Here is my niece learning to set the table with her grandmother...
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
OK so it took entirely too long to write about the wonderful Thanksgiving dinner and family day L But I have to. The food was wonderful. And there’s no expiration or “sell by” date. I figure it’s always a good time to talk about food, right?
My mother and I planned the menu while sipping wine and sitting on our sunny terrace that overlooks the Atlantic Highlands marina, Sandy Hook, and the glittering New York City skyline. And it was November (thank you climate change ^:^). We were inspired by the delicious recipes in Bon Appetit magazine, especially the farm to table offerings. (It reminded me: we miss Gourmet magazine already….)
We chose to get a free-range turkey, of course. I Googled where to find a turkey near us in the Garden State and that search pointed me to Whole Foods. I ordered our 18-pound bird online: very easy. And my husband would pick it up the day before Thanksgiving. It wasn’t till later that I saw an advertisement in the local paper, The Two River Times, for locally raised turkeys, available at Dearborn Market Fine Food & Garden Center (www.dearbornmarket.com Farms (www.dearbornfarms.com
Dearborn Farms is the place where I get some of the plant material for my garden design clients, particularly for the seasonal container displays. Dearborn Farms also has a gourmet food store. Sickle’s Market (www.sicklesmarket.com) is another spectacular source of garden & fine food items, many of them local. Both establishments “get it” -- meaning good food and beautiful gardens are two sides of the same coin – fresh food and the locally farmed bounty make a natural. And both were once solely farms – who grew the best peaches, apples, strawberries, Jersey corn and tomatoes and many other fruits and vegetables. It’s in their pedigree to offer fresh from the farm food and garden plants.
It begs the question that if retailers and smart consumers get it, why can’t the nation’s large food suppliers? Industrialized Food contributes just as much, if not more, to the increasing healthcare issue. Cheap, bad food and defiance of farming and grazing -- as if it’s not the natural order of things is crazy. Look what we get! Fat, sick people L
Whew – I’m back. Anyway, I also saw the stand at the Greenmarket in Union Square near our home in New York City that featured Di Paola Turkey Farms, from Trenton, New Jersey. I think that was that same turkeys offered by Dearborn Farms – although they may have advertised turkeys from Hamilton, New Jersey. Regardless – both are terrific.
For our Thanksgiving menu, my mother, Virginia, took the baby winter squash with spiced orange currant stuffing from Bon Appetit to make. She said it was a lot of work but everyone raved about it.
I made the brussel sprouts with mustard and apple glazed pecans. I didn’t make the slaw of the brussel sprouts, as directed from the recipe but rather used our garden fresh sprouts in full form and all their glory. We grew exciting brussel sprouts in our Back Forty or Bill’s Garden (that’s my husband J) at our Garden State home this year. Even Windfall Farms’ owner/chief farmer, Morse Pitts (www.windfallfarms.com) admired the photo I showed him of our first-ever, homegrown sprouts.
Morse said we had very impressive sprouts + more – which is high praise, as Morse and Windfall Farms is a Greenmarket leader. Chef Peter Hoffman, Savoy Restaurant, (www.savoynyc.com)
elected to have his “garden/farm” photo shoot for the book at Windfall Farms and that is how we were most fortunate/blessed to visit and get to know owner/farmer Morse Pitts and his team of Farmers, including Kevin Caplicki. Kevin blogs for Windfall Farms too. He is an artist. And he also works at the Greenmarket for Windfall Farms. Be sure to catch him there. www.cenyc.org
And with all due modesty – it was our first year to grow brussel sprouts – and potatoes. Wow - were they delicious.
I also made the fantastic Chipotle Cranberry Sauce. I cannot recommend this enough. We used our homegrown chiles, which made it even more special. Regardless, the recipe took a blah Thanksgiving jello-like staple to another level – completely! With cumin, fresh cranberries, cinnamon, and the chiles, the cranberry sauce was memorable indeed. I adore leeks and so made The New York Times’ Mark Bittman potato and leek gratin – which is the same recipe, essentially, as the one I tore from Smith & Hawkin’s catalog.
