In today’s Brooklyn, you can’t throw a sustainably sourced egg without hitting a restaurant serving seasonal, local cuisine.
Yet when iCi opened on DeKalb Avenue in Fort Greene seven years ago, it was a true pioneer of the movement.
“No one understood what it meant at the time; natural, sustainable, organic,” owner Catherine Saillard said. “They thought we were serving tofu and grains. Everyone laughs when I say that now, because of how much the food scene has morphed in the last five or so years.”
And although Saillard remains passionate about agricultural issues, she maintains that providing delicious, exciting food has always been her top priority.
“What defines iCi is serving food that is locally and sustainably produced to the community, yes, but I wouldn’t do it if the food I had to serve was bad,” she said.
That means using only the best of what’s available at any given time, such as peas and greens from Added Value, and eggs from Nestor Tello in Red Hook, purslane from the local greenmarket, or chicken from Violet Hill Farm upstate.
“Our roasted Atlantic Halibut with English pea puree is a great example of what we’re about here,” said Saillard. “It’s the height of the season for halibut, as well as for the other vegetables. It tastes great and looks absolutely beautiful, but it’s an easy dish to master — it’s just about putting the right ingredients together.”
Although depending on the fluctuating supplies of small farms can often create added labor and stress, Saillard wouldn’t have it any other way.
“When you use local suppliers, it’s like building bridges, it’s like knowing your neighbor,” said Saillard. “Introducing our customers to places like Added Value is the added value we put on the plate. Serving this kind of food has another dimension other than saving the planet, it’s putting together a community.”
This is a service Salliard plans to provide in Brooklyn for the next seven years and beyond, whether the craze for local and sustainable wears off or not.
“Everyone can decide Japanese mixed with Canadian food is the next big thing, but we’ll always be here, doing local and sustainable, no matter what,” said Salliard. “I wouldn’t change my concept for anything!”
iCi [246 DeKalb Ave. near Vanderbilt Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 789-2778].
Roasted Atlantic Halibut with English Pea Purée
From Chef Nate Courtland, iCi
Yield four servings
Four pieces Atlantic halibut
salt and pepper
For the pea puree
1 pint shelled English peas
1 medium spanish onion (sliced thin)
1 clove garlic (sliced)
1 sprig each thyme and rosemary
1 cup milk or half and half
Place peas in boiling salted water and cook until tender. Place a handful of peas in ice water to preserve color and set aside the rest for puree. Meanwhile, in a heavy bottom pan, saute onion, garlic and herbs with olive oil and one tablespoon butter. Season with salt and cracked pepper, then add milk to onions. Place peas into simmering milk and cook for three minutes. Take off heat and blend until very smooth. Season accordingly.
For the sabayon
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons dry vermouth
1 tablespoom lemon juice
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
Place ingredients in a stainless steel bowl and whisk over simmering water. Scrape down sides and cook until mixture is foamy and thick. Season with salt and more lemon juice if needed.
In heavy saute pan, sear seasoned halibut in just enough vegetable oil to cover bottom of pan. Roast at high heat in oven until fish is just cooked through (about five or six minutes). Serve fish on puree and drizzle with sabayon. Garnish with fresh soft herbs such as chervil, basil, mint, chives, etc. To dress herb salad simply use lemon olive oil and sea salt. A thin slice of radish is also a nice addition of color and texture.