Dan’s Taste of Two Forks Presented by Farrell Building is a celebration of both the new—new local chefs, new restaurants, our new location at Fairview Farm at Mecox this year—and the traditional, the historic relationship the East End has had with farming and fishing and a dedication to culinary excellence. One of the most anticipated traditions at Taste of Two Forks is the handing out of the ceremonial giant fork to the annual honoree, an individual who has become an essential and esteemed member of the local culinary community, such as past honorees B. Smith, Anna Pump and Gerry Hayden.
This year, we are proud to be expanding the honors by handing out not one but two pieces of cutlery, to brothers Harry and Art Ludlow—of Fairview Farm at Mecox and Mecox Bay Diary, respectively—and their families, whose roots in the East End agricultural community run long and deep.
“I suppose it started in this location back in the 1870s with two brothers, who each bought 10 acres side by side, and they got their livelihood out of the creeks and bays,” says Harry, standing next to Art on the land where their ancestors laid the foundation for this conversation. “They were caretakers and also did some agriculture, but the next generation relied on agriculture much more intensely, and had a dairy farm and a potato operation which continued until 1960.”
Changing regulations and economics made dairy farming a less profitable venture, and potatoes became the dominant crop for the Ludlows until 2000, “the last year the farm grew wholesale potatoes,” Harry continues. “That was when my brother and I separated our business relationship so we could pursue our personal passions with our families on the same property.”
Art, whose interests were more animal-based than crop-based, and his wife, Stacy, started Mecox Bay Dairy with a passion for cheese-making that has turned it into an award-winning enterprise. “We had cows back when I was kid, up until I was about 8 years old,” he says. “I always liked cows, and when we decided to stop growing potatoes I wasn’t ready to retire, so I thought it was a good time to experiment.”
He began with three cheeses, in April 2003, and soon found critical acclaim. “In 2004 I entered the Mecox Sunrise, which is a washed rind thome, into an annual competition the American Cheese Society puts on, and it took second place in its category of open class raw milk cheeses. So I was quite pleased with that.”
The dairy continues to make those original three cheeses and others today, but business is certainly not only cheese. “We’re producing milk from the cows that we have, and they’re grass-based, and we’re producing raw milk cheese, and we also have a raw milk permit, so I can sell it legally,” says Art, whose oldest son, Peter, is also in the business. “We also do beef and pork and turkeys at Thanksgiving time.”
Harry and his side of the family went a different direction with Fairview Farm at Mecox and a farmstand that draws dedicated local chefs, neighbors, Up-Islanders and vacationers alike. “We started to produce virtually any kind of vegetable that can be grown on the East End. My wife, Barbara, is an artist and is trained in flowers, and makes the gorgeous flower arrangements for customers. We also do a corn maze in the fall, which is a wonderful way to bring in more customers from different parts of the island and the state.” In addition to the bounty of produce and flowers at their farmstand—and Mecox Bay Dairy cheeses, of course—customers flock for the pies his daughter, Meredith, has made famous (and which guests will get to sample at Taste of Two Forks!), honey from his beekeeper son, Nathan, and the ever-growing lineup of breads, including a challah perfected by Harry himself.
“What I find is our customers are want the highest quality of whatever it is they’re looking for,” Harry says. “They’re very willing to pay a premium for extra effort, and we’re very willing to go the extra mile. It’s very difficult to both have the top quality product and the cheapest, so we can’t compete against wholesale mass-produced agriculture—so we don’t try. But what we push for is something that stands aside. We want somebody to say ‘Wow’ when they take a bite.”
Dan’s Taste of Two Forks, hosted by Alex Guarnaschelli and Katie Lee, is this Saturday, July 23, at 7:30 p.m. at Fairview Farm at Mecox in Bridgehampton. Limited tickets remain, so please check DansTasteofSummer.com for availability.