My mother was on Pie Patrol and made three of them! Apple, cherry and coconut custard.
My husband purchased a case of Silverado wine and we brought a bottle to Thanksgiving dinner to enjoy – as well as a bottle of French Chablis. (We bought some cases of 1997 Silverado on a memorable visit to Napa Valley with my cousin Jeff and his wife Suzanne a few years ago – and boy, was that vintage spectacular.)
Overall, Thanksgiving was fun, easy and delicious. And the added bonus is of course, to see family and friends. My nieces were too adorable:\
Thanksgiving has long been my most favorite holiday. Why? It’s uniquely American and as a patriot with English and Dutch and Native American ancestry (I’m Czech too but that doesn’t seem to relate to Thanksgiving ^:^) This holiday is just the best – all about food and family and celebrating the Harvest. I honor it.
Here is my niece learning to set the table with her grandmother...
Here is my niece learning to set the table with her grandmother...
And the long Thanksgiving weekend always gave me the opportunity to gracefully approach Christmas…
My friends and family will tell you that mine is the first Christmas card they receive every year. How wonderful! But honestly, it’s not the idea of “first” that got me to start this tradition; but rather the love of sitting in front of the fire, relaxed (which given the nature of working schedules is more than a challenge!); writing Christmas cards to all to all our favorites and to relish the love and joy of the year. As a writer and communicator, I always thought, what could be better than to reconnect with those you love using the written word? And I love using that wax sealer on the envelope…nice formal touch.
I would always purchase my Holiday cards from a Junior League colleague, who has her own line of cards with Crane's that feature her original watercolors: beautiful and unique, to say the least. Because I worked at New York Botanical Garden (www.nybg.org) and Brooklyn Botanic Garden (www.bbg.org) I celebrated the holidays with their special holiday cards for years. Not this year.
I have long admired and used Kate’s Paperie for stationary, stamps, and even for BBG. When our beloved president, Judy Zuk died, I purchased a handsome album so that visitors who came to the Garden to pay their respect, could sign the Guest Book and we could then preserve it in the BBG archives.
On a more pedestrian level, I ordered two customized stamps from Kate’s last year – one for our name on the cards (helps me, as I have terrible handwriting) and an initialized one for napkins (or whatever).
This year, I purchased all our Christmas cards from Kate’s. And I ordered a special garden themed stamp for Duchess Designs to use with my holiday cards for the garden design clients.
I decorate for the Holidays primarily with plants, flowers, nature (pine cones, birch trees, etc.) and candles.
Starting to get the ball rolling here in the Garden State:
And shopping at Union Square Greenmarket, I found the perfect wreath made with greens, snippets of lambs ears and blue grey thistle. Perfect for our NYC apartment door!
Looking forward to a lovely, peaceful Holiday. Lot’s of parties too, of course!
Posted by Leeann Lavin at 1:00 PM
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Lecture at the Horticultural Society of New York
“Vegetable gardens make every property an act of eating”
Couldn’t miss landscape design icons, Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd, Friday, October, 30th at the Horticultural Society of New York (http://www.hsny.org/)
Joe and Wayne delivered a unique one-two punch of garden design inspiration from their remarkable portfolio AND a hands on working consultation.
Partners Eck & Winterrowd’s North Hill home and garden is a natural “muse” to their unique brand and philosophical approach to garden design.
Joe and Wayne are adored, admired and respected for their extraordinary approach to landscape design. They had me at “food” as in vegetables J, telling the audience they always include food as an edible garden design element. The design duo noted, “Food is a primal pleasure” and opined that it’s really hard to be into gardening and not to satisfy that impulse.
From their creative, award-winning portfolio, the duo presented four garden design case studies that couldn’t help but ignite the attendees’ garden dreams. According to Joe and Wayne, an overriding recommendation is to design a garden that embodies a “sense of place.” I call this a horticultural DNA. What does that mean? “Essentially, if you live in area like the Hamptons, for example, where the Shingle Style prevails, it would be best not to introduce a style” that in Joe and Wayne’s perspective, “sticks out!”
