Random Thoughts about Cooking

Here it is, October 2014! Where does the time go when you’re having a blast? This last year (I am defining a year in terms of summer to summer) has been fun, illuminating and in some ways humanizing. Here are some random thoughts about cooking on the two forks.

Last year, right about now, I was finishing out twenty-two seasons (again, that means summer) in the Hamptons. Since then I have spent my working time on the north fork of Long Island cooking, comparing and contrasting the two places that are geographically close yet very far apart.

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

And the take away is?

The north fork has more farms, more wineries and is generally a more agricultural area. What does that mean? It means the north fork has collectively embraced it’s past and future as a place where food is produced from beginning to end. The aquaculture, viticulture and agriculture all have very firm foundations in place on the north fork. The restaurants, brewers, wine makers and other artisans close the circle of agriculture by celebrating and showcasing what has been grown in the area.

My first visit to the north fork was a long time ago. At least twenty years ago. My most recent visits have found it beautiful, exhilarating and a perfect setting to celebrate the pleasures of the table.

I would like to have some tables in the area.

Blue Tomato

The North Fork: A Late Summer Report on Food

As we near the end of the first week of August on the east end of Long Island (and pretty much everywhere in the northern hemisphere) business is brisk, the weather has been great and the fish are landing. So far this summer at the North Fork Table & Inn, where I have loitered in the kitchen with my friend Chef Gerry Hayden, we have featured a number of locally caught yellowfin and bigeye tuna. We have also featured a good amount of locally caught striped bass, fluke, black sea bass and swordfish.

Beautiful Bigeye Tuna
Beautiful Bigeye Tuna

In our opinion beautiful local seafood is best served simply with beautiful local vegetables. The local crop of tomatoes is just beginning. Literally. Tomorrow we will receive, along with other fruits of the earth, our first tomatoes from MarGene Farm in Mattituck, NY. We have also used tomatoes and plants from our friend K.K. Haspel in Southold, NY. K.K. takes a biodynamic approach to growing food and we love it! Her kale, herbs, tomatoes and flowers are delicious and beautiful.

Mixed Large Heirloom Tomatoes
Mixed Large Heirloom Tomatoes

The summer harvest of sweet corn has also begun and the white corn we have been using from Al Krupski at Krupski Farms has been amazing. It is sweet and delicious beyond belief and we have used it in sweet and savory dishes at the restaurant. In the savory part of the kitchen we have prepared a delicious chilled corn soup with crab meat. Claudia Fleming, who is married to Chef Hayden, is  one of the most formidible pastry chefs in the world and she has made sweet corn ice cream to go along with a blueberry financier. The blueberries come to us from our friends at Oysterponds Farm.Sweet corn ice cream. Holy shit!

We have been using a large variety of vegetables from our good friend Stephanie Gaylor at Invincible Summer Farms in Southold, NY. Stephanie is the queen of seeds and is as crazy as we are about finding food with a story and a history. Stephanie brings us a shit load of tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables and fruit from around the world. Fennel pollen? No one does it better.

Do you like oysters? We sure do and the waters of Great Peconic Bay are ideal for growing them. Our good friend Phil Mastrangelo farms them with a special touch at Race Rock Oysters. Eat the oysters!

Local Fluke Crudo with Compressed Cavaillon Melon
Local Fluke Crudo with Compressed Cavaillon Melon

Chicken. Is it the animal protein of choice for the walking dead or is it something to be reckoned with in the restaurant kitchen? I think it depends on who you ask. As a chef I generally like to avoid dealing with such a bland topic. Until now. Now we have Browder’s Birds from Mattituck, NY. Holly and Chris bring us birds of distinction and, at the North Fork Table & Inn, we actually send over vegetable scraps for the chickens to eat before cooking the birds and serving them to our guests. Finally, now, we should talk about beef. Thursday, later in the afternoon, we will be taking on a beef carcus from McCall Wines. Russ McCall grows grapes and makes wine. He also grows Charolais cows. Charolais beef is lean, especially when it is grass-fed and raised naturally. We love it. The slow growth of the cattle means it will taste beefy and delicious. So far it has been a delicious summer and it will only get better as we head in to the fall.

Breaking down a cow-one side of a front quarter
Breaking down a cow-one side of a front quarter

Summer on the North Fork: The Crop Report

Well, it’s here. Summer on the North Fork 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.

Berry nice!
Berry nice!



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.


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

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

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