In April, Haven's Kitchen founder, Alison Cayne, will publish her first cookbook, The Haven's Kitchen Cooking School, with Artisan / Workman. The book is written and designed to be a manual for home cooks using the Haven's Kitchen philosophy of cooking: anyone can cook, they just need to build confidence through practice. The cookbook is written for cooks of all levels, but refuses to use words like "easy" and "simple." The assumption is that everyone has the capacity to find their genius in cooking, and finding your genius sometimes means mastering "difficult dishes" like a 12-step recipe like beef bourguignon or frying up arancini.
Ali with Art Director Michelle Ishay and Photographer Con Poulos.
How did this project start? Did you envision there would be a cookbook when you opened Haven’s Kitchen?
Writing a cookbook to teach and inspire more people to cook was always in the back of my mind, but I had no idea that it would actually happen. Many of my favorite cookbooks are art directed by one of our regular guests, Michelle Ishay, who is the creative director at Artisan. She set up a meeting with the publisher, Lia Ronnen. Lia and I met a few more times to discuss what our goals were for the book, and what would set this one apart in the “how to cook” genre.
Excerpts from Ali's inspiration board for the cookbook. The design and the concept of the cookbook as integral as the recipes.
What inspired the recipes in the cookbook?
Every recipe is meant to be a starting point for endless varieties and meals. They’re written to teach readers the skills, techniques, and fundamentals so that they can feel confident in the kitchen and start making the meals they want to eat. Of course, I've included some of my favorite go-to dishes like Pan-Roasted Chicken and Poached Pears, along with some favorites from our Haven's Kitchen team and our guests, but they all teach the confidence of cooking.
How is this cookbook an extension of the cooking school?
My goal building Haven's Kitchen was to create a cooking school for recreation: for home cooks and people who just wanted to make enjoyable food. Every decision we make comes back to the idea that the kitchen should be a safe, happy, creative place—a haven – not threatening or intimidating, not some far removed, sterile space of Instagrammable perfection. I think the cookbook takes our approach and philosophy and translates it into book form as best as we could.
Props for the photo shoot.
Who did you write this book for?
I think there are a lot of people out there who want to connect with cooking but have no idea where to start and need two basic things: clear, supportive instruction and attainable inspiration. They are willing to invest the time and energy into building up their skills because they know the reward is so amazing: nurturing meals, confidence, shared time with family and friends and a renewed connection with the environment and responsible agriculture.
What kinds of cooking techniques does the book focus on?
We included a vast array of flavor profiles from around the globe: There’s a nod to almost every regional cuisine you can think of. But no matter whether you’re cooking southern Indian or Argentinian food there are techniques that will help you make the process more efficient and delicious. Fundamentals like knife skills, composition, balance, building flavor and organization translate across cultures and cuisines and every good cook has internalized them.
Do you have a favorite recipe from the book?
That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child. Even if I had one I wouldn’t say.
In the book, you often talk about “cooking with confidence," what do you mean by that? How does someone "cook with confidence"?
I’ll give an example: Tonight I’m having ten people for dinner. I have two vegetarians and a few big meat eaters. It’s January so my vegetable choices are mostly root vegetables and winter greens. I’ve had a four of the guests before so I need to cook something new for them. That puzzle might sound overwhelming to some, but I am confident that I can prepare a few hearty vegetable and grain dishes, roast chickens, toss a gorgeous salad and prepare a sauce or two for drizzling that will work on any or all of it. That confidence, knowing that I have the skills and know-how to make those components of the meal without relying on recipes, and that I can get it done in two-three hours is what I hope our readers will eventually accomplish. That way, instead of being stressed about hosting a dinner, I am actually looking forward to the time I get to spend with my friends.
What are some things you learned while writing the cookbook?
I learned how much work goes into making one. There were a lot of people who put a lot of energy into making this book and it was amazing to be a part of such a collaborative, intense process.
Ali will be traveling throughout the U.S. starting in April. We hope to see you at one of our tour stops. Pre-order The Haven's Kitchen Cooking School.
Kate and Michael became Mr. and Mrs. Branning on June 21, 2015 surrounded by their closest family, friends, harpist and poetry. The couple made sure that each aspects of their wedding—from the perfect pink peonies to the hand written notes—represented the “essential components” that they live by and stayed close to their roots.
What were the most important things for you in the wedding planning process and why?
The venue, the food and the drink — core essentials for any event — were important components to us when planning our wedding. We wanted to be sure the essentials complemented and explained who we are as a couple and how we live our life daily.
In discovering Haven's Kitchen, we found a special place that resembled us. A local, sustainable coffee and eatery — a little home-away-from-home, tucked upstairs to host a gathering of our closest friends. Michael and I live our lives eating organically, and frequent and support local businesses as often as we can.
Haven's Kitchen supplied every one of our essential components perfectly. We were given an open space with enough room to design and create our own artistic vision, but not void of character so that we would have to pay a premium in order to create the basic canvas we were searching for. We found our desired vintage furniture and tableware, and decor were supplied at no extra cost to us. The ability to shop for our own fresh, seasonal flowers was super special, as was seeing them come to life in unique, vintage vases supplied by Haven's Kitchen.
How did you plan the menu?
