Tag Archive | "Food"

Local Farmers Discuss Trials, Innovation of East End Agriculture at “Small Bites”

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Pete Ludlow of the Mecox Bay Dairy Farm with "Cinnamon," one of his milking cows, on February 24. Photo by Michael Heller.

Pete Ludlow of the Mecox Bay Dairy Farm with “Cinnamon,” one of his milking cows, on February 24. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

For over 225 years, the farm on the northeast shore of Mecox Bay grew potatoes. Today, Pete Ludlow, the fifth generation of his family to farm the land, is creating an experimental cheddar/blue cheese hybrid and selling raw milk.

The evolution of East End farms from crops like potatoes, corn and melons to new and innovative products will be discussed by Mr. Ludlow and others this Sunday at “Small Bites,” the first panel discussion in a lecture series presented by the Peconic Land Trust. The series, “Long Island Grown: Food and Beverage Artisans at Work,” is bringing food, wine and beer experts to Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton throughout March and April. Local author, pastry chef, and food editor for The East Hampton Star Laura Donnelly will moderate the discussions.

“All of the people who are on the panels,” said Ms. Donnelly, “they’re really the most important people in our community when it comes to food and wine and fishing and everything. They’re all idols of mine, so I’m very excited that I get to do it.”

On Sunday, panelists David Falkowski of Open Minded Organics in Bridgehampton and Fred Lee of Sang Lee Farms in Peconic will join Mr. Ludlow in a discussion focused on the expansion of Long Island agriculture from potatoes and cauliflower to exotic greens, mushrooms, artisanal cheese and other products.

From the time Mr. Ludlow’s family started the farm in 1875, the focus at Mecox Bay was always potatoes. “I was born out here on the potato farm,” Mr. Ludlow said. In 2001, the Ludlows decided to diversify—and remain in business—by switching to dairy and, specifically, to making cheese.

Cheese, Mr. Ludlow said, “is a way for a small farm to stay profitable.” In transforming the farm into Mecox Bay Dairy, the Ludlow family made every effort to use the equipment and facilities they already had, converting an old potato barn into a space for cheese making and cow milking.

By focusing on cheese first, which has more value than other dairy products, the Ludlows were able to buy time to develop other products. The farm recently received a permit to sell raw milk and hopes to experiment with ice cream and yogurt production. The Ludlows are also looking to develop a retail business to sell their products, which include pork and beef, on the farm.

On the North Fork, Sang Lee Farms cultivates Asian greens, vegetables, herbs and flowers, dressings and condiments. The family owned and operated certified-organic farm grows over 100 varieties of specialty vegetables and herbs. They produce two kinds of bok choy, edamame, kale and 16 varieties of tomatoes, to name a few.

“He’s a second generation farmer,” Ms. Donnelly said of Mr. Lee, “and he has all kinds of degrees—he’s studied clinical psychology and business. He’s probably doing the hardest thing he could possibly do, but with people’s interest in good food and exotic greens, I’d like to think Sang Lee Farms Is doing well. But they rely on climate and the economy and the weather and, you know, disease outbreak could come along and destroy crops—so it’s not easy.”

In addition to the standard struggles experienced on any farm, East End farmers have another obstacle to contend with when they try to expand their business—the ever-shrinking availability of farmland.

Open Minded Organics started as a small business in David Falkowski’s backyard. Now in his 11th year, Mr. Falkowski is growing over 200 varieties of vegetables, flowers and herbs, as well as raising chickens, on his 5-acre farm in Bridgehampton. After finding success in mushrooms, Mr. Falkowski diversified the farm about five years ago and continues adding more products every year—but his expansion is limited by the lack of available farmland.

“I’m at that crux right now and land is very difficult to find. Forget the expense part, which is part of it, but even finding it is very difficult,” said Mr. Falkowski. “What’s happening is these lands that are preserved for low crops or agricultural reserve very often—and I would say more often than not—are no longer producing food.”

Although local governments can’t correct past mistakes that turned historic farmland into scenic vistas on private estates and horse farms, Mr. Falkowski is hopeful they will make better decisions moving forward.

Ms. Donnelly, in turn, is hopeful Mr. Falkowski’s political take on the state of local agriculture—and his proposed solution—will come up during Sunday’s discussion.

