The definitive movement of our time might be the Farm-to-Table movement, sometimes called Greenmarket Gastronomy, Haute Barnyard, or the New Naturalism. Whatever it is it involves local products freshly killed or dug up. These chefs are the unquestioned masters of the movement.
Still, to my mind, the defining New York restaurant, Gramercy Tavern is the crown jewel in Danny Meyer's restaurant group, partially as the result of chef Michael Anthony's amazing greenmarket cooking, and partially because of its incredible service, great cocktails, and Nancy Olson's superb dessert program. One caveat: the front room is all air and color and excitement, and the back room is a drab dungeon.
The consummate greenmarket restaurant (well, it and Gramercy Tavern) presents a kind of zen-like simplicity in both the room and the food. While the proteins are very good, it's in the produce, all grown for the restaurant, that is the star of the show. For that reason, and given the seasonality that is almost a religion here, you'd do better to go in spring or summer.
Tom Colicchio has become so famous from Top Chef that you could be forgiven for assuming that his flagship restaurant is just another phoned-in cash cow. But in fact the restaurant still strives as hard, and with the same religious devotion to the ingredients, as it did when it opened ten years ago. It's not the liveliest room in town, but
Get it straight: there isn't a better, more straight-forward chef in New York than Marco Canora, whose restaurant is utterly committed to simple, perfectly prepared season food of the very highest order. Also, don't miss out on pasta, which is the open secret of Hearth's greatness.
New Yorkers who consider Blue Hill to be the ultimate expression of twee, refined locavore food have clearly never been to Mas (farmhouse), a very fine, very stylish, and very pretentious restaurant that nonetheless serves some of the best food in the city. The name is cringeworthy, and no one will be getting portions larger than what a well-behaved 9-year-old might expect, but for a certain kind of diner this is an ideal place to experience American food at its best and purest.
Everyone (but me) seems to love this mom-friendly Park Slope pizza, whose owners have come to personify the enlightened, all-natural cooking of the "New Brooklyn Cooking." The pizza is nothing special, but many of the other dishes are. I guess.
This rustic temple to seasonal cookery in the old Rockefeller estate has been called the culinary Storm King, but really, it's closer to a local food holy site. It's unspeakably beautiful and the food is well worth the long ride, but there's a certain seriousness of purpose here that sort of take away the fun for me.
The city's top vegan restaurant caters not to the usual cranks, but rather to a sophisticated clientele after great food and service, rather than some crackpot ideology.
Master chef Bill Telepan's eponymous restaurant is one of the city's best -- and most pleasureable -- of seasonal farm-to-table restaurants.
A small place, a committed chef, a lot of pork and seasonal produce served with the utmost simplicity: Trestle on Tenth is a very humble restaurant, but also a very good one. It's in a remote part of town on the far west side, and isn't much to look at, but if you love good cooking and wholesome ingredients it's worth going out of the way for.
A sprawling, citadel-like space in the farthest reaches of Brooklyn, this bushwick pizzeria has grown into one of the most adventurous and exciting restaurants in New York City.
Everyone talks a big game when it comes to seasonal cooking, but to my mind this place and Gramercy are the final word on the subject. I'm not completely in love with the room but the food is good in winter, glorious in spring, inspiring in summer, and very good in fall.