Alex Guarnaschelli is known for the many different hats she wears—chef, author, television personality, restaurateur, Hamptonite. It’d be easy to assume that nothing could excite or wow her. That assumption couldn’t be more inaccurate. The Food Network star of Chopped and Alex’s Day Off will host this year’s Dan’s Taste of Two Forks presented by Farrell Building Company on Saturday, July 23, at Fairview Farm at Mecox. She delights in the food-filled world around her, relishing the most simple ingredients and ideas.
The daughter of a prominent cookbook editor, Guarnaschelli has been around the food industry her entire life and wouldn’t have it any other way. She has fond recollections of growing up in Garden City and traveling to Manhattan. “I have a vivid memory of Little Italy and eating a cannoli with my parents, walking over to Di Palo’s and getting prosciutto and meeting [owner] Lou Di Palo,” Guarnaschelli reminisces. “It was a journey—an exploration of my Italian heritage and culture.”
Guarnaschelli, who owns a house in Bridgehampton, looks forward to Dan’s Taste of Two Forks each year. “I love meeting and talking to the chefs at Taste of Two Forks,” she says. “They set up a little turf war between the North Fork and South and I find that endearing. I never mind that there’s a bit of friendly competition! You get a real sampling of the foods of Long Island [at Dan’s Taste of Two Forks], seasonality…it’s not like we have to go out of our way to find good [ingredients], so it’s great.” Guarnaschelli is a true believer in local ingredients. “The other thing is, when a chef uses local stuff, it’s so much easier to make better dishes with them. Our job is half as hard!”
Knowing and building a community of restaurants and chefs is important to Guarnaschelli (who owns the restaurant Butter), who acknowledges that the East End is far different than, say, Manhattan. “I like to try a sampling of restaurants, and build awareness of the food community. In Manhattan, there are so many restaurants on one block,” she notes. “This is a great way to kind of get exposed to all sorts of different ones.”
As the summer approaches, Guarnaschelli enjoys her quiet Bridgehampton life, clarifying that, to her, the Hamptons are not just a vacation. “I go to Pike Farms [in Sagaponack], buy whatever they have and I go home and then eat it. And the next day, and the day after that,” she laughs. “It’s what I do. It makes me really happy. It’s not terribly romantic!”
So, what does Guarnaschelli make with all these local ingredients? “I like going super simple,” she says matter-of-factly. “[Lately] I’ve been really into the arugula plant. I’ll mix it with kale and pine nuts, it’s so good. My friends are like, ‘You’re a genius!’ I literally went to Green Thumb [in Water Mill], bought the arugula and nuts, tossed them together and all of a sudden it’s like I’m a rocket scientist,” she laughs.
As for a summer drink, Guarnaschelli has another simple suggestion. “Take a cup of ice, fill an obscenely large wine glass and add a splash of apple and slice of orange and recline!”
When pressed for her favorite summer dessert, Guarnaschelli points to one of her popular recipes, known as the fool. “Whatever’s good at the farmstand—berries, peaches—cut one fruit up, mix it with whipped cream, bake some butter shortbread and put it together. It’s so good, but so simple.”
Dan’s Taste of Summer kicks off with Dan’s GrillHampton hosted by Adam Richman on Friday, July 22, and continues on Saturday, July 23, with Dan’s Taste of Two Forks presented by Farrell Building Company hosted by Alex Guarnaschelli, both on the waterfront at Fairview Farm at Mecox in Bridgehampton. The oceanfront food and drink fest ClambakeMTK at Gurney’s Montauk hosted by Marc Murphy and Eden Grinshpan premieres on Saturday, July 30. Dan’s Harvest East End, the can’t-miss food and wine classic, hosted by Geoffrey Zakarian is Saturday, August 20, at McCall Vineyard and Ranch in Cutchogue. For tickets and more info on all Dan’s Taste of Summer events, visit DansTasteofSummer.com! A portion of this year’s ticket proceeds from GrillHampton and Taste of Two Forks will benefit All For The East End (AFTEE), a 501(c)(3) that showcases and provides support to the more than 1,000 charity organizations in the five East End towns. A portion of proceeds from Harvest East End benefits Long Island Farm Bureau and HRHCare.