According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are 25,000 different varieties of tomatoes, but for true lovers of the fruit, the more important number is 3,000, because that’s how many heirloom varieties are said to be in existence. So named because the seeds have been passed down through generations, heirloom tomatoes are a favorite of seasonal food lovers as well as chefs, who revere the heirlooms for their texture, their acidity, their sweetness, and their versatility. Not surprisingly, you’ll find a bounty of dishes focused on and featuring this prized member of the Nightshade family on restaurant menus this month. Here are a few you’ll want to try throughout the state of California.
Chef Ari Weiswasser has spoken of his love of Green Zebra heirloom tomatoes from nearby Benziger Family Winery’s biodynamic garden. He shows them off at one of Condé Nast’s best restaurants in the world with the brick chicken, featuring farrotto, green tomato butter, and spring onion “dip.”
The favorite Wild Hare salad at this popular New-American restaurant uses Sungold tomatoes to give a bright punch to a mélange of gorgonzola, crispy shallots, and Dijon vinaigrette, with either steak or chicken.
Not satisfied with just one dish on a menu, Bernardus is centering an entire special-event meal around the summer stunner, with the Heirloom Tomato Lunch on Saturday, Sept. 2. At least eight varieties of certified organic heirloom tomatoes from Swank Farms will be featured, with a “garden-inspired” lunch at Lucia Restaurant featuring tomato ratatouille, Carmel Valley gazpacho, roasted free-range Sonoma chicken, and natural prime beef.
Combining marinated heirloom tomatoes, French feta, lemongrass, roasted macadamia nuts, and red mustard greens with Fairhill Farms grilled peaches makes for a bright, tangy, salad at this Santa Barbara hotspot that was named to OpenTable’s list of the 100 hottest restaurants in America.
This “Asian Eating House” offers a fragrant and flavorful version of an heirloom tomato salad as bold and unique as the restaurant itself, with toasted sesame seeds, soy, ginger, and cilantro.
Plant Food and Wine
Plant is a go-to for upscale vegan fare in L.A., and the heirloom tomato and zucchini lasagna, with sun-dried tomato marinara and macadamia ricotta, is satisfying for plant-based and meat-eating diners alike.
This hotspot for artisan pizza throughout Southern California (with additional locations including West L.A, Westlake Village, and Pasadena) offers an heirloom tomato pizza with whipped ricotta, parmesan, basil, and extra virgin olive oil. Don’t want the carbs? You can also savor the Greek-tinged heirloom tomato and cucumber salad, with both heirloom and Campari Tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, Kalamata and Castelvetrano olives, Greek herbs, Greek vinaigrette, and grilled flatbread; or the heirloom tomatoes with ricotta and chunky basil vinaigrette.
This fashionable lounge and restaurant led by hot executive chef Niki Starr Weyler offers a couple of options for heirloom tomato seekers: the grilled marinated shrimp with sweet and spicy Bilbao chorizo, corn, heirloom tomatoes, and chimichurri sauce; and the power salad, with baby kale, spinach, hearts of palm, baby heirloom tomatoes, chopped beets, crispy qCrouinoa, feta, and honey mustard vinaigrette.
Yes, it’s on Ocean Front Walk on the Mission Beach Boardwalk, but this casual bar and grill serves up more than tourist fare. Order the egg white toast, with goat cheese, artichoke hearts, arugula, heirloom tomato, and French bread, for one of the tastiest, and healthiest, breakfasts around.