Despite setbacks including intermittent rain and no power to the building for at least an hour mid-day, our James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef dinner called “Starry Starry Night” came off in style this past Tuesday evening August 13, 2013.
We started the night before, renting a truck and emptying the restaurant of all it’s furniture to make room for the chefs to work. Early in the morning, our parking lot was emptied of cars, the dramatic Sperry Tent raised, True North’s gorgeous farm tables assembled, glassware and plates and table dressing delicately placed with guidance from Susan Ryan Ackell and Jen Chagnon of the Pink Polka Dot.
With celebrity chef Cal Peternell of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, CA and Anna Kovel former food editor of Martha Stewart Living at the helm, the kitchen was an incredible thing to witness. Cal held a meeting of staff at 9 am and the Quicks Hole crew led by our executive chef Stephanie Mikolazyk jumped into action prepping lobster, roast fennel, fish stock, fresh mozzarella and much much more. All day was spent bustling, chopping and prepping but the tone of the kitchen was calm, relaxed, jovial even.
All key ingredients for the meal were sourced from local farms, fisheries and the Falmouth Farmers Market. Running short on fish bones, I dashed to the Clam Man early in the morning where our friends there had saved this key ingredient for excellent stock, the critical base of the fish and lobster bouillabaisse.
One hundred lucky guests gathered on the deck of the inn with Woods Hole harbor twinkling beyond to enjoy bellini’s while noshing on passed appetizers like Washburn Island and Island Creek oysters with mignonette, smoked bluefish toasts with roasted fennel, fried panisses and summer vegetable fritters. Moving to the tent below, we were seated at farm style tables and the courses started arriving, first a salad of heirloom tomatoes and freshly made mozzarella, then this incredibly light saffron and tomato bouillabaisse with scallops, lobster, mussels, cod and a Maison Villatte grilled bread topped with rouille.
Nectarine galettes (along with all the delicious breads) were provided by chef Boris Villatte of Maison Villatte an authentic french bakery here in Falmouth and dressed up by Chef Peternell with creme fraiche. Lavender chocolates from Sirenetta Seaside Chocolatier were passed with gooseberries.
Oooh La La!
We gathered to support both the James Beard Foundation and our local Falmouth Hospital which is in the process of raising money to expand it’s emergency room. Representatives from both organizations attended the dinner, and I spoke briefly about how important that emergency room is to the community, and how lucky we are to have such a good one. Jeff Black spoke on behalf of the James Beard Foundation.
Our celebrity guests included captains of industry from Boston, Providence, Newport, Falmouth and Woods Hole. Artists in the crowd were directors Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett, singer China Forbes of Pink Martini and actor James Waterston, all dear friends of mine who made the evening special.
As guests trickled from the tent at the end of the night, I enjoyed the gushing about this unique venue and Cal’s amazing food. After months of planning and the gauntlet of the day, it was really satisfying to have made people happy. I am also so grateful to the event sponsors including Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod, Bank of Woods Hole, Robert Paul Properties and the Sea Crest Beach Hotel and hope they will join us next year as we build on the success of this evening.
James Beard Foundation rep Jeff Black told me that despite seven years of circling America hosting 20+ dinners like this one per year, he had never hosted a celebrity chef dinner with anyone from Chez Panisse as the restaurant tends to stay focused on it’s roots. We are so grateful to Chef Cal Peternell for coming and falling in love with Woods Hole!
I am deeply grateful to the farms and vendors who supported this event, plus our volunteer staff who served so beautifully and made the night incredibly special: Allen Farm, Cabo Cado, Cape Cod Beer, Cape Cod Saltworks, Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards, Carpet Barn, Clam Man, Courtney’s Floral Creations, Edible Cape Cod, ElizaJ, Eva’s Garden, Fishmonger Cafe, Half Shell Co, Island Creek Oysters, Jacquelines Catering, Kayak Cookies, LKnife, Mac’s Seafood, Wellfleet Fish Co, Mahoney’s Garden Centers, Maison Vilatte, Mionetta Prosecco, Moonlight Rose, MS Walker, Narragansett Creamery, Newport Winery, Peachtree Circle Farm, The Pink Polka Dot, Pocasset Pretzel Co, Polar Beverage, Rentals Unlimited, Running Brook Vineyard, Shy Brothers Farm, Sid Wainer and Sons, Silverbrook Farm, Sironetta Chocolatier, Sperry Tents, Stella Artois Beer, Travessia Urban Winery, True North Event Rentals, Vermont Creamery, and Washburn Island Oyster Farm.
