C'est si bon! ...or as our friend, Dan often says, "Just another day in Paradise."
Well, four days actually. We have just returned from our annual extended weekend to the North Fork of Long Island, for fun, food, wine and relaxation with several friends who have been summering in Cutchogue for generations. For Jack and me, it all started several summers ago, when Lisa and Dan invited us to visit Lisa's big old family home there, and since then Lisa's siblings, their spouses and all of their children have become dear friends of ours. Summer wouldn't be complete without at least one visit with all of them!
Dan, Lisa, me, Jack, Russ and Nikki
This weekend, we stayed with Russell and Nicola (aka Nikki, Lisa's sister), who live just down the beach from Lisa and Nik's old family home. Russ's house reminds me so much of our family summer home on Cape Cod before my parents winterized it. It is absolutely charming with dark beadboard walls, a big stone fireplace, wide floorboards, and old screened windows overlooking Peconic Bay. The house is surrounded by charming gardens and a breezy porch for whiling away summer days and evenings alike.
Lisa's mother is no longer living, and the house we originally used to visit is now shared by Nicola, and their two brothers. We have become friends with one brother Randy, and his wife Laura, and their kids over the years, and were happy to hear that they were down from Connecticut for the weekend with their son, Charlie.
Charlie, Laura and Randy
The pig roast idea had come about when Jack and Russ were talking on the phone a few days before we were to leave Hingham. Jack and I purchased a whole pig at our local Chinese market (the pig wasn't Chinese, but it's usually easiest to buy fresh food items like this at ethnic stores) and slathered it with a garlic-herb-olive oil paste.....
... put it on ice and transported it to Long Island in the back of our station wagon, crossing L.I. Sound from New London by ferry.
A note about the ferry ride: Ever since we've been traveling to the North Fork with Lisa and Dan, they have packed a traditional picnic for us all to share, with wine, pate, cheese, olives & bread. This trip was no exception, so we were happy campers, even though it rained most of the voyage over.
Arriving at Russ and Nik's, we stowed our pig in the barn with fresh ice that they had waiting. The next day was the day of the feast, so preparation began early in the day. On our morning walk, Jack and I had discovered lots of good dead wood along the roadside, so we later went back with our car and loaded up on fuel for the barbeque.
Later in the morning several of us went to Sang Lee Farms' roadside stand for organic veggies, including colorful watermelon beets which Lisa's son, KC, planned to roast, corn on the cob, heirloom tomatoes and berries.
We also stopped by Catapano Dairy Farm, which sells fresh goat products, for some cheese and butter.
Home from marketing
Roasting a pig is slow-going, so we started the fire at 4:00 PM, with the branches we had gathered and charcoal, as well. Russ has a wonderful grill which we have used for similar feasts in the past. The key is to make the fire next to the grill, and then keep shoveling coals under the grill, as the roasting progresses, in order to have a continuous, hot but soft, radient heat. (Russ knows how to do this, since he has Argentine polo players who ride his polo ponies, and this is a traditional Argentine method which they have done for us in the past.)
Finally on the grill
The pig is covered here with cardboard to keep the heat around it. Sometimes, Russ uses feed bags (from the ponies), which is a traditional Argentine covering. You must keep the covering wet to prevent it from catching on fire.
Meanwhile, Laura arrived with her zucchini, summer squash & cherry tomato mix, covered in freshly micro-grated Parmigiano cheese, to be sauteed...
... KC was preparing beet greens to be lightly tossed over heat with garlic and some of the pork fat...
... and roasting beets next to the pig (which was being basted by Jack and Russ)...
... Brittany (Nik's daughter) was shucking corn...
... and Nik's youngest daughter, Jessie, had made a berry base to be topped with her crumble recipe and baked for dessert. (Unfortunately, this yummy dessert later disappeared too quickly for me to get a photo of the topping!)
As the crowd around the barbeque grew, so too did our collective appetites. Russ brought out some French, as well as local, NY cheeses and opened a lovely double magnum of 1988 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon, which he and his son Rusty decanted and we all tasted. Even though it had gone off just a bit, it was still delicious and a real treat to taste.
We also were treated to Russ's own chilled rose, Margerie's Rose, named in honor of his mother. It is made entirely from Pinot Noir grapes, using old world techniques. Russ's McCall Vineyard vines are still relatively young, but he is creating beautiful wines, already, which are unique to this region and can stand up next to French wines. The North Fork is wine country, with some vineyards producing really nice wines.
Russ's daughter Lauren, and grandson Adrien, with daddy David
Nicola with her daughters
Laura, Kate and Lisa
Nik and Russ
Jaimie and Rusty
KC, Lisa and Dan
The pig looking mouth-watering, after several hours over the fire
The crowd, including some of Rusty's visiting friends, milled around, enjoying each other's company and getting very hungry! The various aromas wafting into the air were a perfect "teaser course," setting the expectation for a truly delicious meal.
Meanwhile in the kitchen, last minute preparations were coming together:
Locally grown corn - so light in color and sweet!
KC sauteing beet greens
A still life with my favorite wine, Penfolds Grange, from Australia
Rusty's friends, Laurel, Seth and Aviva
A relaxing moment for CharlieIt's always just the best feeling when you've all finished a great meal, and can simply soak up each others' mellow vibes. It was also especially calming, here, as the waves of Peconic Bay gently lapped the shore, just feet from the veranda. Between their sound and the smell of salt water, this was a perfect end to the day.