Sunday, January 9, 2011

Those Three Little Words

“Author’s Clean Copy

Are those not the three most beautiful words an author can hear?! 

OK, “I Love You” is right up there. I grant you that.

But when you think about it, love is inextricably linked to writing and producing a book.
There is the passion and respect for the subject matter itself, for the featured protagonists – in my case the master chefs – along with their gardeners and/or farmers; the love of their culinary craft, the love of the art of the garden, the love of the Long Island landscape and sea-scape, the love of the project itself: the photography by Jennifer Calais Smith and my garden art renderings that both help tell this amazing story. 
And of course there is love for the editors and publishers who helped bring all this passion to the printed page. I love my Quayside, Voyageur Press editors: Kari and Michael.

I just received, via email attachment, the Author’s Clean Copy manuscript. All text and photo and art selection must be completed to go to the printer by February 1st deadline I was told.

It is nothing short of thrilling. 

As anyone who has ever had a book published, it’s common knowledge that the gestation process is very slow.
Glacial, in fact.

But not when you are in the thick of it: working on the book is almost an all-consuming effort.  There is the research, the interviewing, the writing…
The book is a lover that steals your heart – and your time…

But for now, just for a sweet, sweet interlude, I want to embrace this moment.
This manuscript.
I want to celebrate!

And to celebrate the addition of two men who have brought great joy to my life J

First, I honor the good fortune of having secured my number-one candidate to write the Foreword for the book.  I had solicited knowledgeable people for suggestions, but I knew I only had eyes for Brian Halweil.

My research and following of Brian’s work whispered to me he was the perfect fit to introduce you, the reader, to the special world of Long Island’s culinary artists and master chefs and to the farmers and fishermen and food artisans and to the astonishing LI landscape.  He is talented, smart, dedicated and is an advocate for food and hunger causes. I am in simpatico.
Brian is the Editor of Edible East End Magazine.

He is also a senior researcher and Co-Project Director for  “State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet” a seminal work from the Worldwatch Institute, Vision for a Sustainable World that reports on global hunger and agricultural issues.
To say it’s a must-read is an understatement.  This is real journalism, not repeat Tweets. 
It is a most important book. You will be enlightened – and moved… that “a child dies every six seconds” is an unbearable tragedy….

Please help support Brian and his colleague’s great work, including Danielle Nierenberg, 
Anna Lappé, Small Planet Institute and Stephanie Hanson, One Acre Fund.

Do attend this most important book launch for “Nurturing the Planet” Wednesday, January 12th at 10:00 AM in New York City at the WNYC Greene Space at 44 Charlton Street. 

I will be there, along with some guests.
Worldwatch is offering a sneak preview online, with a link to Chapter 1. 
But buy the book!  

The other man that came into my life recently is the photo editor and publisher from Voyageur Press, Michael Dregni. 

Michael is a New York Times best-selling author too. He’s written a number of acclaimed books including Harley and the chart-topping, “Gypsy Jazz: In Search of Django Reinhardt and The Soul of Gypsy Swing”

While Michael was a lucky strike extra for me, having been assigned by the publishing company, I couldn’t help feel a connection.
That is because there are a number of threads in my life that, taken together, make quite a nice cloth --or bridge to Michael’s work.
When I went to school in Switzerland, I spent the better part of one summer with my Danish boyfriend in Copenhagen where I worked in the Huset where a large part of the entertainment was American Jazz. I always felt Europeans are much more appreciative of our only – along with the Blues – truly American musical art form.  I helped the director there to write letter to many of the aging, black jazz musicians to get them to perform and to secure interviews for a book he hoped to publish about American Jazz. Michael was his name too, I recall, and he told me that due to the Red Scare and racism, too many of these talented musicians never got a chance to tell their story – and he knew they had a lot to contribute to the art world and to culture.

The next thread is my brother is a musician and plays a lot of terrific jazz.  Further, he arranged for the family to go and see Django Reinhardt when the famous musician performed at New York City’s iconic Tavern on the Green.  My beloved father, George, who died too soon on August 29th in 2008, thoroughly enjoyed the music and the talent of Django and frequently recalled the event with joy.  
And anything that made my father happy, was a bonded seal of approval for me…

And the last thread is that my husband owns and does love his Harley motorcycle. So the This Old Harley book Michael wrote and produced was the cherry on top of personal links…

You can see a full listing of Michael’s books and purchase here:

I am very superstitious. The fact that Brian and Michael had some pre-existing meaning to me, confirmed it was destiny.  A good sign that would bring good things.

