Friday, February 7, 2014

The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook – “Look Book” Year in Review, Part 1

Thirteen proved to be lucky for my book, The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook.

When Superstorm Sandy slammed the door on so many big things in late 2012, it made my cancelled book signing and events rather pale in comparison…

But the New Year, 2013, was a good one for all things Homegrown. 

Homegrown Winter:

There was a TV Show that approached me in January. The show was to be about stumping experts in various fields – and I was to be the foodie expert to be stumped.
Why not, I thought.
I did the interviews via Skype – the show was to be produced in Hollywood.
It sounded like a fun adventure – which it was.  Then it went dark. They later told me that that is just the way Hollywood is.
Hey, ya gotta' try and it was a fun process and I got to “meet” some terrific people.
As Tony Bennett says, “Life Goes On.”

In February, I was approached at the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference by an impressive, talented App developer.
She and I cultivated the relationship and the business opportunity throughout the year, albeit at a snail’s pace. 
While I adore escargot, believe me, it was not my choice to have to inch along to App completion. 
However, as we needed my publisher’s approval/go ahead, I was practicing one of my better virtues: patience.
See, the thing was, my publisher was in the process of a securing a new CEO, then once hired and in place by mid-summer, he had to get acclimated, of course.  
And I want to always be respectful. 
So first overtures were my Homegrown soupçon of courteous, cautious and – heck, honest enthusiasm for the anticipated success of the App.
Finally, patience and respect paid off, and just as the we turned the page to 2014, he agreed to the App project.
More on this later…

In February the Homegrown love-fest was the launch of the first Homegrown Goodreads contest of sorts.
I’m embarrassed to say I hadn’t explored Goodreads prior to this, especially as it is a book club on super vitamins – (or kale as a foodie might say!) 

My crackerjack marketing team at Quayside Publishing put together a very effective, turnkey book giveaway that ended on with a kiss -- February 14th.  
Just one shy of 540 people requested the Homegrown Cookbook that first giveaway and that success gave us confidence and led to the second one – with nearly 700 entrants requesting the Homegown Cookbook. 

For the second Goodread book giveaway, we teamed up with The North Fork Table & Inn to include a restaurant gift certificate.  
he North Fork Table & Inn and its very special husband and wife team – Chef Gerry Hayden and Chef Claudia Fleming are featured in the Homegrown Cookbook.
Be sure to sign up for Chef Gerry Hayden’s cooking classes – Gerry teams up with another Homegrown chef, Kevin Penner.

Plus don’t miss the Benefit produced by Slow Food East End to help defray the costs of managing chef Gerry’s ALS: February 23 at the beautifiul waterfront winery: Kontokosta Winery in Greenport
We love chefs Gerry & Claudia - and their love of the Homegrown, sustainable life. Share the love.

For the Goodreads Homegrown giveaway, there are so many good comments and reviews. 

I really must attend to Goodreads with dedicated frequency…
And maybe I can link this blog to the Goodreads Author blogs…

I don’t yet understand all the metrics but when I go to the Author’s page Goodreads tells me all kinds of good things – guess that’s why they called it Goodreads…

My publisher tells me I need to share and promote the fact that Homegrown has received nearly a perfect 5 rating (4.71) 
I have been meaning to do this – perhaps you Homegrown fans can help spread the word, via Goodreads??

All the experts tell me that there is nothing like getting good reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and B&N.  I neglect to ask for reviews.
But I will shamelessly ask here – if you Love the Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook – and if you are still reading you do – please take a homegrown second and write a review?  
I only have four reviews…
Here is the link for your review-ing ease. And thanks to you Homegrown reviewers there xox

It makes a Huge difference… merci.

In February, I was also busy with food and garden lectures and a very special reunion with my friends from school in Switzerland. 

March included our annual sojourn to our place in Aruba for some reading and dreaming…
And upon returning home, there was the planting of our peas in our Homegrown farm-ette – perfect timing too – right before St. Patrick’s Day with a snowstorm imminent. What perfect calendaring…

The first of the more formal Homegrown Cookbook events was the Atlantic Highlands Historical Society talk.
My publisher made a number of posters that were positioned around the village (funny to see oneself peering back from the hardware store door or the cash register..) and the Historical Society produced and sent out a press release.

The local media, including the Asbury Park Press and the Two River Times, covered the news of the upcoming event about the Homegrown book -- and by extension -- how to design and create edible gardens.

It was April – and the siren song of edible gardens was hitting the high C and the fat lady was singing.
It was time to stop dreaming and start learning how to create an edible garden – it was an SRO audience at the kick off to the Strauss Museum, home to the Garden State’s Atlantic Highlands Historical Society.

