Farm-to-table cooking is staging a renaissance, thanks to chefs around the country who spearheaded the craze for locally farmed, organic foods. The passion for eating farm-fresh fare has trickled down to the masses in Fairfield County, with soccer moms and investment bankers rubbing elbows at area farmer’s markets, sampling ripe vegetables and fresh fruits in season. Creating sumptuous, healthy and all-natural meals at home is easier than ever. We visited the newly relaunched Double L farm stand on the Post Road in Southport, one of the local places that offers a wide variety of seasonal food.
The Double L was first opened on Kings Highway North in Westport in 1986. This June original founder Lloyd Allen relaunched it with Justin Hawryluk and Emily Fenn, who had worked at the original stand as teens. Hawryluk was previously a local farm produce buyer at Fresh Direct in New York City, and Fenn was a schoolteacher.
Allen, whose father was a gardener, admits that getting his hands dirty excites him. “Justin brought me back to my roots. For a while, I had the writing bug,” he offers, alluding to his 2006 book Being Martha, about his former Westport neighbor Martha Stewart. “But I really missed the farm stand. When Justin called me and said he wanted to open up something out here, I picked him up at the train station from New York and drove him around until we found this,” he gestures as he stands in front of the rough-hewn red structure on a dusty lot.
The trio is gathering fresh ingredients for a celebratory meal at Allen’s home in Weston. The Double L’s first summer was a resounding success, with truckloads of sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes, buttery lettuce, herbs and zinnias native to Connecticut being carried off by happy, repeat customers. “People wanted local food, healthy food and the old-fashioned experience of pulling off the side of the road to get it. We’ve brought back that little bit of lost humanity,” Allen explains.
The human touch is a large part of the stand’s winning formula. Customers come in and the friendly staff is ready with updates on what’s fresh, they offer samples and carry produce to customers’ cars. “I love hoisting every box,” he enthuses.
Despite setbacks and challenges (like a delivery of sweet corn that arrived a day after the advertised date for the big sale), the Double L plucked through its first summer to become a hit in the area. It has also allowed the three principals to satisfy an entrepreneurial yearning. Fenn, who stopped by to say hello one day, could not have imagined that she would return to her favorite summer job — this time as a partner. “I used to tell my mom that working at the stand was the most fun job I ever had,” she recalls. “When I walked in this summer, something just felt right about the place.” Today, she does everything from marketing and advertising to working the register to designing merchandising.
The distinctive red building with bold white lettering did not inspire confidence upon initial inspection. When friends saw the ramshackle “barn” with a leaky roof, they pointed out all the work it would need and the realities of opening a small business in a down economy. Allen and his crew saw it differently: “We thought the timing was spot-on, with more people interested in eating foods grown close to home. We were itching to get our hands on these beautiful vegetables and plants in time for summer, so we just went for it.”
They used the Double L’s quirky facade to create a homespun vibe that has become a big part of the stand’s appeal. “I can’t tell you how many people stop in and say, ‘I saw the hand-lettering on your barn and I just had to pull over for fresh corn,’” Hawryluk explains. He recalls customers, after tasting their berries or watermelon, saying things like, “I could kick myself for buying my produce in the supermarket. I’ll be back!”
It’s easy to be taken in by the staff’s old-fashioned sweat and genuine enjoyment of their hard work. “Part of the fun of what we do is that we get to visit the farms, talk to the farmers and feel like we’re really supporting their efforts to stay in business,” Hawryluk explains. “The bonus is that we get amazing fruits, vegetables and flowers that were all grown either in Connecticut, Long Island or New York. We pull from
a lot of farms. It’s great to be able to make a meal and know that it consists of delicious, locally farmed goods in season.”
Delicious Eating in Season
Having filled several baskets with fingerling potatoes, gorgeous squashes, ripe apples from an orchard in Geneva, New York; gourds, squash and pumpkins from upstate Connecticut; and bunches of fresh arugula from Long Island’s North Fork, the Double L team is ready to feast on the fruits of their labor. For Allen, in whom the heart of a farmer beats, the fall harvest is pure elation. “All the good stuff is available in spades. With the colors — those yellows, chartreuses and reds — it’s the prettiest time of the year,” he says.
Hawryluk created tonight’s menu to make the most of the season’s offerings — rainbow chard, plums, arugula. “It’s easy to think up a meal in season,” he says. “You select what’s available, so your choices are limited to what’s fresh and appropriate. For instance, we lucked out and managed to get late-harvest emperor’s plums that are still in season, so I decided to incorporate my grandmother’s plum galette for dessert.”
