Before Olav Peterson and his wife, Melissa, openedBittersweet
in an old remodeled gas station at the very end of December, they flanked the patios with massive planters.
The plan was to grow their own produce and herbs. And now that summer -- and prime growing season -- is here, the chef is making room on the menu for the vegetables he's been cultivating.
Peterson ditched the heavier soups and garnishes that were mainstays on his winter list, replacing them with items like gazpacho, ratatouille, wild boar with sausages in pineapple gastrique and halibut paired with an heirloom tomato salad. And as the summer progresses, more changes will hit the menu -- including a roasted duck garnished with cherries and onions (that dish debuts tonight), and a dish the chef is tentatively calling "pork cubed," a delicious-sounding combination of housemade head cheese, pork torchon and fried pigs' ears, sided with a little Calvados rum gelee.
"We're still working on the pigs' ears," Peterson says, citing a process of confit and sous-vide aimed at softening up the ears without cutting out the chewy cartilage.
Now that the main dishes are set, Peterson will start rotating in his own vegetables as they're ready; right now, that means herbs as well as collards and braising greens will accompany the wild boar.
"We're about to start picking chard, too" he says. "I just don't want to clip it too early. That'll probably go on the scallop dish next week." He also plans to start harvesting squash blossoms, the edible flower that blooms atop zucchini plants, and then he'll stuff them with soft cheese.
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He's also got plans for tomatoes, culled from the thirty tomato plants he stuck in the ground: "We planted about fifteen varieties," he says. "In three weeks, we'll start using the green tomatoes for salsa verde. And in four to five weeks, we'll have ripe ones for the halibut, gazpacho and ratatouille." And speaking of the ratatouille, if Peterson's eggplants come through -- eggplants are "finicky," he notes -- the chef will eventually make the entire dish, a blend of tomato, eggplant, baby squash and red pepper, straight from his patio planters.
Nearly every item on this season's menu will eventually feature something the Petersons are growing outside the restaurant, except for meaty things like the charcuterie and the duck confit ravioli topped with shaved foie gras.
And the homegrown produce will continue throughout the fall when Peterson starts harvesting pumpkins and squash for colder weather.