Tag Archive | "christmas"

Breakfast Treats with Spice

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gingerbread scones (Also need 1 sil in cmyk for B1)
By Lauren Chatttman

Breakfast Treats with Spice I never did find time to make a gingerbread house this month, but that doesn’t mean I skipped the pleasure of filling my kitchen with the spicy aroma of gingerbread. As soon as some truly frigid weather hit Sag Harbor a few days ago, I raided the spice cabinet in order to make some seasonal scones that I hoped would warm my family and wake them up as we scrambled to complete our work before the holiday.

For classic gingerbread flavor, I used a blend of ground ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. To sweeten my scones, I used a combination of brown sugar and molasses. Light molasses is too mild to lend character to baked goods (it’s great, however, drizzled on waffles or ice cream). Blackstrap molasses, although an excellent source of nutrients (I’ve read that one spoonful has as much iron as 9 eggs, and more calcium than a glass of milk!), is too bitter for baking. So I chose dark molasses for its deep flavor.

I wanted my scones to have some chewy texture and whole grain goodness, so I added a healthy amount of rolled oats to the dough. To moisten the dough, I used buttermilk, which lent my scones a tangy note. Finally, I stirred in some finely chopped crystallized ginger for extra zip. I get my ginger from the bulk bin at Provisions, where it is always plump and moist.

Shaping and baking scones is not difficult, but for best results the dough should be handled with care. Just as when making biscuits, butter should be cut into small pieces and well-chilled before it is worked into the dry ingredients. A good rise depends on air pockets created when the water trapped in cold, solid bits of butter evaporates as the scones bake. If the butter is already halfway melted and the liquid has already begun to escape from the fat, your scones won’t rise well. Stir in the buttermilk just to moisten the dough. Over-mixing will develop the gluten in the flour, which will up your scones. For the same reason, gently shape the dough. It’s better to have somewhat misshapen and tender scones than perfect but unyielding triangles. Baking the scones at a high temperature encourages a quick rise before the dough begins to solidify. But high-temperature baking comes with some risk: Just a minute too long in the oven and your scones will become scorched on the bottom and may dry out inside. So remove them from the oven just as soon as they are well-risen and nicely colored on the undersides (use a metal spatula to take a peek).

I serve these scones warm from the oven with cranberry compound butter that I make by mashing together 3 tablespoons of softened unsalted butter with 1 tablespoon of cranberry preserves and ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest.

Oatmeal-Gingerbread Scones
Makes 12 scones
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons dark (not blackstrap) molasses
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon Pinch nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sanding sugar (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the butter into ¼-inch dice, place it in a small bowl, and set it in the freezer while you gather your remaining ingredients.

2. Whisk together the buttermilk and molasses in a glass measuring cup.

3. Whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves in a large bowl. Add the chilled butter and, with an electric mixer, mix on low speed until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the oats. Stir in the milk mixture on low speed until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Do not overmix!

4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half. Shape each half into a 6-inch disk. With a sharp chef’s knife, cut each disk into 6 wedges. Place the wedges ½-inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the scones with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sanding sugar if desired. Bake the scones until they are firm and beginning to color on the bottom, 12 to 13 minutes. Let them cool for 5 minutes and serve them warm.