Their pool design recommendation should most assuredly be acknowledged and considered: rather than the ubiquitous Mediterranean standard of the turquoise-colored pool, homeowners should employ a violet or grey scale color for the pool lining. Brilliant suggestion!
I noted the vegetable gardens they include in their landscape designs are extraordinarily beautiful; they employ a perfect pitch of texture, color and size of the plant to achieve enviable ornamental edible garden designs. Their vegetable garden designs also ranged in size and scope from containers to the rather diminutive borders to the standard parterred potager to the sweep of orchards. For example, Joe and Wayne showed a color-themed composition featuring gorgeous ruby rhubarb with a coral bark, clematis, and epimediums as the skirted ground cover.
“Vegetable gardens make every property an act of eating,” according to the design team. Words to live by, I say.
The one-acre Rancho Santa Fe house and garden design demonstrated how they achieved a “sense of place” employing the Mission Style. Part of a built, gated community, their vision was to “completely sequester” the property. Their aim was to have visitors think this homestead was the original landowner who needed to sell off part of their land to maintain their “original estate” vs. the reality of this having been the last property available in the community complex. The wink of the conceit succeeds spectacularly.
The food terraces in one sloped area feature a Tuscany-looking citrus grove, figs, avocados, and macadamia nuts. Rather than mowed grass, there now exists, exciting and glamorous fruit trees. The olive trees were planted on a diagonal with the last “row” smack up against the adobe wall. They also planted a lot of rosemary so that it quickly – and oh-so-naturally began dripping over the adobe walls.
Joe and Wayne also showcased the home’s “Gift of Gate or Donated Space.” This is their thoughtfully designed garden “gift” to a homeowner’s neighbors and in less artistic hands might be referred to simply as “curb appeal.” Here, the designers employed xeriscape, used native California plants and maximized the garden footprint to deliver a wowsy first impression for the homeowner’s guests. At the same time, they provide a picture-perfect, good neighbor botanic postcard to all who pass by: Greetings! Glad you are here…. J
The driveway they originally thought they wanted was illegal in California. No gravel… (What does that sign posting look like? The European stop sign over stones?!)
In any event, they went back to the drawing board and got local river stones to characterize another overarching design principle they practice and that is to get inside the garden – to feel surrounded by it – as opposed to just looking at it. So they made a walking path through the olive grove they had planted.
Like all good garden artists, Joe and Wayne adhere to repeating planting for maximum effect – and here they planted 4,000 lavender plants!
They proposed delineating the property, erecting a 15’ adobe wall around the property to give it the sense of place and enclosure.
The yellow and white weeping lantana that caresses their terrace wall design illustrated another key design principle: Build a strong space with lots of muscle and definition and proceed to erase it. Here, they even added a vine that turns crimson in the autumn for added color and drama – and to remind the Garden State couple that owns the home, of their wonderful New Jersey roots. They both described their rush to add romance and exuberance to the hardscapes and pointed out this is a design philosophy espoused by the great English author, poet garden designer, Vita Sackville-West, who created her own gardens in Sissinghurst. (www.en.m.wikipedia.org: Vita Sackville-West). So build strong walls, then “fluff it up” with lots of pretty plants, is advice to good too ignore.
Joe and Wayne also use water features in the garden designs. “It must be completely natural or completely artificial.” They said. Huh? Either use containers or Chinese water troughs or recreate nature with a fishpond for example. You can also provide water vegetables in the water gardens.
Describing the eternity pool they installed to create a mirror-like affect “tickled the hell out of us.” And utilizing the “borrowed scenery,” they fueled the Tuscany-inspired look of the landscape. They created a sense of openness and enclosure. The walls and the house were cited so that you cannot see the other homes in the community.
