Find flavor in Fairfield

Restaurateur David Hirsch will share recipes and tips at Lavender Festival in Pa.

Restaurateur David Hirsch will share recipes and tips at Lavender Festival in Pa.

June 17, 2009|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

FAIRFIELD, Pa. - Before the fall of 1976, when David Hirsch joined the staff at Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, N.Y., his eating skills were fairly limited.

"Oh, I was a terrible eater," he says with a laugh during a telephone interview from Moosewood, where he is now co-owner. "When my family found out where I was working, it kind of became a joke."

Moosewood Restaurant, located in downtown Ithaca, has been open since 1973. The emphasis of the menu is on healthful food. It specializes in vegetarian and vegan fare.

In the 1980s, the restaurant received international attention when its 19 co-owners started publishing cookbooks with dishes whipped up in the Moosewood kitchen.


Today, the restaurant has published more than 11 cookbooks, including one Hirsch penned himself, "The Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden: Creative Gardening for the Adventurous Cook." And the restaurant also produces food products that are 100 percent organic.

Hirsch, 63, is keynote speaker this weekend at the Pennsylvania Lavender Festival at Willow Pond Farm in Fairfield, Pa. He will demonstrate a bit of what he's learned over the years at Moosewood Restaurant. He also will sign copies of his cookbook.

An early appreciation

Hirsch was introduced to Moosewood by a neighbor who was working at the restaurant. Hirsch had eaten at the restaurant several times and enjoyed what he was being served.

When he came to Moosewood, Hirsch admits his cooking skills were as limiting as his eating skills. He had semi-professional experience working as a cook at a Cornell University fraternity house. There, the specialty was pork chops placed on an industrial-size baking sheet and smothered in an institutional can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup before baking.

"That was one job I was very happy to leave," he says.

When he started working at Moosewood, Hirsch thought it would just be a "nice thing to do."

"I never thought it was going to be my career," he says.

In fact, he had gone to school to be an architect. He thought his career would involve sitting behind a drafting board all day. But he moved from New York City to Ithaca, leaving his drafting board behind. While he worked at Moosewood, he built a cabin and started to build his culinary foundation as well.

Cooking and gardening

Today, Hirsch has fine-tuned his skills as a cook and as an avid gardener. In addition to working a few days a week at the restaurant, Hirsch leads cooking classes and demonstrations all over the United States. He also lectures on cooking and gardening.

The two demonstrations he will be leading at the lavender fair are "Summer Cooking With Fresh Herbs" and "Cooking with Herbs of the Mediterranean."

Hirsch admits that although he is attending the Lavender Festival, he won't be sharing any recipes that include lavender in his dishes. He says he loves the smell of it, but has only a limited familiarity with the herb. Instead, he defers to Willow Pond Farm owners Tom and Madeline Wajda for anyone wanting advice on lavender. He might be found, though, cutting some lavender from the farm's crop.

Fresh versus dried

Through his demos, Hirsch says he wants people to understand they can use fresh herbs in their cooking. Not that dried herbs are bad, he says, but at this time of year, fresh herbs are so readily available for dishes.

"I like the idea of educating people to the advantages of fresh herbs," Hirsch says.

He'll also discuss the right time to add herbs during the cooking process, and he'll offer his expertise on gardening.

Although Moosewood Restaurant was vegetarian long before it was chic, over the last 20 years the medical community has been pushing for people to eat more vegetable-based meals.

For those who are thinking about adding more healthful dishes to their home menus, Hirsch says it doesn't have to be scary.

"You shouldn't look upon it as some kind of penitence, as 'I have to do this because I want to do something healthy,'" he says. "Instead find something that appeals to you, and start from there."

Highlights from the Pennsylvania Lavender Festival

Friday, June 19

9 a.m. - Festival opens

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. - Cut your own lavender ($2 to $5 per bunch)

10 a.m. - Lecture: "Growing Lavender" and lavender field tour

10 a.m. to 3 p.m. - Kids' Corner opens (free)

Noon to 3 p.m. - Music with Tom Jolin

11:30 a.m. - Lecture: "Cooking with Lavender"

12:30 p.m. - Workshop: Herbal teas ($15)

2:30 p.m. - Lecture/demonstration: "Summer Cooking with Fresh Herbs" with David Hirsch

3:30 p.m. - Lecture: "Growing Lavender"

5 p.m. - Festival closes for the day

Saturday, June 20

9 a.m. - Festival opens

10 a.m. to 3 p.m. - Kids' Corner opens (free)

10 a.m. to 3 p.m. - Make your own lavender wand ($7.50), make reservation at info desk

10 a.m. - Workshop: Herbal Bonsai

10:30 a.m. - Lecture: "Lavender Through the Ages"

Noon -Workshop: Lavender crafts (fee $15)

Noon to 3 p.m. - Music by Frank Cassel, the banjo man

1 p.m. - Lecture/demonstration: "Cooking with Herbs of the Mediterranean" with David Hirsch

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