Friday, November 26, 2010

Giving Thanks

The Foreword:  Much To Be Thankful For

I am so thankful, honored – and downright thrilled that Brian Halweil has agreed to write the Foreword for my book, “Long Island Homegrown.”

Brian is the perfect candidate and was my number one, preferred choice from the get-go.
Brian wears the Long Island food chain like his very own ID bracelet. 

He is the editor of Edible East End Magazine, the “local food magazine of Long Island.”
As the editor of the food magazine that is the bible of the farming, fishing, artisanal food makers, vineyards, and the restaurants of “Pleasure” Island, he intimately knows the kitchens and wine cellars and farm stands and dairies that comprise the food culture that is Long Island.

Brian is also an author, Eat Here: Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket

From the Worldwatch Institute Brian's profile reads:

Brian Halweil is a senior fellow at the Worldwatch Institute covering issues of food and agriculture and is currently Co-Director of Nourishing the Planet. He joined Worldwatch in 1997 as the John Gardner Public Service Fellow from Stanford University, where he had established a student-run farm on campus. In addition, Brian has helped set up community-supported farms throughout California and New York, as well as in Mexico, and assisted farmers who were making the shift to organic agriculture. As a food and agriculture expert, Brian has testified before the U.S. Senate on biotechnology, poverty, and hunger, and his research and writing have been featured in national media.

I admire his steadfast commitment to the local, Long Island food community. 
To producing a sustainable food economy and foodie culture. 
And his work in the broader, worldwide effort to provide safe, sustainable, delicious food to all of earth’s citizens. 

I know Brian’s contribution will be invaluable. It will certainly add to the integrity of the book.

Master Chefs in Homegrown Long Island

I also give thanks to the 16 chefs and the gardeners or farmers that inspire these locavore culinary artists. 

A special Thanksgiving thanks go to:
North Shore
Bistro M, Chef Mitchell SuDock Glen Head
18 Bay, Chefs Elizabeth Ronzetti and Adam Kopels, Oyster Bay/Bayville

South Shore
The Lake House, Chef Matt Connors, Bayshore
The Grey Horse Tavern, Chef Meredith Machemer, Bayport

North Fork
North Fork Table & Inn, Chefs Claudia Fleming and Gerry Hayden, Southold
Jedediah Hawkins Inn, Chef Keith Luce, Jamesport
Satur Farms, Chef Eberhard Mueller, Cutchogue
Amarelle, Chef Lia Fallon

South Fork
Nick & Toni’s, Chef Joe Realmuto, East Hampton
Della Femina, Chef Michael Rozzi, East Hampton
Loaves & Fishes, Chef Anna Pump, Sagaponick
The American Hotel, Chef Jonathan Parker, Sag Harbor
Almond, Chef Jason Weiner, Bridgehampton
Foody’s, Chef Bryan Futerman, Water Mill

Hampton Bays
Starr Boggs, Chef Starr Boggs, West Hampton
OSO Restaurant, South Hampton Inn, South Hampton,

The chefs, gardeners and farmers gave so generously of their time. 
I always cringed a little when sending a follow up email request or reminder because I know they don’t have a salty second to spare. 
However, they managed somehow to carve out time for the interviews and the photos shoots. 
I knew every chef had a unique story.  I wanted to honor that.
At the same time, I want the reader to get as excited as I am about each and every chef. 
I want them to read every story. Not read two or three profiles and come to the conclusion: “I get it, they are good chefs and use local ingredients.” 
I was compelled to write the profile chronicling the chef’s personal story of how they came to be a chef. 
Most importantly, I wanted to write what drives them to secure the best ingredients.  When it could simply be so much easier to pick up the phone and order from a purveyor’s list, why do these chefs insist on getting to know their farmers? 
And visit the docks when the fishermen haul in the catch? 
Or why they labor to produce their own gardens brimming with sultry herbs and tempestuous tomatoes and languid lettuces?  It’s hot, it’s buggy and it’s hard work. 

I want the reader to know these chefs more than care about where their food comes from.  They possess a reverence for the food source.  They never bite the hand that feeds them!

