Organic. Locavore. Farm-to-table. Foraged cuisine. Housemade. The dizzying array of terms used to describe healthy grub made from somewhat local ingredients and relatively free of the bad stuff is exhausting. But however out of control the locavore culture has become, the product can still impress. Here are five of the freshest restaurants in New York.
1 ABC Kitchen
Some food snobs grumble that by spreading himself too thin with one restaurant after another, Jean-Georges Vongerichten has lost some of his own freshness. Many of their fears were put to rest when he opened the rustically designed, rigorously farm-to-table ABC Kitchen within the ABC Carpet & Home department store. The pastas and sea bass earn consistent raves.
Chef Mads Refslund is a recent Danish import who co-founded Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant often billed as the best in the world. With Acme he's taken over an old Cajun standby (though kept its name) and done a 180 with the menu. Refslund helped define the white hot New Nordic Cuisine movement, which emphasizes local, "foraged" cuisine. The roasted sunchokes make critics swoon, while the general air of Scandinavian cool reels in fashionable diners.
3 Marlow & Sons
For better or worse, owner Andrew Tarlow's Marlow & Sons was hugely instrumental in revving up the Brooklyn crazy for all foodstuffs from the farm and, with its interborough popularity, bringing it across the river to Manhattan. There's a general store attached, and a butcher next door. If the wait is interminable, try Tarlow's nearby Diner--it's in the whimsically retrofitted train car.
5 Spring Street Natural
Here's where strict vegetarians and organic fanatics can take carnivore friends and avoid eyerolls and growling stomachs. The food isn't quite vegetarian or vegan--you can cheat with fish--but is all minimally processed and served in a handsome, convenient and always bustling space that opened in 1973 before Soho was Soho.