By John Argentino, Yolélé Fellow
On the corner of 48th and 11th, in the rare shade found a few blocks from Times Square, sits a restaurant in a repurposed printing factory with an airy dining room, a rooftop lounge, and a garden overlooking the Hudson. Dedicated to seasonal and sustainable sourcing, PRINT. restaurant takes the idea of locally sourced food to the next level, and does so by employing an in-house forager, Meghan Boledovich, whose focus is to ensure the quality and sustainability of each ingredient on the menu.
Ms. Boledovich works closely with farmers and foragers, all of whom provide ingredients based on the season. I sat down with her one afternoon to discuss this style of sourcing. While we sampled the restaurant’s fonio dish, Eight-Ball Squash Stuffed with Fonio and Heirloom Tomatoes on a red pepper puree, Ms. Boledovich explained to me how PRINT.’s standards make the process of produce acquisition and menu preparation more time consuming, but also more exciting. The dish was excellent, one that reflected a great level of skill in balancing a variety of subtle flavors. Breaking through the squash to get to the creamy fonio gave me a sensation similar to breaking a perfectly cooked egg yolk, the way the side of your fork glides effortlessly through the dish tells you just how perfectly cooked the dish is. We admittedly put the interview on hold for a few moments just to enjoy the flavor, however I eventually got around to asking Ms. Boledovich for her impression on the impact a forager has on the menu.
When you support smaller producers it’s like piecing together a puzzle, since some of these farms only deliver one day a week, so you need to fill the gaps. Things are changing fast. Actual foraged ingredients have a short season. We may only have blueberries for a few weeks, but let’s get excited and make a sauce for the duck and put it in as special dessert and really highlight it while we can.
Now, the logical next question that I had to ask was how fonio, a grain grown in Africa, fits into the philosophy that governs PRINT’s foraging, given that it comes from another continent. Megan explained,
Obviously we’re not diabolical about ‘every single thing has to be local’ because we’re in a hotel and we have to cater to people’s needs. We need coffee, sugar, and products that aren’t regional for certain dishes. Fonio is a good example of something that’s not from the region that we try to source from small locations with sustainable biodynamics. If it comes from far away it’s good to know its being farmed in a sustainable way and that purchasing it supports the people and communities that grow it.
It is that outlook on the use of ingredients like fonio, ones whose purchase supports smallholder if not nearby farmers, that resonates with conscious consumers and our mission at Yolélé. These imported ingredients are then integrated with locally sourced eight-ball squash. Dishes like these embody the profound and multifaceted commitment PRINT. has towards local farmers, and responsibly grown, delicious food.
After we finished the dish, Ms. Boledovich took me on a tour of the inner workings of the restaurant, where I experienced the pleasure that always comes with happening upon delicious smelling foods and flavors that escape identification. The tour culminated with the rooftop garden, situated in a space one might assume, incorrectly, to be too small to contain the vast array of plants that it does. It was in this nestled space that I fully grasped the passion with which Ms. Boledovich and the rest of the team at PRINT. treat their products and foraging process. It is a passion that belongs in every restaurant, as well as in every home.