Friday, May 25, 2012

The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook Talk at the 92nd St Y

As the author of the exciting new book, The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook I was to provide a reading and talk, scheduled for Wednesday, May 16th, at the prestigious 92nd St Y, the venerable uptown temple to all things cultural.
The honor and opportunity were not lost on me for a moment.

Just like Gotham’s streets that pulse with eclectic frisson, so too does the networked connections palpitate with a fizzy six degrees of separation.  I am so fortunate that my Aunt Margaret’s high school friend, Helen Conover, became my friend over the years and because Helen works at the Y in the Science arena, as soon as the book was on the road to publication, she slotted me and the book in for a reading and talk.

Thus, the event came about, just like that—in a magical-New-York-way!
It was billed as “How Does a Chef Do Science?”
I was accompanied at this historic event by two of the outstanding chefs featured in the book:
Chef Jason Weiner, co-owner and executive chef, Almond Restaurants Bridgehampton and NYC
Chef Deborah Pittorini, owner and executive chef, Cuvee Seafood & Grille Restaurant the North Fork.

The theme was to illuminate how “cooking is all about chemistry—how chefs change their food’s in many ways -- to learn the science chefs employ to transform raw ingredients into delicious food!”
And in so doing, I told the background of the book’s theme: the importance and romance of using homegrown, sustainable foods – lovingly grown, tended and made by local food artisans to produce the myriad and exciting variety of recipes the chefs create.
I wove the story of how chefs, like scientists, observe the world around them and share their observations and their work. 
The program was 90 minutes.  I was to talk for approximately an hour.  A frightfully long time to speak for anyone but Castro! 
On the other hand I felt I owed it to the amazing talent and dedication of the chefs and farmers and fisherman and breeders – and photographers -- who contributed to the book, to do my very best, so I just jumped into making a PowerPoint presentation.
I started writing the text, figuring no one else could do that, adding in images too that would help tell the food stories that are at the heart of the Homegrown book, all the while asking around as to who could help me make it look brilliant – or in PPT parlance: “a killer presentation!”
It was getting itchy-close to the date and I still hadn’t found the PPT magician and then while attending the Frank Cabot tribute at The New York Botanical Garden, Garden Glamour blog post to Frank Cabot Tribute and I ran into EunYoung, Silver Flower Design who I’ve had the privilege of working with in the past – both in the garden for Duchess Designs – she is a brilliant horticulturist, landscape architect and creative artist who also works at Randall’s Island Park as Horticultural Manager and on some of my previous speaking engagements.  (She once famously said, “I will make the Powerpoint presentation so good, it will make them cry.”  That’s my kind of girl! What PPT voodoo!)
I had just returned from scooting over the Azalea Garden and met up with a small group of swarming the tulip beds and display gardens while the reception was held following the Cabot tribute.
Hugs all round and then, as I’m catching them up on my preparations for the Y event, and need for help, it was another New York minute before EunYoung said, “I’ll do it!” 
Really?!  I never dreamed I would be able to secure EunYoung’s artistic and detailed input.  Before she came to, we made a date to meet and she helped me polish it all.
There was so much going on (home renovation, garden design, writing, preparation for the Y event including getting books to sell and sign, online promotion with the Y, getting the names of the restaurants and the chefs correct, securing an adapter for my Mac from the SoHo Apple store, sight inspection, cooking demo prep for the chefs, i.e. what they need in terms of utensils, plates, appliances, etc., site-inspection) that constrained me from practicing as much as I wanted to – and from sending personal invites to family and friends.
I promised myself I would get into fighting shape for the big night – lots of sleep, healthy living, workouts, including more yoga, and a massage.  This was not to be. In fact, I was in reverse!  Several nights leading up to the event I didn’t event get to sleep till 2 am or 6 am.  I was so busy I didn’t get to work out. The only massage I was able to squeeze in was a quick one up on 19th Street, a rather plain vanilla small-room joint instead of a relaxing one at home…
On the way back from that squeezed-in head and heart therapy, I stopped at Black & White and in no time, the funny, knowledgeable salesman and foodie, had me in a new dress, complete with garden flowers embroidered on neck and hem J and shoes for the event.  I was buying confidence.
The day of, I did get ready fairly early, practiced more than a few times.  Doug Wright, the social media guru and supporter, was Tweeting early on about the event and I did my best to blog and Tweet (back) and post news to my Food & Drink column.
Despite a very bad hair day and shaky legs, my husband Bill was most kind and supportive upon arriving at the apartment and said I looked beautiful and sounded good.  (Oh the love fibs – but boy did I appreciate it.)
After I made sure Mother was on her ferry into town from the Garden State, Bill loaded up the hand truck with the books and we were out front hailing a cab on the way to pick Mother up at the ferry dock on 35th Street before heading on to the Y. In the cab uptown, I was trying to answer emails and last minute queries from the chefs, while practicing.  
We were directed to the “wrong” elevator and then had to lift the boxes of books into the other side of the building and at last, got to the assigned room.  There was Helen, looking great and confident.  I met the tech manager I’d been working with, and all seemed in order. So we got the kitchen and utensils ready – I washed them and Bill and Helen got them out on the table and kitchen counter.
Soon the guests were entering to be seated.  I was squealing with joy every time family or friend came in: Derval, Mary, Denine and John and Amy too, not to mention Mary Ann, Doug and Tristan and Janet.  It ended up it was a full room of attendees. Whew.
And then I was speaking.  Not loud enough for some who were cupping their ears in the back (OK, that was Mother!) So I tried to shout/talk louder but to me I do talk loud!   (Everyone else says I have a quiet voice. I tell Bill better to have a wife with soft speech no??)
The PowerPoint went off very well – even the video I inserted into three of the cooking and garden segments.  People looked engaged.  All good. Until the little old man in the front row says out loud, “All right.  When are we getting to the food part?!” 
While stunned, I say, to him, but for all to hear, “We are getting to that, but first the background is important.”  He is subdued, but as I soon learn, not for long.  He pipes up again, all too soon. “Enough already, what about getting to the food.”  So now I’m just bristling about his very bad manners, putting the others and me in such an uncomfortable position. Another audience member who was furiously taking notes, and perhaps fearing I might succumb to “have-to-taste-now-rude-man” she says, “No, this is very important and interesting.”  So now I’m forced to look at him with my best hairy eyeball/nun stare (his fat self leaning on his cane for support) and direct him to either listen or leave.  I said it in a very nice way, mind you.  He wisely chose to leave.  I was slightly unnerved as this was surreal and completely unexpected.  Later, attendees came up to me, complimenting me on how I graciously handled this beast and confidently put him in place.  I didn’t quite share that sense of confidence but glad they thought so. Now I know what Jay Leno must feel like!
Back on track, I completed the main part of my talk, moving on to the chefs. For this, I read part of the profile I wrote for the book, introducing Chef Deborah and then Chef Jason. Both were excellent speakers, handily addressing the audience with style and smarts and demonstrating a recipe they provided for the book. There was no sign of the hurdles they’d overcome in terms of schedule, the kitchen and lack of their prep tools and appliances.  Chefs are adaptable and cosmopolitan.