A Bounty of Baskets

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web baskets Local gift sets with heart and soul By Marissa Maier At the beginning of this week, Sag Harbor Florist & Gift Shop owner Anastasia Casale and her staff stocked, decorated and dispatched 50 customized gift baskets. And Casale’s phone is still ringing with calls for fresh orders. In the final countdown to the holidays she will whip up dozens of new creations of carefully arranged local cheeses, gourmet sweets, scented candles, handpicked wines and the occasional miniature poinsettia — all wrapped up and adorned with orchid stems. The local florist, Casale explained, has always been expected to create a last minute fruit basket but she along with other local businesses are elevating this service to a highly curated, and often personalized, collection of presents. “We wanted to offer something different and give the baskets a new spark,” Schiavoni’s IGA Market manager Matt Schiavoni remarked of the Sag Harbor grocery store’s line of themed gift baskets that were introduced this year. The prefabricated sets start at $49.95 for “The Hostess” which features a sampling of crackers, chocolates, fruits, nuts and three types of cheeses: Jarlsberg, Brie and Havarti. On the high end of this collection is the “Large Italian.” The basket is filled with goodies from the Mediterranean country like biscotti, risotto, olive oil, San Pellegrino mineral water and the IGA’s signature Italian coffee blend. Instead of the standard basket, the $89.95 set is arranged in a wicker tray. For the gift giver who prefers a local touch, IGA offers the “Hamptons Selection” for $59.95. The basket is composed of regionally produced foods like Mich’s Maccs chocolate macaroons, Hampton’s Coffee, North Fork chips, Really Good Jam from Cutchogue and Schiavoni’s Market nuts. Java Nation Coffee Roasters farther up Main Street infuse their baskets with in-house brews and teas. The business’ $26 small sampler includes a tin of Java Nation’s premium green tea blend, fudge truffles, a sachet of Chai tea, honey and a plaster mug. The more extensive $46 version adds chocolates, gourmet hot cocoa mixes, cookies and a travel mug. For the cafe connoisseur, Java Nation offers the $32 collection, which mixes staples like a half pound of the house blend and coffee filters with treats like hot cocoa and cookies. The Schmitz family, owners and operators of Sag Harbor Liquor Store on Main Street, will work up through Christmas Eve finishing their customized baskets. From a simple two bottle wine pair to a set filled with cheese, chocolates and fruit, the Schmitz’s accommodate each customer’s vision and budget. “We do it all,” Heidi Schmitz said of the store’s creations. The average basket of two bottles of wine and a few noshes costs around $50, she estimated, but noted that her family tries to work with every price point. While the pre-made glass and bottle gift sets tend to stay on the shelves, the store’s gift basket service is wildly popular. Schmitz believes East End customers prefer the personal touch of a tailor made gift basket. “We are in the basket market,” Michael Cavaniola remarked of the South Fork. Cavaniola owns the trio of eponymous Sag Harbor cheese, wine and food shops that sit in a row along Division Street and from real estate closings to construction companies, his team organizes gift arrangements throughout the year. And Cavaniola has put his own twist on the basket concept with sets that are either enclosed in a chicken wire container or laid out on a wood cutting board, then wrapped up and decorated. Each basket is personally built though the average, said Cavaniola, costs roughly $60. Unlike national businesses that specialize in pre-made gift baskets, local arrangements offer higher quality products and more of it, Cavaniola said. Casale agreed and added that her expertise is poured into each gift basket. Her sets cost $65 and up and are custom built to meet the customers’ criteria, be it a yoga theme or gluten free foods. She orders from a collection of purveyors and adds items sold in her Sag Harbor store such as candles, decorations and a signature line of French bonbons created by noted pastry chef Jean-François Bonnet. “It’s more special to shop locally,” Casale said. “There is a level of quality in these baskets. They are baskets with some heart and soul.” Sag Harbor Florist & Gift Shop – 3 Bay Street, Sag Harbor, 725-1400. Schiavoni’s IGA Market – 48 Main Street, Sag Harbor, 725-0366. Java Nation – 78 Main Street, Sag Harbor, 725-0500. Sag Harbor Liquor Store — 52 Main Street, Sag Harbor, 725-0054. Cavaniola’s Cheese Shop — 89 Division Street, Sag Harbor, 725-0095.

The 2010 Christmas Spectacular at Bay Street

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NancySinatra

By Emily J Weitz

There was a time when the Christmas holiday was inextricably linked to Ed Sullivan, Bing Crosby and other celebrities who have now faded into the fabric of our cultural history. But Joe Lauro, whose business owns the rights to clips featuring many of the biggest and brightest stars of the past, will bring these memories back into the spotlight next Saturday evening at Bay Street.

“Back in the 50s, all the big people would have Christmas shows during the holiday time. I’ve gone through 30 years of these shows and pulled the most fun, classic, and bizarre clips and put them together like a brand new variety show.” The show is so authentic it will even feature a host and commercials in the style of the day. “People can expect to be thoroughly entertained for every second of what’s going to be on the screen.”

The idea to create a variety show with hand-plucked classics isn’t new to Lauro this year.

“The program started off as my company’s Christmas party,” Lauro says.
His company, the Historic Films Archive, owns the rights to an astounding variety of footage, from shots backstage on the set of “The Wizard of Oz” to the entire run of the Ed Sullivan Show. So it makes sense that, for the holiday party, they’d showcase some of their classic footage.

“But [our variety show] turned into a complete production… This year we decided it was too good to waste on 50 or 100 people.”

“We are trying to keep it in the style of the parties we had that were so much fun,” says Lauro. “We start with the movie, which is about 70 minutes, and then the screen will go up. Behind the screen will be the band.” The band, complete with a horn section and two singers, is called the Who Dat Loungers and brings the kind of festive party music for which New Orleans is famous. They’ll be parading through the audience and the audience will be invited up onto the dance floor for a dance party.

The film itself will bring the audience for a walk down memory lane with familiar faces like the Beatles, Ed Sullivan, and Bob Hope. “The Christmas Song” (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…) which has been performed by countless legends over the decades, will be turned into a montage.

“In that two minutes,” says Lauro, “you’ll have seven different very famous people singing, like Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and others.” Along with moments that tug at the heart strings, you’ll find yourself laughing. In some instances, the editors took the strange and made them even stranger. “There’s a duet between Frank Sinatra and William Shatner that we created,” says Lauro. “It’s gonna bring down the house.”

