CHALLENGER NO. 2
Amanda Freitag from Gusto
Scorecard: Freitag’s brainstorm to substitute crushed Martin’s Pretzels (made from Pennsylvania-milled flour) for breadcrumbs used in and sprinkled across her turkey meatballs was pure genius. “I bought salty things so I wouldn’t have to use salt,” she said. In the end, though, it wasn’t enough and she found herself reaching for the shaker for an extra touch of seasoning. Her terrific appetizer of steamed Long Island clams with zucchini “linguine,” however, required nothing more than a fragrant lovage-infused broth. For her finale, she served a lavender-perfumed cheese from upstate New York’s Brovetto Dairy Farm, with sweet-and-sour cherries simmered in a syrup made from a Hudson Valley sour-cherry cordial. But it was the honey she chose to sweeten the dish that burned up the most food miles for a bittersweet finish.
Pluses: Freitag really pinched pennies, spending less than her rivals and foraging like a true cheapavore, extending her searches beyond Greenmarket to specialty markets like Bierkraft for cheese and Vintage New York for cherry wine.
Minuses: “I really missed olive oil,” says Freitag, and that omission was apparent, perhaps, in the flavor of the turkey meatballs, which might have benefited from being seared in oil. Even though the flour in the pretzels was locally sourced, the salt dusting them wasn’t.
Finish: Second place.