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....

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