Friday, May 24, 2013

Homegrown Chef Keith Luce Launches The Square Memorial Weekend on the East End's North Fork

It’s a trifecta of races. 
No, it’s not the ponies. Or the Roses.

Rather a confluence of a few East End "culinary races."

First is the official launch of the summer season starting with the bugle call of Memorial Day Weekend.
(Isn’t that a contradiction of terms - where “Day” has morphed/slashed into “Weekend” – even as part of the moniker?)

Then there is the race to get the beaches and resorts of Long Island hit by Superstorm Sandy ready – or the “new” ready – for summer.

This season finds Chef Keith Luce is once again racing against time.
His latest sprint is to officially launch The Square, his culinary destination on the North Fork. 

When I researched additional locavore chefs for an expanded manuscript for my book, the now recently-released book, “The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook,” I was already impressed with Chef Keith Luce’s farm to table knowledge and practices.

When it came time to interview Chef Keith, frankly speaking, he was reeling; coming off a grueling, boot-camp of sorts – in order to get his Jedediah Hawkins Inn successfully opened with the help of his father, family -- and his agricultural heritage.
After all his family has been farming the North Fork since the 1600’s. 
And that number also figured into Chef Keith’s pedigree -- as he was a White House chef in the Clinton Administration: with food deliveries going to – 1600  -- on Pennsylvania Avenue, that is.

There seems to be no coincidences in this chef’s repertoire.

Now, this homegrown native son is doing the same deadline-dance to successfully open all but one of his four distinctive venues this weekend in Greenport’s Stirling Square.  

And the final race was his innovative dash to raise funds for the addition to his family’s farm via Kickstarter.

Crowd Funding sure to be a crowd pleaser

Within just two months, Chef Keith raised approximately 52K to jump-start his North Fork Market Artisan Curing initiative.

His Kickstarter request was described as “True farm to tale artisan products with a focus on cured meats from humanely raised animals being raised on my family farm.”

Chef Keith’s successful Kickstarter appeal details the story behind his funding to build a stronger food network for the free-ranging, fairly rare, heritage Mangalitsa pigs that Chef Keith had been raising on the family’s six-acre farm.

The Kickstarter campaign raised funds to build a smokehouse, a meat curing and aging room, buying grinders and salumi supplies.

The pigs are too cute.  
Appropriately native to Hungary (ha!) these Mangelitsa pigs are too glamorous! Photo courtesy of The Food Network

Farmer Luce knows a thing or two about farming and sustainability and feeds the glamorous, curly-haired porcines (resist the Miss Piggy references!) an equal dose of kitchen extras from the restaurants and food remnants from local artisanal growers.  
Chef, Farmer, Grower, Keith Luce

Chef Keith even used glamorous hazelnuts as mulch in his Hawkins and Luce kitchen garden!  I couldn't take my eyes off the tawny look. 
Jedediah Hawkins Inn

The homegrown salumi is a remarkable, dream-come-true for many area foodies and restaurateurs. 
Perhaps Chef Keith will be able to provide finished meats to other local food aficionados…

The East End surely needed a homegrown salumi and charcuterie like this – capturing the clean, rich, marbled pork of the Mangelitsa plus the added delicious, delight of locally-raised animals, to produce a premium taste.

Place matters.

It’s why I advocate for “Taste Tourism.” 
Food should taste different depending on the culinary bounty of a certain area. The waters and soil create flavors unique to a region.  
The terroir and meroir of Long Island provide rapturous, special flavors simply not found anywhere else.

There is no disagreeing that the goddess of gourmet waved her culinary magic wand over the food treasures to be discovered on the Two Forks.  

Just to be certain, take a look at Chef Keith’s farm and taste his treats at The Square. 
Go ahead.  
Experience a culinary adventure.

X Marks The Square

When asked why he moved from Jedediah Hawkins Inn, Chef Keith noted his business decision to move to Greenport and provide a year-round culinary destination with partners who shared his vision.
Along with his wife, Marta and new partners, Scott and Veronica Hunzinger and Jason and Kara Graves, whose collective experience includes expertise in finance, marketing and business development, the team and their newly incorporated NoFo Hospitality Holding LLC will work to realize this James Beard award-winning chef’s big dreams.

