Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Homegrown Hamptons East End Weekend

Pike Farms, Sagaponick

It’s only been a little more than a week since my jam-packed two-day Homegrown Author book signing visits but I still have visions of food and drink and chefs and farmers dancing ‘round my head, taste buds  – and social media.

And before I kick in for this big Hamptons Homegrown weekend coming up, I wanted to share with you the diary of the special two-day Homegrown East End extravaganza.

I met so many new wonderful Homegrown friends and fans.

This is just the best part of the book signings. 
My garden friend, Stephen Orr, Editorial Director for Gardening at Martha Stewart Living Magazine and author of the successful garden book, Tomorrow’s Garden: Design and Inspiration, pointed out this very thought to me in a recent email – and I couldn’t agree more.
If you don’t have Stephen’s book in your library yet – and why not? here is how to get it – or from your local independent book store:

At the East End book signings, not only did I meet new foodie friends, there were also many instances when I was able to “put a face” to long-time Homegrown Cookbook enthusiasts that I hadn’t met in person till now, having communicated via email or blogs heretofore.  
In other circumstances, I reconnected with chefs and artisanal growers featured in The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook

I have so many stories to tell – all good.

The schedule was two days of the Sag Harbor Masters of Health and Wellness Preventative Health Expo– a health fair of sorts – put on by the same folks who run the Sag Harbor Farmer’s Market. 
I was introduced to Ana Nieto who runs the Sag Harbor markets by way of Bernadette Martin from the Long Beach, Long Island Farmer’s Markets that I worked last year  - the day before Sandy smashed that world… 
Ana Nieto, Turtle Shell Health, Sag Harbor Wellness Expo & Farmers Market manager

But see what a food network really is?  I love the homegrown spirit of support and generosity that the world of food and edibles brings to the, ahem, table.

Because of the weekend’s schedule-busting agenda, I thought I’d stay at The American Hotel in Sag Harbor for the two nights.  
The hotel is not only featured in the Homegrown Cookbook but I must add that I really do love the narrative I wrote for this profile.  Then again, there is an abundance of rich history and robust anecdotes surrounding the hotel’s storied past that I could mine. 
Today, it’s a haven for the rich and famous but owner Ted Conklin found it “… sagging from the burden of lost potential…” as I described it.  

I love it there – and feel more than a little bit like Eloise at the Plaza.  It’s all so Ralph Lauren-y looking, the food is great and the bar is too perfect – especially for martinis and oysters.  Make that crisp, salty, local Hog oysters.  

Alas, it was all too almost biblical, as Mary- from the American Hotel -  said there was no room at the inn.

Despite the fact there were just about no rooms to be had in the entire area for the weekend – in the summer months, many hotels require a three or four night stay and my wallet and schedule couldn’t do that.  I did find a Sunday night room at the Sag Harbor Inn that I was able to cancel on Sunday (they resold the room. Please do look to stay here when traveling out east – the proprietors were most accommodating on all levels.  I am very grateful for their great customer service.)

See, I could change the need for a reservations when I learned that the Great Chefs Dinner in Bridgehampton where I was to participate on Sunday with a book signing, moved the VIP dinner element to Toni Ross’ house rather than hold the dinner at the Hayground School.  I realized I didn’t need to stay till after dinner.  The cocktails and tasting would be finished by an early 7pm-ish.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Rather than stay the weekend at a local inn, I took the Hampton Jitney Saturday and Sunday back and forth from New York City to the East End. So even though I got home relatively late both nights, I got to be in our Gotham apartment and also saved on the hotel costs.

Expo in Sag Harbor

Saturday at the Expo was great – my partner for the day was Peter Garnham, a featured grower from the Homegrown Cookbook. Peter is a charming British native and horticulturist, local farmer (ECCO Farms), bread maker and instructor, and gardener. Peter also designed and maintained Ted Conklin’s kitchen garden and the edibles were used in The American Hotel’s kitchen. Peter is also a healthy soil devotee – and is attending the Rodale soil weekend classes now, as a matter of fact.  
Peter Garnham, L, talking art

The Health & Wellness Expo featured presenters who offered expertise on healthy cooking, Feng Shui, food law, benefits of massage, and organic beauty products.
There was a solid, steady flow of attendees and I was thrilled to meet so many new Homegrown Cookbook fans--selling and signing a lot of books. 
Most were health enthusiasts who appreciate a locally grown, sustainable, non-GMO diet and menu.

