Thursday, November 10, 2011

Heaven in the Hamptons: Round Swamp Farm

Elizabeth Zelvin

An unassuming exterior
From the first pat on the shoulder from matriarch Carolyn Lester Snyder (“How are you today, honey?”) to the smile from sisters Dianna and Claire as they ring up my luscious purchases faster than the speed of light (“Put your basket right up here, honey”), the ladies of Round Swamp Farm in East Hampton, the best farm market and then some on Long Island or maybe anywhere, make their customers feel right at home.
Liz at Round Swamp Farm
When I told Carolyn I was blogging about her, she wouldn’t let me take her picture but insisted on snapping one of me.

The family has been on their land for more than three hundred years, and those babies everyone is cooing over are the twelfth generation of “farmers of land and sea.” The three or four next latest generations are the bustling, cheerful flock of mostly redheads who prepare, arrange, and sell the perfect fruits and vegetables, today’s catch of fish and seafood and corn picked only an hour or two ago, delectable baked goods, and ever increasing variety of delicious prepared dishes for summer people who are too blissed out to cook when they get back from the beach. Just walking in there makes me feel cheerful, even when it’s hours till mealtime and a chance to taste all this gorgeous food.

A sumptuous display inside
The impact of weather shows the produce is really home grown.
The Round Swamp folks don’t need a plug from me. Martha Stewart has featured the market on TV. Hillary Clinton wrote them a warm letter after she visited. One day I heard Carolyn telling whoever had answered the phone that she didn’t have time to talk to The New York Times about an article or interview. “We get all the business we need by word of mouth,” Carolyn told me. Word of mouth indeed. The phrase is apt, because I’m only one of many loyal customers—I keep wanting to say “visitors”—who can’t say enough about Round Swamp’s poems for the mouth: their lobster salad, their crabcakes, and their New England clam chowder, to name only a few of the perfect 10s and not to mention the cookies, muffins, and pies, which I spend a lot of energy resisting. Their breads are so good I’ve been known to freeze some for the winter, when they’re closed. Their quiche, their granola, and their cheese sticks are the best I’ve ever tasted. In the last couple of years, they’ve had great success with more ambitious main dishes, such as firepit barbecue pulled pork and buttermilk fried chicken breasts.

In the fall (they’re open through Thanksgiving weekend), it’s time for whipped sweet potatoes, pecan and pumpkin pies, ginger snaps, and split pea and pumpkin soups as well as the superb chowders. But what keeps folks like me coming back, even if I can only get there on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, when (especially between Memorial Day and Labor Day) there’s a line of shoppers that winds through the store and sometimes out the door, is the way Carolyn and her relatives and staff make me feel like part of the family. I love being called “honey.”


Sheila Connolly said...

I'm jealous! I love our local farm markets, especially in Plymouth where it overlooks the harbor. And if you go often enough, you develop relationships with the individual vendors--I've been trading apple stories with one, and apparently we're both clueless about how to prune.

I think I'm encouraged by the fact that the Girl Scouts have introduced a "locavore" badge, although I don't know how a girl is supposed to qualify for it.

Sandra Parshall said...

It sounds wonderful, Liz. Places like this still exist in most parts of the country, but sometimes we have to put a little effort into locating them. Fruit and vegetables in supermarkets will never be satisfactory after you've eaten produce grown locally and sold soon after picking. (Reminds me: I really must start a vegetable garden in the spring. It's been too long since I had one.)

Julia Buckley said...

What a great post! And the photos are terrific. Thanks for sharing.

H. L. Banks said...

Superb post, beautiful phots, and delightfully written. Not too many places like that market left today and being called 'honey' goes with the environment.

H. L. Banks said...

Superb post, beautiful phots, and delightfully written. Not too many places like that market left today and being called 'honey' goes with the environment.

anita said...

love the photos too...............but living in the Gourmet Ghetto of the world, Berkeley, I'm not too jealous...........much love, a