The Greenport historic Stirling Square property includes four distinctive venues at the site of the former North Fork Oyster Company on the corner of Bay and Main Streets:

Main on the Square
    MAIN, a full service restaurant in the space formerly occupied by the North Fork Oyster Company. The year-round restaurant features farm-to-table ingredients and signature menu items including General Luce’s Duck Wraps, the NoFo Cobb Salad along with house-made pastas, fresh oysters, as well as seafood boils and bakes  

    NOSH, a “caffeinery” and small treat shop offering a range of beverages along with savory and sweet goods, snacks and ice cream

    PREP, The Square’s take on “street food” offers flatbreads fresh from a wood-burning oven, cured meats, and more. Visitors can also watch the chefs prepare pastas, baked goods, ice cream and other culinary offerings while they wait  
Widowmaker Flatbread: Duck confit, farm egg
    MEET, a unique tasting room for sampling interesting NY-produced beer, wine and spirits, shopping for packaged and canned goods from neighboring farms, participating in cooking or food and beverage pairing classes, or even enjoying low-key acoustic musical performances * to open soon

Chef Keith notes that he will source ingredients locally – from his family farm to the on-site garden that he is working on.

Oysters – which play a big part of the menu – Main claims to “strive to serve all five species of oysters from Crassostrea Virginica to Ostrea Edulis to Crassostrea Gigas – begs for Karen Rivera’s Peconic Pearls locally grown oysters – (Karen – please call chef!).  

Karen and her Peconic Pearls are also featured in The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook because she is cited as a grower who inspires the local chefs.

“This is a restaurant that is decidedly more casual than the Inn,” said Chef Keith.  ‘It’s a take on American comfort food – with a twist.” 
House Made Flatbread & Sandwiches

Chef notes there will be mac n’ cheese, for example but made with his own extruded pasta.  
He’ll do his lobster with corn and oyster chowder.  And then there is the new take or remake on his shrimp and lobster meatballs turning the dish into a shrimp and lobster corn dogs!
Sort of a “food folly” for the fun and easy days of summer.

The Main menu offers Daily specials from meatless Monday’s to Baymen’s Stew to homemade ravioli.  

The Square is a food destination.  
Think of it is a European kind of food market village of sorts. The Square is comprised of stand-alone bungalows that house unique food offerings. La Dolce Vita!

And of course The Square offers local drink from the area’s best Long Island wineries and beer and spirit makers. 
Let’s hear it for LiV Spirits,  Long Island’s First Craft Distillery and the finest homegrown potato vodka.  Plus Sorbetta made with locally grown berries from SEPS farm, and the Island’s first, single-malt, scotch-style whiskey, “Pine Barrens.” (This is another, entire, locally Homegrown story!)  Don’t wait – buy and enjoy the Pine Barrens and the story will follow.

And the family-owned Paumanok Vineyards, also featured in the Homegrown Cookbook, produces the best Chenin Blanc (if you can even get a bottle of this award-winning wine) to go with the local oysters: it’s all in the unparalleled Long Island terroir and meroir that give the meals here a true “taste of place.” in Auquebogue. 631-722-8800.

For a full story of Chef Keith Luce and his Homegrown Long Island agriculture roots, get your copy of: The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook: or

Send me your address and I’ll send you an autograph plate from me, the author – and I bet we can get chef Keith to sign too!

The Square is open seven days a week. For hours, directions, menus, live music schedule, special events planning, and reservations (for MAIN), go to

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Second Annual Food Book Fair Kicks Off 4-Day Food Lodestar tonight at Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

It was audacious to produce the Food Book Fair. 
The event spanned four days. It was held at the then netherworld location of the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
It’s layers of programs, panels, demos, and discussions were geared for a polyglot of audiences including artists, food lovers, farmers, and publishers. 
And in the parlance of marketing, “If you appeal to everyone, you attract no one. Focus.”

But that’s just the thing.

See, Elizabeth Thacker Jones is a polymath and her very successful Food Book Fair is a polymath venture that, in fact, appeals to a variety of audiences who made last year’s inaugural event such a success that this year’s program is a lodestar.  
Elizabeth Thacker Jones, founder & director, Food Book Fair

Food Book Fair is a prism through which we can view politics, entrepreneurism, food writing, science and culture.
The schedule is a drumbeat that reflects the connection to Food: “Food & Foraging,” “Food + Labor,” “Food + Tech,” “Food + Future + Design” “Food + Literature,” “Food + Conflict,” “Food + Enterprise,” “Food + Art.” You get the idea.

This prismatic approach to the topic of food is part of Jones’ pedigree too.
It’s in her DNA.
Her bio begins with her personal food story: The Food Book Fair project is inspired in part by her great- grandfather, Samuel Milton Jones, who strove to improve conditions for the working class of Toledo, Ohio, opening free kindergartens, building parks, instituting an eight-hour day for workers and reforming the city government. Elizabeth hopes that the Food Book Fair will inspire its own reforms within the local food movement.

