My Local Valentine
Just as the New York Times style mavens tell us that organic and fair-trade nosegays are becoming as popular as similarly conscientious comestibles, here’s a short list of locally raised, baked, and brewed Valentine’s gifts to arouse your lover’s passion while reducing her carbon footprint.
Who knew that the innovative farmer who had the foresight to acquire the domain name www.localroses.com is actually a Long Island rose grower who is one of the last and only commercial rose growers in New York state—a center of U.S. production just a short hundred years ago. With four acres of vintage Lord & Burnham glass greenhouses, Michael Barry of Rose Meadow in East Patchogue sells roses by the dozen online and at the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City. No, Serious Eats purists, roses aren’t really edible. (Although the petals yield a delicate and chromatic tea.) But, like food, freshness for roses makes a big difference. And, because Barry’s roses are cut just a day before they show up in the city and across Long Island, they will bloom longer and deliver a more satisfying fragrance than the typical jet-lagged bouquets.
The toast of Shelter Island’s gastro-intelligentia are the macaroons at Mark It With G, a tiny bakery at 11 Grand Avenue, across the street from the post office where Route 114 bends toward the North Ferry. Parisian macaroons, in fact, which look like little candy hamburgers, with two almond cookies sandwiching a creamy filling, and are a rare progenitor to massive, grated-coconut-caked American macaroons. There are a rotating dozen or so flavors, including pistachio, coffee, raspberry, and hazelnut, which can be shipped nationwide (markitwithg.com, 631-749-5288).
On weekends, the handsome shop offers an ever-expanding list of cash-and-carry sweets and savories, including croissants and petit pain au chocolat, duck and porcini quiches, parsnip-ginger soup, and their own version of the French peasant dessert, clafouti, made with local pears poached in beaujoulais and baked into a four-inch tart filled with mascarpone cheese. Mark It With G products also show up at Catapano Dairy in Peconic, Cavaniola’s Gourmet in Sag Harbor, and perhaps more locations. But, for now, they are selling as fast as they are made.
“There’s a kind of hole in the chocolate world out here,” says Susan Kennedy, who with her husband, Daniel, launched Chokola’j, a micro-chocolatier in Moriches named after the Mayan word for the treat. A spontaneous tasting panel quickly devoured the contents of their 12-piece gift box. Particularly suggestive sounds were made during the eating of their Chamomile Honey Caramel, inspired by “a simple cup of tea” and made with local wildflower honey, chamomile flowers steeped in fresh cream, and a light amber caramel.
Other memorable products include their dark chocolate brownies, vanilla flake salt caramels, the North Fork Red made with local merlot, their raisin-topped Late Harvest made with local chardonnay, and a newly released dark hot chocolate and bars. The Stone Creek Inn in East Quogue offers a flight of Chocola’j products and Macari Vineyard in Mattituck sells their gift boxes. But the best way to order is to visit chokolajchocolate.com or call 631-874-2674.
Like cacao, Camellia sinensis, the plant that yields all the world’s teas—green, black, white—only grows in the tropics. But a new boutique tea company in Southampton hopes to make this calming plant a ritual for East End life. “There’s a huge lack of good quality loose-leaf teas in America,” says Tathiana Teixeira, a dancer with the Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro and Nina Buisson Contemporary Move in New York City, who found refuge from the mental and physical stress of the professional ballet circuit in the ritual of tea, and launched Plain-T with her husband Alessandro. “People still think tea is only for when you’re sick. But tea is always a moment of peace.” Comparing tea to wine, the company’s Web site suggests extensive food pairings. Plain-T doesn’t just sell a range of loose-leaf teas (better at preserving freshness and subtle flavors than tea bags), but prepares custom tea packages for restaurants, hotels and private events that includes pots, cups, instructions and other brewing tools. There are mom and baby tea boxes, tea boxes for men, tea boxes for yogis, and tea boxes for polo players. Their product already shows up at Midtown Manhattan’s tea mecca Takashimaya, Sant Ambroeus, and the Plaza Café in Southampton, and Pierre’s in Bridgehampton. Visit plain-t.com or call 212-758-2413.
Brian Halweil is the editor of Edible East End, the magazine that celebrates the harvest of the Hamptons and the North Fork. He is also publisher of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan (launching September 2008). He writes about the things we eat from the old whaling village of Sag Harbor, New York, where he and his wife tend a home garden and orchard and go clamming when the tides allow.