The lecture also included a pre-Civil war home in Kentucky. Located in Henry County, the home was part of the 1,000 acre working farm. Here too, in order to delineate the home space from the working farm area, they built wall – old-looking ones, and then created an arborvitae hedge in front that sloped away to one side ending in a grove. The use of the grove terminates a hedge in a natural way. Because the house used lots of bricks formed and dried on the property since it was built in 1830, they used lots of brick. Remember, “Don’t stick out.” In fact, all the material they used in the garden came from the property. Limestone bluffs ring the area, so, you guessed it, they created a lush courtyard, brick and limestone paths, terraces.
They designed the vegetable and herb garden patterned off and hedged with box, which is ubiquitous in the South. Again, they demonstrated how they employed the “borrowed landscape” with images that showed how the rolling farmland and hills beyond become part of the garden design. And the daisy meadow they dreamed up is magical.
The final house and garden they toured as part of the lecture was near Louisville, Kentucky. The surprise here was that they recommended not putting any garden around the house! Just leave it pristine and undisturbed.
The wife loved an old tractor shed on the property located about 1,200 feet from the house. Thus, they proposed, “Travel to the Garden!” The next surprise is that they proposed using old corrugated metal for the garden walls. But in fact, the design team offered that there was significant wisdom in using the idiomatic material. The homeowners love Modern, Mid-Century fine art and the metal fit right in with their aesthetic. Plus it took care of the deer problem nicely too. The walls have achieved a splendid patina, and are now draped with those glamorous, romantic plants to fluff it up. The contrast is high drama. Walking to the garden it’s all sober and austere. Then the wide gates open up to a garden paradise. They used gravel pathways punctuated by nepeta spilling over onto the walks for a rhythmic accent and to give form to the plant shapes. The walks are almost erased by the end of the summer, joked Joe. They created different grades or levels of garden within the paradise for added excitement. The color gold was used in a major way here – in all its permutations – contrasting with the burgundy of a berberis or the grey of the gravel stone. Gorgeous. In the middle of the garden is a formal vegetable garden – neat as a pin – that contrasts nicely with the romantic exuberance of the decorative garden surrounding it.
Following the slide show and lecture, Joe and Wayne literally turned things around. After a short break, they conducted a working session, and took questions and design challenges from the attendees, providing garden solutions on the spot!
This valuable lesson from two masters was deeply appreciated by all.
The all too short lecture at the Horticultural Society concluded with a book signing. Between them they have written six books.
I bought two. I finally got their recent, instant classic, “Our Life in Gardens” and the beautifully crafted “Illustrations and Elements of Garden Design.” You can purchase all their books on Amazon.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Taste of Greenmarket Event
The 2nd Annual Taste of Greenmarket was held last night in a penthouse loft space on Manhattan’s West Side. Hosted by The Council on the Environment of New York City (CENYC) last night’s event will benefit “Greenmarket’s Youth Education Project, which teaches thousands of New York City school children each year about the local agriculture and the importance of eating fresh, seasonal food through fun, interactive learning experiences.” And according to CENYC, the evening also “honored participating chefs for the crucial role they play in educating the next generation, preserving farmland and spreading the word that locally produced food is tastier and better for you – that it has a soul and a story.”
All the master chefs who lent their time and talent to this important cause are their own special story, too. While they are at a similar place today: united in their ardor for farm to table food; their stories of how they came to embrace this concept and how they helped lead a national, seismic lifestyle change, are all very different. The chefs took varied paths on their journey to become celebrity chefs or better yet, culinary artists, who are leaders of the "eat local" movement. They are passionate about sustainability, their food ingredients, their relationships with their farmers and growers and dairies.
I know. I’m writing a book or two about almost all of these chefs and their crusade to connect our food to the earth.
It was great to see all “my” chefs in one place, mingling with family, friends, and supporters in a glittering only-in-Gotham kind of event – all for a good cause.
Hats off to Greenmarket Director, Michael Hurwitz for producing such a memorable and successful event.