I too share somewhat of a family connection. There was that moment at the sink in the Wythe Hotel’s unisex WC last year where I met Elizabeth’s father.  But that’s another story.  However the somewhat flummoxed – and humorous circumstances were readily overcome by pride about his daughter’s opening day success. A magic moment.

Food Book Fair
This is a food-filled adventure that has attracted food thought leaders and their kindred audiences – both the longstanding, loyal ones and the curious. 
The 2013 program is filled with more food events, according to Jones. Ticket sales are up significantly too – approximately 25% -- along with the number of events, with more than 2,000 people coming, although they are planning on double that metric.

In their words, “More than just a book fair, this is a weekend-long whirlwind of panels, lectures, how-to’s, and signings all devoted to the sharing and preparing of the delicious stuff that brings us together.  It’s an annual celebration of cookbooks, memoirs, magazines, science, culture and politics, by the writers, designers, chefs, curators and enthusiasts who inspire us to love and learn more about what we eat.”

I eagerly covered last year’s event. There was a palpable energy of being at the zeitgeist. 
While there might have been some fits and starts given the event’s gestation and casual approach to production, the content and the people was kinetic.
Jones has innate talent to curate an edibley distinctive schedule for a food-loving, food-obsessed cohort.
Her calm demeanor ushered in the next wave of food thought and vocabulary.  She even coined the term “Foodieodicals,” to capture the essence of Indie food zines or periodicals point of view who write about the permutations of food and all that the world’s it touched.
And you know the Wythe Hotel is no longer the netherworld when it lands as front-page news in Today’s Style section of the New York Times.

This Examiner spoke to Elizabeth Thacker Jones about her baby: The Food Book Fair to learn of the possibility of the “Terrible Twos” for the event this year.
But no such thing. Perhaps heightened expectations...

“It’s full steam ahead,” said Jones.  “There’s been no real surprises. We streamlined the process and it’s been wonderful,” she added. 
Asked if Food Book Fair was meeting her expectations, she quickly replied it has far exceeded that – “it is much, much more than what had expected.” 
This is the place to come if you have an interest in the evolution of food publishing.” In addition, she explained, “This the ‘Nerdy’ side of food. The event offers more topics that include the academic, cerebral and artful elements of food.”

It’s the epicenter for macro food issues, yet infused with the micro: the pulsing culinary ascendency that Brooklyn culture claims with its artisanal food makers, restaurants and food growers.

Given feedback from last year and her own keen sense to put her finger on the pulse of all things food, they added more food-focused, hands-on/interactive events and she cited a few examples to highlight:

The runaway success of Deb Perelman’s blog and her cookbook Smitten Kitchen launches tomorrow’s schedule.  She will discuss her passion for cooking and writing. The author will demo her Buttered Popcorn Cookie recipe.  

A Coffee Crawl, Friday at 2 pm is a creative, caffeinated peek into the vibrant neighborhoods that fuels the food creativity.
Merrill Stubbs is part of Friday’s “Food + Tech” and will sign copies of her The Food52 Cookbook: Volume 2.

Saturday highlights include “Food + Modern Farming” with food icons, Marion Nestle, Food Politics and Maria Rodale, Organic Manifesto.

Sunday’s kitchen demo with Hiroki Shinbo, Hiroko’s American Kitchen, at Pure Kitchen.  That day's “Cookbooks + Publishing” panel also features the founder of Williamsburg’s Overly, who are working on their first cookbook, with editors and agents, followed by Shimbo's book signing.

Food Book Fair kicks off tonight with a panel discussion packed with some of my favorite  food and garden friends, including Chef Matthew Weingarten, Executive Chef, Inside St. Bart’s restaurant, NYC, and a featured chef in my Homegrown New York City Cookbook, (Follow-on in the series to The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook) who’s own book Preserving Wild Foods is a beautiful guide filled with recipes for curing, canning, and pickling foraged edibles:

Chef Matthew Weingarten with co-author Raquel Pelzel

And Ellen Zachos, the effervescent, fellow garden enthusiast, garden instructor at The New York Botanical Garden, fellow garden blogger at GardenBytes and DownanDirtyGardening, and a garden book mentor and sherpa. (Is there really just one Ellen Zachos?!)

Her latest book is Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat:

Ellen Zachos

The kickoff panel is also a Tasting Event Fundraiser for the Far Rockaways - so devastated by Superstorm Sandy, specifically to benefit Veggie Island in Rockaway Beach.  Veggie Island was a “community hub for locally grown products and produce.”
Wine will be provided by Brooklyn Winery and beer by Brooklyn Brewery.   

Tonight’s topic focuses on foraging for food and sustainability.

For the full, robust schedule of events, and to purchase tickets, visit the Food Book Fair site: