Pickers and choosers: Bushwick restaurant owner forages for food, serves it

Pickers and choosers: Bushwick restaurant owner forages for food, serves it
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

He was born to be wild.

Owner of restaurant Northeast Kingdom, Paris Smeraldo not only supplies his rustic restaurant with eggs and veggies brought down from his farm in the Hudson Valley — but also the roots, leaves, and berries he forages each week with his very own hands.

“Many restaurants these days say they’re doing foraging, but it really just means that they’re buying things from foragers,” said Smeraldo. “I grew up in the woods of Vermont with no running water or electricity, so from a very young age I was indoctrinated with learning about wild foods.”

For the owner and forager, that means gathering fresh handfuls of elderberry blooms to use in cordials and cocktails, scouring streambeds for ramps, climbing black locust trees to nab their edible flowers, seeking out moist soil beds for dense clusters of crimson beauty (similar to rhubarb and celery), and weeding his garden bed for wood sorrel, lambs quarters, dandelion leaves and garlic mustard.

“The stuff that I have the privilege of using here, I’ve never seen in a restaurant in 16 years,” said Northeast Kingdom chef Kevin Adey. “Foraging in springtime is easy, but who wants to tramp around the woods in the cold looking for black trumpet mushrooms? That really separates the men from the boys.”

Northeast Kingdom [18 Wyckoff Ave. between Jefferson and Starr streets in Bushwick, www.north-eastkingdom.com, (718) 386–3864].

Hand picked: Octopus Carpacciom with foraged hearts of cattail, and summer sprouts, served in Northeast Kingdom in Bushwick.
By Stefano Giovannini