Some of the new Homegrown friend highlights are Mrs. Mitchell – who is mother to the Pink Floyd’s Curt Mitchell.  She is beautiful.  A real cutie with a mirthful, mischievous, huggable demeanor.  
Mrs. Mitchell - mother of Pink Floyd's Curt Mitchell 

And Dina Manzo of HGTV’s “Dina’s Party,” owner of design and event-planning firm, Designer Affair and formerly of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. She is beautiful.  And very sweet.  She is one of 11 siblings!  If the others come even close to Dina's good looks, the parents should've gone on to a Baker's Dozen!
Dina had me autograph the book for her sister who is a cook and a baker.  Guess what her name is?  Cookie!  How sweet is that? (Cookie is new Twitter friend, too.)
Dina Manzo, HGTV star of Dina's Party

Everyone who purchased the book was a devotee of healthy, local-sourced sustainable foods.  I thoroughly enjoyed talking and learning from each and every informed foodie I met. 
Also, I posted pictures of all the new Homegrown friends on the book’s Facebook page.

I started this Homegrown custom last year at the East Hampton Author’s Night.
There I was surrounded by famous and accomplished authors.  It was a bit surreal.
And yet, attendees and guests eagerly came to get a signed copy of The Hamptons & Homegrown Cookbook from me and to take my picture.  I am so much more accustomed to and comfortable with promoting others – not me. 
To make it all more comfortable and familiar, I turned the tables after they took their photo of me, and took one of them with the Homegrown book! 

Admittedly, I’m a few events behind in posting images of Homegrown fans to the Facebook page- but I’ll double back and do it. Promise.
In the meantime, enjoy the images from this past weekend.

At the Expo, we also met the amiable Earl Fultz from Charissa – and Jeri Woodhouse, owner of A Taste of the North Fork  - specialty food purveyor. 
I learned Charissa is a cHarissa inspired spice created by the Greenport couple - Earl and his wife Gloria—who is a Moroccan native. Earl’s cumin inspired food condiment/marinade/dip/rub is very tasty – addicting in fact – and a welcome addition to most any meal.  One has to wonder – why didn’t anyone thin of this sooner??
He makes his sure-fire food accessory at Jeri’s commercial kitchen and Woodhouse is a Sherpa for this next big foodie taste.

I also learned from Jeri that she is a former NYC social worker, who then got into food and assuredly built her business by quality, reputation and – there it is again – the local food network.
I learned she makes so many of the sauces and relishes and condiments for most of the Long Island and New York City restaurants and chefs, including personal chefs, as well as the chefs in my Homegrown Cookbook. 

Jeri asked to sell the Hamptons & Long Island Cookbook at her commercial kitchen in Greenport. 
My pleasure! Especially for someone with such a stellar food resume and reputation for using local homegrown ingredients to create artisanal homemade food delights.

I also enjoyed spending time with my presenter mates at the Expo. 
Dr. Anne Van Couvering

Dr. Anne Van Couvering, Hamptons Naturopathic, is a medical doctor now – having successfully worked as a massage therapist before returning to school recently.  Her dedication and knowledge of a holistic and healing practice was in evidence.  I responded to her personal, dedicated medical service, especially in this day and age of “paperwork medicine” – meaning sometimes I feel like I spend more time filling out forms than I do with the medical professional!  Anne’s not at all like that!

It was a special treat to meet up with Homegrown enthusiast and kitchen designer, Toni Sabatino who it seemed dropped from the clouds to get two more autographed Homegrown Cookbooks for her kitchen clients.  She’s a design goddess!  And knows food, too.  Perfect combo. 
The heart of the home is the kitchen, after all.
But don’t take my word for it – take a kitchen tour with Toni:  
Toni Sabatino, Kitchen designer

Oysters and Wine
Speaking of healthcare, after signing and selling a case-plus of Homegrown books, it was time to rejuvenate. 
I treated Peter to some refreshments at The American Hotel.  We took in two orders of the Hog Island or Peconic Bay oysters, described as “exuberant, butter-soft, with a piercing saltiness – a plump and ebullient gulp of summer.” Couldn't have said it better myself  
Peconic Bay/Hog Oysters 

It’s been written that Ted Conklin refers to his oysterman Howard Pickerell as the Patron Saint of Peconic Bay Oysters and the little bivalves could come stamped, “By appointment to the American Hotel.”

Homegrown horticulturist & oyster lover, Peter Garnham

Before we threw caution to the wind and ordered another dozen, we headed back to the Expo area where a fundraising talk, cocktails and a dinner for Slow Foods East End was being held.

The featured speaker was the non-GMO authority, Jeffrey M. Smith, Executive Director, The Institute for Responsible Technology, and author of “Genetic Roulette” and “Seeds of Deception,” and his documentary film, “Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of our Lives.”
Jeffrey Smith, featured speaker @Slow Foods Cocktail party

Jeffrey M Smith speaks to Slow Food Cocktail party guests

See his research on the impact of GMO with the all-too-prevalent and not much discussed Crohn’s disease, IBS, Autism and Alzheimer’s and cancers. It’s a game-changer.

Smith had them eating out of his hand.  They were held spellbound by his calm delivery of frightening health dangers and epidemics heretofore not-told or worse, covered up by pro GMO interests.  All the while benefactors were nibbling on Chef Todd Jacobs’ Fresh Hamptons hors d’oeuvres of pea soup, chicken satay and other Fresh creations.  
Treats from Chef Todd Jacobs' Fresh Hamptons restaurant

Drinks were offered courtesy of LiV Distillery, Long Island’s first and only locally made vodka and bourbon and Sorbet – made from freshly grown strawberries or raspberries or other seasonal fruit from nearby farms.  It’s the perfect summer drink.  
LiV libations 

All too soon it was time to kiss Peter goodbye, thank him for a special day and head back to Gotham.

And then do it all over again on Sunday.  I caught the early morning jitney to Sag Harbor, grabbed some coffee at LT Burger on Main Street - they make all their own pastries and roast their coffee.

Sunday and The Great Chefs Dinner
Sunday was a little slower at the Expo – and more humid.  But there were such wonderful folks who came out and especially to see the film premiere of Smith’s documentary.

My Homegrown friend, Nancy Twardowski-Valllarella, a cook, food writer at “What’s Cookin’ Smithtown,
and big Homegrown Cookbook supporter met me a little after 3 in the afternoon.   
Nancy was my lucky Plus+1 for the Great Chefs Dinner at the Hayground School. 
She looked beautiful and cool in her elegant white dress. 
Nancy Twardowski-Vallarella, Homegrown enthusiast, What's Cookin Smithtown blogger

As we headed over to Bridgehampton, I tried to revive my humid, limp looks – without much success.

The annual fundraiser for the chef’s dinner series is the primary fundraiser for Bridgehampton’s own Hayground School
and an annual tribute to the late Jeff Salaway, a widely respected and beloved restaurateur and one of the school’s co-founders.  

Too many cooks in the kitchen?  Not here. The best of Manhattan and the East End’s chefs come together for a good cause at the Great Chefs fundraiser, using the local, homegrown bounty to create mouth-watering tastings. And the local drinks

The event is a family affair too - filled with the students and their parents. 
This year the kids cooked with Foody’s Chef Bryan Futerman making Tuscan Style Whole Roasted Pig from Wells Farm, mushroom’s from the Homegrown Cookbook’s featured mushroom grower, David Falkowski’s Open Minded Organics in the school’s wood oven pizza.

Chef Bryan chose the Hayground School’s Jon Snow, and the children’s garden as his inspired growers for his profile in The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook
You can see why this cooking team was a very special Homegrown celebration.

Chef Jason, Almond, along with his adorable daughter, served up sweet and pretty vichyssoise.

Almond's Chef Jason & daughter (photo courtesy Twardowski-Vallarella)

I am so very grateful to Toni Ross, Jeff Salaway’s wife, who invited me to be a part of this extraordinary event.  
Toni Ross and admiring lads! 

And also big thank you's to her team: Samantha and Christy who made everything so non-drama and easy. 

My publisher sent two boxes of books and we got them downstairs in the newly expanded Jeff’s Kitchen building. (For me - that’s a spooky catwalk above the kitchen area and I proudly held my vertigo-inducing fear in check!)

