Summer on the North Fork: The Crop Report

Well, it’s here. Summer 2014 is in full swing on the east end of Long Island. It is still a bit early to call it a winner but it looks like a contender. The weather has been pretty incredible and we seem to get the right amount of rain whenever we need it. Let’s hope the trend continues.

The summer of 2014 is my first summer in twenty-three of them that I find myself not cooking in the Hamptons. So far so good. The North Fork has been treating me very well and I am really loving the stage that is set with the farmers, fishermen, winemakers and craft beer (and spirits) folks that comprise the culinary scene in the area.

I will post more later but suffice to say that thanks to the North Fork Table with my friends Gerry Hayden, Claudia Fleming, Mike Mraz, Mary Mraz and the crew that they have assembled the summer of 2014 is shaping up to be very special.

Look at this! Dessert porn as #foodporn from #nofoti #ClaudiaFleming

Summer foods - sweet corn, blueberries and ice cream
Summer foods – sweet corn, blueberries and ice cream

 

We cook from our local waters.

Cooking on the East End: Summer 2014

 

Things are hopping on the east end of Long Island these days. The fourth of July festivities are upon us which means those of us in the hospitality (specifically the restaurant) business are under siege. The connotation  seems bad but this is a good thing. This is Cooking on the East End in 2014.

Let me explain how it works in our neck of the woods. The east end of Long Island is, during the summer months, a vacation destination for New York City. It is in fact a destination for people from other parts of the world as well. The EU, California, Chicago and many other areas are well represented in our area this time of the year. And this influx of people also happens to coincide with the pristine offerings from our local agriculture, aquaculture and viticulture. What does this mean?

It means that a lot of people come out to enjoy the ocean, parties, wine and food that are a part of summer on the east end. I think of it all as the perfect storm. We have the wine, the produce, the meat and fish and artisanal brewers working together to make the east end of Long Island a food and wine and beer lovers dream. The beaches are nice, too.

If you are thinking of paying a visit to this part of the world here are some links and pictures to check out. And patience is always a virtue.

Our fish and the culture it  embodies is well presented here from Dock to Dish. My good friend Liza de Guia has a great website she calls Food. Curated. Check it out.

The local wineries are checked out here.

A round-up of local farm stands is here.

Locally raised meat and poultry is here.

Great chickens and eggs are available here.

Artisanal Sheep can be purchased here.

If you like goat cheese you should certainly visit Catapano Farm.

Locally grown and delicious fruit is available from Briermere Farm, Wickham’s Fruit Farm and Oysterponds Farm.

I will knock out some more places to buy delicious local foods in the coming days.

 

 

Summer is here

On the east end of Long Island summer is in the house. Those of us who spend the whole year here feel a collective sigh of relief and a sense of dread right about now. There are people who want to buy our stuff, people who are rude and people who keep us from getting where we want to go. We cope.

In my opinion it’s all good. This will be my 23rd season on the East End of Long Island and it will also be my first not in the Hamptons.  This year you will find me on the North Fork of Long Island. We have farms, farm stands, wineries, brewers and tasting rooms. We also have farmer’s markets, csa’s and so much more.

I am home. IMG_1870

Here We Go Again. The 2nd Act.

Wild and in season
Wild and in season. King Salmon from the Pacific Ocean.
Wild King Salmon with a Puree of Sweet Peas, Melted Leeks, Porcini Confit & Red Verjus Vinaigrette. And house smoked bacon.
Wild King Salmon with a Puree of Sweet Peas, Melted Leeks, Porcini Confit & Red Verjus Vinaigrette. And house smoked bacon.

Here we go again. As the east end of Long Island eases into the rhythm of summer a great deal of public relations staging kicks in to high gear. In my world, which is largely defined by the hospitality industry, many restaurants and clubs open for the season. I don’t go to clubs because I am too old and none would let me in the door so I will focus my discussion on restaurants. Every year many new restaurants open hoping to cash in on the summer onslaught of people on vacation. And when they do they always come armed with menus loaded with the most recent food trends and somehow they always manage to do it badly. This season every restaurant has a selection of “crudo” because people will order that. They will order that because restaurants in the city offer it and since so many restaurants offer it then it must be good. What is it? Most of the people offering it and ordering it don’t know.

Every restaurant is now a “farm to table” operation. Food leaves the farm and goes to the table. How does it get there? Which farm does it come from? Is it from a real farm? Or a fake farm? Read the fine print. A big part of the “farm to table” movement is dedicated to the notion of “seasonality” because it has to be. How can things that are not “in season” come from a local farm?  Sometimes it just seems to happen. Many of the newer restaurants on the east end are already trotting out their “local heirloom tomato salads” in May. We will be harvesting local tomatoes from the fields in July. We hope. Many of the new restaurants like to hype local shellfish on their summer menus. These shellfish will be coming from warm waters and in many cases they will be spawning and shedding old shells. Yum. Summer is on the menu!

Here We Go Again

Yes. Here we go again. Another summer on the east end of Long Island is at hand. After 22 seasons in the Hamptons and all of them in East Hampton I have moved on. This will be my first summer on the north fork of eastern Long Island and I am looking forward to it.