Author’s Edit

I asked my husband to print out the manuscript.  Even though I will do the Author’s Edits in the Word document, I thought it would be kinda’ cool, somewhat easier and I daresay, decadent, to have the actual manuscript to hold and hug and work from. 
It is indeed. 
The only thing was, when I learned the clean copy is 176 pages, I told him to forget the paper copy.  “Too late,” he replied.

So now I have my jewel of a manuscript to touch and tote around and edit.
In front of the fire with the snow blowin’ like a snow globe outside, I can fantasize about the magical world of what I always thought a writer’s world could be like.
Even if it’s just for a few nights.  Even if it’s illusionary.  We all need our dreams…

Back in the world of kitchen, I did begin the cooking the book’s recipes provided by the chefs. 
I don’t know if I mentioned it previously, but the guidelines I gave to the chefs as to what kind of recipes to offer for the book were a Signature dish  - something they are known for – the menu item that customers will ask for time and again. That they will leave home for to eat. That they will introduce family and friends to, as in “You MUST have Chef’s ___!  Fill in the dish here…
The other guidelines were a family or cultural heritage recipe.  I was thinking perhaps the chef grew up with a grandmother or father’s stuffed cabbage or peach cobbler or stuffed ziti or…
Then there was a request for a seasonal recipe – and I emphasized it didn’t or shouldn’t be the default summer recipe.  It’s much more challenging to find a best of breed winter or early spring recipe.
And finally, if the chef could create a new, never-before recipe creation just for the book – that would be very special.
But ultimately, I told the chefs the recipes they were providing was their choice. 
I was so grateful and honored they were taking the time to do this..

I know I am already behind my planned schedule to prepare and cook a recipe from the book every week.  Maybe it was the holiday’s that set me back.
I’m trying.

For no real reason, except I so love their food – and the two of them --I started with the recipes from 18 Bay Restaurant’s Elizabeth Ronzetti and Adam Kopels. 

They are exciting and dedicated and curious chefs – always pushing the boundaries for taste, purity and fresh, local ingredients.

Their fabulous recipe entries for the book:
Signature: BBQ striped bass fin
Seasonal: Black bow tie pasta with local squid and guy lok
Family Heritage: Immaculata’s stuffed peppers  (How cute is this?!)
New: Roasted razor clams with Chinese long beans and fresh chilies

Last week I make the BBQ striped bass fin.  We have a formidable Breville√í panini cooker we got from Williams-Sonoma last year and it BBQ’s too! 
It’s a great cooking tool and I should use it more often. 
It’s like the front line of Notre Dame’s “Fighting Irish”: solid and consistent.

The striped bass was delicious. By the time it got to the table. 
Both Maria – my garden design client who is a fabulous cook – and who graciously agreed to be a cooking partner in this culinary trial adventure, had some real fun with the fish….
The striped bass fin was by turns an exotic yet simple dish to prepare.  I love the juxtaposition. 
The culinary crossroads were never tastier…

Stay tuned for next entry.
I made Immaculata’s stuffed peppers tonight.

Cheers and bon appetit!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Start of the Prequel

It was just about this time last year that I had not quite recovered (!) from the change in locale for my book, ” Homegrown.” 

I had already had the penultimate honor of interviewing the top New York City chefs who were – and remain – keystone leaders of the locavore, farm to table, in-season menu.  They are also game-changers for bringing attention to upgrading school menus and edible school gardens and inaugurating cooking lessons for our children…  
And not so curiously, many are now pretty much known by their first names: Dan, Michael, Peter, Mario…
In what seems like a New York minute, we now know chefs are rock stars, right? J

I had carefully researched each and every potential chef for the book.
It was not good enough that they were great chefs. 
After all, I can say with no undo humility, that Gotham has more amazing chefs per square block than anywhere else in the galaxy. 
No, what I was in search of, were the leaders – those who denied the phone ordering from the purveyor for – well, frankly; for the unknown. 

