"That's the only people we see: Fishermen who don't even know I'm here, nestled in the woods."
We're at Berried Treasures Farm, and that would be the owner, Franca Tantillo. But we've been brought here by Brendan McHale, chef/co-owner of The Eddy in New York City's East Village (watch the video, above). A fisherman since the age of 15, McHale makes the two-and-a-half-hour drive to Tantillo's home (perched above Beaverkill River in the Catskills) twice a month—and it's this very river that inspired the name for The Eddy.
But it's not just the river that keeps McHale coming back to Berried Treasures. Like many chefs and restaurateurs, McHale first met Tantillo at Union Square's Greenmarket, and the two quickly became friends.
"I've been blessed with the finest chefs of the world," Tantillo tells us. She's not exaggerating; Tantillo's produce, ranging from her strawberries to her violet-hued Peruvian potatoes, has earned many chefs' admiration, gracing the menus at restaurants as acclaimed as Bouley, Blue Hill and Daniel.
Between rounds of fishing, McHale joins Tantillo in the field to harvest sunchokes, a late-summer crop she lovingly calls "the dancing ladies." Afterward, we're treated to a rustic meal of whole fish and roasted oysters, each adorned with various elements of Tantillo's produce (from a vinegar infused with her chamomile to the very sunchokes the pair has just picked). "Being here makes you want to think more simplistically," McHale says—evident in the open-fire feast he's prepared for us.
"When you come up here, it's a moment of recollecting where you've been and where you're going," McHale tells us. "It's really an interesting moment to capitalize on creativity-wise." As we drive back to the city after a long day on the river, McHale stops by The Eddy to drop off a fresh bundle of Tantillo's sunchokes. Clearly, the day trip has left McHale with plenty to capitalize on.