T.S. Eliot deemed April the cruelest month, but for many chefs it’s March, when the root vegetables that inspired them in winter start to run out and there’s little in the market to replace them.
One of New Jersey’s elite chefs, Anthony Bucco, executive chef of the restaurants at Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg, acknowledges that the “cruelest time starts now. It’s really challenging. The reality of the end of winter and early spring hits you.”
Bucco, who we caught this week in the thick of preparing for the New Jersey Food & Wine Festival at Crystal Springs, March 31-April 2, rises to the challenge. He and his collaborator, chef Martyna Krowicka of Crystal Springs’ marquee restaurant, Latour, a perennial on NJM’s annual Top 25 list, are revving up their creativity to make March marvelous.
What’s cooking at Latour these days?
We’re playing our ‘greatest hits’ right now, but it’s also exciting to me to play with texture. Texture is important because it takes people’s palates in different directions. Right now, I am working with fish roes. Whitefish roe and trout roe. They bring a textural counterpoint. And also tapioca. We’re putting tapioca on hamachi crudo. It’s a fun thing. So roes and tapioca.
That takes the edge off hard times. What else is on your menu?
Porridges. I get buckwheat from a local source. We make the buckwheat into a porridge and finish it with a smoked trout roe. The roe is orange, the color of a dull carrot, and it looks really nice on the porridge. We also do high-end dishes now, like caviar and rare oysters.
Both ends of the spectrum, humble and haute. You love the challenge, don’t you?
Absolutely. It’s more about technique at this time of year. When you get to the dog days of the ‘brownscape,’ which is what it looks like outside at this time of year, celery root starts looking–well, let’s put it this way: Everything in the walk-in is the same color as outside–brown.
So what do you add to brighten things up?
Preserved lemons transcend the seasons. There are so many uses for preserved lemons. We also have bottarga [dried, compressed mullet roe] on hand and we add it to polenta, use it as a garnish for oysters, rub it on tuna, use it with deviled eggs.
Once the ‘cruel’ and ‘brown’ season ends, what’s ahead?
The first things that come to us are morels and rhubarb, then asparagus by the end of April. It’ll be spring again.
Note: Tickets are still available for the Food & Wine Festival, which this year honors legendary chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud. The weekend includes dinners, a Grand Tasting, Secrets of the Cellar, a Foie Gras Challenge, a Craft Whiskey Spotlight, a champagne brunch, and much more. It’s a terrific opportunity for food lovers to meet and mingle with food professionals. Proceeds from the festival benefit Ment’or, a nonprofit devoted to inspiring culinary excellence in young professionals and preserving the traditions and quality of cuisine in America. For details and reservations, call 855-977-6473 or visit crystalgolfresort.comClick here to leave a comment