“By all means say what you want, it makes it more interesting,” Ms. Donnelly said she told Mr. Falkowski in a pre-interview, adding, “You don’t want people sitting around for an hour and a half saying, ‘I agree, I agree, I agree,’ so I’m hoping there will be some sparks.”

“Small Bites” is Sunday, March 2, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Bridge Gardens, 36 Mitchell Lane in Bridgehampton. Reservations are required and refreshments will follow. Tickets are $20 for members and $25 for non-members. Tickets for the entire lecture series are $70 for members and $90 for non-members. For reservations, call 283-3195, ext. 19 or email events@peconiclandtrust.org.

Long Island Chefs Band Together for ALS Research and Awareness

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By Tessa Raebeck

The small East End community gets even smaller when you enter the restaurant world, where world-class chefs started together as line cooks and waiters from one hit restaurant become owners of the next.

A strong testament to the intimacy of the local restaurant community is A Love Shared, a collaborative effort to raise awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The efforts are led by the nonprofit Hayden’s Heroes, a group of renowned Long Island chefs, local farmers and community businesses that banded together after their friend and colleague Gerry Hayden was diagnosed with ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in 2011.

On October 13, Hayden’s Heroes held its first A Love Shared benefit, a family style dinner at 8 Hands Farm in Cutchogue. Food was provided by a collaboration of 12  featured chefs. Hoping to raise $75,000 for ALS research and quality of life care for Hayden, the event surpassed all expectations, ultimately raising over $150,000.

“They just had such an outpouring of people that wanted to participate and wanted to get involved with the organization,” said Lindsey Meyers of WordHampton Public Relations in East Hampton, a firm that handled public relations for the event. “They thought it would be great after the first benefit to extend it and do something for the holidays.”

Following the benefit’s success, the 12 chefs featured at the dinner together formed the Long Island Culinary Collaborative. Along with The North Fork Table and Inn, where Hayden is the head chef, and A Love Shared, the group is selling A Love Shared gift boxes in Hayden’s honor during the holiday season.

Each wooden box is made by hand in Maine and contains twelve signature sauces, one from each chef. They cost $175, with all proceeds going toward efforts to raise awareness about ALS, to promote research for ALS and to raise money for quality of life care for Hayden and other ALS patients in need.

The included sauces vary from spicy to sweet, classic to innovative, with the signature local ingredients and personal touches of Long Island’s best chefs.

Head chef and owner of Amarelle in Wading River, Lia Fallon, created Mediterranean fig chutney for the gift boxes. There is a mignonette sauce by Terry Harwood, the chef and owner of the Vine Street Café on Shelter Island and a salsa verde by Sam McClendon of Sag Harbor’s The Beacon and Bell & Anchor. Michael Meehan, executive chef at H2O Seafood Grill in Smithtown, made a pickled corn relish for the boxes and Christian Mir of the Stone Creek Inn provided ginger vinaigrette. Often called the father of North Fork cuisine, restaurateur and chef John Ross created a wild beach plum sauce, collecting ingredients from local dunes.

Another staple of the North Fork restaurant scene, Keith Luce, made a duck wine sauce. Luce is the mind behind the MAIN project in Greenport’s Historic Stirling Square, which includes MAIN restaurant, Nosh, a bakery and espresso bar, and a takeout window, Prep. The White House honored Luce as an American Culinary Ambassador last summer.

Tom Schaudel, called one of Long Island’s best-known chefs by The New York Times, contributed a Thai red curry broth. Schaudel is the head chef and co-owner of A Lure in Southold and A Mano in Mattituck. Guy Reuge, who runs the Mirabelle Restaurant and neighboring Mirabelle Tavern in Stony Brook Village, created piccalilli, which is a relish of chopped pickled vegetables and spices. A hot BBQ sauce is included in the gift boxes, made by Joe Realmuto, the head chef of Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton who also oversees the food at its sister restaurants, Amagansett’s La Fondita, Nick & Toni’s Café in the city and Townline BBQ in Sagaponack.

Rounding out the collection are sauces by Hayden and his wife, Claudia Fleming. Fleming, the pastry chef at the North Fork Table & Inn, created a passion fruit caramel and her husband, the restaurant’s executive chef, made a red pepper jimmy jam.

The collection is limited at 100 gift boxes, with each box containing all 12 signature sauces. To purchase a gift box visit aloveshared.com or call Jeri Woodhouse at (631) 834-1816.