I met Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jennson years ago at Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World wine class, when I was a neophyte wine lover and they were guest speakers. I always knew the duo as the World Wine Guys, so I was surprised to run into them in Manhattan fresh off of a day promoting their Fire Island Cookbook. Because man cannot live by wine alone, it turns out they are also very handy in the kitchen. I’ve always found the pair to have a wonderful breezy attitude and an appreciation for the good life – and it all comes through in this new book.
If you’re not from around these parts, you should know that Fire Island is a very special shore destination beloved by harried Manhattanites. The lovely strip of beach is a true getaway: no cars are allowed and it’s only accessible by boat. It’s one of New Yorkers’ favorite summer rituals to board the ferry on Friday afternoon. By the time the crossing is finished, stress has eased away and smart phones aren’t used for work anymore, just texting friends to meet at the nearest bar. Yet while the island is relaxing, its residents have casual chic down to an art form, and this comes across in the beautiful photography of the summer fresh fare in the book.
Each chapter has a full dinner party menu, from appetizers to mains to desserts and--since the two are experts in the vinous pleasures of life--wine pairings. The menu themes reflect their love of travel: Mediterranean Odyssey, Villa in Tuscany, Portside in Puerto Vallarta. With recipes like Gazpacho, Greek Yogurt with homemade Fig Compote, Bistecca Alla Fiorentina, Herbs de Provence Grilled Lambchops -these are like four star vacations in a meal. The recipes make sense for the rhythm of beach life, with many being light and easy to prepare, and others – I love this – being elaborate preparations for those days when sun and fun are rained out.
With Memorial Day Weekend less than seven days away, I’m ready for summer, sand, and taking a spin in the kitchen with the Fire Island Cookbook.