The best food is food you grow yourself,” declares Agnes Devereux. “And if you can’t do that, food from local farms is next best. It tastes better, and nutritionally it is better.” Devereux grew up in Ireland, where farm-fresh, made-from-scratch food was a normal part of life. So when she opened her New Paltz restaurant, the Village TeaRoom, her motto was “Home cooking at its best.” And that means local, organic, untampered-with ingredients.
Because the menu is dictated by whatever is available seasonally, spring can come as a relief. “We’re so starved for green things,” Devereux says. “It’s root vegetables all winter, and snow. And then you get the first peek of crocuses — and somebody will come in with some wild ramps, and you just descend on them!”
Apart from growing a few herbs, Devereux doesn’t garden. “We have a share at the Phillies Bridge farm in Gardiner,” she says. “One of the things I like is that you can pick part of your share, so I take my children with me. It changes their whole experience of food. Tasting the first sugar snap peas, or string beans off the vine, it’s a different thing altogether from food that comes shrink-wrapped.”
• 1 good-sized bunch of local organic asparagus
• 1 1/4 cups Ronnybrook Farm heavy cream
• 2/3 cup Ronnybrook Farm Creamline milk
• 4 egg yolks from local farm eggs
• 2 Tbsp grated Pecorino Romano cheese
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground pepper
• Olive oil
• 1 egg whisked with a pinch of salt in a separate bowl
• 9-inch unbaked tart shell (pate brisé)
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line the tart shell with parchment paper, weight it with dried beans, and blind bake for 10 minutes.
2. Remove the beans and paper, then prick the bottom of the tart shell with a fork and return to the oven for 5 minutes.
3. Remove from the oven and brush with beaten egg. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.
4. Cut asparagus into generous 1-inch lengths, with spear heads slightly longer. Discard woody sections. Toss in olive oil with a pinch of salt and roast on a cookie sheet until just tender.
5. Whisk the cream, milk, egg yolks, and cheese together in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Place the cooled asparagus in the tart shell and pour in the custard. Place the tart pan on a cookie sheet and cook for 25-30 minutes, until just set.
6. Let tart cool for 10 minutes. Serve with arugula salad and stone-ground mustard vinaigrette.
• 1/2 lb butter
• 12 oz unbleached, unbromated, all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3 oz cold, filtered water
1. Cut the butter into 6 to 8 pieces. Combine the dry ingredients and the butter in the bowl of a mixer with the paddle attachment on lowest speed, leaving pieces of butter no more than 1/4 inch across.
2. Stir in water until the dough just holds together. Scrape out and shape into two flat discs. Wrap each in plastic and chill until firm.
3. Roll out one disc and fit it into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim edges neatly and freeze. (Save the other disc for another tart.)