To those who weren’t with me when I first started the book in early ’02, “my” chefs were those revolutionaries who inspired a sea change in how we think about food, cooking, local farmers and fishermen, and artisanal food makers. 
Predominately, the chefs I researched and selected were from New York City and two from the Garden State.
Later, my publisher asked me to add in the Hamptons. 
Whey not? J  I found five chefs and their restaurants right off the bat there that would add to the New York Homegrown book.

You see, I started with the concept that gardens and farms are so beautiful and magical that they inspire artists – all artists – but especially the culinary artist.   It seems obvious but maybe not. I felt this is a compelling story that needed to be told.  Unlike musicians or painters or fashion designers, culinary artists use the bounty of the garden in their own artistic endeavors.

I promise that when I say or write ‘My” chefs I will stop using the quote marks. 
But I must admit I’ve used the “designation” as a way to distinguish “my” selected/chosen chefs in the local/sustainable/food/culinary cuisine arena vs. other good /great chefs. 
See how exhausting and challenging it is to label a food movement with more monikers and descriptors than a Greek diner’s menu offerings?!

And I am ever mindful not to suggest possession or too much familiarity.
But truth be told; I love my chefs.  Like children.
Each and every chef is extraordinarily special to me. 
Chefs are loving and sharing artists.  They want to give what they have created to others. (Food just won’t keep like that Picasso!) 

So you might better understand when I say ”my” chefs, these are the chefs I selected for the book.
But in fact, the chefs belong to all their adoring customers, foodies, and frankly, to history -- because they have and are forever changing how we define food and cooking and, by no small means, how we manage our national and international agriculture, healthcare and nutrition.

These inter-related issues are consuming.  To say the least.
And my chefs are passionate about using what is now their bully pulpit to change the world and make us all healthier and happier to enjoy delicious, tasty food that is good for us and the environment.
Oh, and they love to entertain.  They have successful restaurants. 
While they were busy changing the world, they needed to have legions of loyal dining customers who just cannot live without their culinary creations.

I am forever blessed to live in a part of the extended culinary “world” (there are those quotes marks again that serve to suggest something more.)
In this case my culinary world includes more than local geography or locale.  It includes a commitment to the concept of Slow Food, international sustainable food production and caring for our environment.  To maintaining a garden filled with a variety of vegetables, herbs, bees, flowers and love.
And delicious, amazing seasonal food!

Therefore -- I wanted - and needed -- the chefs in my book to be the best of the best in the local farm to table and sustainable food movement (see above!)

For some, their names were already familiar to me. I had eaten at their world-class restaurants. 
For others, I had read about their work, researched their commitment and dedication to the locavore/sustainable food initiative and only then, approached them to ask if they would agree to be part of the book. 

I have already written of the list of New York City chefs that will be included in that book.  (see earlier blog post)
I am thrilled my editor recently asked for an expanded list of New York City chefs and that we're back up in the queue. 

But last year, the change in locale to focus this first book exclusively on Long Island, as opposed to including The Hamptons in the New York City book was a directive from my publisher.

The first Homegrown book from me was to be from Long Island. New York City would be the second book from me.

The magnitude of this was extraordinary to me. 
Not only did I have many of the profiles text written for the New York City chefs but we had completed almost all the photography of the chefs in their inspired gardens or farms, and cooking their recipes in the kitchen restaurants.

My Homegrown book features a profile for each chef – their story of how they got to be a leader who is passionate about seasonal, local ingredients, Four recipes from each chef, a garden art rendering I do of their inspired garden or farm, and the corresponding plant list.
My dream is that readers will in turn be inspired by the master chefs and their gardens and farms and be able to grow a garden based on the garden designs and plant lists and then cook and bake the recipes gifted by the chefs.

Furthermore, I was privileged to have been able to spend special time with these extraordinary chefs interviewing them to garner their unique stories of how they got to be successful and then, along with my photographer and food stylist, photographed the chefs in their inspired gardens and with their farmers and gardeners.
It is a very personal, intimate relationship. 
Not so different from my garden design clients.  Meaning you are in their homes– and in their head…
I respect all they do with their craft. 
I start from that perspective.

You see, the process of getting to a list I could be proud of required me to establish critical criteria in order to get to a book-worthy chef.
Every chef had to have demonstrated pioneering leadership in developing relationships and infrastructure for a food community of farmers, fishermen and artisans.