Chef Deborah prepared a pesto arugula on pasta that was a huge hit with the guests.  She talked through how she is able to source all the ingredients near her restaurant in Greenport on the North Fork.  She is funny and sophisticated and engaging.  

Chef Deborah then mixed up lavender mojitos using her simple syrup made from locally grown lavender.  Wow. This was amazing. (And she gave me some of the extra syrup to take home.  I’ve been enjoying it ever since.)
Chef Jason prepared his English Pea and Mint Soup that was a knock out.  People were swooning.  In the book, the recipe includes Parmesan flan and smoked bacon.  This night, chef Jason adapted for the Y – and in the process, further demonstrated how a chef changes the food ingredients he works with as well as the creative process.  He’s a natural in front of an audience.  

There was a lively Q&A and more tasting.  Some friends helped pass out the food and take up the plates and cutlery afterward. So nice.  
And then, it was book signing and photos and hugs.
Me & the Wrights: Tristan and Doug

Mother, Amy & John

Amy, Mother & me

Helen, from the Y, Mother, me

Before long, we were taking Mother back to the ferry, where Bill waited with her and Mary Ann I continued back downtown, home…
I sincerely thank everyone who attended.  I sent thank you postcards to all, addresses courtesy of the Y.  I thank my family and friends for their unbridled and generous support on such a big night for me and the book’s launch. I thank chefs Deborah and Jason for their contribution. I thank Helen and her team for a wonderful opportunity and a successful evening.
My only regret? I wish my father were here to have seen it with us.  I know he’s looking down from heaven but ….