I brought lots of seed catalogs to dazzle the guests.
I think the art and photos of plant and seed catalogs are not unlike looking through a fashion magazine – just better.
The botanical art – both fine art and photography – is seductive, seasonal, and showcases the beauty of the new-for-this-year plants.
It’s so “Runway,” no?
It also so Garden Glamour … (that’s my other, garden-focused blog. )

The informative, food-focused presentation of my Historical Society talk was a lively discussion punctuated by an image-filled PowerPoint presentation.

My aim was to share my experience and knowledge about the importance of growing food – and I think the exuberant audience was on board for that.
And I wanted to demonstrate why growing our own food is ever more important for our health and tastebuds and the sheer, sensual pleasure of eating.

And further, to show how one can readily go about growing their own food.
I showed some of my edible garden designs – by flavor, color, and season. 
I demonstrated via video images how to compost and care for the soil. 

I talked about the Homegrown growers from the book – and the chefs who are inspired by the them and the artisanal makers, citing Bee Sting Honey, Paumanok Vineyards, Peconic Pearl oysters and Balsam Farms, in particular.

After a lively presentation, discussion/Q&A and book signing (ten percent of the sales were donated to the Historical Society) -- there were more an a few of us to retreat to the village proper in Atlantic Highlands’ – started as an artist’s colony eons ago.  Today, its vibrant main street still boasts local artisans, galleries, theater, cinema and restaurants.  We headed to the Copper Canyon for after-event wine and cocktails.  We met Diane Pittet, cheese monger at Sickles and contributing editor to Organic Gardening who was a splendid addition to our edible conversation there (plus she rides her bike most everywhere so we are in total simpatico)
And I met Barbara (Bee) Bateman and Peter Doyle - who are now garden design clients. (Going for he edible garden)
Me and B

As the Strauss Museum Atlantic Highlands Historical Society was ramping up, I was stuttering on the PowerPoint.
My gorgeous, Garden State neighbor, Stacy, brought it to life. 
Stacy helping me w tech

Not to be outdone, I and my team worked hard – and fast -- to make Stacy’s edible garden come to life. 
As a vegetarian and mother of two astonishingly beautiful children, Stacy was so enthused to create her own edible garden for her family.
In fact, she hired me to fulfill her dream in time for Mother’s Day – the edible garden design and installation was a gift from her husband.

I think this is such an inspiring idea that I just might start a new, Homegrown Mother’s Day revolution: help Mothers help their families by starting a Homegrown edible garden!  Win. Win.Win. 

Put a fork in it. 

Then of course, there is the iconic Beard on Books talks that pepper the calendar.  2013 was a splendid year with an extraordinary roster of chefs and food authors. 
The Beard on Books talks are Wednesdays, noon, at the Beard Foundation, located at 12th Street, NYC – around the corner from our Gotham apartment.
I’ve written a detailed review of the year’s talks at the Beard Foundation and The New School and the Cookbook Fair, to highlight the best cookbooks for 2013.  Perhaps it’s best you jump there to read a full review at my Examiner column:
It’s always so welcoming at the Beard House – there are some refreshments, too.
And I always feel good after seeing one of my food, nutrition and public health idols there – Marion Nestle – who attends with some frequency.

I often say food is like a prism – one can see myriad issues refracted in its optics: cooking, dining, farming, healthcare, politics, workers rights, immigration, agriculture, and business…

The only thing better this year was that for two of the Beard on Book talks, I collaborated with the Beard Foundation to bring the summer students who attended the two Food sessions at the Passport NYC 92 St Y program for Culinary Arts:   
The Y produces a very exciting syllabus for the Food sessions: visiting the Chew, the Greenmarkets, culinary schools and me! 

I was honored and delighted to give a talk about my Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook and careers in the world of food, out of the kitchen.

I thought we could hold the talks at the Beard Foundation – so the students could “soak up” the culinary atmosphere and history. 
Then the icing on the cake!  When I inquired about the possibility of getting a room for the Homegrown talk, the Beard Foundation staff, headed by Susan Ungaro, Diane Harris Brown, IzabelaWojcik and Victoria Rodriguez doubled down! 

They suggested we invite the students to the two Beard on Books talks that took place before I was to speak to the Y summer students. 
This was a true, only-in-New York serendipitous networking bonanza! 
Later, Victoria wrote: “We are always thrilled to share Mr. Beard’s story and his home with the next generation of food professionals, or the diners that make those jobs possible.
Beard Foundation president, Susan Ungaro with Passport Y Culinary Arts students
The students were able to hear two famous authors and chefs, Miriam Rubin, the first woman to work in the kitchen at the Four Season restaurant and the author of Tomato, along with the IT chef of the year, Edward Lee.

A Brooklyn native, Lee was up from Kentucky where he lives now and manages two successful signature restaurants and a burgeoning bourbon enterprise. He was back in Gotham to promote his book, Smoke & Pickles. 

After the Beard talks, the students ate their lunch in the Beard garden, designed by Garden Design Magazine staff.  

And then it was my turn. 

The kids were a terrific audience – eager to hear about my Homegrown book, the importance of eating local, sustainable food, and the making of the book -- from research and writing to interviewing and the photo shoots and follow-on media tours.
This segued to the other topic: careers in the food world that didn’t include the kitchen.

I received two, handwritten thank-you letters from the students signed by each of them that I cherish and keep in my Homegrown treasure box in my atelier office. 

Homegrown Cookbook Events.

Far and away, the most exhilarating, glamorous events for the Homegrown Cookbook – and by extension – me as author - were the summer events in the Hamptons and the corresponding news feature news coverage in Hamptons Magazine.  

If you don’t already subscribe to the magazine, you must do so (and don’t forget their Twitter and Instagram – to keep up with all things au courant in the Hamptons).

It was a double rainbow to not only be featured in the lead-off to summer Hamptons Magazine issue for the book

Be still my Homegrown heart!

But then, I was also invited as a co-host Author at the premiere East Hamptons Author’s Night event at editor Michael Braverman’s impossibly sublime home that is dominated by a library, pool and garden. 
Is there anything else one needs in life?
This is a man after my own heart…
More on this magical evening in the Homegrown Look Book Year in Review, Part 2.

The spectacular weekend-plus events kicked off in June with a book signing and tasting at the always popular Loaves & Fishes – THE center of all things culinary in the Hamptons. 

The shop has every conceivable cooking, baking, and presentation tool any culinary artist could ever dream up.  Loaves & Fishes is owned and lovingly managed by master chef and educator, Anna Pump and her daughter, Sybile and her husband, Garrett.
I was thrilled to do a book signing there in June. 

I adore the village of Bridgehampton and schedule a lunch there before events with my husband’s boss and her husband. Plus Bill gets to stock up on some hard to find, cool, kitchen items. 
Bill shopping with help from Sybile

As it ended up, Anna took ill so it was Sybile and me. 
It was a brilliantly, beautiful Hamptons day.  Sybile made oh-so-tasty treats.

And I got to meet new Homegrown fans.  
Martha (L)

New Homegrown friend, Sharon Donno (L) with her kitchen designer  & my Homegrown friend, Toni Sabatino
It was especially fun to meet up with a new foodie acquainence and lifestyle expert,  Martha McCully, who’d I’d met at a recent food event.

After the book signing, me, Bill, my Homegrown fan and friend and talented kitchen designer, Toni Sabatino and her partner, Richard, and friend, Sharon, enjoyed an after-work reward at another featured Homegrown chef: Jason Weiner at his Almond Bridgehampton restaurant.   And right across the way is chef Tom Colicchio’s newest restaurant, Topping Rose.
Chef Jason Weiner, Almond, greets Richard, Toni and our entire table
We sat at the outdoor café on the Almond triangle that reminds me of the Flatiron crossroads.
Homegrown Toast to a great Loaves & Fishes book signing in Bridgehampton

For the Sag Harbor Health & Wellness farmers market, it was two days of talking to Homegrown aficionados, book signings, and for one blessed day, I was joined by farmer, writer, bread maker, lecturer, and featured grower in the Homegrown Cookbook, Peter Garnham.  I was advised that attendees would want to hear from local growers and who better than Peter?
Peter puts the farmer in the Farmers Market.  

By way of thumbnail background, Peter not only designed and maintained the American Hotel’s garden as noted in the Homegrown Cookbook but also contributes his talent to the Balsam Farms EECO initiative and is a contributing writer to horticulture publications including Organic Gardening, Fine Gardening and Horticulture. 
Peter was a hero at the Farmer’s Market and I sold a ton of books.  We scooted to the nearby American Hotel – featured in the Homegrown Cookbook -- and where I stayed for much of the research interviews, writing and photo shoots…. Here we enjoyed some of our favorite treats: martinis and Hog ousters… ahhh.  Couldn’t love a place more.  

As a segue to Saturday’s Great Chefs evening event, let me just say that I wrote about it the day before on my blog here:

And then shazaam – a lightening bolt of magic – Chef Eric Ripert Tweeted the blog post! 
See, Chef Eric was the VIP at the Great Chefs dinner benefit the following night.

Timing-wise, I missed Chef Eric’s Tweet to his bazillion Followers as I was working the Homegrown book signing at the Sag Harbor Farmers Market. Followed by that enjoyable “after work” reward at the American Hotel.

Then, before heading back to the Market and a talk on non-GMO issues at Slow Food East End cocktail party – I saw it. The blog and my Twitter were on fire.

At the Great Chefs Dinner the next night when Chef Eric arrived at the benefit, he strode confidently and directly to my table in Jeff’s Kitchen at the Hayground School – site of the benefit.
The bubble in my head was playing it out like a slow-motion cinematic arrival.   
I felt I could see him through the glossy haze as he came closer to the Homegrown table.
I was so smitten, excited and overwhelmed that I sang out, “Thank you sooo much, Chef!” 

And without hesitation, Chef replied so suave and deliberate, “But of course, we Love the Homegrown Cookbook.” 
Now the bubble was telling me to wake up.  Surely, I am dreaming.

To hear him say that – and in his romantic-French accent is to experience what the angels must sound like as they welcome you to heaven...

Then, being the super-star that he is, Chef Eric straight away picks up a Hamptons & LI Homegrown book and poses – with me! 
The camera flash from fans, guests, and the press is more like champagne bubbles popping. 
It was all so dreamy. 
And a lasting memory…

The PS to this story is this: not wanting Chef Eric to have to come back nor carry his book around the chef tastings there, I dropped off the Homegrown book at his all-star restaurant, Le Bernardin. 
If you’ve never dined there – you must.
Chef Eric’s restaurant staff is as kind and cordial as he is and they welcomed me and accepted the book.  

I thought that would be the last of it as I have hand delivered books before and never really know if they got to the recipient. 
But in this case, Chef Eric again wrote via email that he had indeed received the book and is excited to add to the restaurant’s library of books. 
So it’s a bouquet of culinary delights: Chef Eric’s Bridgehampton amour and his abiding respect for homegrown ingredients plus he shares the knowledge and bounty with his staff…

My Long Island foodie friend Nancy Vallarella accompanied me to the Great Chefs dinner benefit for Jeff's Kitchen 
and captured the images.. Nancy writes “What’s Cookin’ Smithtown”  
Me and Nancy at the Great Chefs Dinner benefit event

Nancy meets Out East Foodie, Laura Luciano

The Hayground School staff was so very good to me.
I so appreciated the opportunity to showcase The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook at the benefit and to have the chance to talk to fans and meet new ones. From Toni Ross to her entire team – everyone was so nice and accommodating and made the event so special.  
The gorgeous & kind Toni Ross in red

I donated ten percent of the book sales to the benefit. And while this is so very modest compared to the big donors there at the event, it was the best way to honor the Hayground School and this opportunity.

Toni is orchestrating group shot of the chefs - so many are Homegrown chefs

Love this!  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree: Chef Joe Realmuto's daughter shows off Dad!

The Hayground School is special to me too.   

Chef Bryan Futerman and Hayground School's Jon Snow

I fell in love with the concept and mission and the gardens and kitchen after Chef Bryan Futerman – a featured chef in the Homegrown book -- selected the Bridgehampton Children’s Garden and Jon Snow as the garden that inspires him most.
It is all magic there.

As a courtesy to you my Homegrown friends and fans – I feel I must break the year review into two postings.
When I started writing this review post, I honestly didn’t think there was so much to report.
But in researching and composing the story, I am delighted to discover that there was an abundance of Homegrown riches in 2013.
It was indeed very successful.  It was a full plate, if you will pardon the analogy. 
(Just not enough time to write about all of it.)

So as a courtesy to your reading time allowance – I’m going to report this in two parts.
Thank you for your Homegrown interest and support.

You cannot miss the next installment of the Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook year in review – it includes the East Hampton Library Authors Night, Alec and Hilaria Baldwin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hamptons Magazine and Padma Lakshmi – to name drop a few…


The next part of the Homegrown story to follow.

Tell me – were you there at the Homegrown events?  Did you find a local grower and maker in your area?
Did you attend the benefits? Did you visit the featured Homegrown restaurants?

So many Homegrown fans tell me they use the book not just for good reading and recipes, but they also use it as a kind of Passport to homegrown dining – visiting every restaurant in the book, often asking the chef for an autograph too. Now that’s Homegrown dessert. 
Put a farm-fresh Oysterponds strawberry on it…



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