Bell, Book, and Candle's Aeroponic Rooftop Garden Is Bringing New Yorkers a True Farm-to-Table Experience

This charming West Village eatery puts an emphasis on both sustainability and delicious, fresh produce

Chef-owner John Mooney utilizes his flourishing rooftop crops for Bell, Book, and Candle's seasonal menu.

Often times it's hard to believe that New York City is a place where farm-to-table restaurants exist. However, amongst the hustle and bustle, congestion, crowds, and skyscrapers, are hidden gems where fruits and vegetables grow ripe for the picking and are brought practically straight from the garden to your table. Bell, Book, and Candle is one of them.

While the general population may have no idea that this cozy, charming, basement-level eatery advocates for “local, organic, sustainable and overall responsible procurement,” Bell, Book, and Candle's menu cycles are, “seasonal and heavily influenced on production from the aeroponic roof-top tower garden.” This soil-free tower garden produces everything from herbs such as sage, cilantro, and spearmint to leafy greens that include bibb lettuce, red romaine, and frisée throughout the year. More vegetables grown on the roof include cauliflower, eggplant varieties, and tomatoes.

Over half of its produce used in its dishes are sourced straight from Bell, Book, and Candle's vertical rooftop garden. “Menu planning revolves around what produce we have. I use what is the best available at the time," says chef-owner John Mooney. "My object is not to buy in, it's to use whatever I have up here."

This eclectic, green, and eco-friendly restaurant nestled in the West Village has an extensive menu filled with fresh, savory, and interesting options. Bites include oysters on the half shell; fried oysters with a green chile buttermilk dressing; crispy roasted jalapeño deviled eggs; and lobster tacos with tomatillo and avocado salsa. Also featured are mix n' match charcuterie platters where you can choose from three different meats and three different cheeses.

Those wanting a true taste of Bell, Book, and Candle's farm-to-table cuisine will want to start off with a "living leaf salad." Choices include a strawberry salad with blue cheese and pecans; a house-made burrata with grilled ramps; a smoked salmon salad with roasted pretzel croûtons; and, my favorite, the crispy pork belly arugula salad with apple, fennel, and sweet onions.

Innovative starters offered range from the more hearty grilled sausage of the day and grilled lamb chops with lemon and olive oil, to items such as the raclette grilled cheese with a slow poached egg and white truffle oil and the Hawaiian yellow fin tuna nachos with tempura kale (yes, tempura kale) and guacamole.

Mains are good-sized portions and deliciously unique. From the seafood options of the spice-rubbed yellow fin tuna with grilled asparagus, mushroom, and fava beans; and the "gin and tonic" salmon with caramelized cauliflower and lime emulion. Meaty dishes offered include the chimichurri hanger steak and the BBC burger (patty melt), which came with a gorgeous bright pink, creamy, beet dipping sauce. Also featured are daily specials. I ended up ordering the special surf and turf with scallops, steak, and asparagus.

Definitely save room for dessert because each one is so good! I opted for the banana and toasted almond bread pudding with a vanilla cream anglaise. It was rich, dense, and had layers of sweet flavors, along with a crunch from the almond bits. Also on the menu is a panna cotta with a fig compote and a warm chocolate brownie with pistachio ice cream to name a few.

The cocktails are quite incredible too. With a large selection of libations, it's tough to chose one. My choices (yes, I had a few), were the Hibisco y Humo with hibiscus-infused mezcal, cucumber, lime, and a chile salt rim; and the Sorry Not Sorry, a basil-infused vodka drink with watermelon and a lemon salt rim. Both were refreshing and delightful! Plus, I'm a fan of salt rims. Other tasty cocktails are the jalapeño margarita; the Rooftop Mojito, which obviously uses its rooftop grown mint leaves, and the Cusco's Demise with pisco, cantaloupe, and absinthe.

Can't make it over during the week? No problem. Bell, Book, and Candle has recently launched its Sunday Soul Brunch complete with the live gospel group, LaFredrick Soul Band. Southern inspired brunch items include a cast iron mac and cheese, fried chicken, and pressed muffaleta sandwiches. Brunch will be offered every Sunday throughout the summer.

P.S. Try to swing by Bell, Book, and Candle's happy hour Sunday through Friday 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. where its signature cocktails are $8 and $10, white and red wine for $6, and all draft beers are $4. Plus, oysters in the bar are only $1.

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