Finally, it must be noted that it takes a village to put something like this on, and the village of Woods Hole rallied to make this possible. Every business in the village helped out in some important way — offering sandwiches to feed our staff, extra parking places to wash dishes and clear up, walk in cooler space when we ran out, cocktail napkins that we forgot to buy and so much more. We are so lucky to work next door to places like the Landfall, Pie in the Sky, Jimmy’s, Coffee Obsession, Fishmonger, Phusion, Captain Kidd, Woods Hole Market, and Shuckers — could not make it through the summer without the support of our terrific peers. When you come to the food mecca of Woods Hole, you must try all these special spots. Thank you all!
Here are a few more photos of the evening for you to enjoy.
We are hosting a James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef dinner tonight, raising money for Falmouth Hospital. One hundred lucky guests will dine under a tent next to Quicks Hole (our farm-to-table restaurant) overlooking Woods Hole harbor and under the stars.
This will be a summer meal to remember…
The meal is being prepared by Chef Cal Peternell (of Chez Panisse, Berkeley CA), Anna Kovel (former food editor Martha Stewart Living) and our own Stephanie Mikolazyk (executive chef at Quicks Hole). You can read more about the chefs here. The guests come from Woods Hole and all over the world, foodies who unite in their passion for fine dining and a great cause.
Preparations for this special meal began over a year ago when I met the amazing and talented Cal Peternell, continued this winter when we went to cook with his crew at Chez Panisse, and heated up this spring with the help of many volunteers who came together to plan all the details for tonight.
Today, the parking lot next to the Inn will be transformed with a tent, shrubs, hydrangeas, long wooden farm tables, linen napkins, stylish rental chairs, flowers. At the same time, the kitchen will bustle with a different energy as lobster tacos are put away for the day and our crew boils stock, shucks oysters, steams lobster, mixes chickpea flour panisses, prepares smoked blue fish pate and much more.
I am eternally grateful to our sponsors, local companies who understand partnership, ambitious food and creative friendship: Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod, Bank of Martha’s Vineyard, Robert Paul Properties, and the Sea Crest Beach Hotel.
I am holding my breath, fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly….
Last week, Stephanie Mikolazyk and I were honored to “guest chef” at one of the most famous restaurants in America — Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. Head chef Cal Peternell invited us (as he will be coming to Woods Hole this summer for an epic farm-to-table dinner at our restaurant Quicks Hole on August 13th) and its safe to say we JUMPED at the chance.
We helped out in the kitchen for two full days, starting with the chefs meeting at about 1.30 pm, through all the prep work, then service for two seatings of 50 lucky customers and an extraordinary meal (see menus and photos below…not for the faint of heart).
We chopped, swept, cleared, plated and generally tried to stay out of the way in our Chez Panisse chef jackets. We were also invited to the chefs meal, where the kitchen crew sits down together to eat what they have cooked that night in very civilized a half-hour break between the first and second seatings.
I was astounded by the restaurants commitment to going green — every scrap of waste is composted or recycled if possible, all produce is sourced locally and organic — and the incredible calm demeanor of the staff. This kitchen has a culture of mutual respect and teamwork unlike any workplace I have ever seen. Alice Waters was not there, but you could feel her presence in this culture, a feeling that the process of working together, making the food with love, and sharing the journey was imbued in the copper lined walls, soaked into the butcher block tables and baked right into the wood-fired grill.
What follows is a photo essay of the highlights from our incredible experience. Thanks to all the chefs at Chez Panisse for making us feel so welcome, and especially to Cal whose calm leadership style is a personal inspiration.
