Ten years ago, I started writing about our food and wine scene. One of my first stories for a now-shuttered magazine was about a dinner I had at the home of Tom and Mary Morgan. The duo, who live in a self-designed house in Orient, were active in the Slow Food movement, avid gardeners, makers of their own flavored vinegars, mushroom foragers, not fans of garlic bulbs, tuned into the Long Island wine world and all around delightful.
Not much has changed. But things do change in 10 years. Their family has grown with the adoption of daughter Lana from Russia. The garden is bigger. Mary has taken on even more nonprofit work as the executive director of All for the East End, the music festival and fundraiser for regional charities that debuts this August. Tom is still the sole salesman for the Lenz Winery, and Brynn, their Airedale who was a pup when I first met her, is now a grande dame with the same hold on her people. Her big black nose is like a Périgord truffle, says Tom.
Tom and Mary are founding members of the East End Convivium of Slow Food, and their dedication to the principles and practice of the movement are as strong as ever—from their first date going mushroom foraging to the potatoes Tom roasts for dinner using rendered duck fat from Crescent Farm ducks. “These potatoes are the last of the season,” he says. “It’s just a little while longer before the new potatoes come in.”
On the counter are little knobby carrots from Latham’s Farm just down the road. Bitter lettuces from their garden are being washed. And Tom is chopping garlic shoots, the leafy tops of bulbs they have growing all over their front yard. The couple prefers them to actual garlic, with Tom saying his digestion thanks him for it.
While Tom goes about preparing the main course, swordfish à la Starr Boggs, Mary serves radishes dipped in butter with coarse salt on the side. This is new for Lana, but she tries it and decides it’s OK. And then tells of a visit to the Smithsonian where an exhibit is a full reproduction of Julia Child’s kitchen. The radishes look like round strawberries coated in white chocolate. The creaminess of the butter offsets the fiery radish, and the salt makes it jump in your mouth. “We love these at NoMad in New York,” says Mary. “But somehow ours don’t look the same.”
Swordfish à la Starr Boggs is named for the Westhampton chef who made it famous during his catering heyday in the nineties and the aughts. It’s more of a method and can be flavored using your pick of herbs. Start with the thickest piece of swordfish you can find. Tom had Charlie Manwaring of Southold Fish Market cut steaks for him. A single serving should almost look like a softball. A topping of bread crumbs and mayonnaise to which Tom added the garlic shoots is then stacked as high as you can make it stand. Bake until done. Chef Morgan added some Pernod, wine and made his pan nonstick by coating it with a large grape leaf from a wild vine. “The whole yard is natural plants,” he says.
The wine the Morgans use to cook and to drink with their dinner is, of course, from Lenz. The unoaked chardonnay went into the fish dish; the evening started with Lenz’s traditional sparkling wine, and the fish was accompanied by the 2008 Old Vines Chardonnay, which with its creamy body and integrated oak stands up to Tom’s comparison with some of the best white Burgundies. “This vintage was more challenging than the 2007—and that was one of the best,” he says, “but 2008 is proving to be just as good.”
After dinner the Russian vodka gets shown around and Tom pours a digestif, an amaro. Lana starts rummaging in the cabinets to find a perfume-making experiment that incorporated the herbs and spices and citrus peels that are drying and macerating all over the kitchen.
Mary serves a strawberry panna cotta from a recipe in Claudia Fleming’s book, The Last Course. Rose petals from the Morgan’s bushes finished it off.
I hope to be invited back before the passing of another decade.