In keeping with Gourmet Live’s just released Money issue, venture capitalists, take note: Within a few hours each week, 700 bags of homemade potato chips, with names like Brown Butter and Pure Pleasure, sell out at Rick Bishop’s Mountain Sweet Berry Farm stand at New York City’s Union Square Greenmarket. At four bucks for a small bag, that’s significant.
Bishop’s chips are nothing like the perfectly pale corporate brands that stuff supermarket aisles. Made from five very different specialty potatoes from among the many varieties Bishop grows for chefs and Greenmarket lovers, each chip is a unique adventure in flavor and texture.
“The German Butterball [potato] tastes just like brown butter,” Bishop says excitedly. The Crunchy Indian is his crispest, heartiest chip. It’s made from the Ozette, thought to be the first potato brought to North America by the Spanish, who traded for furs with the Makah Nation of Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest.
Pure Pleasures come from La Ratte fingerlings, the French favorite and Chef Joel Robuchon’s choice for his legendary pommes purée. That is, until Robuchon tried Chef David Bouley’s purée made from Bishop’s Ruby Crescents. Robuchon switched over. The Ruby Crescent and Purple Peruvian make up Bishop’s Andes Mix, a nod to the native source of potatoes.
Bishop works closely with Chef Chris Field, who’s moved close to the farm. “He knows how to cook the potatoes,” Bishop acknowledges. “I just grow them.”
But slicing fingerlings for frying is not so simple. It’s the crux of the whole operation. Bishop had to invest in a special machine that spins the potatoes around a stationary blade to achieve a lengthwise cut. And they’re fried in rice bran oil, which has no flavor of it’s own, allowing the essence of each potato to speak out loud and clear with a little help from Sicilian sea salt.
Bishop is stepping up production to 1,000 bags a week. He just planted an extra 25 acres of potatoes, and he’ll soon move the frying from a rented golf and tennis club kitchen to his own building. Seems to me there’s gold in them there Catskill hills.