Amagansett Food Institute Kicks Off the Growing Season with Massive Salads, Herbed Foccacia, and Illegal Cupcakes

The grape/fennel and leek/lemon foccaccias from baker and outgoing AFI director Carissa Waecthter were among the offerings at the Memorial Day BBQ and groupthink.

The Amagansett Food Institute hit the ground running last Sunday with a barbecue for 140 at Amber Waves Farm setting an impressive pace for the launch of its first summer season.

Diners, including AFI advisory board member Alec Baldwin sporting a handsome white and grey beard, sat on hay bales at long tables, plates heaped with grilled chicken, a variety of herbed salads, Carissa Waechter’s grape/fennel and leek/lemon foccaccias and other breads. A Channing Daughters white flowed along with a lavender-infused limeade from Jeri Woodhouse of Taste of the North Fork. “These cupcakes should be illegal,” one guest told Waechter of her vanilla Quail Hill rhubarb cupcakes in gingham cupcake liners. The classy spread included a four-foot long tin washtub holding cookbook author (Good Food to ShareSara-Kate Gillingham-Ryan’s salad of Amber Waves lettuce, chard and kale, garbanzo sprouts with almond oil-roasted local asparagus, simmered amaranth grain, and black sesame seeds with a lemon-green garlic scallion dressing.

This week out-going AFI interium executive director Waechter returns to her first love–baking in kitchen space rented from Mary’s Marvelous in Amagansett.  You’ll also find a variety of Waechter specials including her foccaccios, breads, and, of course, “illegal” cupcakes Thursdays at the Amagansett farmers market at the American Legion Post, at five CSAs–Amber Waves run by Katie Baldwin and Amanda Merrow, both founders along with Waechter of AFI, Quail Hill in Amagansett, Sunset Beach in North Haven, Balsam in Amagansett and Pantigo Road Farms in East Hampton–and Bliss Foods at The Springs Farmers Market.  Harvesters at Quail Hill’s CSA were greeted by Carissa Waechter’s quiche of quail hill duck and chicken eggs, garlic scallions and chives. ( Garlic scallions, unfamiliar to most members, promise to be the new flavor of month.) Carissa’s signature bread of whole wheat Amber Waves flour is fermented with AFI co-founder John de Cuevas’s now legendary starter, which he cultivated 40 years ago when he set a bowl of flour and water outside to capture wild airborne Amagansett yeast.

Of course, you can also sample Waechter’s wares at upcoming AFI events, including plans for an afternoon of clamming followed by a clam roast, a tasting of roses from East End wineries, and more events to follow.  New AFI  executive director, Jennifer Desmond, said, “As a foodie who’s been in industry a really long time,  I want  to do the kind of  interesting things I want to attend.  Our ultimate goal is to raise  $4 million.”  AFI envisions an educational food hub linked to local organic farms, including a farmers market, cafe, education center and commercially certified kitchen. Stay tuned for more from the creative AFI quintet.