The north fork has sucked me in. The farm fields and vineyards and farmstands have invigorated me with variety, freshness and a dedication to raising and cooking food in a setting that embraces the notion of cooking as the final act of agriculture.

The media frenzy that typically chronicles an upcoming summer on the east end is in full swing. Stories about parties, feuds and shopping are beginning to make their annual rounds. New stores and restaurants are showcased as the latest and greatest things of all time. And most of it is uninformed bullshit.

After my first 22 seasons I have plenty to report about restaurants and dining on the east end of Long Island.

In the mean time check out the things that really matter. The farmer’s markets, the farmstands and the restaurants that have some standing in the community. Make an effort to visit the local farms and ask questions and learn about what is growing on the east end. You can start here. Slow Food East End tells you where the markets are on the east end.

Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with an allium theme.
Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with an allium theme.

 

Writing and Reading on Medium.com

This is a great space to read and write. Take a look and take some time to see some interesting stories and feed your head. Eat with your brain.

In case you are wondering the photo is of a bacon-wrapped tenderloin of pork with green garlic-potato puree, grilled ramps, roasted cippolini onions, baby carrots & black garlic jus. Onion-a-thon.

You can see more here.

IMG_2209

Anthony Bourdain in Lyon

Last night in Southold, NY I was at the North Fork Table & Inn during the first night of “Long Island Restaurant Week” prepping and cooking food. As we approached the half way point of service I realized that I was missing Anthony Bourdain‘s show, Parts Unknown, on the night that the episode airing was with Daniel Boulud in his home town of Lyon, France. Bummer. The episode began to play again on CNN as I approached Southampton after a forty minute drive back home. By the time I made it in the house and turned on the television the show was half over.

But I watched the show and I thought about some of the things Bourdain said in that last half hour. One point that Bourdain kept coming back to, rightly, was the fact that all of the great chefs in this culinary epicenter were “boys from the farm” and that they all had ties to the land in this region. My first thought was “Finally, someone understands that cooking is an agricultural act” which is a point that fits perfectly on this journal of mine. I have been preaching this idea for years.

The notion of “farm to table” is nothing new. It is in fact something very old and still very important. It was nice to see it honored on “Parts Unknown” and hopefully it will resonate with a new generation of diners and cooks. #Lyon #AnthonyBourdain

Sungold Cherry Tomatoes
Sungold Cherry Tomatoes

Eggs

After more than 30 years in professional kitchens from coast to coast in the United States I can say with total certainty that my favorite egg is a 6.5 minute beauty. Similar to what you will find in a great bowl of ramen.

Not sous vide...6.5 minutes to perfection
Not sous vide…6.5 minutes to perfection

Cooking & Eating

Cooking and eating are two simple activities that used to be related to each other. Various theories have been advanced as to when they became disparate but I am going to go with Michael Pollan’s claim and agree that the beginning was around the time of World War II. The need to supply troops with foods that could be preserved for long periods of time and were convenient to eat led to major “advances” in food science. After the war ended food manufacturers set out on a campaign to move into the consumer business. It took some time and convincing but eventually the public took the bait. The food manufacturers convinced consumers that by allowing them to take care of the cooking a lot of time would be freed up for other activities. Like eating.

Seventy years later the results of that agreement between the producers and consumers has been substantial growth in corporate profits (Food distributor Sysco reported record sales of $44b in 2013), obesity, type two diabetes and other health related issues. The modern supermarket is stuffed to its ceiling with ultra-processed and processed foods where consumers do the bulk of their food shopping. Most of these foods have been shown to contribute to the health problems and the vast amounts of money spent treating them.

Here are some interesting statistics to chew on:

The numbers come from the Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD)

The US spends 17.6% of its GDP on health care. That is $8233.00 per person.
The OECD average was 9.5% of GDP or $3268.00 per person.

The obesity rate in the US has risen from 23% of the population in 1990 to 36% in 2010.
The average among OECD member nations has risen from 10% in 1990 to 17% in 2010.

The United States spends the least amount of time of OECD member nations preparing meals and is third lowest in the time spent eating. In the US 30 minutes per day are spent cooking meals. In Turkey, by contrast, 74 minutes are spent cooking meals. The statistics that suggest people in the US spend less time eating than in 31 other OECD member nations is interesting because the US easily tops the obesity rate in the OECD.

One final statistic is that over the years food in the US has become much less expensive and if people prepare and eat food at home the US is a dream come true. In 1900 people spent about 43% of their income on food. In 2003 it was about 13%.

So? What do the statistics tell us about eating and health over the years? There are no concrete conclusions to be had here but there are inferences that could be useful. Over time in the US we have noticed that the cost of food has gone down as has the time spent preparing and eating it. During roughly the same time we have noticed that health care costs and obesity rates have increased. The disconnect between cooking and eating and the growth of convenience foods is interesting as well. The widening income gap between the rich and poor serves as another marker in this emerging story.

There is a lot worth looking at here and as a chef I have an imperative to read and investigate more about these topics. Cooking isn’t about competition or empire building. It is about doing the right thing. I think this will segue nicely into a discussion about whole animal cookery and what it means to be a chef. I want to address issues about food fetishism and mystification as well. Soon.

A journal of cooking and eating and agriculture. Cooking is the final act of agriculture.