The onset of spring means flowers are finally blooming on the streets of New York — and on the plates of NYC restaurants. Though we’re accustomed to seeing the likes of daffodils and marigolds in parks and on street corners, chefs and mixologists are using florals like jasmine, hibiscus and rose to amp up flavor in their creations.
"Florals for spring” do add a fresh new taste palette and vibrant colors to dishes and cocktails — more proof that we can say goodbye to the cold, gray winter. From invoking the floral flavors of certain cultural cuisines to utilizing pretty buds as drink decorum, this is how the NYC food industry is embracing flower power on their menus.
Utilizing the environment, in more ways than one
How restaurants source ingredients shifts when spring comes around — it’s the first sign of fresh produce becoming more readily available, after all. For Dirt Candy on the Lower East Side, which attests that “vegetables are just candy from the dirt," early spring is the first time that chef and owner Amanda Cohen’s “forager,” Tama Matsuoka Wong, visits.
Matsuoka Wong forages in upstate New York and New Jersey, digging up edible roots, leaves and flowers for restaurant clients to use on their menus.
“I never know what she’s bringing me, but it’s always exciting because it inspires a sudden, sprint-for-the-finish-line burst of creativity,” Cohen said. “Sometimes I put it together in our Forager’s Salad, other times I use the greens for our Tower, which is Dirt Candy’s version of a salad.”
This spring, the Tower is going to include chickweed tips, garlic mustard, wild chives, wild corn, young lesser celandine leaves, and speedwell flowers.
“I serve it with a black-eyed pea hummus for diners to dip it all in because that smooths out the rough edges of the wild, untamed taste of these downright feral greens,” Cohen said.
Environment also plays a role for the new Italian Bar Feroce, which is in the city’s “Flower District” (along West 28th Street) on the second floor of the Moxy Chelsea. The location has had a strong influence on the restaurant itself — it has a three-story glass atrium filled with florals — and on its menu, like in the cocktail the “Ficudinnia.” The Ficudinnia is made with Casamigos Reposado, Chareau Aloe Vera Liquor, prickly pear puree, agave nectar, lemon and edible pansies from Baldor.