Lauro and his team also used technological innovations to take these universal classics and give them a personal twist. “We took a scene from the classic ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and twisted it with a Sag Harbor theme.”

The details are a surprise, for attendees only, but it’s not hard to imagine Sag Harbor as Bedford Falls, the Smalltown, USA memorialized in the film. There’s always an element of tradition and nostalgia to the holiday season. It may be the communal cooking of latkes on the first night of Hannukah. It may be the reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” every Christmas Eve, even after the kids are all grown and have kids of their own. Whatever it is, we crave this connection to our past.

“When I think of what Christmas is about, part of it is about remembering and being sentimental to some degree,” says Lauro. “Nothing can bring that on better than the memories of some of these things. I find it very effective to see the Beatles talking and Bob Hope and Bing Crosby laughing and singing again.”

The 2010 Christmas Spectacular will take place at 8 p.m. on Saturday, December 11 at Bay Street Theater. Tickets are $20. Contact Bay Street for more information at www.baystreet.org or call 631-725-0818.

East End Thoughts: Little Ghosts of Christmas Past

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by Richard Gambino

“The Child is father of the Man,” wrote Wordsworth. So it is I see so many ghosts from my earliest Christmases. Little ghosts. All about me.  In Sag Harbor, so far from the Brooklyn of my earliest years, the Red Hook long gone, itself a ghost of an Italian immigrant neighborhood where longshoremen walked the streets to and from work with bailing hooks twisted into their belts. Where each December, my father and I would go to Court Street and select the largest evergreen tree for sale on the sidewalk outside a grocery store. We lived in the “parlor floor” of a brownstone built in the 1880s for a rich family, and  before I was born converted to four cold-water, three-room apartments, one on each floor, to rent to immigrant families like mine.

But being on the parlor floor had a great distinction. It had been the floor for entertaining when the building was a grand townhouse, so our beautifully ornamented nineteenth-century ceilings were eighteen feet high, allowing us to have the tallest Christmas tree we could buy, the tallest Christmas trees by far that I’ve ever had. And under the tree, a hand-carved wood manger with a baby, his parents and some gentle-looking farm animals. In the Italian tradition, such crèche scenes go back many centuries. A story has it that Francis of Assisi shocked church officials by bringing  real live farm animals into a church to enliven a life-size manger scene. But can you imagine how much the kids must have loved it!

In my youngest years, I was, of course, too young to understand theological doctrines, so what I saw before me was just a child and his family, much like mine. A child’s Christmas, as it was. And still is, for every child I see on Sag Harbor’s Main Street, eyes large and alive to the multi-colored lights brightening a winter’s long night, the serene manger at one end of Main Street, and tall Christmas tree and the lighted, sacred Menorah at the other. (A heart-felt thank you to all the good people who each December make the town into such a wondrous delight.) Later on, as a young man studying for a PhD in philosophy, I read the theological arguments for the existence of God, and, from time to time since then, have taught about them. The best of them are, in my opinion, only arguments that belief in God is not irrational. But beyond them, the truest argument I know for a loving God is each small child, every one of them.

In the faces of very young children, open faces, I find the core of all hope. They haven’t yet put on masks of persona, of what we want the world to see and not see about us. There is so much wonder in the eyes of  young children, nourishing a drive to explore and learn, and such a great natural feeling of the joy of living (at least in those who have not been neglected or abused). So, in each child’s face I read  hope for the future, hope that for him or her the lucid eyes and open heart will be well cultivated and brought to bear in making a good life for each of them, and all of them. I feel this hope because I’ve become again one of them, the bright wonder of  life outshining  the darker areas of  my adult knowledge. So I refuse to join in any cynicism such as I heard recently that childhood takes so long because it takes a long time to make kids who are bright of mind and bright of spirit into many adults who are dull of mind and spirit, or worse.

The kids’ infectious and inspiring expressions and responses also remind me of John Adams’ truth that, “There are only two creatures of value on the face of the earth, those with the commitment [here, responsible adults] and those who require the commitment of others [here, children].” Seeing the infant in his humble, make-shift crib on Main Street reminds me of our responsibility to the very young, who so depend on our love and wisdom. Here’s a rub: the possibilities of the kids becoming adults who are compassionate, loving, generous of spirit, and intelligent, depend on our  being compassionate, loving, generous of spirit and intelligent toward them. 