The list of participating chefs included:
Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern, Dan Barber of Blue Hill & Blue Hill at Stone Barns, April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig, Jean Francois Bruel of Daniel, Marco Canora of Hearth, Insieme & Terroir, Mary Cleaver of The Green Table & The Cleaver Company, Tom Colicchio of Craft & Craftbar, Alex Guarnaschelli of Butter, Kurt Gutenbrunner of Wallse, Cafe Sabarsky & Blaue Gans, Peter Hoffman of Savoy & Back Forty, Patti Jackson of I Trulli, Gabriel Kreuther of The Modern, Bret Macris of Rose Water Marc Meyer of Cookshop, Five Points & Hundred Acres, Marco A. Moreira of Tocqueville, Aaron Sanchez of Centrico & Paladar, Bill Telepan of Telepan, David Waltuck of Chanterelle and Galen Zamarra of Mas(farmhouse).
Greenmarket-inspired cocktails by
Checking in at Taste of Greenmarket. We were given a tasting fork and spoon tucked neatly into a green (naturally) nylon sleeve -- something you might take on a camping trip, donated by Snow Peak. The cutlery was engraved, "Taste of Greenmarket" by N. G. Slater Corp. Picked up great goody bag here after event stuffed with food, rooster cookie cutter & Chef Telepan’s Snickerdoodle recipe, Bodum coffee, Kikkerland’s MiniMagnito salt & pepper shakers, Katchkie Ketchup, Green & Black’s Dark chocolate, Martin’s handmade pretzels, and more all packed in a burlap Greenmarket bag! Exciting and delicious treats.
Brooklyn’s Rose Water team: Right is owner/chef, John Tucker; middle is Chef Bret Macris. Menu: Pork confit with braised cabbage, pickled peppers, sweet potato lefse
Savoy’s beautiful and charming Susanne Hoffman, wife of Chef Peter. She also is a potter and made all the handsome ceramic vases and dishes at the restaurant.
I Trulli’s Chef Patti Jackson served an amazing & delicious fried rabbit, delicata squash puree, spigarello broccoli (no bunny jokes!)
Gramercy Tavern’s Chef Michael Anthony with his mother to be wife, Mindy. Chef Michael served up tidy, mouth-watering, pop in your mouth Pigs in a Blanket.
Chef Marc Meyer served a fresh, tasty complex taste comprised of swordfish tacos with fresh corn tortillas, cabbage slaw and tomatillo salsa. Chef Marc’s team represented his portfolio of restaurants including Cookshop, Five Points and my favorite, Hundred Acres (and also featured recently on the TV’s WB11 (www.wpix.com) TV hit series, Gossip Girl www.gossipgirl.com)
I caught up with Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns’ chef, Dan Barber as he was starting to head out. Always charming, Dan stopped to chat about some work for the book, and about … gifts J Menu for the evening was a tasty and healthy Blue Hill V-7 with green tomato tart that we could just throw back and savor.
Blue Hill at Stone Barns’ delightful Irene Hamburger (left) and friend. Irene also lent her talents and organizational skills to the Taste of Greenmarket, serving on this year’s Host Committee.
Chanterelle’s David Waltuck presented flavorful and distinctive mini moussaka with oregano and lamb jus. I heard a lot of “oohs and ahhhs” and “mmm” comments from the tasting audience for this fantastic menu…
The inimitable Chef Peter Hoffman represented his Savoy and Back Forty restaurant offering a tempting Savoy creation of brassica salad with Caribbean pepper dressing and a kabocha squash soup with pancetta and crispy Brussels sprouts. Wow!
The Greenmarket’s own creative presentation featured local cheeses, figs, nuts and fruits.
And here I am – far right – with Michael Hurwitz, Director of Greenmarket and official host of the evening, with his adorable and oh-so-elegant herself J mother to be. If number 2 child is anything like the first, the Hurwitz’s could single handily open up a children’s modeling agency!