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tonight is the official launch of The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook!

Tonight will be considered the official launch of my book: The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook.
I am speaking at the 92st Y tonight.  Joining me are Jason Weiner, executive Chef and proprietor, Almond Restaurants located in Manhattan and Bridgehampton
And Chef Deborah Pittorino, executive Chef and proprietor, Cuvee Bistro & Bar Restaurant, Greenporter Hotel

Here is the invite for the Y event: Book Talk & Lecture at 92st Y

It’s been some years -- and some tears -- to get to this place.

Now it’s happy, nail biting time!  I’m told it’s the most successful of their books in pre-order so that is a good news start! 

This evening, I will provide an overview of the book, the making of the book, explain how chefs are alchemists: taking seasonal and fresh ingredients and turn them into food magic!
There will be lots of pictures and some video.
Chefs Jason and Deborah will talk while making on of the Homegrown recipes from the Cookbook. And of course, a wee bit of tasting.  Mmmmm.

Some Q&A and then book signings! 

This should be a fun and fitting tribute to all who helped make this book – especially the chefs and artisanal food growers and creators.
Epicurean nirvana awaits! 

And it will be fun too.

I was long fascinated by the fact that gardens can inspire artists – especially the culinary artist and wanted to explore that sweet spot.
I asked each chef I selected for the book his or her personal journey to becoming a dedicated Homegrown chef.
And I also asked the chef what grower inspired them the most and influenced their cuisine.

I can’t wait for you all to get your copy and rapturously read the chefs' and growers’ food stories. 

I hope it will inspire you.

A sneak peek inside the drop-dead gorgeous book, thanks to Mother Nature, the growers and the amazing work of the book’s photographers, Lindsay Morris and Jennifer Calais Smith.

Long before the island became the wealthy vacation mecca it is now, the native Shinnecock Indian tribe hunted, fished, and farmed on Long Island and taught the first European settlers how to do so—growing beans, foraging for wild plants, and using fish for fertilizer.
Farming became the island’s first industry. Today, potato pastures may have given way to orchards and vineyards, and dairy and goat farms may have replaced the heritage duck’s grass fields, but Long Island is still recognized as the most productive farming area in New York State.
The Island’s tableau and its cultural heritage of homegrown agriculture have inspired a cadre of ingredients-minded master chefs who possess a reverence for their local food source. They have studied and cooked in renowned four-star restaurants across the island, from the Gold Coast to Hampton Bays, and all over the world. Regardless of whether the chefs relocated to discover the charms of the island or left briefly to pursue the siren song of culinary education elsewhere, or couldn’t ever bear to leave, all feel the yearning for their terroir: Long Island.
The Hamptons and Long Island Homegrown Cookbook pays tribute to the remarkable, authentic farms, gardens, vineyards, and waterways that are Long Island. It also honors those chefs who are bringing Long Island’s unique homegrown harvest to food-obsessed plates and palates and, in the process, helping the island’s growers and food artisans preserve a precious way of life. Through their ardent beliefs, tenacity, and commitment to their craft and distinctive local cuisine, the chefs featured here have demonstrated a fidelity to the amazingly good, farm-forward Long Island cuisine.

Oh and I have made a Facebook page for the book.  Doesn't seem so seamless, but you can get there and Like it. Who wouldn't?!
Thank you.

Friday, May 11, 2012

James Beard Foundation 2012 Awards

It was an overcast late afternoon in Gotham, the skies shedding a few spritzes -- a welcome change from last year’s blazing late-day heat on the red carpet.
Yet nothing could dampen the thrill and joy of seeing the country’s best chefs come together for what is affectionately known as the Academy Awards of the food world.

