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Compost Dinner: A Zero-Waste Menu at Brooklyn Grange Farm

“This is phenomenal,” says my boyfriend Nate, tucking into a skewered and seared sausage laced with Kaffir lime and enjoying the panoramic views from the Brooklyn Grange’s rooftop farm. He catches a glimpse of the menu. “But what do they mean by ‘aged beef parts’…?”

What they mean, actually, is very gamey and tough beef livers from 17-year-old cows, leftovers donated from Fleishers. But really, does Nate need to know this so early in the evening?

“It means that Chef Winston Chiu’s menu is composed entirely of ‘composted’ odds and ends, made delicious and beautiful,” I tell him soothingly, refilling his wine glass.

And this is true. This is the second consecutive year that Chiu has joined forces with the Brooklyn Grange team to put on a Compost Dinner at the Grange’s 65,000-square-foot rooftop farm at the Brooklyn Navy Yards. The night begins with cocktails served in re-used cans, containing “honey hooch” made from the leftover Brooklyn Grange honeycombs that have a primary use as a soak in Kings County Distillery’s for-sale whiskey. Chiu and his team from catering company BonBite have created a five-course menu featuring Brooklyn Grange produce and herbs not fit for sale, as well as passed-over items from local butchers and fishmongers: pig heads, fish parts, and the “aged beef” in question. Guests sit at a long communal table made from refurbished antique wood furniture, and are given discarded fabric swatches to use as napkins. Plates are banana leaves. Silverware is minimal and improvised, including the use of the skewers from course two as chopsticks for course three.

From the first sip of hooch to the last bite of sourdough ice cream, the evening is a thorough education in reducing waste and dining sustainably.

Photography courtesy of Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm.

Farmers harvest rows of produce at Brooklyn Grange's Navy Yard rooftop farm
Above: Farmers tend rows of salad greens at Brooklyn Grange’s Navy Yard location, 12 stories above the East River.

“Think about an orange,” says Anastasia Cole Plakias, vice president and founding partner of Brooklyn Grange. “It takes almost 14 gallons of water to grow a single orange. When we talk about food waste, we’re not just talking about actual food material being scraped off of a plate into the trash—we are also talking about the energy that went into producing it: water, labor, herbicides, pesticides, harvesting, transportation, packaging, and shipping. There is energy that then goes into breaking down discarded food as it enters the waste stream. That huge amount of energy of the entire system is what we are looking at when we think about food waste.”

Sunset at the Brooklyn Grange Navy Yard rooftop farm
Above: Brooklyn Grange Farm hosts events and dinners throughout the year, including this year’s Compost Dinner on July 12.

Brooklyn Grange was founded in...

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