Menus: The first night the menu was warm salad of cardoons and leeks with chervil, egg and black truffle followed by Tomales Bay clam brodetto with grilled fennel and Espelette pepper, then Becker Lane Farm pork loin with chicories, balsamic vinaigrette and sage, new onion and Lady William apple fritters plus tangerine millefoglie for dessert. The second night the menu was Chino Ranch radicchio and orange-scented beets with ginger vinaigrette, then Louisiana Gulf shrimp risotto with toasted sesame seeds and fried leeks, then Salmon Creek Ranch duck breast grilled with coriander, fennel and green garlic, with roasted parsnips and pickled persimmon relish and for dessert Meyer lemon ice cream profiteroles with pistachio-anise nougatine.
I re-read this menu and think – OMG!!! Yes! Yes! Yes!
Remember the scene in Harry Met Sally when Nora Ephron says, “I’ll have what she’s having…” ??
It was like that:)
My mother should write a self-help book. With over 30 years logged as a kindergarten teacher, she has lots of great advice. My husband quoted her in our local paper this week and I have received a few calls and emails saying that her words inspired them. She has certainly inspired me over the years, so I am going to share some of her wisdom.
Steady Pressure. This is a central tenet of my mother’s philosophy. When you are feeling overwhelmed, buried under a pile of obligations and work, do not despair! Tomorrow is another day, and if you just apply steady pressure to your goals you will, like the hundreds of students my mother taught over the years, eventually learn to read, or climb Mt. Kilamanjaro, or get your inn open in time for the summer season. Insert your problem here: __________. Now apply steady pressure. (Ping me in a few months and let’s see how this maxim is working for you, it’s a powerful one.)
Life is a series of sorting and collating exercises. This gem has a lot of meaning for me. Remember the simple sorting skills you mastered in kindergarten? Place all the red apples in the bin with others, move the oranges to the basket with their friends, place the bananas in another spot. Put your coat on the coat hook with all the other children’s coats. Keep your boots on the mat by the front door. These exercises bring order to that first collaborative work experience (yes, I mean your kindergarten classroom) and help you start thinking about math. But your adult work flow can be thought of exactly the same way. Match like with like and you simplify, bring order, establish rules and systems. Get in a rhythm, find the patterns and then refer to step one (apply steady pressure:). At the very least, you will always know where your snow boots are.
Share the sandbox. If you are always stealing the shovel from others, you will be isolated, lonely and bored when the other children stop playing with you. If you were lucky and you had my mother in kindergarten, you were gently cajoled away from this, and coaxed into more civilized attitude. Sadly, many people missed this key lesson. The result, in it’s adult form, is hard to watch — angry, greedy and alone, these are the people who we all love to hate. They are the staple of reality television. To them I say, we are still here waiting to share the sandbox with you, so come on in and try again.
A Rising Tide Floats All Boats. The slowest learner in the classroom is helped by the fastest, and buoyed along by the general skills of the group. In my mother’s kindergarten, this meant working in groups, completing ambitious projects where everyone worked together. To mix metaphors, think of it like tennis — you always play better with a better partner. In business, this means you make your business the best it can be and you help your competitors improve as well. The better you are together, the more will keep coming your way. I certainly see this in Woods Hole, and not only out in Great Harbor where the boats all move together with the relentless tides.
Find the Farmyard. My mother grew up on a farm, and as a teacher she developed what she called her “farm curriculum.” She focused on the seasons, taught the kids all about farm life, even brought a baby lamb to school for a few weeks each spring during lambing season. The benefits of this were huge. The kids were enthralled with the information, and left her classroom with a knowledge that never gets covered in the years beyond. Now her instincts are so in vogue! At the Woods Hole Inn and the Quicks Hole restaurant, we are part of the “farm-to-table” movement, and because of my mother I never feel out-of-place when I visit the farms from which we source our incredible pea-green sprouts, our arugula and our fresh hot peppers. It’s not too late for you to learn all about your local farmer; if you visit Cape Cod, the Coonamessett Farm right here in Falmouth is a great place to start.