Winners were announced last night, Monday, May 7, 2012, at the annual 2012 James Beard Foundation Awards, the nation’s most prestigious recognition program honoring professionals in the food and beverage industries.
This year marked the 25th Anniversary of the James Beard Foundation Awards, and for the first time, the event was a virtual sell out.
During a ceremony hosted by chef and television personality Alton Brown at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, awards in the Restaurant and Chef and the Design and Graphics categories were presented, as well as a number of special achievement awards including "Who’s Who" of Food & Beverage in America, America’s Classics, Lifetime Achievement, and Humanitarian of the Year.
All award winners receive a certificate and a medallion engraved with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia. And the recognition of their peers.
The awards are marked by the red carpet entry on the plaza, the theater where the three-plus hour event is staged. 
Spotted Pig's Carol Rzeszewski on the Red Carpet
Best dressed on the carpet was Carol Rzeszewski, wine director at the Spotted Pig restaurant  
JBF Best Chef Nominee, April Bloomfield, Spotted Pig, The Breslin
Best accessory? Her red carpet partner with the blue suede shoes!  What style.

Her boss: Chef April Bloomfield  

Red Carpet mates for me included Behind The Dish TV's Stephen Fried, (very nice) and the handsome gentleman, Bonjwing Lee, Ulterior Epicure, Eater
JBF Award Winner, Thomas Keller, Per Se

After the award ceremony, the celebration gets into immediate and high gear with a multi-tiered food and drink presentations and tastings cum competition on the terrace and two floors of the soaring architecture designed to honor the fine arts.
Last night was no exception. 
The James Beard Foundation awards salutes the best in culinary arts.

Highlights from this year’s list of winners include:

Outstanding Chef New York City: Michael Anthony, chef and owner, Gramercy Tavern 
Chef Michael Anthony most deservedly took the medal this year, in spite of some recent health concerns he overcame and acknowledged while accepting the award.  Chef Mike is a class act, a gentleman, a culinary talent and an inspiration to all things homegrown.  Chef Mike thanked Danny Meyer and his team. Chef Mike is in my NYC Homegrown book – and I was over the moon when he took the time from TV interviews on the red carpet to come over and offer a hello kiss!

Outstanding Chef: Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park, NYC) Eleven Madison Park Restaurant  To much applause, Humm profusely thanked the Foundation, and his wife, (said there should be an outstanding wife or spouse award) and Danny Meyer, his mentor, who Humm noted changed his life, changed the restaurant – and supported what they were doing at Eleven Madison even during the recession when some nights there might only have served 20 covers…

Outstanding Restaurant: Boulevard (San Francisco) Boulevard Restaurant  Chef Nancy Oakes produced an incredible steak tartare and salmon, with truffle shavings at the after party that deserved its own JBF medal of honor!

Rising Star Chef: Christina Tosi (Momofuku Milk Bar, NYC) Momofuku Restaurant

Best New Restaurant:  Next (Chicago) Next Restaurant  Grant Achatz’ “next” thing that changes accordingly

Outstanding Bar Program, PDT (NYC)

 PDT  -- The name is an acronym for “Please Don’t Tell” but the James Beard award seems sure to blast the secret East Village’s hidden location and Prohibition era style phone booth passage to the bar and temple of all things cocktail.
Incredible as it may seem, the Bar program 2012 was the first time mixologists were recognized since the JBF awards were launched 25 years ago. This year, the bartenders were lauded for helping to elevate the craft to a true profession and for fomenting a true cocktail Renaissance.

Outstanding Service, La Grenouille (NYC)  La Grenouille Restaurant  Simply elegant, sumptuous, dining in the very best French tradition for nearly 50 years.  Service matters.

Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional
Paul Grieco, Terroir, (NYC) Hearth Restaurant Terroir Wine Bar

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic
Maricel Presilla, Cucharamama, (Hoboken, NJ) Cucharamama South America Cuisine Restaurant

Outstanding Restaurant Design
Le Bernardin, NYC, Design Firm: Bentel & Bentel Architects Le Bernardin

In addition, special achievement award honorees included:

Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America: Grant Achatz (Chef and Author, Chicago); Mark Bittman (Journalist and Author, NYC); Dana Cowin (Editor and Journalist, NYC); Emily Luchetti (Pastry Chef and Author, San Francisco); Marvin Shanken (Publisher, NYC)

