With wind-tossed farm fields sitting under colder, shorter days, it’s easy to forget that food is also about rebirth.
Look no further than the storied Peconic Bay scallop, whose once-beleaguered numbers are on the rise. Or the now-barren land that gave up cauliflower in the fall and might be sown with melons in the spring.
The renewal that comes with food and drink also happens in the kitchen, where we are sustained by what we eat and the people who make it. When Sag Harbor cookbook author Lauren Chattman sprouted the cookie swap concept, it was as much about creating cookie makers as cookie parties—another reason to make new friends and keep the old. The tamales that have crept onto the Southampton food scene don’t just sate a taste for steamed corn flour, but remind one writer of something he pines for in Mexico.
There’s the upstart peanut-brickle maker in East Hampton who started her business as a recession-prompted, life-redefining second career. The chef-hotelier in Greenport whose cooking is therapeutic for both cook and guests. The holiday table overflows with dishes and decoration to help us pass the fallow time.
Four Fire Island fellas translated their love for shoreline-living into a beer that expands and evolves at place-based homebrew parties that welcome back the summer season. And when Long Island wineries stretch into bubbly—more than a baker’s dozen of them are now bottling sparkling wine—it makes celebrating year-round that much easier.
At the Sag Harbor pizzeria Tony and Lena Venesina opened more than three decades ago, every morning still begins with Tony making the dough and sauce, and prepping the cheese. By midday, his son Frank will be turning out pie after pie to feed a town.
Even old traditions like feeding people can sometimes require reinvention. The North Fork Table and Inn parked a lunch-centered trompe l’oeil in Southold, Pierre’s in Bridghampton, already a 365-day-a-year option, started offering even more takeout. This past summer, two new wood-fired pizzamakers opened on the East End—Grana in Jamesport and Pizzetteria Brunetti in Westhampton Beach. And Roanoke Winery launched occasional wine-tasting events, including some of importance far beyond Riverhead.
Starting anew isn’t always easy, and the path isn’t always straight. Ripeness comes and goes, as our wondering winemaker suggests. And our angst-ridden farmgirl asks if we can influence anything beyond our local place. There is disappointment, failure and loss. But, eventually, spring will come.