The country’s premiere tennis tournament is also striving to be one of the city’s premiere international food destinations.
In the shadows of tennis greats, such as Serena and Venus Williams, celebrity chefs David Burke, Tony Mantuano and “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto are dishing up high-end cuisine, with the hefty price tags to prove it, at this year’s U.S. Open.
The two-week competition features five restaurants, two wine bars and more than 60 concession stands throughout the grounds in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
“What we’re trying to do is have fresher ingredients that taste better and are better for you,” says Jim Abbey, the tournament’s executive chef, at a tasting event last week. “What’s really different this year is we’ve connected the dots of working with local farmers and fishermen to have local, more fresh items.”
Abbey, who works for the Chicago-based company Levy Restaurants, unveiled a new Farm to Fork concession stand that will feature regional, organic and natural cuisine. One highlight of the stand is the grilled vegetable sandwich, which is bursting with flavorful thick-cut squash, zucchini, eggplant, peppers and greens on freshly baked bread.
The U.S. Open is working with local farms, such as Satur Farms, on the North Fork of Long Island, to supply produce to the two-week event, where hungry fans are expected to eat 12.5 pounds of lettuce, 35,000 pounds of tomatoes and 15,000 pounds of beef tenderloin and steak. About 700,000 spectators are expected to attend the competition this year.
“We create our menu around what’s being harvested this time of year,” says Abbey, who oversees a staff of 250.
Food at the peak of its maturity—and freshness—is also very important to sushi master Morimoto.
“Fish are very seasonal,” Morimoto says. “This time maybe sardines are the best—maybe tuna too.”
Mantuano was pleased to show off the milky burratta, made by the Salzurulo family in Brooklyn, that he plans to serve with garlic toasts at his two Wine Bar Food locations.
“It’s like a mozzarella balloon and inside it’s wonderfully creamy cheese curd custard,” Mantuano said.
The garlic toasts were also noteworthy. Mantuano said he grills the bread, drizzles the slices with olive oil and then rubs them with a garlic clove to give them a subtle but distinctly garlicky flavor.
Another favorite of the tasting event were Burke’s exquisitely creamy cherry pink cashmere cheese cake pops. The decadent desserts are coated with white chocolate, dried cherries and crumbled pistachios and then dipped in a bubble gum whipped cream that straddled the line between too sweet and just right.
But Burke was most proud of his newly patented dry-aged beef with Himalayan salt, which will be served at Champions Bar & Grill during the tournament.
“It’s nice to be a part of the U.S. Open,” Burke says. “We live for the excitement” of feeding the hungry spectators.