Over the course of many seasons, farmers develop relationships with chefs. That's certainly been the case with Tomato Mountain Farm, located about 25 miles south of Madison, Wisconsin. While they show up at the Green City Market every Wednesday and Saturday in Lincoln Park, they also deal directly with local chefs. One of their biggest clients in late summer is Jason Vincent, the chef at Nightwood in Pilsen, which has an almost religious adherence to cooking within the seasons.
"We like Tomato Mountain for their passion. Chris is a passionate guy about tomatoes and essentially anything he grows," Vincent said.
Vincent uses all kinds of tomatoes. His heirloom varieties might show up sliced in different sizes, as part of a super-chunky gazpacho; no blender required.
"The gazpacho needs to be chunky. You need to be able to see what's in it. You need to be able to taste all the different components. You need to recognize that it's supposed to be raw, and what's the point of growing a beautiful vegetable just to puree it," said Vincent.
So if that means just tomatoes, herbs and a little cucumber water, so be it. Less ripe tomatoes might find their way into a thick romesco sauce, a dollop of which is added onto a heaping mound of roasted cauliflower. Vincent first chars tomatoes, peppers, onions and lemons over apple and cherry woods, until they're slightly blistered.
"Heirlooms typically have a way higher moisture content, have a deeper seed pocket; so you want a sauce tomato: a juliet, a roma, something like that, and you want it just slightly underripe," he said.
He'll then do a quick fry of marcona almonds in grapeseed oil, followed by pasilla and guajillo chiles and even frying up hunks of rustic peasant bread. Everything then gets pureed in a food processor, and is aided by a steady drizzle of olive oil to bring it all together. To go with this tomato frenzy.. an assertive Bloody Mary, which Vincent gets directly from Tomato Mountain Farm.
"They make a really beautiful base; we like it a little spicier, so we jazz it up with homemade worcestershire and jalapeno and horseradish and tamarind," said Vincent.
You'll find Tomato Mountain Farm produce not only in a number of local restaurants, but also at the Green City Market in Lincoln Park every Wednesday and Saturday.
2119 S. Halsted St.
Tomato Mountain Farm
N7720 Sandy Hook Rd.
Brooklyn, WI 53521
At the farm - Chris (608.712.1585)
In Chicago - Robin (708.370.8017)