HOGS in Winter: On Collaboration and the Creation of Local Ecologies

For years, we have been hoping for local/seasonal food options in our beloved Northport. It is an essential part of village life that we walk into town to exercise our community membership, support our local businesses, enjoy the beauty and history of our town, and share in a meal. Often though, we are saddened to see the same choices on menus day in and day out.  And while in places like the Hudson Valley, Vermont, Maine, the Adirondacks, California, Colorado, and in fact much of the rest of the world, local/seasonal choices are more common than not, here in central Long Island, many are still awaiting such options.

The benefits of local/seasonal food are abundant. Not only do farm-to-table restaurants provide healthy and delicious dinging options, but they also help strengthen local economies. They require less energy in-put, in the form of fossil fuels (refrigerated trucks driving across the country, fleets of giant diesel machines to run large scale factory farms, etc.) as well as reducing the need for preservatives and packaging. And perhaps what is most important, are the ways in which eating locally grown food can help to shift attitudes toward how we eat, what we eat, and when we eat it. It is pretty simple ecology. Locally grown food, as a matter of course, teaches us about the diversity of our places and what those places naturally have to offer. In this sense, farm-to-table restaurants educate as much as they satiate.

And so, Dylan started talking to some restaurant owners in Northport, to see if any of them would be interested in integrating some seasonal/local choices onto their menus. It is a tough sell. The economic realities of small businesses, which must compete with large corporate chains and interests, dictate that if, somehow, they are able to squeak out a living, they are reluctant to change anything that may upset their carefully balanced business formulas. Lucky for us, Danyell, owner and chef at Campari Ristorante (soon to be renamed Danyell’s Kitchen) was interested in the idea. Dylan had also been in conversation with Toby Tobias, a local musician and music producer, who was interested in creating an original, world music venue, where people could enjoy a libation and bite to eat. For the past couple months, Dylan, Danyell, and Toby have been in conversation, sharing their ecological, culinary, and artistic visions, in order to create “The Sweet Spot at Cucina ‘D’,” (http://sweetspotvenue.com), which represents the coming together of some passionate and creative people who are also deeply invested in nurturing community spirit and resilience here in Northport.

 Dylan, Danyell, and Toby (photo credit: Maggy Kilroy) 

Dylan, Danyell, and Toby (photo credit: Maggy Kilroy) 

The first celerbration will be on Feburary 21st. Gregory Greene, a celtic-inspired musician. Danyell’s menu choices that night will correspond. Winter in NY is a good time for root vegetables: potato, carrot, beet, parsnip, garlic, onion, and proteins such as fish and lamb. And we can look forward to the full array of greens and early season veggies such as escarole, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and rabe as we move towards the spring.

Danyell and Dylan are currently in dialogue with local farmers, such as Makinajian Farm, and food suppliers, such as Baldor's, and as we move closer to springtime, more and more choices on the menu will be locally and sustainably sourced.  The cooperative efforts extend further through offerings of Blind Bat Brewary’s wonderful beer, which is brewed locally here in Suffolk County (many ingredients locally sourced and purchased through a grassroots Co-op effort in Centerport), delicious, homemade, desserts lovingly prepared by Rosemary of Caffe Portofino, and a selection of unique teas and tisanes provided by Melissa of The Clipper Ship Tea Company. Additonal relationships are in the works to offer some of Long Island’s local wine as well. Rather than a revolution happening over night, the transformation at Campari (Danyell’s Kitchen) is an ongoing process, experiment, dialogue, and collaboration between friends, neighbors, and like-minded folks. And the more people that participate, the stronger that process becomes.

Often we think of ecology as being something to do with the natural world, but the word itself ultimately suggests the condition of interrelation; ecologies are found not just between members of an eco-system, but also between members of a community, as well as between people and their places.  And so, when you buy a ticket to one of these upcoming events at The Sweet Spot at Cucina ‘D’, you’re doing more than just enjoying some great food and music with friends; you are actively supporting an ongoing collaborative process of manifesting hopes and ideals into practical solutions and transformations. Indeed, by dining with us at Danyell's Kitchen, you’re helping to strengthen a resilient ecology here on Long Island.