Don’t Hold a Grudge. You are the sum of your grudges, and they will only bring despair and unhappiness. In kindergarten, the children were brought together, each holding my mother’s hand, crying and shouting at each other until they fully vented their feelings. There may be no real resolution to their real feelings of hurt and betrayal, but waiting until they express, apologize (sometimes:) and it blows over kept the whole classroom open, vibrant and warm. How great would it be if we could still do this as adults? But the conventions of society shackle us in this effort, so take this to heart — work hard on your own feelings to air and move on from petty grievances with employees, customers and your competitors. It leaves so much more open space for happiness, clear thinking and good work. The benefits will be felt by all, but mostly by you.
My debt to my incredible mother inspired this, and I hope she will not mind my posting the lovely photo I took of her this weekend. And now a few shots of Woods Hole, some from the walk we took on Sunday and others on my peregrinations later in the week…
I never thought I would finish this blog post, but I used my mother’s advice, applied steady pressure, and look at me now!
At the Woods Hole Inn, we often spend a lot of time on the “table” part of farm-to-table but today I got to head out into the field and see one of the farms that we source food from in the summer.
Coonamessett Farm was founded over 30 years ago by Ron Smolovitz, who along with his wife had a passion to save a piece of open land slated for development. On their 2o plus acres, Ron farms everything from lettuce to turkey. His rolling meadows with their vineyards and neat rows of lettuce, tomato, zucchini and summer squash are quite the summer destination for everything from weddings to the passionate members of his CSA.
Spring is the time to visit if you want to see where all that bounty comes from, so I headed over there yesterday in the pouring rain with a list of the produce we consume weekly to supply our breakfast kitchen and Quicks Hole — for example, 50 lbs of fresh tomatoes a week to make our signature pico de gallo fresh daily! Try over 20 dozen eggs a week for the Woods Hole Inn’s fresh baked breakfasts? Yeah, it all adds up.
It was pouring anew when Ron and I zipped into his rain covered golf cart and sped across the meadow to the growing cluster of greenhouses. Ron put in a windmill a few years back and he explained that running the farm vehicles on electricity rather than gas helps keep down the price of vegetables.
We met with Stan Ingram, field boss at Coonamessett, who was literally ankle deep in mud transplanting rows of baby plants to larger containers (those are his amazing hands in the photo above). The long low plastic roof of the greenhouse cast the most gorgeous diffused light and the drum of rain on the roof was soporific. A lovely tiger cat leapt to greet me with a deep purr. What a peaceful place, I thought. “Earlier today when it was really coming down, we could not have held a conversation in here,” Stan remarked with a wry smile.
We talked about when they expect certain crops to come in, why they can’t grow tomatoes earlier (heating the greenhouses to 55 degrees costs too much money) and the logistics of getting relatively small batches of produce down to Woods Hole two or three times per week. Their crispy arugula is essential for our “Wicked Fresh” salad — a best seller at Quicks Hole — but at the end of the day, it’s all about logistics. Stan offered to plant more basil and cilantro to meet our weekly demand. He also cautioned me against holding him to any dates. I guess the plants mature when they feel like it, not just for our Quicks Hole opening day (which is May 6th this year, by the way).
Another exciting development is the local cultivation of oysters which Ron is going to distribute. I signed Quicks Hole up for weekly delivery of the new “Sippewissett” which is out in Buzzards Bay fattening up right now from the cold winter. Ron says the first of them will be ready by mid May. Yum.
I left with a list of wholesale prices, an order form… and a greater sense of purpose. It’s not easier to source this way, actually it’s much, much harder. But the sense of satisfaction in knowing my little business can be a part of keeping this meadow open for Ron and his golf cart? Yeah, that feels good.
Hopefully it tastes good too. Come check it out this summer at Quicks Hole, 6 Luscombe Ave in Woods Hole. More info and our menu at www.quicksholewickedfresh.com.