For a chef concerned with keeping his menu hyper local, there's almost nothing better than a kitchen garden. Adam Bostwick — who, along with Brian Okin, is chef and co-owner of Cork & Cleaver Social Kitchen in Broadview Heights (8130 Broadview Rd., 440-627-6449, ccsocialkitchen.com) — understands that well. So what's better than a kitchen garden? A whole farm, of course.
Cork & Cleaver's investing partner decided to purchase and restore the large Harris Road Farm, just around the corner from the restaurant. And Bostwick clearly has responded with enthusiasm.
"We meet [during winter], and we start planning," he says. Which ingredients will he need, what will grow best in the soil, how much of each should be planted: All of these decisions are based on his expectations for the coming year's menu, and all must be made before the first seed is planted.
"The first year we did it we were kind of rookies at it; it was a lot of trial and error," says Bostwick. "A lot of stuff worked out, but some stuff we realized, okay, we don't have a use for that like we thought we would."
One of Bostwick's favorite ingredients from the farm so far has been purple carrots. With names like Cosmic Purple, Purple Haze and Purple Dragon, these colorful varieties are bred for both their aesthetics and taste. "The color on them is beautiful, and the flavor on them is really sweet," Bostwick says, which makes them a good choice for salads when raw and shaved thin.
But they're stunning as part of his peas and carrots dish. These aren't the way your mom used to make them. The finished dish comprises scallops with a spring pea puree, peas and carrots sautéed with butter and herbs, and a fresh carrot oil.
"We juice some carrots and reduce that down with a little cayenne pepper, and naturally it gets thick," Bostwick explains. The natural sugars in the root break down to make a sweet sauce that's almost like simple syrup before the oil is added. "It tastes kind of like candy, but it's carrots. It's weird."
Typically, carrot season starts in mid to late June. As with most locally grown fruits and vegetables, this year's carrot harvest was pushed back slightly "since the winter sucked so bad," but all the advanced planning that goes into Cork & Cleaver's farm really pays off later in the season. After the first harvest, Bostwick and Okin decided on a second planting to garner a few more of their favorite purple carrots.
To extend the crop even further, Bostwick turned to an old standby. "We pickled a bunch," he says, "so when the winter comes around I still have our farm." Bostwick uses the pickled carrots "all over the place," he jokes.
Before its reincarnation as Cork & Cleaver's most local produce source, the farm and its barn were run down and foreclosed. Naturally, there is still a lot of work ahead to get it into peak condition. Thirty or 40 raised beds currently contain the plants, and "we're trying to clean out as much as we can there to give us as much space as possible," says Bostwick.
Though the chefs have to leave most of the day-to-day operation of the restaurant farm to its owner and his daughter — what's a farm without a farmer and farmer's daughter, after all — they still play an active role in its growth.
"We'll go over and peek at it, and help out when we can," says Bostwick.