In these politically correct times, you’re not a self-respecting member of the foodie aristocracy unless you know who Carlo Petrini is (he’s the founding father of the ever-expanding Slow Food sect), what “self-sustaining” means, or the true definition of that hazy term biodynamic. And if you pass the test, chances are you’ve also made the pilgrimage up the Hudson to Blue Hill at Stone Barns, where the industrious Barber brothers (Dan and David) have set up (with the help of the fine chef Michale Anthony and generous amounts of Rockefeller cash) their own fully organic Shangri-la amid the rolling hills and meadows of the old Rockefeller country estate in Pocantico Hills, New York. In season, you’ll find several varieties of asparagus on the menu, and all eggs are produced, in time-honored Slow Food tradition, by the restaurant’s own flock of hyperorganic chickens. Even the nourishing, exceptionally porky-tasting pork comes from a band of Berkshire hogs who feed in a stand of acorn trees near the restaurant, where they are attended, during visiting hours, by crowds of thankful, slightly mournful-looking gastronomes.
Next stop on the rickety Greenmarket bandwagon is Galen Zamarra’s stylish, faithfully organic restaurant Mas, in Greenwich Village, where the glowing little room has been painstakingly constructed to resemble the inside of a (very rich) peasant’s farmhouse in the south of France, and even the rigorously seasonal menus are tied together with bits of twine. After that it’s on to Better Burger, for a bite of the leathery ostrich burger (with a spot of curry-flavored “Karma Ketchup”), before we decamp to Quartino Bottega Organica, in the East Village, to sit on one of the chaste wooden pews along the wall and sip cups of pomegranate juice, while picking at helpings of wholly organic pesto or brittle, supremely healthy slices of whole-wheat pizza or, best of all, the superior house focaccia, shot through with slabs of melted Stracchino cheese.
You won’t find any cheese at all at Pure Food and Wine, in Gramercy Park, where the room smells vaguely of pulped cabbage, and wistful, glossy pictures of happy ducks and smiling sheep adorn the orange walls. Nothing on the all-vegan menu is cooked to over 118 degrees, which doesn’t keep the summery tomato tartare from looking uncannily like tuna tartare, or the impressive raw-food lasagne (made with tomatoes, strips of raw zucchini, crushed basil, and pistachio pesto) from tasting uncannily like a cooler, healthier version of the real thing. The same is true of the non-fish but curiously fishy “Cape Cod Cakes” (they’re tofu-based) available at Counter, in the East Village, which I enjoyed one placid evening while sipping on a glass of biodynamic Pinot Grigio from Slovenia, and smugly observing the parade of unenlightened sad sacks trooping in and out of the very large McDonald’s across the street.