I hesitated when I heard there was absinthe in PDT’s “Flight of the Concord” cocktail (had to soon take flight myself and head home…) but was assured the absinthe was just a spritz and the gin based sour was made from concord grapes. That’s healthy, right? So nabbed a cocktail and “took flight” out to the terrace.
where food tasting took a break and diners warmed themselves by the fire while taking in the fabulous New York City skyline…
Back inside for some music and bidding on the Silent Auction items.
Windfall Farm team. We had just visited Morse Pitts (left) at his farm with Chef Peter Hoffman -- his choice for the “garden/farm” photo shoot for the book. It was a picture perfect day -- picking rasberries and figs and we got an extra bit of farm fantasy as it was their annual Harvest Fair, complete with bonfire, music and of course, fantastic food. (www.windfallfarm.com) They are at the Greenmarket in Union Square every Wednesday and Saturday. There, you’ll also get to meet artist and farmer, Kevin Caplicki (and he drives a very cool Ducati…)
All good things must end. Walking to catch a cab, I see the Empire State building lit up in Yankee blue for the 1st game of the World Series. Not so good for the Yankees, as it turns out…. But a home run for Taste of Greenmarket.
Posted by Leeann Lavin at 7:25 PM
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Today is my first posting about writing my first book.
I had every intention of doing this much earlier - years ago, in fact.
Maybe because we just came home from seeing "Julie & Julia" at the cinema or maybe I seemingly have more time now (more about that later), but I was determined to launch writing about the book today.
The soon (too soon?!) to be published book started as a concept in early 2002. At that time, I was most interested in how the garden inspires artists -- all artists: musicians, painters, fashion designers, cinematographers, writers, photographers and .... But most significantly, culinary artists, because they so obviously utilize the bounty of the garden to create their own art.
So I thought a book franchise might start there --exploring the art of the garden from the perspective of how provocative and compelling a garden is to the creativity of artistic endeavor.
And it was! I was over the moon when I was able to secure a publishing contract at that time for the book, "Celebrity Chefs & Their Gardens." But then, all too soon, that publisher said there were too many garden books on the market and we needed to wait.
For me? Other opportunities arrived and I put the book concept on the shelf, so to speak.
I had a new publisher interested in 2007 and we worked through the concept throughout 2008.
At the same time, the world of gardening changed. A lot. Increasingly, gardeners were focusing more on growing their own food. More and more, community gardens were turning from ornamental plants to vegetables and fruits. Food scares and concerns about the safety of our food were news headlines! Michael Pollan and Alice Waters were becoming icons for what seemed to be a growing (sorry) movement..
So I could feel the book subtly migrate to explore and learn about the unique chefs that celebrated not just the art of the garden but the integrity and tradition and purity of the garden and what that meant to our culture.
I set out to identify those "celebrity chefs" who I now prefer to refer to as master chefs or noble chefs, who are leaders in marrying culinary art with garden art in an almost truer sense. They grow their own food for the restaurant, their gardens do indeed inspire their work in the kitchen, and/or they elevate their local farmers and growers as partners in their pursuit of truly fine dining. Menus imbued with seasonal, fresh local food. Not imported. Not exotic in the old way.
I hoped these chefs, these culinary artists, could illuminate how they heroically changed the way we think about dining, about food, about nutrition. They helped lead a revolution - a movement. It soon became about lifestyle and politics too.
The book contract was finalized around Christmas 2008. I was so honored and so excited. The book is to be published for spring 2010.
This will be the story of how that book came about, my overture to the chefs, my interview adventures (and there have been some epic tales!) and securing the perfect lineup of celebrity, er, noble chefs. And finding the most wonderful photographer, food stylist and of course, working with a fantastic and supportive editor.
Whenever I tell my friends and family about the chefs and their philosophy, not to mention the struggles and "triumphs" to coordinate all the elements of the book, they love it. I hope you do too. It is so exciting to learn from these culinary leaders.
This first book focuses on chefs from New York City, the Hamptons and the Garden State. I will share the list of chefs later...
(Tell me who you would nominate to include in the book?)
I hope you will enjoy this story....