Mark Bittman: Local Food Is Booming Downtown, in Brooklyn

Brooklyn rooftops aren’t just for hipster parties anymore.

The New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman gave Niteside the inside scoop on a movement that has New York foodies flocking to Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan for locally grown food at eco-friendly restaurants.

“The local food movement in New York is incredible, especially downtown and Brooklyn, and it seems to be tripling in size every year,” Bittman said. "People are gardening on their rooftop, people are cooking in small kitchens, and people are starting restaurants that are a quarter of the size of midtown restaurants.”

The author, whose "The Food Matters Cookbook" is coming out next week, was honored at Just Food’s third annual “Let Us Eat Local” tasting benefit at the South St Seaport on Thursday night. The non-profit, which advocates local food cooking, dining and education, praised Bittman for his leadership in the local food movement.

The movement is gaining popularity, but Bittman said that knowledge of the restaurants is still mostly spread by word of mouth.

"You have to have people show you around because it’s not out on the street and it’s certainly not in midtown," he said. "It’s not exactly an exclusive scene but it’s one you have to be a little clued into."

Jacques Gautier of Palo Santo was preparing the fresh tortilla dough for his fish tacos as he described how the ingredients for his spicy tomatillo and pepper salsa were grown on the rooftop of his brownstone in Park Slope. He grows the herbs in the styrofoam containers that the fish come in.

“This sounds cliché, but the future of the planet should concern everybody,” he said. “And we’ve cut down a lot of garbage.”

Over 30 restaurants participated in the tasting benefit, which had a huge turnout of serious diners and chefs more than happy to feed on the local cuisine.

Most, if not all, ingredients were local; delectable bite-sized dishes included horseradish on smoked trout from the Catskill Mountains by Galen Zamarra of Mas (farmhouse) and crostini with cherry jam and Salvatore ricotta made in Brooklyn, just to name a couple.

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