We wanted the menu to stay true to our American roots, and wantedt include something for everyone. Between selections for vegetarian, gluten-free and carnivore lovers, all food was clean and healthy.
Working one-on-one with the Culinary Director David Mawhinney's recommendations for local, seasonal food allowed us to tweak suggestions and preparations based on our vision as a couple. The end result was a true representation of who we are as a couple and what we would want to serve at our home, but even yummier than we could have ever imagined!
What are some of the highlights and memories of your wedding planning process?
We had several walkthroughs with Halle, alone and with our family, which was very helpful in our choice of layout, flower arrangements, and the overall aesthetic. In addition, we loved meeting with Halle at the flower market to source seasonal flowers, as this was important to us, to complete the vision.
Please describe some of the details you were more excited to execute and see come to life as part of your wedding?
In the dream of our wedding, we wanted to share our love and life with all who know us best. Haven's Kitchen made that possible. Since we wanted live music, great food, special drinks and an intimate welcoming environment, the ability to have our choice of musical performers made the evening that much more special. We were able to have our welcoming, grand entrance and cocktail party music presented by a beautiful harpist playing a six-foot harp, as well as having a three piece combo band to finish out the celebration and play all our favorites to make the evening complete.
Event Management and Menu: Haven's Kitchen
Kate's Dress: Houghton
Kate's Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti
Kate's Clutch: Alexander McQueen
Michael's Tux: JCrew - The Suit Shop
Michael's Shoes: John Varvatos
Wedding Cake: Balthazar Bakery baked by head pastry chef and personal friend Mark Tasker
Calligraphy: Amanda Krovic
Photographer: Andrea Fischman
Harpist: Kristi Shade
Band: Joe Kris Music
Hair: Gloria Espinosa
Makeup: Sharon Becker
When Erin McKenna's Bakery (the bakery formerly known as) BabyCakesNYC opened in 2005 it offered the promise of vegan and gluten-free cupcakes at the Cupcake Zeitgeist. Her little bake shop with its cases of pastel-iced cupcakes and shopgirls in their bubblegum uniforms eschewed the notion that vegan and gluten-free had to be restrained, crunchy and cardboard-like with wolves, goddesses, and patchouli. Her cupcakes, instead, were decadent and yummy, something to be craved and desired.
Erin will be teaching a class on cake decorating on Saturday, February 11. Students will take home a cake to celebrate themselves or a sweetheart.
When you started puzzling out your cupcake recipe, there wasn't that much attention to gluten-free, vegan baking. You definitely didn't have the kind resources and knowledge that are available now. What drove your persistence to figure out the perfect recipe?
Yes, there were quite literally no recipes out there for me to even use as a springboard to go from so I had to reinvent the wheel. I began by taking traditional recipes and making substitutions blindly based on my gut and eventually hit the jackpot with about 1,000 attempts!
How did you know that you had finally made the best cupcake possible?
I didn't really know until I brought the cupcakes to my job at Lupa for everyone to try. Mark Ladner was the chef back then and someone brought a cupcake back to him in the kitchen. I still remember so clearly how he charged out of the kitchen, sat down and said that the cupcake was incredible and then he began to ask me how I did it. So, I think that was the moment I knew that my goal for the recipe was achieved!
Has there been any revisions to your first cake recipe since then? And, what contributed to those changes?
No changes! The only thing I can think of is that we now offer a sugar-sweetened version of the cake as well as the agave-sweetened.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
When I was 18 I had no self confidence, I had no direction and my goals were set really low. It took a whole lot of excruciating life experiences to help transform me into the woman I became so it's hard to think of one thing. I think one thing that would have helped me a lot back then is daily meditation to connect with my gut.
What kitchen gadget can you not live without? Pantry staple?
My hand blender is so near and dear to me. Pantry staple is Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Flour. I use it at home for pancakes, waffles, muffins, cookies. I'm not sure there's anything I can't do with that blend.
What's your go-to meal when you're cooking for your family?
Since I spend so much time baking, my cooking skills have suffered severely. Can I take the 5th on this one??
What's your guilty pleasure food?
Veganaise. On everything. My husband is aghast!
Erin McKenna will be teaching Gluten-Free and Vegan Cakes on Saturday, February 11 at 11am.
Whether you’re hosting a holiday party or having a cozy night in, you should have a few good, dependable cocktails under your belt. Here are three classic sparkling wine cocktails recommended by Haven’s Kitchen Service Director Bryn Clarke. They have the right amount of cocktail booziness, guaranteeing your guests will leave in good cheer.
Classic Champagne Cocktail
Not all sparkling wines are Champagne. "Champagne" comes from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France, and is produced according to very specific rules and regulations.
1 sugar cube
3 to 5 dashes Angostura Bitters
Put sugar cube in bottom of Champagne flute, soak with bitters, top with Champagne and garnish with lemon twist.
Our bartender Kit Stanley recommends a prosecco or a cava, the former is of Italian origin while the latter is Spanish, as they complement citrus notes.
1.5 ounces gin
0.75 ounces lemon juice
0.5 ounces simple syrup
Shake gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled Champagne flute and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a lemon twist.
A favorite cocktail of Bryn's, the Campari makes it a perfect aperitif.
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce Prosecco
Stir Campari and sweet vermouth over ice, strain into coupe and top with Prosecco. Garnish with orange twist.