Me & Nancy Twardowski-Vallarella set up Homegrown at Great Chefs Dinner

I pre-signed all the books and was prepared to just add the names of the Homegrown friends who would buy the book.  
Pre-sign  (Photo courtesy Twardowski-Vallarella)
Me setting up in Jeff's Kitchen @ Chefs Dinner (photo courtesy, Luciano - Out East Foodie)

I donated 10% of the book’s sales to Jeff’s Kitchen and the Hayground School.  (Afterwards, I wrote to Samantha that I know my little donation pales in comparison to the sums the other presenters and the guests donate but under the heading “that every little bit helps,” I hope they can buy a few more seeds or some whisks or something for the kitchen…)

Presenting with me in Jeff's Kitchen was TV food personality George Hirsch: 
George Hirsch & me
Right off the bat, I saw Nick & Toni’s Chef Joe Realmuto, and got an enthusiastic Homegerown hug.  We talked gardens and what he was preparing that night.  It was an extraordinary confection: garden basil panna cotta with heirloom tomatoes and crisp prosciutto.  It was soooo delicious.

Soon after, Chef Joe’s daughter Nicole, aka his sous chef, came by. I asked her to pose for this picture of her holding her father’s feature page in the book: (good looks are a family trait!)
Nicole Realmuto shows off the family's Homegrown pedigree, her father, Chef Joe is featured chef in the Homegrown book

As a courtesy, I offered to hold the book for the guests who bought the book on the way in.  See, it’s so very busy/crazy when everyone is clamoring to get in and to start tasting the food prepared by all the local chefs and drinking the local wines and spirits, and start the bidding on the auction items.

All that in just two hours.

I was honored and thrilled to be asked to be a part of the group photo shot! 
Here I am checking out the master chefs!

All the chefs and food artisans gather like a school photo, with Toni orchestrating, 
Like herding chefs! Toni Ross orchestrates group photo

It’s a big “Say Cheese” moment, documenting a successful Hayground fundraising event.
So there I was, holding the Homegrown book – my passport to all good food on Long Island.
Great Chefs Dinner culinary team

Nancy zoomed in for me and Chef Lia. We are so small we look ok here!
Here is the link to the Dan’s Paper group shot, photographed my former consumer electronics associate, Richard Lewin:

But seriously, the BEST coverage of the Great Chefs Dinner is Homegrown enthusiast, Laura Luciano’s excellent blog, “Out East Foodie”
As an aside, I was up VERY late on Saturday – doing some writing and invoicing and lo and behold, I get Tweets from Laura/Out East Foodie at 2:30 am!  I was encouraging her to zzzzz nap.
She Tweeted she was so excited about the Chefs Dinner, couldn’t sleep.
A Homegrown Cutie after my own heart!

Laura Luciano: Out East Foodie blogger & Homegrown enthusiast 

Sleep or no sleep, Laura has a sharp eye for photo essays and her images are so alive: they really tell the story. She looks like a cub reporter with that camera slung on her shoulder - but she is all food-focused.

I was so busy with my book the entire cocktail and tasting time – so reading Out East Foodie really gave me a sense of the food and drink highlights.
I very much appreciate how Laura wrote that I am a “true ambassador for the chefs and growers of the Hamptons & Long Island; stories about their connections to the land and sea and the growers who inspire them.”
This could be the nicest thing anyone has written about the book and me.
I do indeed feel like an ambassador (wish I had a diplomat’s residence and license plate that reads Homegrown and allows me to park everywhere! Ha!)
Seriously, I am always very much honored to tell the homegrown stories and celebrate their devotion to growing and creating local, sustainable edible and ingredients. It’s hard work.  They are true culinary artists and it’s a privilege to work with them.

I love Out East Foodie’s coverage of my Homegrown chefs, Lia/Riverhead Project (

Thank you, Laura.  And I do love those tomato-red eyeglasses you wore. So fetching with your red dress!
And I applaud your adventure in “learning to like oysters.”  All too soon, you will be obsessed with their taste and texture!  See above…

And then there was the veritable love fest with Le Bernadin’s Chef Eric Ripert. 

Chef Eric Re-Tweeted my Tweet sent when I posted the news from this blog - about the Chefs Dinner – and Chef Eric as VIP, sent on Saturday from the jitney on the way to Sag Harbor. 
I didn’t see the RT till later in the day – but was just tickled pink! I send a grateful merci RT. 