In addition, the inspired gardens and artisanal food makers infuse the chefs’ culinary creativity. 
These master chefs continually create sometimes curious and always innovative recipes using local food sources on the path to taste nirvana.  
By nature, chefs want to share their art.  I find this is in contrast to many fine artists.

I give thanks for the generosity of their culinary art.

I thank the chefs for the time they shared for the photo sessions. 
There were two sessions on the same day.  One of them was in the kitchen preparing the food and the other one showcased the chef in the garden or on the farm visually narrating the relationship linking the chef, the farmer/gardener and the land…

And I thank them for their culinary talent – assembling the amazing food ingredients to ignite astonishing flavors and combined textures that leave you feeling giddy from the first mouthful. 

Each chef has generously provided four recipes for the book too. 

The only guidelines I provided or suggested were these: 
A seasonal recipe – not just from summer’s bounty, either. 
Preferably from the winter or shoulder seasons. 
And one that uses local, fresh ingredients.
Perhaps they could provide a family or cultural recipe – such as that prized stuffed peppers dish from Aunt Imaculata (18 Bay). 
Another suggestion was to provide a signature dish – something their diners have come to embrace on the menu and that they just can’t live without.   Like the pistachio crusted halibut with asparagus, fava beans, oyster mushroom and a lemon beurre blanc (Bistro M).
And finally, a brand new recipe, created just for the book. 

Seeing the chefs’ email with Recipes attachment arrive in the In-Box created a happy anticipation every time one cycled in – not unlike that sparkly-wrapped surprise gift from your new love.
Opening each recipe and scanning the ingredients was an exercise in orchestrated joy.

I can’t wait to try them out. 

I am committed to preparing one recipe a week for the next year – and two a week for two months (I’m thinking June and July of 2011) in order to cook all 64 recipes that will be offered in the book.  This schedule should allow me to thoughtfully and respectfully preview and write about the extraordinary recipes prior to the book’s launch date next year.

This will be very exciting.  And fun.
I will share my cooking adventures with you here.  The good, the bad and the triumphant. 

I also give thanks to my photographer, Jennifer Calais Smith.   .
Her photographic art is outstanding. 

We worked very hard together to produce enduring photographs that amplify the profile I wrote about each chef.  
I often said, “We need to tell the story about the relationship the chefs have with their gardens and farmers -- in pictures.  We need to visually illustrate how the relationship and commitment drives their culinary art and fuels their creative imagination.”

It’s a lot to ask of a photographer, I know. 
And while we storyboarded out the shots as a team, Jennifer was the one that was “on” for the shoot.
She had to jump through garden beds, dodge flying pizzas and hot oil, not to mention knife-wielding prep teams, hot, hot gardens and steaming kitchens. 
The food stylists and me could indulge in the just-picked vegetables and fruit.  Jennifer  couldn’t. 
For me, a Sun Gold cherry tomato is just this side better than candy.  Sweet and juicy.  Perfect for snacking.
I am captivated by oh-so-many of the Long Island gardens’ heirloom cherry tomatoes, whether a Black Plum, Isis Candy or local variety.
In a paradox of epic garden proportions, Jennifer does not like/eat tomatoes!

Along with her camera, Jennifer sprinted and crouched and scampered, staying ahead of the sun and shadows and sometimes the rain. 
Chef Matt Connor, The Lake House, Bayshore

Chef Frank Lucas on the rooftop garden of Starr Boggs restaurant, Westhampton
Chef Matt & Jennifer at St. Peter's Farm

Chefs Elizabeth Ronzetti & Adam Kopels with Karen Lee, Sang Lee farmer

Chef Bryan Futerman, Foody's

She shot waaayyy too many photos J all in an effort to honor the chefs and the gardeners. 
But don’t think it was all tough labor. It was fun too.  And we ate like sultans.
Our story was chronicled by Sarah Kinbar on the blog, Good Garden Ideas:

I am also thankful for my editor, Kari.  She is smart and creative – and most supportive. 
I cannot thank her enough for being in my corner during last year’s change in book direction to focus the first book on Long Island.
She’s been a peach negotiating, revising and finalizing artist contracts – even when it got crazy, dodgy at times!
Mostly, I am thankful for her unwavering support after the hard drive crash in June. 
She massaged the schedule and modified the deadline so I could rewrite the book’s manuscript that was destroyed in the crash.  I am eternally grateful. 

I am thankful to the farmers for their noble work. 
I am grateful for the time they took away from their tractors and farm stands and planting and harvesting to graciously pose for the photos. They did so with shyness but much integrity. 
The farmers are: 
Ian Calder-Piedmonte and Alex Balsam - Balsam Farms
Scott Chaskey - Peconic Land Trust’s Quail Hill Farm
Jennifer and Jim Pike, Pike Farms, Sagaponick
Karen Lee – Sang Lee Farms, Peconic
Rottkamp Farms, Glen Head
Bob and Denise Andrews Family Farm, Wading River

The Gardeners are:
Chef Frank Lucas, Starr Boggs Restaurant, Westhampton
Stephanie Evanitsky, Mastic Beach
Anna Pump, Sagaponick and Bridgehampton
Peter Garnham, American Hotel
Eberhard Mueller and Paulette Satur, Satur Farms
Linda & Irene, Grey Horse Tavern, Bayport
Jon Snow, Hayground School, Bridgehampton
Chef Keith Luce, Jedediah Hawkins Inn, Jamesport

A special thanks to Rob Salvatico, Hotel Indigo, Riverhead (, who had just opened his refurbished and fabulous new hotel and restaurant.  (I had a dream about the hotel last night!  Must be good karma). 
Rob’s opening week hospitality was generous and very much appreciated. 
I could see him working even as he sat and talked to me for an interview. 
His attention to detail was omnipresent. 
He is sincerely ambitious. His vision is transparent.  I will write more about his hotel soon.  His hotel’s restaurant, Bistro, recently celebrated its formal opening. 
Menu and operations were managed by Lia Fallon, executive chef, Amarelle, and contributing food stylist for the Homegrown Long Island book.

You can see how talented and passionate everyone associated with the Homegrown Long Island book is.

I am most thankful to each and every one of those who touched the book in their own special way.
And of course, to my cousin Maryann.  She lovingly read and critiqued each chef profile as I raced to complete the second/rewrite of the manuscript following the crash.  Her academy-award winning aesthetic and opinion meant more to me than I can summon the gravitas to say...
She is an angel. Writing can be a solitary endeavor and her contribution on the other end of the email communication kept me grounded and in touch with some small part of the world!

Merci, gracias, and molto grazie. 

But on this most American holiday, Thanksgiving, allow me to just simply say, Thank you.
From the bottom of my garden-loving, food-passionate heart....

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Greenmarket's Nevia No, Bodhitree Farm, Returns From Terra Madre Slow Food Conference

Bodhitree Farm’s Nevia No is back from the Slow Food international organization’s bi annual Terra Madre conference, held in Turin Italy, October 21 through 25th.

As previously reported here, Nevia is one of two Greenmarket farmers from New York City nominated to represent the Union Square Greenmarket.  The other nominee is a Vermont maple syrup farmer.

I adore Nevia’s farm fresh vegetables.  They are exquisitely pristine.
She takes extraordinary care with the growing – and the presentation. 
The produce is clean, clean, clean.  It is arranged with the care of a Saks Fifth Avenue fashion window, beckoning to the keen passerby and seasoned restaurant staff alike.
Every greenmarket and food book signing or culinary benefit I attend where the top chefs provide food tastings invariably note Bodhitree Farm as the preferred farmer.

The chefs’ reverence for her produce is not a surprise. 

The care and love she invests in farming, growing the tastiest, most flavorful veggies results in the best produce.
Did you know the word Bodhi-Tree is a wisdom or world tree and is a symbol of enlightenment?  How perfect.

She – and her associate, Debbie – are unfailingly helpful and nice. Always smiling.
There is usually a cooking demo going on too. 
This way, once you’ve been seduced by the day’s neat-as-a-pin, colorful display, you can test drive the sweet potato curiosity you’ve never heard of. 
Or the purple cauliflower you didn’t think was real.
The variety of vegetables and herb is the tatsoi, red mizuna, Tuscan kale,
Delicious, tempting treats are made by Nevia or most often, Alissa Dicker Schrieber from The Kitchenista ( 

It’s always a food adventure at the Bodhitree farm stand at the Greenmarket.

I asked Nevia how the trip to Turin, Italy for the Terra Madre international network of food was for her. 
She described an extraordinary experience. 
I could see it in her eyes.  She looked like she’d been to the “other side.”  Transformed.
Just being in a place where everyone has the same passionate devotion to food must be a religious experience of sorts.

Nevia attended the lectures and panel discussions to learn more about the next generation of sustainable food producers of which she is one.

She also learned that while most small farm laborers are women; very, very few women actually own the land they work…
She said she was most impressed by a group of Asian women who risked prison and death over many years in order to claim their farm land.
Coincidentally and timely, I was just introduced to the “Women Wearing the Pants” (WWTP) organization that is dedicated to supporting the work of the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women and the commitment to Free Trade Zones and Fair Trade. The Asian women who fought for the farm could have used this support.
I was particularly intrigued with Experimental Gardens.  According to their website. “In December 2010, WWTP will help research and finance 15 experimental subsistence gardens for impoverished women headed households in Nicaragua through affiliations with  The International Development Enterprise.

Following a discussion about fair trade, gender issues in food production and indigenous food, I asked Nevia what was the most interesting food she experienced at the conference. 
She said she was so busy attending all the scheduled events that the food item that really captivated her was the bread she discovered the local Italians use.

Nevia brought out a shrink-wrapped bread from her truck cab to show me.

Soon, others were marveling at the unique, stylish bread design.  Leave it to those fashionable Italians! 

Slow Food International was founded 30 years ago as a non-profit organization that promotes the preservation and growth of environmentally sustainable and socially responsible food worldwide.

It’s crazy that we have to even have such an organization as a watchdog and promoter – or reminder – of what “real” food is. Sigh. But we must.
And I for one, am most sincerely grateful for their amazing work, given the topsy-turvy world of industrialized, corporate food production that purports to provide “food” while delivering no less than laboratory-created “nutrients” rather than safe, pure, food. 
Don’t get me started.

As noted in the Introduction to my book, “Long Island Homegrown” to be published next year (working hard to complete the last details now J)

Much of the effort was launched as a reaction, nay – a rebellion against the industrialization of food production and food offerings as presented by restaurant chains and supermarkets.  The Slow Food movement was started in Italy – not surprisingly – by Carlo Petrini --to combat fast food. In 1986, Petrini was resisting a McDonald’s planned near the Spanish Steps in Rome.  His Slow Food movement claims to preserve the cultural cuisine and the associated food plants and seeds, domestic animals, and farming within an eco region. It was the first established part of the broader Slow movement. The movement has since expanded globally to hundreds of thousands of members all over the world, and the biannual food conference is a coveted invitation

Coveted indeed is an invitation to the Slow Food conference.
So raise your glass and let’s toast Nevia No, Bodhitree Farm, for representing Greenmarket. For making us so proud. 
For all the crazy hard work that she does with such integrity – and making it all look so elegant.
To continue to provide us outstanding leadership, sustainable “veggies with spirit” as she notes on her business card. – And unmatched, flavorful food.

We love you, Nevia.  The USPS needs to start issuing a series of stamps that celebrate Farmers as heroes and leaders. 
And I vote for you to be the first cover girl stamp!

You can learn more here about Slow Food Movement:

Friday, November 5, 2010



I saw the invitation with the double billing and was so keen to attend the double-feature cookbook signing with food writers  Amanda Hesser and Melissa Clark.
It was like the old Doublemint commercial: “Double your pleasure, Double your fun!”
I guess I never looked at the actual tickets I purchased online nor the event’s scheduled agenda because as I approached the book signing venue at Chelsea Piers in NYC, I was not surprised to see growing crowd tag-teaming the check in staff positioned on both sides of the line.
But I was surprised to step inside to find a food and beverage tasting! 
I thought it would be the usual – a talk by the authors, followed by the actual book signings.
But this was a delightful amuse bouche!