As he moves to the sink, Hawryluk beckons, “Take a look at these beauties,” while rinsing off freshly caught scallops from Gosman’s Dock in Montauk. “You can’t get them any fresher. And just wait ’til you try them with this,” he exclaims as he grabs a bottle of 2007 Tocai Friulano, a fruity white wine from Millbrook Vineyards in Millbrook. In the dining room, Allen’s wife, Leslie, who brings her magazine editor sensibilities into her home, drapes the table with an Elizabeth Eakins throw and tops it with a vibrant centerpiece created by Charles at the Flower Basket in Westport.
Fenn, who is in the kitchen drizzling a homemade dressing on the plated salads, explains how the Double L team has found a way to extend nature’s bounty beyond the crates of fresh produce that line its store. “Sometimes we get an overabundance of zucchini or boxes of cherries or blueberries that are a little past their time and are perfectly good, but that we can’t sell. We all felt very strongly that we didn’t want any of our excess foods at the stand to go to waste. We decided to donate them to a program called Horizons,” Fenn says. Using the facilities at Greens Farms Academy, Horizons, an enrichment program where Fenn worked for four years, provides classes in academics, the arts, computers and swimming for less-privileged children from Bridgeport.
As his friends and family gather around the table, Lloyd raises his glass to make a toast. “We did it! The Double L is back! Here’s to all of you who made it possible.” They clink glasses of Cabernet all around and settle in for a locally grown feast.
Goat cheese with crostini
3- 4.5 oz catapano farm goat cheese (Peconic, Long Island); super creamy clean, finished goat cheese lends itself well to fresh cracked pepper and herbs
Take each square of goat cheese (cold from the fridge) and roll into log shape about 4” long and roll in the following crusts
Red pepper corn crust
3 tbs pink pepper corns
crush pepper corns in a mortar and pestle
Roll goat cheese log in crushed pepper corns
Black pepper corn crust
2 tbs of pepper corns
coarsely pulverize peppercorns in the mortar and pestle.
Roll goat cheese in the crushed black pepper
Mixed herb crust
1 tbs finely chopped chive
1 tbs finely chopped thyme
1 tbs finely chopped parsley
1 tbs finely chopped tarragon
Roll goat cheese in the herb crust
Plate all logs and serve along with toasted baguette.
Gosman’s day boat scallops with wild arugula and honey dressing
1.5 lbs of day boat scallops (10-20 ct.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil to lightly coat scallops
15 6” bamboo skewers
Skewer 2 scallops per skewer.
Season with salt and pepper.
Lightly coat with oil.
Cook on a medium high, clean grill for 4 minutes per side.
The scallops will lift off the grill cleanly when each side is fully cooked.
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tbs of olive oil
1/2 tbs of chopped chive
1/2 tbs of chopped parsley
2 tbs of honey
pinch of salt, pinch of pepper
6 oz Satur Farm wild arugula
Serve skewers on top of dressed arugula with extra wedges of lemon
Herb crusted grilled lamb
1 boneless leg of lab (2-3 lbs)
4 cloves of crushed garlic
1 tbs finely chopped thyme
1 tbs finely chopped rosemary
1 tbs finely chopped parsley
1/2 tbs salt
1/2 tbs cracked pepper
2 tbs olive oil
Combine all herbs, oil, salt, pepper and garlic in a mixing bowl into a paste.
Add lamb and coat with mixture on both sides.
Roll leg and tie with cotton butchers twine.
Sear meat on grill on high heat.
Move off to a cooler part to finish cooking (aprox. 45 min) or until 140 degrees)
Roast potato medley
Preheat oven to 350*
(cutting all potatoes the same size is very important for even cooking)
1/2 lb Satur Farm red bliss creamer potatoes
1/2 lb Satur Farm yukon gold creamer potatoes
1/2 lb Satur Farm fingerling potatoes
2 leaks (whites only) thinly jullienned
1/2 tbs thyme
2 cloves garlic
liberal pinch salt
3 tbs olive oil
Combine all ingredients into a large 12” cast iron pan
Cook for 45-60 minutes, or until done
Grilled late harvest corn with truffle butter
Corn season is not over after Labor Day. Savory corn is available through November.)
Clean excessive butt and silk from the top of the corn, as it has a tendency to burn.
Grill corn in husks for 15-20 minutes on medium heat, or until brown all around
Leave in husks until ready to serve.
Husk corn and serve with truffle butter
12 rainbow chard leaves
salt and pepper
Take rib out of chard 1” past where leaves start.
Roughly chop leaves horizontally 1" wide.
Sautee in a preheated pan with high sides until fully wilted.