In starting the research for the Long Island roster of chefs, I turned the spotlight on key geographic spots that would not only fulfill my publishers desire to represent the entire Island, but would tell the best story about the culinary culture of this area nick named Pleasure Island. (For good reason.)
I found Long Island’s historical, agricultural, immigration, fine arts heritage including literature, painting, cinema and the arts, along with its unmistakable fabric of wealth and money - a fertile, fascinating exploration.

I identified my local Long Island area into the North Shore often called the Gold Coast, separated from Connecticut by the Long Island Sound and the South Shore.   Out on the East End of the Island and its two fingers jutting out to the Atlantic is the North Fork and its vineyards and the South Fork or the Hamptons and the Hampton Bays.
There is unmitigated beauty found here.  The bays and inlets, the shorelines, farms and dunes are indeed the stuff of dreams.
Nature blessed this region with caressing microclimates to allow its farmers to grow a bushel basket full of many varieties of world-class vegetables and herbs.  The rows and rows of fragrant lavender will make your grab your heart with joy.

Today, chefs are helping others to discover the native plants like foraged sea rocket and purslane!

Early on, hunters found game plentiful.
Flocks of duck soon became a brand for Long Island. 
And the herds of smiling goats produce happy, world-class cheese. 

The waters that hug Long Island give both the sports and commercial fishermen seasonal fresh fish that help define the culinary culture with its razor clams, oysters, sea bass, porgies and tuna.

Its garden history is the stuff of legend: from the estate gardens in Westbury and Bridgehampton to the vineyards of the North Fork to the cottage gardens in Sag Harbor.

From the early Dutch and English settlers to the Italians, the bouillabaisse of homegrown cuisine makes for a food tradition that, coupled with the proximity of a sophisticated New York City influence and clientele, the area’s artistic inspiration fuses an extraordinary culinary oeuvre.
It’s a vacation mecca. It’s an artistic muse.
It’s an enigma.  It’s a story I couldn’t wait to tell…

For about two months, I read restaurant reviews, travel pieces, real estate overviews, historical literature, Edible East End magazine and talked to food experts in Manhattan and Long Island in order to secure outstanding chef recommendations to add to the list of five chefs I already had secured as part of the New York City Homegrown book.
The original five are Chef Joe Realmuto, Nick & Toni’s; Chef Michael Rozzi, Della Femina; Chef Eberhard Mueller, Satur Farms; Ted Conklin’s American Hotel and Anna Pump from Loaves & Fishes and Bridgehampton Inn and cookbooks and …. (THE best orange marmalade anywhere. I promise.) 

By February and March, I had narrowed the search to produce a very solid list of about 16 to 18 possible chefs I was proud to call “my chefs!”

Here is the original list, below. 
The asterisked names are those who didn’t make it to the final manuscript.  The reasons for almost all were due to either bad scheduling or lack of or non-communication. Couldn’t confirm in time or to meet deadlines.
In the case of Ina, she initially agreed, as part of the first book and then… pouf.
Perhaps she got too famous … I thought she’d be noticed by her absence or omission from a book about master chefs and cooks from Long Island…
Believe me, I tried.  I sent congratulations peonies (her favorite flower) when she was awarded the Matrix Award from Women in Communication.  I asked her florist to put in a good word for me.  I asked Chef Joe from Nick & Toni’s to put in a good word for me when he appeared on her show last year. I promised to work with her schedule, and against my better judgment to use a standard bio she already has for the profile (dull, I know but I thought I’d make the exception.)  But despite the most wonderful assistant in the world, the PR folks went silent. Nada. Sorry.
But really, who cares?!

With only a few modifications, the list was an enduring one straight through to final manuscript.
But it’s another story about how we got to that point. J

List of Long Island Homegrown Chefs for the book:

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
* David Intonato, Jamesport Manor Inn
* Hank Tomashevski, The Frisky Oyster

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
* Kevin Penner, 1770 House
* Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa

Hampton Bays
Starr Boggs, Chef Starr Boggs, West Hampton
OSO Restaurant, South Hampton Inn, South Hampton
* Christian Mir, Stone Creek Inn

Now I had to start talking to the master chefs to learn the details of their amazing culinary stories…