|Viviane Bauquet Farre|
|Features - Chefs and Restaurants|
|Written by Jon Ross-Wiley|
From the outset, we at Local In Season have sought out and celebrated the best in local food. In doing so, we have been introduced to some phenomenal people who advocate for local food and make a concerted effort to bring local foods into their own restaurant or home kitchens. One such person is New Caledonia native, Vivian Bauquet Farre . Farre has been a student of the kitchen since the age of six, long before braises, purées, and creative cocktails were in her repertoire. Much of Farre's professional life was spent in the world of fashion-design but, eventually, her creativity and passion for food drew her back to where she feels most comfortable; surrounded by stainless steel sauté pans, razor-sharp chef's knives, and the smells and sounds of the kitchen. Farre's philosophy is "Food is love. It enhances our lives in every way. It benefits our bodies, our hearts, our souls." This outlook really came through when Local In Season had the opportunity to speak with her in a recent interview.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with Local In Season. It's clear that we are like-minded in recognizing the benefits of local and seasonal ingredients.
Absolutely! Fresh foods (especially produce) are always more flavorful than the kind that sit in transit for days on end. I think the experience that brings this home to me is picking herbs from my perennial herb garden right before I cook with them. The aroma they release alone sends me to heaven! For many years, I grew my own vegetables and would get just as excited every time I’d go to the garden for a picking. I don’t have a garden big enough to grow vegetables any more, so I try to duplicate that experience by buying fresh, local produce whenever I can. Of course, there are many more benefits to buying local than just flavor and freshness.
What of New Caledonia can one find in the Northeast?
Well, if you are talking about the standard vegetables like lettuces, carrots, tomatoes, onions and the like, then there’s no difference between New Caledonia and the East Coast of the United Sates. My grandfather had a vegetable garden and I ate from that garden my whole childhood. He grew all the common veggies. However, we also had two enormous mango trees, a proud avocado tree, an old and magnificent litchi tree, several papaya trees and a forever-expanding banana grove, right in the backyard. If I think of that, then New Caledonia and the Northeast couldn’t be more different… and I’ll admit that I sometimes desperately crave those tropical fruits!
What are some of your favorite adaptations of classic French dishes using local ingredients?
Oh, there are so many! Let’s see: vegetable gratins like a spicy Swiss-chard tian, crispy salads like frisée aux lardons that I make with local shiitake mushrooms instead of the lardons, wonderful soups like cauliflower velouté and hearty soupe au pistou, vegetable crêpes filled with asparagus, mushrooms, spinach — and tarts! I adore making tarts of all kinds: from goat cheese tarts with fresh herbs from my garden to summery roasted tomato tarts, to fall pear tarts with pear Eau de Vie from a local distillery. I’ve created numerous seasonal tart recipes all focused on the beautiful ingredients that are available in my area.
Winter can be a challenging time for local/seasonal enthusiasts. Advice?
In Piermont, NY, I have no choice but to buy store-bought produce in the winter. My farmers’ market closes right after Thanksgiving and only opens again in June! That wait not only feels endless, it’s also downright frustrating! In Manhattan, some of the Green Markets re-open in March, so I’ll drive all the way to the Big Apple a couple of times a month to do some shopping. The one local ingredient I can find all winter long here is apples and for that I go to my local orchard. Mercifully, they have a small store that’s open all year long.
So, considering the limitations of most farmers’ markets and local distribution, I would advise local/seasonal enthusiasts to stock up in the fall! On the last week that my farmers’ market is held, I buy bagfuls of veggies like winter squashes, heirloom potatoes, beets and turnips that will overwinter well. I store them in the garage (I don’t have a basement or cold room) and they last for several weeks. I’m still cooking with the butternut squashes I bought right after Thanksgiving. It’s a thrill.
Aside from stocking up in the fall, I would recommend shopping at your local, small stores. They might carry local grains, cheeses, eggs, meats etc… And if they don’t, get to know the owner or manager and ask them to carry your favorite local products. I find that most stores respond very well to their customer’s requests.
You place a high priority on flavor. What are some of your favorite flavor pairings?
I don’t really think about pairings because I approach each dish that I create in such an individual way. That said, there are certainly ingredients that deliver a ton of flavor which I rely on constantly: garlic, lemon, fresh herbs, chili peppers (I find it impossible to braise winter greens without chili peppers!), shallots (oh, how I love shallots) and wine! I cook a whole lot with white wine and sometimes with red wine. It’s an essential ingredient for sauces, reductions, soups and for braising.
Do you have a signature dish/recipe you would be willing to share with Local In Season readers?
At this time of the year, I crave anything made with winter squash so I’d love to share a creamy butternut squash polenta topped with spicy wilted spinach. It’s extremely healthy, very easy to prepare and absolutely bursting with flavor.
Tell us more about your dinner club. What can the people who walk into your kitchen expect?
My dinner club was born out of my passion for creating and preparing, shall I say, “cheffy” food, balanced by my reluctance to work day in and day out in a restaurant. The solution for me was to be able to cook at that level occasionally. So I came up with the idea of the dinner club. I can accommodate up to 12 people and only get booked by one party at a time.
What people can expect is a totally serene and private environment with a server to take care of them all night long. I serve a 5-course seasonal menu paired with unique, artisanal, and sometimes local, wines. I develop the menu especially for each party. It’s always new and creative and inspired by local, seasonal products (except in the winter). I like to start with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, and once everyone is cheerful and relaxed I sit everyone down for dinner. It’s like a restaurant, but private, intimate and focused on the quality of the experience.
Between your website, videos, classes, and dinner club, you have created a Food and Style empire of sorts. Tell us about a life immersed in food.
All I can say is that I adore it, but I so wish I could clone myself!
Thank you for talking with us.
It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for asking me to join you on your wonderful site. You are doing a great service to the food community and you’re an inspiration to us all!
For more on Viviane Bauquet Farre, visit her website, Food & Style or follow her on Twitter (@foodandstyle).
Viviane Bauquet Farre's
Creamy Butternut Squash Polenta with Spicy Wilted Spinach (serves 4)
For the polenta
3 cups spring water
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth or stock
1 cup corn grits for polenta
1 cup butternut squash purée
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon crème fraîche
1 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the wilted spinach
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves – skinned and finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
8 oz baby spinach – rinsed and spun dry
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
toasted pumpkin seed oil as garnish
Bring the water and broth to a boil in a heavy-bottom saucepan. As soon as the mixture boils, add the corn grits. Whisk vigorously until the mixture starts to thicken. Reduce the heat to medium and gently simmer the polenta, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes until it is thick and al dente. Add the salt, butternut squash puree, parmesan, crème fraîche, salt and black pepper. Stir well until well incorporated. Remove from heat and keep warm.
Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add the oil, garlic and both paprikas. Sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute until the garlic softens, but doesn’t brown. Add the spinach and salt and toss until just wilted. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl.
Spoon the polenta into bowls. Top with the wilted spinach and spoonful of the juices. Drizzle with the pumpkin seed oil and serve immediately.
Video, images, and recipe © 2010 viviane bauquet farre – food & style NY LLC