(In fact, I saw more food tastings than book signings...)

First, I attended to business and purchased the two books so I’d be ready when the authors actually pulled out their autograph pens, poised mid-air to ask, “Who do I make it out to?”
I am developing quite a nice culinary library of autographed books that will soon rival my autographed garden books. 
The only problem with buying the two books right off the bat was Amanda Hesser’s revision of the classic New York Times cookbook is very heavy.

I wasn’t thinking of that as I confidently took the book-filled bag from the two nice lads writing up the sales.

It was an exuberant crowd that filled the candle-lit, two-tiered venue. A DJ was already laying down the music tracks. Camera-toting Papparazzi.  But here, the stars are the food!

Now this was a book party!  Barnes & Noble – take note.

Food related merchants from Edible Manhattan and East End magazines

to the incomparable Van Leeuwen’s artisanal ice cream to
Russ Daughters egg cream

and other spirits lined the sides of the cavernous room. The center and back were punctuated every few feet like those traffic cones - with those high cocktail tables.
Here, the master chefs were greeting the attendees and chatting it up while staff scurried platters of their hor d’ouevres, pop in your mouth sized food creations.
It was one giant pu pu platter!

I thought I’d be methodical about it. Down one side and up the other. 
However, I am easily seduced. So my strategy ended up a bit more like a pin ball – traversing the room when something caught my myopic eye. Or when the crowd parted like schools of fish at a chef table.

I missed two of “my’ Chefs from the Homegrown book:  Chef Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern, and Chef Dan Barber, Blue Hill. 
But I did get to see and talk to the amazing, ubiquitous Chef Bill Telepan who was standing guard enjoying everyone enjoying his pork shoulder served on the teeniest bun you’ve ever seen – more like serving the delicious strands of pork on a macaroon.

I got to meet some wonderful new chefs that I can consider for the New York City Homegrown book:  Chef Dan Silverman from the Standard Hotel. 

That hotel has some of the sexiest views in town – over the High Line and the Hudson River.  Love the rooftop.  Chef Dan offered Mondrian-looking Heirloom carrot and Goat Cheese Terrine.  Beautiful and tasty.

I also met the adorable Sisha Ortuzar, Riverpark restaurant, one of Tom Collicheo’s latest.

“What kind of name is that, I can’t help ask, while finishing a surging pop of sweet/sour flavor from his Pickled Shrimp creation.  I am startled it’s so good.  I learned he made a brittle of the pickling spices and crowned the tops!
Chef says,  My name is Chilean. But I am not.”  Oh, how did you get the name then, I ask while trying his other offering, mackerel and cod balls coated with spice crumbs. 
“My name is Sanskrit.”
We practically both nod in unison and say in stereo, “hippie parents.”  
Chef Sisha says Riverpark restaurant will soon have its own garden.  They even gave out cute little seed packets at the event.

It wasn't long before Columbia University TV journalism students were interviewing chef:

I will surely go and visit these two chefs at their restaurants for follow up.

Meanwhile, there is the Apple Picker Punch from Cienfuegos to be refreshed (made with lime, ginger, Ron Zacapa Centernario 23-year, allspice dram and apple butter, and topped with soda);

vegetable sushi from Blue Ribbon Sushi to try, along with Marc Murphy’s Shrimp Toast.  Heading for the Luchy’s Whey center table featuring cheese from Cellars at Jasper Hill,

I see Nora Ephron.  I love her!

I had to tell her I loved her feature article in the December issue of Town & Country.
She smiles and says a sincere “thank you.”  She looks great in person too. (No neck thing whatsoever!)  The T&C story is a Q&A with Ina Garten.  (BTW, Ina’s publicist won’t return my emails anymore – I asked her to be in the Long Island Homegrown Cookbook about master chefs and their inspired gardens but I give up.  I have the best Long Island chefs included and I think she will be noticed by her absence... So Ina’s not on my favs list. But Nora is.)
And I will make point to attend Nora’s latest play, “Love, Loss & What I Wore."

