One of the best things about running OmNomCT is that we get to meet so many great people. And, the majority of those people are so passionate about food and have so much experience and expertise to share. One such person that we’ve come to know is Christy Colasurdo. She has written for the NY Times, managed the social media of Wakeman Town Farm, is a writer, consultant, and editor for Westport Magazine, and helped to get Graze Delivered (now Simple Scallion) food delivery service up and running.
Over a year ago, she began to work with Tracey Medeiros, author of the Vermont Farm Table Cookbook and Dishing Up Vermont, on a cookbook called The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook. Through months and months of work, traveling, research, conversations, writing, recipes, photographing, and interviews, they finally put together what we think will soon become the cookbook that every person will need.
What we love about The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook is that it takes a fun, fresh and unexpected format that jumps off the page. First of all, the book is divided into sections such as Breakfast; Soups and Salads; Vegetables; Sandwiches; Flatbread, Savory Pies, and Crostini; Pasta, Grains, and Beans; Fish and Seafood; Meat; Pesto, Condiments, and Sauces; Drinks; and Desserts. That’s normal enough, but where this cookbook gets really exciting is that for each section there are a number of farms, restaurants, and chefs from CT that you learn more about. And, with each feature farm or culinary giant, you get recipes (150 total) that help the reader to put together killer recipes using lots of local sources.
Whether it’s Maple Pecan Bourbon Pie, Maple Bread Pudding, Garden Fresh Bloody Marys, Pork Belly Stuffed Tomatoes, Cioppino Verde, Deviled Eggs with Cornmeal Fried Oysters, or Ricotta Gnocchi, there’s a recipe for you whether you’re vegetarian, love seafood, want some comfort food, or want to impress the hell out of your guests. And, with recipes from chefs like Bill Taibe from LeFarm/The Whelk/Kawa Ni, Forrest Pasternack from Bailey’s Backyard, Bun Lai from Miya’s Sushi, Pat Pascarella from Bar Sugo, Chef Plum of Plum Luv Foods, CT’s own Jacque Pépin, 2015 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year Michel Nischan, Chef Viehland formerly of Community Table, Tyler Anderson of Millwright’s, and so many more you’ll be busy cooking month after month.
The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook will be released June 8 on Amazon for $16.46 in paperback or $17.48 on Kindle and will also be available at your local bookstores or shop. But they’ll also be all around CT with book signings, chef demos, and more. The first event is on June 6 at 11 am right at Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk then will be followed up on June 8 at 5 pm with a champagne reception and a farm-to-table dinner right at Terrain in Westport. For a full list of events, click here.
Wrapping things up, after seeing a preview copy of the book, we were very excited to talk with Tracey and Christy about not only the process of putting together the cookbook, but also their thoughts on the CT food scene, our evolving tastes, and the importance of living life locally. So, let’s dig in . . .
People used to think of New England Cooking as clambakes and lobster rolls. After writing the book, how would you characterize the changing food profile and food traditions of Connecticut? What’s new/different?
Tracey: Writing The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook has given me the joyous opportunity to connect with many of the Nutmeg State’s hardworking farmers, chefs, and food producers. Their passion for what they do shines through in their strong commitment to preserving Connecticut’s agricultural way of life by supporting the local food culture. The catch phrase, “Buy Local,” has become the mantra of both farmers and chefs. Knowing that there is a conscious effort on the part of the consumer to maintain a healthier lifestyle, the Connecticut food scene is evolving, embracing the virtues of local, organic, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients.
You have developed great relationships with local restaurants, chefs, and writers throughout CT. Was it difficult for you, even still, to research, gather material, visit places, and talk with everybody? Did knowing people make it easier?
Did you get to taste any of the prepared foods? They look so great!
Christy: Yes! The tasting was a tough job! Seriously, we loved tasting all the foods that we could along the way. Breads from Wave Hill Breads Bakery, cheeses from Beltane Farms and Caseus, honey from Red Bee Honey and Stonewall Apiaries, meats from Saugatuck Craft Butchery, fresh oysters from Norm Bloom & Son . . . my co-author and recipe guru, Tracey Medeiros, in particular, spent a ton of time tasting as she tweaked recipes to ensure that they could be easily replicated by the home cook. Not a bad thing!
Have you noticed a difference in the CT food scene over the past few years in terms of its focus on fresh, farm-to-kitchen foods?
Christy: For sure. Instead of balking at higher food costs, people now totally “get” that it takes more time, effort and money to create farm-fresh foods that are better in all ways. While the terms “locavore” and “farm-to-table” are often overused and even cause us to roll our eyes at times, the truth is that once you taste a fresh egg from a local farmer, you won’t go back to store-bought eggs. The same holds true for everyday staples like milk or chicken. I remember the first time I sampled a fresh whole chicken and really tasted the flavors of the meat. It was like, “So chicken actually DOES have a flavor.” After spending more than a year working on this book, it’s clear that consumers all across Connecticut are more savvy and demanding when it comes to what they feed to their families, and they really want to know where their food was raised, especially when dining out. We love the trend of restaurateurs listing the names of the farmers who supplied their ingredients right on the menu.
What were some of the highlights of putting this book together?
Christy: This book was a joy to put together. For me, as a Westport resident, it was a thrill to be able to tell some of my friends in the farming and food worlds that I was working on a project that focused on two subjects near and dear to me. Tracey’s forte is working out the kinks in recipes and making sure they are perfect, and my passion is meeting the players on the scene, telling their stories and bringing the people behind the products to life. A huge highlight for me was introducing my 15-year-old son Charlie, a budding farmer/environmentalist to some of the farmers in the book, and showing him places, like Urban Oaks, that are bringing local foods to underserved areas or sustainability icons, like Bun Lai, who offered to take Charlie out in his boat to forage for local shellfish in his very own shellfishing grounds.
What are some things that you would hope that people would get from reading the book?
Christy: We hope that people will get a better sense of the diverse array of farms and restaurants in the state, and understand that they will only stick around if we support them. We feature the high and the low; the clam shack and roadside lobster shack, as well as the James Beard Award-winning restaurant. For us, eating one’s way through Connecticut is a joyful experience. Take the book with you and chart a course up to Litchfield County, stop by some of the local farms and orchards on the way and pick up all the essentials for a great meal. Plan lunch at a local vineyard, visit the pristine barns at Arethusa and splurge on a memorable dinner at Winvian or Community Table in Washington. If you live in New York or New England, there is a culinary adventure to be had in so many parts of the state. Grab the book, chart your course, and make a day trip or weekend out of it!
We see that you have the book for presale on Amazon. Where else will people be able to buy it?
Christy: The book is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and basically anywhere books are sold. The book will also be available at select farmers’ markets, specialty foods retailers, boutiques, gift shops, and larger retailers like Terrain, which, by the way is the location for our big kickoff signing event on Monday, June 8 from 5-7. We’d love to invite all of OmNomCT’s readers to stop by for a glass of bubbly and a signed copy of the book! There will also be a ticketed farm-to-table dinner event following the signing from 7-9 with four courses and wine. The tickets for this part of the evening will go on sale on our website soon: connecticutfarmtablecookbook.com. Come say hi!