Do you ever watch Ina Garten in her Hamptons home on the Barefoot Contessa and wonder who, exactly, entertains like that?
Although lately I have written about dining and drinking out, the truth is that for most residents of the Hamptons, weekends mean eating at home. I was lucky enough to join Joe Billone and Mark Bodine at their home recently for a weekend of perfect hosting. Like Ina’s meals on Barefoot Contessa, ours could have been broadcasted, inspiring envy in those watching.
Their kitchen is designed for serious cooking and socializing. A spacious granite island with a sink acts as a stage, while guests watch the food preparation from comfortable stools. And something I’ve always wanted- abundant and easily accessible shelving to hold cookbooks and magazines. In Mark and Joe’s house, these shelves are lined with the greats: Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, Barbara Kafka, Lidia Bastianich- and classic magazines like Gourmet and Bon Appétit dating back twenty years.
Mark and Joe are perfectly matched when it comes to entertaining- Joe is a master home chef, while Mark possesses the charm and intelligence essential to make guests feel welcomed and amused.
Joe cooks with intensity. He consults his recipes and prepares the ingredients quietly and with focus. He served two perfect meals during my visit; the first so swept me off my feet- I didn’t even pause to take proper photos. The star was a simple but inspired pasta dish using noodles Joe swears are the closest to homemade he’s ever tasted (and I agree): Cipriani Food Tagliarelle Extra Thin Egg Pasta with Spinach, purchased at Citarella in East Hampton. With these, Joe sautéed local tomatoes, squash and corn and sprinkled with basil and parmesan. Served with two simply roasted chickens.
On the second day, Joe’s shopping began at an East Hampton institution: Round Swamp Farm. Another friend of mine affectionately refers to Round Swamp as “Tiffany’s.” Like Tiffany’s, one could argue their food is worth the price. The tiny store is packed with boundless array of prepared foods, baked goods and local produce. The fresh seafood display case displays not only the name of the product, but the local fisherman who caught it. A special refrigerated room keeps the produce fresh and healthy; more hardy items sit outside. Here, Joe bought small red potatoes, corn and leeks for our evening meal. All from neighboring farms.
At Tim’s Prime Meats in Sag Harbor, Joe purchased strip steaks, which he prepared with a whiskey mustard sauce- and a rib eye, which he prepped with a dry rub.
As accompaniments, Joe prepared his Round Swamp leeks using a Fine Cooking recipe for Creamy Baked Leeks with Garlic, Thyme and Parmigiano, and roasted the red potatoes with olive oil and fresh rosemary.
The corn he served just as it should be- adorned only with sweet butter and salt.
The meal culminated with a blueberry peach pie from Round Swamp Farm. It was so good it passed my ultimate pie test: I ate it for breakfast the following morning.
“Eating in” with Joe and Mark was for me the very best in Hamptons dining.
Mark Bodine and Joe Billone, Hosts Extraordinaire, in their East Hampton Home