When Claudia Fleming, pastry chef and co-owner of the North Fork Table and Inn in Southold, was invited to prepare dessert for 1,000 people at the City Meals on Wheels benefit in June at Rockefeller Center, she immediately knew she’d make her legendary panna cotta. But she needed to confer with Karen Catapano, her local goat farmer.
You see, the panna cotta has become legendary partly because Fleming replaced the more common buttermilk base with goat milk yogurt from nearby Catapano Goat Dairy in Peconic. “It’s a great alternative,” said Fleming, who first stopped in at the farm when she and her husband, chef Gerry Hayden, were scouting out local ingredients last spring. “It’s very silky, slightly tangy, and not quite as fat rich as traditional panna cotta.” The panna cotta is flavored with orange zest and served with strawberries — fresh during strawberry season and frozen from local sources the rest of the year.
One thousand panna cottas is a lot of yogurt, so Catapano offered to take part of the payment in credit at the North Fork Table and Inn, where her husband, Michael Catapano, who splits his time between being a doctor and making award-winning cheeses, love to dine.
“We kind of do that sort of thing for each other,” Catapano said. People who stop into her roadside stand asking for dinner recommendations will likely be steered toward the North Fork Table and Inn. And Fleming and others at the restaurant point their customers toward the goat farm: “We send people there all the time. It’s like part of the North Fork thing, the wineries, Wickham’s Fruit Farm, and Catapano Dairy.”
It’s got all the makings of a long-term relationship. In addition to the panna cotta, Fleming uses the goat milk yogurt for breakfast at the inn. Hayden uses the farm’s chèvre in a salad alongside a variety of baby beets and pistachios, and topped with a pistachio oil and sherry vinaigrette. “It’s become something he can’t take off the menu,” Fleming said.
Fleming also whips the cheese and yogurt (along with mascarpone and some heavy cream) into a filling for her cannoli or between layers of her napoleon. “I try to get it in there whenever I can,” which even includes non-edible products like the Delicate Doe goat milk soaps, shaving bars and lotions Catapano blends for the inn’s overnight guests.
“When I mentioned that we wanted to use it in the inn, Karen said it’s expensive,” said Fleming. “But we wanted to make the commitment. You profess all this local stuff and there it is right in front of my face and how can I not use it?”