AT HOME WITH VITA x Susan Spungen
AT HOME WITH VITA is a monthly interview with artists, designers, and friends who inspire us.Susan Spungen is a cook, food stylist, recipe developer, and cookbook author. She was the founding food editor at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia from its inception until 2003. Her talents have also been featured on screen, serving as the culinary consultant and food stylist on the major films like Julie & Julia, It’s Complicated, and Eat, Pray, Love. Susan is the author of Open Kitchen: Inspired Food for Casual Gatherings, Recipes: A Collection for the Modern Cook, What’s a Hostess to Do?, and Strawberries (a Short Stack Edition) and co-author of the best-selling Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook. She lives in New York City and East Hampton, NY.
How do you celebrate the arrival of spring out east?
Susan Spungen: I look forward to the first day I can nab a bunch of asparagus (or two) from Marilee’s farmstand in Sagaponack. This kicks off my craving for all the spring things to come. I also like to walk around my garden and see everything coming to life, especially the peonies.
What are your essentials to setting a festive table at home?
Susan Spungen: My husband Steve and I collect a lot of beautiful ceramics and we love using them. We mix and match our favorite pieces and forage from the yard for flowers/foliage. There’s always something, even in winter.
What recipes do you find yourself making repeatedly this time of year?
Susan Spungen: Local asparagus with a poached egg and a slice of ham. Homemade sourdough on the side. Nothing better.
What are your go-to date night spots?
Susan Spungen: I get this question a lot, but most of the time we eat at home. BUT I like to sit at the bar at Almond in Bridgehampton and eat oysters, shrimp cocktail, and French fries with chilled white wine. We take out pretty regularly from Town Line BBQ. I used to enjoy a movie and Rowdy Hall, but I haven’t done that in a while! And of course we’re thrilled to have Il Buco al Mare just five minutes away. It’s a great addition to our town!
What does a spring menu look like and taste like for you? Any specific recipes?
Susan Spungen: Here’s a vegetarian one I put together for my book, Open Kitchen:
Burrata with Pickled Cherries
Mixed Peas over Whipped Feta
Sugar Snap Pea and Radish Salad
Strawberry Tart with Pistachio Crust.
What spring cleaning routines do you practice at home?
Susan Spungen: I wouldn’t say I routinely clean anything, but my spice drawer needs an overhaul at the moment. Other than that, I always do a job on the outdoor furniture, and get my herbs pots ready for the season.
Describe your entertaining style.
Susan Spungen: I embrace the concept of sprezzatura; I want everything to be beautiful and delicious but not seem like I’m trying too hard, in other words, studied nonchalance. Uncontrived and a little bit undone. I’ve learned over the years that less is more where a menu is concerned. I always plan my menu carefully and like Coco Chanel, I always take one thing off. As far as the table goes, we like a natural look, with handmade items, soft textured linens, and mostly neutral colors with plenty of black for punctuation and an occasional burst of color.
No meal/party is complete without:
Susan Spungen: Interesting guests who don’t know each other, unusual wines, and preferably a beautiful warm night so we can sit outside.
Who features heavily on your entertaining playlist?
Susan Spungen: It’s kind of a joke around here, but I often put on a Carla Bruni Pandora Station, which is a lot of French pop music, and it always sets a nice tone and never gets too loud. Could also be Miles Davis Sketches of Spain, or anything Leonard Cohen.
What are your favorite purveyors or resources to pick up local produce, provisions, or catering?
Susan Spungen: Marilee’s Farmstand for the best local produce, Iacono Farms for chickens, Amber Waves, S & S Cornershop for hard-to-find pantry items and interesting confections, and a coffee while I’m there, Round Swamp Farm for warm baked goods, Cavaniola’s Cheese and Gourmet for cheese and other delicacies, Domaine Franey for wine and booze, Hen of the Woods in Southampton, Mitad Del Mundo for Latin ingredients
Whose home would you be the most excited to be invited to for dinner, and why?
Susan Spungen: If I could go back in time, I would have given anything to be a dinner guest at Georgia O’Keeffe’s house in Abiquiu, New Mexico. I toured her extremely well-preserved kitchen a few years ago and got to peer into the dining room. You can tell she was a great cook and host.