On Sunday, after Nancy and I set up the Homegrown books and I’d autographed them, I saw Chef Eric striding towards me.
It was like out of a movie – everything seemed to be in slow motion.
I was so flummoxed I didn’t have a chance to be nervous.
I simply said, “Ohhh Chef! Thank you so much for the ReTweet.” 
I think he said – in that frothy, French accent, “Of course. Thank you.”
Then he was upon the table looking at the book, saying how much he loves the Homegrown book! 
TV personality, George Hirsch, Chef Eric Ripert, Nancy Twardowski-Vallarella 
And he posed with TV chef, George Hirsch, and Nancy.
Homegrown Hamptons "Arm Candy" Chef Eric Ripert!

There were food paparazzi taking lots of photos, too. 

There was some operating technicality with my iPhone so I wasn’t able to send a Tweet of me and Chef Eric so that was more than disappointing... I didn’t want to hold him up there while I explained to hit the camera icon on the iPhone… After all, Chef Eric was the VIP and he’d already spent more than a bit of time with me at the Homegrown table … gulp.

I took some photos of Chef Eric and his gorgeous wife, Sandra. 

Because he couldn’t take the Homegrown book with him, I dropped it off at his Le Bernardin on Tuesday. 
What a swanky restaurant…
And what an elegant, classy, kind man chef Eric is – he sent the loveliest thank you email note: 
Thank you very much for sending over a copy of the Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook. The book looks wonderful and I look forward to reading it and sharing with the Le Bernadin team. It will make a great addition to our library!

I’m so very impressed. And humbled. A million merci's...

It just points out that the truly great leaders are that way for a reason.  They are sensitive and respectful. 
I for one am so happy I never worked with or met a yelling, crazy chef.  I’ll take the elegant ones, thank you. 

I was able to get some images from Nancy later in the week and posted a few to Facebook and will share more.  Here is one of my newer Homegrown friends, the lifestyle expert: Martha McCully.
Martha McCully (L) & friend

Edible Magazine publisher, Stephen Munshin w/Mother. His  "better half" Lindsay Morris is a  photographer for the publication & the Hamptons Homegrown Cookbook

Nancy got some good ones of her with Chef Tom Colicchio too. And Alec Baldwin.
When I heard the Baldwins where in the tent, I did step away from the book table to look for Hilaria – before she was married or pregnant, she was my yogi master in Gotham.  
I realized I could circle that tent for the rest of the night and not bump into the couple, so I Tweeted to her – and she Favorited it.  Sweet.

I sold all the books. Took everyone’s photos – which I’ll post to Facebook  -- and closed up shop, so to speak. 
I got a chance to give Chef Bryan Futerman a Homegrown hug.  Should’ve gotten a photo! But Nancy and I were scooting to her car in order to make the jitney.
We did.
Another Batman and Robin caper. Thank you, Nancy.

It was a jam-packed Homegrown Hamptons weekend, lots of work but filled with Homegrown memories of good food, food news and chefs and growers and friends and fans. 

I wouldn’t have traded it for all the oysters in the Peconic Bay.  Or maybe, just maybe….



  1. How did I miss this lovely post!! Thank you so much for your kind words. You are a true ambassador for the chefs and growers of the Hamptons, Long Island and beyond. I saw your book at KK Haspel's Farm this past weekend and brought a big smile to my face! :) XO

  2. Ditto, Laura! Thank you. I do so respect the chefs and growers of the Hamptons, Long Island and those culinary artists who are "away." I like how you describe me as an Ambassador - I accept the post :) Now, I need a residence - ha. I have just the place in mind! This was indeed a magical, Out East Weekend. Happy your comment brought back the memory.
    And nothing makes me happier than putting a smile on your pretty face -- and the fact that you saw my Homegrown Cookbook at KK Haspel's Farm is the Sun Gold on top! She is a garden sprite of the highest order. You are so smart to have taken a class with her. KK could have been the inspired grower to most every chef in my book - but we had to maintain her profile to 1-ish. She is featured with Chef Robby Beaver, The Frisky Oyster and noted with the James Beard nominee, Chef Gerry Hayden, The North Fork Table & Inn. She is beloved for her extraordinary produce. She talks to her plants and they coordinate with her for planting, harvesting… We should all be plant whisperers like KK. She has much to teach us…. Cheers!