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Long Island-grown produce spotlighted at Food Lab conference

Chef Nicholas Poulmentis prepares Chef Nick's Goat Cheese

Chef Nicholas Poulmentis prepares Chef Nick's Goat Cheese Gnocchi while Bridget LeRoy, a journalist for The Independent Newspaper and a radio show host on 88.3 WPPB FM, moderates at the fifth annual Food Lab Conference on Saturday at the Southampton Campus of Stony Brook University. Credit: Doug Kuntz/Doug Kuntz

In the past few decades, eastern Long Island has been transformed into one of the country’s best wine-growing regions, and with a cornucopia of high-quality produce grown in a region previously home to miles of commercial potato farms, panelists at a Southampton food conference said Saturday.

The fifth annual Stony Brook University Southampton Food Lab Conference focused on the Island's crops and seafood, and the record attendance of about 150 people illustrated the interest in local products, said Geoffrey Drummond, Food Lab’s executive director and a longtime producer and director of television food shows. 

“It speaks to the growth of a food consciousness and the growth of a food community,” he said.

Just as such regions as the San Francisco Bay Area and Napa Valley in California are known for the quality of their food and wine, “we are developing a full cuisine or terroir, if you will, that is very much like that and should be recognized as a region and appreciated,” he said.

Eastern Long Island's ocean breezes, direct sunlight and good soil give wine from grapes grown in the area “this elegance, this finesse, this vibrancy,” said Roman Roth, winemaker at Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, who called Long Island wines “the most food-friendly wines in America.”

Eberhard Müller, a chef and the co-owner of Satur Farms in Cutchogue, agreed, saying the acidity and minerality of Long Island wines go well with food. 

“There are a handful or two handfuls of wineries or more [on Long Island] that are as good as in any wine region in the country, if not the world,” he said.

Yet, he said, because “in terms of wine, Long Island is a very young region,” it hasn’t built up the type of reputation that wine-growing areas elsewhere have, so the quality of the wine isn’t as widely recognized.

Müller said he and his wife, Paulette Satur, launched their farm in the mid-1990s in part because they couldn't find good, locally grown produce for the upscale Manhattan restaurant where he was executive chef. Soon, other restaurants began buying from them.

Müller also farms in Florida, but he noted that a bean grown on Long Island tastes much better than one grown in Florida.

“The quality of the product you can grow on soils on Long Island is just unmatched,” he said.

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