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Market Watch: Fifth Floor Restaurant Goes to the Farm

Fifth Floor's pastry chef Francis Ang

Last spring the crew from Fifth Floor headed out to the fields of Zuckerman’s Farms to learn about harvesting asparagus and potatoes. Executive chef David Bazirgan and executive pastry chef Francis Ang recently gathered up their crew up again, this time for a summer visit to one of their favorite local farms—Dirty Girl Produce. Dirty Girl’s farmer Joe Schirmer led the team through his fields to teach them a little about all the goodies he is currently harvesting including fresh shelling beans, dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes and strawberries.

Chef Ang says that one of his favorite uses for Joe’s strawberries in the summer months is ice cream. As you might expect from a nationally lauded pastry chef, his version is not your run-of-the-mill strawberry ice cream. “I infuse the cream with Eucalyptus leaves to give the ice cream a little hint of menthol,” he told me. It’s this secret tweak that adds a minty and refreshing component to the perfect balance of sweet and tart that Dirty Girl’s berries are known for.

While strawberries are a natural fit on a seasonally inspired dessert menu, Francis says the visit to Dirty Girl really inspired him to look at ways to use tomatoes in his desserts. He also said seeing Joe’s operation in action gave him more of an appreciation for how much work goes into dry-farming the Early Girls and why it is such an important factor in their flavor. “Dirty Girl has really perfected the art of dry farming,” he told me, adding, “depriving the fruit of water is what helps to concentrate the sweetness and flavor. They are the best tomatoes I’ve had in my whole life.”

When I ran into Francis at the market this week he and Chef Bazirgan had just finished loading up their car to take this week’s market booty back to the restaurant. He told me that he and the Fifth Floor crew are big fans of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and farm like Dirty Girl Produce in particular because of the rich variety of crops they grow and sell here each week. The next late summer item on his radar? “The Niabell grapes at Hamada Farms were pretty exciting today,” he said, “they taste like Concords—only better. I’m definitely going to play around with those.”