Bill Holden, who opened Carle Place’s West End Cafe in 1997 with Bob Caras, experienced food’s shift toward global and the accompanying benefits of unlimited selection and year-round availability. Though demand may seem better supplied with immediacy and abundance, however, quality is still a concern. Market Bistro, a Jericho-based restaurant promoting the union of community and food, was an opportunity to address and redeem.
“I think we all lost sight of how globalization first started,” says Holden, who opened Market Bistro in November 2011 with Caras and Adam Acerra, a former bartender at West End Cafe. “We were excited to get raspberries from New Zealand or asparagus from South America when they weren’t available on Long Island. But you forget about the week of travel time for that food, and the freshness. We wanted to return to basics with Market Bistro and emphasize farm-to-table. If we can get asparagus here on Long Island, then why not?”
Though synonymous with Suffolk County’s vast expanses of arable land and its restaurants’ seasonal-driven menus for seasonal-driven inhabitants, farm-to-table on Long Island is slowly creeping west to Nassau. And Market Bistro is a pioneer within the area, offering a menu with local food and liquids proudly displayed on a blackboard above an eight-seat communal table. Greens and vegetables come from Satur Farms (the Cutchogue farm’s only drop off in Nassau County is Market Bistro’s shopping complex, which also contains Whole Foods), Hampton Bays’ Cor-J provides fresh striped bass and scallops, and Oceanside’s Barrier Brewing Company and Centerport’s Blind Bat Brewery are often pouring at the restaurant’s eight-draft bar. Even pickles are local, from Horman’s Best Pickles in Glen Cove. If an item isn’t seasonally available, another is temporarily substituted. And customers understand.
“It’s great when our regular customers come in every week asking when we’ll have fresh tomatoes,” says Acerra. “The seasonal approach is more natural, and people won’t get sick of things on the menu.”
While Holden is executive chef, Charles Treadwell is responsible for the kitchen’s daily operations. Holden’s son, Chris, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, helped to open the restaurant. He was a sous-chef at New York’s DB Bistro Moderne, and had spent eight months volunteering on a farm in Ceret, France in 2003, surrounded by “as much fresh stuff as one could imagine.” The stint strengthened his desire to educate on seasonality, nutritional balance and the path of food from soil to plate.
“There is still a disconnect between food and people, and the masses aren’t demanding to know where our food is coming from,” says Holden. ”We’re seeing a lot of farm-to-table in Brooklyn and in the Hamptons, but the middle of Long Island has nothing. It’s the land of Italian restaurants and steakhouses. There needs to be more balance.”
Treadwell, formerly of Bay Shore’s The Lake House, agrees. “If we’re promoting local and practicing sustainability, it’s only going to benefit the area we live in and help better the earth. We’ll always support our farmers and fishermen and meat purveyors as best as we can.”
Holden and Treadwell started a small garden in Market Bistro’s backyard. It produces small quantities of heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce varietals and herbs and serves more as a metaphorical space, symbolizing hope for veritable information on food within the mainstream.
“It’s more of a vision, where even if one person sees our tomatoes growing, and then it’s right on their plate, it helps them see the connection,” says Holden. “We’re putting energy in our food on a subtle level. We want people to leave here feeling positive.”
Market Bistro 519 N Broadway Jericho, NY 11753 (516) 513-1487