*Also, in the same issue is the T&C List, highlighting “The Quietest Restaurants in  the World.”  The New York (City) list features eight restaurants – half of which are in my New York Homegrown book about culinary artists and their inspired gardens and farms!  A big "Shout Out" for the restaurants Annisa, I Trulli,, Marea,, and Savoy  


The old-fashioned, homemade egg creams served by Russ & Daughters was sinfully delicious- made with Fox’s chocolate syrup.

I tasted my way back to the front of the room hoping to get my now slightly burdensome books signed by the authors. 
The two book lads told me Melissa was to have done her books first but Melissa deferred to Amanda, saying she could do hers first.  But no sign of either of them…

At the next table was the Van Leeuwen artisanal ice cream tastings.  Uh oh.  I know and love their ice cream and visit their truck that is parked on Fifth Avenue and 16th street too often.  Before I knew it, the very confident and pretty woman was handing me their egg nog and pumpkin pie ice cream confection. 

It gave meaning to waiting for the books to be signed.  Ahhhh..
With her charming Australian accent, she told me Van Leeuwen is owned by her -- Laura  -- and her husband, Ben and his brother, Peter.  They have a few trucks and have started to stock their this-side-of -heaven ice cream in some Whole Foods stores. She pointed out not yet at the Whole Foods in Union Square, which is too bad as that is my local store.  But I have the truck to visit and get the goods. 

In the time it takes to finish off a Dixie cup-size sundae, Amanda was there to sign books.

She is so very petite – almost elfin.  The contrast with her hefty tome couldn’t have been more pronounced.  Laughing, I asked her how she stays so thin producing such a weighty, recipe-filled cookbook.  “It’s a secret,” she giggled back.

Here I am with author, Amanda after she signed my book!

Amanda is a New York Times columnist and former editor.  She also runs the popular cooking site:

Be sure to purchase this once in a lifetime, must-have classic cookbook:  “The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century.”  

You can’t call yourself a real cook without this guide. Amanda solicited readers’ input on favorite recipes to include in the book’s more than 1,000 offerings.  It’s fun to see which ones made it and how they reflect a period of time. It’s also a history of great American cooking.

Food defines a culture and this labor of love cookbook is a cultural touchstone.

Amanda cheerfully signed my book.  And then like a sprite was off.

Joined by Melissa and Amanda,
I soon heard Chef Bill Telepan speaking with microphone to the entire room about childhood diabetes, the fact that now, more than 40% of New Yorkers are obese. He is a tireless crusader to secure healthy, fresh, unprocessed food and meals for all our citizens, especially those in underserved neighborhoods.  Chef Bill is to be applauded for his generosity and devotion, making appearances seemingly everywhere: from the Martha Stewart radio show to NPR to Greenmarket events.  I told him his is ubiquitous!
The two food writers also addressed the guests, thanking the chefs and their publishers and all who helped put the evening together.

Following Chef Bill’s remarks, Melissa made her way to the book-signing table.  She too is a thin pipsqueak!  See, there is something to eating –and writing about good food – that must keep foodies healthy and thin…
Melissa is a food writer for the New York Times, a James Beard Foundation Award winner, has written nearly 30 cookbooks and runs her popular web site and blog:
And her daughter’s name is Dahlia!  I love that she is named for a flower.  How charming J 

Melissa cheerfully posed for a picture with me

and autographed the book, “In The Kitchen With a Good Appetite” that is a synthesis or curated compilation of her New York Times’ column. 

I was the first to secure Melissa's autograph.  Soon a line was at the table

Soon it seemed that “half-time” was over. An announcement was made that the second shift of chefs and their tastings would be coming out soon for the second half.  A quick run down of the roster, if you will, told me I’d recently seen and tasted the fantastic food from these chefs.  It was getting later and since I wasn’t really dressed for the occasion, I decided to scoot home – with my goody bag and my signed books.

A delightful, delicious evening!

Thank you Ladies, for a wonderful food surprise.