Romance. That was the word that Keith Pierpont, proprietor of Pierpont Blossom Farm and executive chef of the newly minted Sapori e Fiori dinner gathering, wanted me to keep in mind. And romance was the right word to describe the mood of the gathering, a monthly dining experience that began for the season on April 22 at Pierpont’s farm in Baiting Hollow.
I had selected the wines for the evening’s pairings, which had bought me entrée into an otherwise exclusive event: $400 for a five-course plated dinner, served with accompanying wine pairings. But that’s not all. The dinner began on the home’s back porch, where Anastasia Casale, owner of Sag Harbor Florist, Keith Pierpont’s spouse, and co-farmer of the Blossom Farm, had set up ninety minutes of flower instruction for five eager and nascent designers.
Sapori e Fiori translates to “flavors and flowers,” a concept I would better understand by the evening’s end. With clippers in hand (each guest received a gift of local honey, garden mint hand soap, matches with the dinner’s name printed on them, a greeting card, and garden clippers) and clutching plastic buckets, we trekked into the muddy, verdant fields of the blossom farm, where peonies were still dormant but where tulips and daffodils had begun to push forth with the usual April fervor. Tugging by the bulbs, we unearthed young flowers. We clipped just-bloomed lilac from a grove. Back on the deck, where rain had parlayed into a fine, gray mist, we shook off mud and pushed stems into oasis foam. Our tulip-, daffodil-, and lilac-based flower arrangements—supplemented by purple sweet pea, still-green hellebores, and cream ranunculus provided by our host—joined us at a dimly lit and, yes, romantic tablescape when we sat just as the pale afternoon light drifted into evening dark.
In 1997, Keith Pierpont was running a special event company in New York when he developed the inkling of an idea that would later become the inspiration for Sapori e Fiori. A client came to Pierpont, asking how to impress his girlfriend. Pierpont, who plays classical and flamenco guitar, suggested an evening of music and food. The end result took place at the Plaza Hotel. “As they walked in, Yasha [Kaufman, Pierpont’s classical guitar teacher] is playing in candlelight, with flowers, and Champagne, and caviar … That was the start.”
Pierpont’s initial gut instinct—to serve dinner in an intimate setting with a focus on ambience—was cemented two years ago when, during a winter storm, he and Casale found themselves at home with ample food and flowers, but no friends. The former food stylist and French Culinary Institute graduate and his florist wife decided, right then, to create a series of dinners featuring rotating guest chefs where fellow food lovers could share in an inimitable evening at their home.
Cheers to beautiful flavors, flowers and future dinners at @Sapore_e_Fiore. . . #cheers #letscelebrate #chardonnay #whitewine #greatwine #highlyrecommended #winemaker #sommelier #saltbirdcellars #liwine #liwinecountry #wineglass #winetasting #winepairing #dinnerparty #saporeefiore #sagharborflorist #pierpontblossomfarm #LongIsland #Northfork #Nofo #ShelterIsland #EastHampton #Bridgehampton #Hamptons #Montauk #thehamptons #tablesetting #dinnerisready #dinnerisserved. . Sapore e fiore is a flower workshop followed by a sit down five course meal paired with local wines @pierpontblossomfarm. For details & reservations 917-560-4421
The food at the inaugural dinner was neither an afterthought nor the entire point. Sapori e Fiori is about an experience rather than the component elements. But when I reflect on the great meals of my life, that concept seems true to form. Do I remember with such fondness the dinner at Gramercy Tavern to celebrate my 20th birthday—where I first sampled partridge—for the food? Or is it the captivating dining room I recall, the cheese cart at our table mid-meal, my late father’s contagious laughter? Was I most amazed, at El Bulli, by the rabbit sweetbreads on endive, or by the sliver of ocean visible from our red velvet banquette, the tea prepared by trimming fresh pots of herbs into boiling water, the Barcelonan tile floors leading into Ferran Adrià’s kitchen? In these cases, the food was both relevant and irrelevant. Sapori is no different. At evening’s end, I was left with the traveling scent of lilac (to be fair, my flower arrangements, which are meant for guests to keep, followed me home in my car), the pulse of Rachmaninoff, and the wispy, nostalgic memory of a candlelit evening.
The food at Sapori, to be clear, deserves mention. Three fat, poached shrimp arrived enrobed in a Sherry vinaigrette and placed over the tender first spears of spring asparagus. We ate it with a saline Fino Sherry. Next, a white bean soup with Sullivan’s Bakery bread (paired with Pichler Smaragd Riesling); a young tomato salad with artichokes and edible flowers (a Franciacorta rosé); a lamb saddle with Andouille sausage and lardon served over a nearly-drinkable jus (Cornas); and, at meal’s end, a bowl of frozen cream with olive oil and wine sauce (J.J. Prum Spätlese Riesling).
“Mise-en-scène. Everything in the scene,” Pierpont told me a few days later, evoking a common French expression used in New Wave film to describe his vision. “The music. The flowers. The learning experience of making the arrangements. The candles. It’s the little details that make the whole.” In the case of Sapori e Fiori, the details make all the difference.
Sapori e Fiori hosts monthly dinners, accommodating up to twelve guests, at Pierpont Blossom Farm from April through October. The flower workshop, dinner, and wine pairings are $400 per person, or $4,500 per table of twelve. Reservations are available at saporiefiori.com. A portion of the proceeds goes to the East End Hospice.