America’s Classics: The Fry Bread House (Owner: Cecelia Miller, Phoenix); Nora’s Fish Creek Inn (Owners:  Nora Tygum, Trace Tygum, and Kathryn Tygum Taylor, Wilson, WY); St. Elmo Steak House (Owners: Stephen Huse and Craig Huse, Indianapolis); Jones Bar-B-Q Diner (Owners: James and Betty Jones, Marianna, AR); Shady Glen (Owners: William and Annette Hoch, Manchester, CT)

Lifetime Achievement Award: Wolfgang Puck (Chef and Restaurateur, Los Angeles)  Puck provided a charming and funny story of his rise from humble Austrian roots (his father told him he was taking on a woman’s job when he declared he wanted to cook and essentially through him out and the chef at his first job fired him only to find him working in the root cellar two weeks later!)  His ascendency to the pinnacle of the culinary world is sprinkled with celebrities and success and it was an interesting profile: an American rags to riches tale.

Humanitarian of the Year: Charlie Trotter (Chef and Restaurateur, Chicago)

Highlights from the inaugural 2011 JBF Food Conference and Leadership Awards was presented and moderated by Woody Campbell, Chairman, The JBF Board of Trustees and Sam Kass, White House Chef and Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives.  Excellent program that brought together food and nutrition thought leaders that works to promote a safer, healthier and sustainable way to eat, especially in the schools.
(The 2012 Food Conference is scheduled for October 17th and 18th at the Hearst Tower.)

Best Quote or Lines of the Night:  Tony Miller, L’Etoille, Madison Wisconsin who characterized the James Beard award as weird dudes who spreads awesomeness around the country.  Later, the owner of the Shady Glen, William Hoch, thanked the Foundation and said it was such an honor to be recognized by James Bond!

Industry leaders from across the country attended the highly anticipated festivities, which celebrated this year’s Awards theme of “25 Years of Food at its Best,” in tribute to the Foundation’s silver anniversary and mission that honors James Beard’s legacy by celebrating, nurturing, and preserving America’s diverse culinary heritage and future. In recognition of James Beard’s influence on our culinary world, the Foundation invited chefs who had the privilege of knowing James Beard personally, as well as those who have been influenced by his legacy, to prepare dishes inspired by recipes from his more than 20 cookbooks. At the Gala Reception immediately following the Awards Ceremony, guests enjoyed a dine-around gala prepared by these notable chefs, including many of this year’s winners and nominees, among them Gary Danko of Restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco, Paul Kahan of Blackbird in Chicago, and Emily Luchetti of Farallon in San Francisco.

Some of the culinary highlights at the after party included the aforementioned steak tartare and salmon with truffle shaving from Boulevard Restaurant, Stags Leap Wine, and Henriot Champagne and the refreshing cocktail made with Grey Goose Vodka.

The terrarium-like glass-filled jar of ham and parsley tureen with foi grois, rye crumble, mustard, arugula and mustard blossom from Menton Restaurant  (this would make a great appetizer or accompaniment to cocktails at a home party.
Morgan’s in the Desert at La Quinta Resort & Club’s Jimmy Schmidt served up delicious Jerusalem artichoke chanterelle salad with hazelnuts, Parmesan cheese/paprika emulsion.  Morgan's
Nora Pouillon’s Restaurant Nora, a champion of organic and local food, cooked up the tastiest, tiny burgers made with Ecopia Farms teeny lettuce and herbs and Ayrshire Farm’s grass fed, heritage-breed beef.  Fantastic taste.

Farallon Restaurant served up a culinary confection of almond cake, coconut, sweet and crisp fried almonds, rich yet light chocolate glaze and caramelized mascarpone that was just shy of sinful.
JBF shout out to The Dessert Professional, Genevieve Sawyer who, in the true culinary tradition of sharing with love, pointed me to some news goodies in the press room and allowed me to power up easily.  Thanks!

The annual James Beard Foundation Awards honor the best and the brightest talents in the food and beverage industries, celebrating outstanding achievement in each of the following categories: Restaurant and Chef, Restaurant Design and Graphics, Books, Broadcast and New Media, and Journalism, as well as several special achievement awards. Each category has an individual Awards Committee made up of industry professionals who volunteer their time to oversee the policies, procedures, and selection of judges for their respective Awards program.