Long before she launched her own business, Kate Galassi was just a girl in love with vegetables.
Growing up in Boerum Hill, she was raised on the Greenmarket and a third-generation shop on Court Street where much of what her family ate was selected by a guy named Carmine, the kind of produce pro who could spot an imperfect head of escarole at 20 paces.
After college she immersed herself in agriculture, driving tractors and braiding garlic. Working at Bill Maxwell’s Greenmarket stand, she sold to some of the top cooks in the country. And for three years, she was a professional ingredient forager, sourcing the best berries, beets and beef for restaurants like the Spotted Pig and the Breslin.
Steeped in such harvests, she wondered why more people don’t eat this way. “If you start with these ingredients,” she realized, “you practically don’t even need to know how to cook.”
But for people who didn’t grow up guided by Carmine, the Greenmarket can be overwhelming. How do I choose a tomato, flustered customers would often ask, and can you tell me how to eat Swiss chard?
Meanwhile many a CSA shareholder knows what it’s like to haul home mizuna and stick it in the fridge next to last week’s yellowing share, all while wondering, What do you do with mizuna, anyway?
Which led Galassi to an idea, one that would benefit home cooks and small farmers alike. She founded a business as beautiful and innovative as its name: Quinciple. Grounded in a love for little-known wonders like the fuzzy fruit called quince, she curates sublime produce, grains, meat and dairy in a weekly delivery that feels as if it were selected by Alice Waters herself.
It’s not a CSA. Galassi works with over a hundred farmers, so the dozen-item box might contain the local shell peas, goat cheese or goose eggs she once scouted for April Bloomfield. But they may be nestled alongside an aromatic variety of Louisiana rice and heirloom oranges from a small farm in California. And each bike-delivered box comes with stories about each ingredient, an explanation of, say, what the recent hail means for upstate orchards, and a gorgeous collection of recipes for the week’s ingredients, like roasted beets with pea shoots, or savory buckwheat crepes with garlicky greens.
Just a year old, the Bed-Stuy-based brand already packs a brisk 500 boxes a week. But for Galassi, that’s just fingerling potatoes. Now inviting investment for expansion, she’s planning to operate up and down the East Coast next year, and go nationwide by 2017.
Business is booming, but for Galassi, the ultimate outcome is educated eaters. So she’s thrilled when farmers say customers of hers have become customers of theirs. Like the guy who recently tracked down Consider Bardwell at the Greenmarket.
“I got this cheese in my Quinciple box,” he exclaimed, “and I love it.”
Photo Credit: Ann Dinwiddie Madden