!

Read more about some of the farms Blue Hill is inspired by here on their website.