A couple of centuries ago, David Hume stated what I think people with common sense had long observed. All decent behavior by a person relies on his  having as part of his most inner being what Hume called “moral sentiment,” meaning a real, living sense of empathy and sympathy for other people, and for their joys and sorrows, pleasures and pains, aspirations and set-backs. So far as I know, this truth has been confirmed by every psychologist who has studied children. Oh, the language has changed. Hume talked about “character,” and modern developmental psychologists instead use the word “personality.” But the truth is confirmed. In contrast, throughout most of history, children over the age of seven (the “age of reasoning”), and even younger were commonly treated as miniature adults. Worse, moral and religious ideas were drummed into them by intimidating  lecturing, often enforced by fear of punishment.  Religion by terrorism. And by a certain age, the kids got the message by listening to the real lesson in the experience, “the music behind the words,” as it were. The lesson that power and fear rule the world. That real sympathy and empathy for others, and the lesson that “God is love,” are just abstractions, like “God is infinite,” and “God is eternal.”  Fit maybe for people like Francis of Assisi, but, nod-nod, wink-wink, we had better be self-centered and calloused toward others behind the masks of “goodness” we, as children, learned all too well to wear. Moral sentiment? Social rites and rituals, okay. Even some religious ones, maybe. But don’t push me more than that.

Yet, each December I look into the innocent, intelligent, joyful  eyes of little children on Main Street and  become again the young child enthralled by the infant and his family under a huge Christmas tree improbably set in a Brooklyn tenement. That little boy is still father to the man I am now. And I thank God for that. 

 

RICHARD GAMBINO wishes everyone a good Christmas, Hanukkah and 2009.

Simple Gift

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The Great Depression, World War II, the turbulence of the 1960s — as painful as they are, why is it that particularly difficult times in history are also often remembered by those who endured them as being particularly precious and special?

Perhaps you could call it a dual edged sword of irony — the fact that happy memories are never quite so sweet as when they blossom from the soil of strife. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. For it’s in troubled times that we are truly most in need of happy visions — like the sight of someone feared lost forever walking through the front door on Christmas Eve. It’s a universal truth and the reason why 60-year-old movies continue to make us well up year after year.

Yes, there’s something about extreme difficulties that lend themselves nicely to improvement of the human condition. Bad times do (obviously) drive some people to dastardly deeds, but they also inspire masses of others to think poetically and act emotionally. Think of all those holiday stories from bygone eras when children who wake up on Christmas morning are thrilled to find nothing more in their stocking than a single orange and a handmade scarf.

So if you’re struggling financially and looking for a bright spot in this bleak economic and social time in our history, consider this. For the children in your life, maybe not getting everything they want come Christmas morning will in fact be a priceless gift — a valuable lesson on the importance of priorities that will last far longer than the i-Pod you didn’t buy this year.

Think back on your own favorite Christmas memories. While you may hit on a note of nostalgia while recalling the Big Wheel or the Barbie Dream House, remember, it was not the toy itself, but the family who surrounded you the minute you opened it, that created the memory. Those parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles who now are nothing more than a handful of overexposed frames on an 8 millimeter home movie.

It’s the ultimate Christmas gift and one that you’re not likely to find at the mall at any price.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night. 

Christmas Feast at Bridgehampton School

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On Tuesday the entire Bridgehampton School District met in the gymnasium to share a Christmas Feast together. As the younger children continued to learn in their classrooms, some of the older students were in the gym setting up tables with place settings, balloons and hot food.

Three years ago, the student council of the Bridgehampton School District came up with the idea of hosting an annual feast as a way to give something back to the community during the holiday season. The feast has become a tradition at the school and in the past students raised the money to finance the feast themselves.

“It started as a way for the school to celebrate each other and to give back to the community,” said principal Jack Pryor.

But this year, because of shortfalls everywhere from the current economic climate, it almost didn’t happen.

“We used to have different fundraisers for student council,” Pryor added. “But this year, we didn’t have the money.”

Mary Johnsen, a teacher at the school, said that thankfully, parents and community members began to step forward to offer their help in donating plates, cups and other items to provide the students with all the materials they needed to assemble a complete Christmas dinner — during lunch time.

Ava Mack, community liaison, was in charge of organizing the serving of the food, while some school staff members and ladies in the community helped out. Mack was able to get a break in food costs from Cromer’s Country Market in Noyac.

Once the feast began, seniors in the school dished out the food to the younger students in pre-k and kindergarten before getting their own meals.

Although there seemed to be a lot more families in desperate need this holiday season due to the struggling economy, there have always been people in the community who need help, and those willing to give it. The feast isn’t the only way students at Bridgehampton School give back during the holidays. This was also the third year that the school has organized a “giving tree” with the Bridgehampton National Bank so that members of the community could purchase Christmas gifts for community children in need. Donors who took part dropped presents off at the school and the older students helped to organize and wrap all the gifts, which were distributed to the families.

“We began to raise money and through the giving tree were able to get gifts. The people in the community were so supportive,” said John Riley, a feast organizer and Bridgehampton teacher. “We were able to raise $700 for needy families and we were able to give to the needy children.”

Even the feathered residents of Bridgehampton are not forgotten at this time of year. After their holiday feast, the students went outside where the younger kids hung their edible ornaments — made out of birdseed — on a tree.