Island to Table returns to Patchogue for its third consecutive year on Sunday, Aug. 26. One of Long Island’s premier foodie functions, Island to Table joins talented chefs with local farms for an incredible celebration of food and community.
Below, chef Zach Rude of Verde Kitchen & Cocktails and Coastal Kitchen & Daiquiri Bar and Sean Pilger of the H.O.G. Farm in Brookhaven Hamlet talk about the importance of variety and the power of fresh, local ingredients. You’ll also find out what they’re bringing to the table on Aug. 26. Click here for tickets.
by Emily Mancini
There’s always something new on the stand at H.O.G. (Hamlet Organic Garden) Farm in Brookhaven.
This week, it’s loaded with juicy red tomatoes, a colorful variety of peppers, eggplant, and classic summer sweet corn. Wait two to three more weeks, and the cantaloupes and summer melons will be at their peak flavor. Once the weather starts to cool down, you’ll find hearty sweet potatoes, beets, cabbage and, of course, pumpkins.
This diversity of selection keeps the farm ecosystem healthy and the community happy, says H.O.G.’s Head Farmer, Sean Pilger.
The 38-year-old Brookhaven native had his first exposure to farming here in Long Island, back in high school.
“I spent about 10 minutes weeding spinach and thought, this isn’t for me,” he laughs. “I never realized I’d be back here running the whole farm.”
Pilger credits his time in Ithaca and Western Massachusetts with re-igniting his interest in farming.
“In those places, you’re surrounded by farms, and eating locally is a big part of the community,” he said. “I was tempted to put down roots there, but what I like about being a farmer on Long Island is that you’re preserving a sort of tradition. There’s something powerful about bringing fresh, local food to people in an area that has experienced a significant wave of development.”
In addition to the farm stand, which operates every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 319 Beaver Dam Road in Brookhaven, the 18-acre farm offers a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that gives members weekly or bi-weekly access to the season’s freshest produce.
“How it works is, a member pays their share up front for the season,” explains Pilger. “Then, every week, they can pick up a box of the latest harvest at the farm or at one of our other pickup locations. This season, we had over 150 families buy shares.”
It’s a win-win for the farmers, the families, and for local chefs, who take full advantage of having the freshest veggies available just a few minutes away.
Rude is one of this year’s featured chefs at the Island to Table fundraiser.
The talented 33-year-old from Babylon, who formerly cooked at the Hideaway in Ocean Beach and Luce & Hawkins in Jamesport, has since firmly established himself within the South Shore’s culinary scene with his refined, traditional Mexican-style cooking.
Whether Rude is cooking at Coastal or Verde, freshness and quality of ingredients is key, he says. Verde’s main dining room is situated in a functional greenhouse, packed with herbs and flowers.
But there’s only so much you can grow in a little greenhouse.
When it comes to everything else, Rude turns to the H.O.G. Farm.
“Sean gives me a forecast of season, and I actually structure my menus around what they’re harvesting,” Rude said. “He has a great variety, so it gives me a lot to work with. And, it’s the freshest you could possibly get so there’s nothing that can beat the taste.
“One season, he had this baby flowering broccolini, and it was just the greatest broccoli I’ve ever tasted.”
At Coastal, Rude posts what he calls the ‘Daily Veggie Board,’ a rotating list of the day’s freshest picks from the farm, prepared in a variety of creative ways.
“That’s the fun thing about working with chefs like Zach,” says Pilger, who’s supplied produce to Rude for about two years. “They’re adventurous, they like experimenting with different flavors, and they’re open to using the more unconventional vegetables. When people go out to eat, they get to try them, and later they’ll come to the farm and ask for them.
“That diversity keeps our farm’s ecosystem healthy,” he continued, “plus you get to expose people to things they’ve never tried before. It’s a great way to start a conversation.”
Chef Rude will be getting the conversation started at Island to Table with a porgy ceviche appetizer — freshly caught local porgy marinated in citrus juices and tossed with medley of fresh H.O.G. Farm vegetables.
And H.O.G. Farm’s peak season sweet corn will star in Chef Rude’s Island to Table entrée: vegetarian smoked corn pozole. A savory, flavorful stew, pozole is a classic comfort food in Mexico, often eaten during holiday celebrations.
While traditionally made with pork, Rude’s version will be 100 percent vegetarian, incorporating a delightful variety of H.O.G.’s freshest vegetables and herbs.
“Traditionally, pozole is a very interactive dish,” says Rude. “It’s often served with shredded cabbage, chile peppers, onion, garlic, radishes, avocado, or lime, so you have all of these additional flavors you can add.
“The fresh vegetables I’m using [from H.O.G. Farms] have that same kind of variety and complexity, making it a really engaging dish. I’ll also be using these extremely flavorful microgreens from Koppert Cress to top it all off.”
Tickets are $150 each.
Last year’s sold-out dinner raised over $10,000 for HomeGrown Change, a local sustainability and educational group that introduces young people to gardening.
Greater Long Island Media Group is the event’s media sponsor.
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Photo: Zach Rude at Coastal Kitchen & Daiquiri Bar in Bay Shore. (Credit: Benny Migliorino/Benny Migs Photo)