Volume 16 • Issue 19 | October 07 - 13, 2003

A lively Stone Street, accent on the tomato

By Francis R. Angelino

Downtown Express Photo by Francis R. Angelino

Executive Chef Eberhard Muller and his wife, Paulette Satur, at their farm stand at Bayard’s Hierloom Tomato Festival on Stone Street

Bringing renewed life to picturesque, renovated Stone Street, Bayard’s Hierloom Tomato Festival was a celebration of the ongoing efforts of owners Harry and Peter Paulakakos and their talented Executive Chef Eberhard Muller.

On a recent mild September evening, pedestrians thronged Stone Street sampling over thirty varieties of heirloom tomatoes. They were grown by Muller and his wife, Paulette Satur, on their 50-acre organic farm in Cutchogue on the North Fork of Long Island.

There are 10,000 tomato plants on the couple’s farm. Satur points out that the 30 varieties were pared down from a very large field.

“We went through over 150 different kinds,” she said.

She added that the deeply ribbed and flattened red Costoluto Genovese was one of the farm’s most popular. Some other varieties included: German Gold, Goliath, Persimmon, Green Zebra, Pineapple and Dixie Golden Giant.

Muller turned some of the festival tomatoes into a smooth, chilled soup, accenting it with a sherry wine vinegar.

Generally speaking, hierloom tomatoes are older, truer varieties of tomatoes. They have not been hybridized or crossed with other varieties in an attempt to achieve a desired result, sometimes at the cost of the original flavor.

The range of shapes and colors of heirloom tomatoes is wide, from small to round, deeply ridged and scalloped, to flattened; they have a rainbow of colors from rose to red, golden orange, pale green to amber and lemon yellow.

Like another fruit, the heirloom or antique apple, heirloom tomatoes have survived because, in almost all cases, they have a uniquely sweet and rich tomato flavor, capturing the warm sunny essence of late summer like nothing else.

Though botanically a fruit, tomatoes were officially proclaimed a vegetable in 1893, by the U.S. Supreme Court, as a result of a tariff dispute. They are America’s second most popular vegetable after potatoes.

Originally native to South America, approximately 150 years ago tomatoes managed to overcome a reputation as a poisonous specie of the nightshade family. It then began its climb to its current widespread popularity.

Bayard’s Festival had stands selling heirloom tomatoes as well as tasty tomato dishes prepared in Bayard’s kitchen (One Hanover Square, 212-514-9454) by Muller and his staff. Along with the soup was a superior thin-crusted pizza with yellow, green and red tomatoes and caramelized cipollini onions; panzanella salad; grilled shrimp with salsa; an excellent grilled lamb chops with an hierloom tomato compote; oven roasted tomatoes, and sweet tomato crumble for dessert.

Stone Street is now a daily street fair because of the rebuilding efforts of Harry and Peter Poulakakos. Last year, Peter opened Financier Patisserie with Bayard’s pastry chef Eric Bedoucha. In June, Peter joined with Danny McDonald to open Ulysses’ an Irish Bar.

Though listed as a “consultant” to all the revitalization activity on Stone Street, Harry Poulakakos was very much a vital presence at the Hierloom Tomato Festival. Over the past 30 years, Harry has become a beloved figure in Lower Manhattan for his cordial ways and generous nature.

After 9/11, the Poulakakos family served meals to rescue workers and is committed to helping revitalize lower Manhattan, as evidenced by the new restaurants they have opened.

“Last year September 11 was about remembrance and what was lost. This year is about rebuilding and the future. And we have a lot to offer in one street,” said Peter Poulakakos.


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