It’s funny that our local paper, the Valley News, picked up on Deirdre and Caleb’s grace when doing this story on them recently. It’s exactly their grace and seemingly-effortless-yet-monstrously-accomplished lives that caught our eye when they first approached us to publish their books, In Late Winter We Ate Pears by Deirdre and Caleb and Libation, A Bitter Alchemy by Deirdre.
In the article below, the Valley News does a great job summing up those accomplishments (and their monstrous workload). These are folks to keep an eye on!
This has been a full summer for Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber, but they’ve handled it with the ease and grace of dancers. Maybe that’s because they once were dancers. Now, they fill their days with other things.
Still, much like dancers, they make every accomplishment seem effortless — whether they are serving customers in their 22-seat Woodstock restaurant, Pane e Salute, or working at home in Barnard, planting 230 grape vines for their new vineyard, or tending to their vegetable and herb gardens, or on the road promoting Heekin’s new memoir, Libation: A Bitter Alchemy, and In Late Winter We Ate Pears: A Year of Hunger and Love, a cookbook they co-authored that has just been republished in paperback as a companion to Libation.
They’ve also taken two lengthy trips to the Italian countryside this year, looking for ideas, and they’ve hosted wine tastings and dinners. They’re crushing grapes for their wine, making new liqueurs, getting the next book started, keeping up with their blog — and if that’s not enough, there are a few other things in the works.
“We stay pretty busy,” Heekin said recently during a conversation on the porch of their home overlooking a long valley set against the backdrop of the Green Mountains.
Their plates may be overflowing, but judging from the food and wine they serve and the depth of research and quality of writing in their books, it’s evident they pay attention to the details. And they don’t let all the other projects get in the way of running their small Italian restaurant in Woodstock. It’s at the heart of all their endeavors.
Pane e Salute not only gives Barber an opportunity to produce his simple but elegant fare, it also allows Heekin’s knowledge about wine to stand out. The restaurant is the culmination of almost two decades of learning gleaned from Italian culture. One of the first lessons they learned while living in Italy, they note in Pears, was that good food is local, seasonal and straightforward. Instead of planning a meal ahead of shopping, Italians go to the market and buy what’s in season, fresh and local and build the meal around what they find.
That principle is at the heart of the food served at Heekin and Barber’s restaurant. The ingredients they use are as local and fresh as they can find. Their menus are pegged to the seasons, and Barber cooks uncomplicated heritage Italian recipes that they have collected over the years. Pears features some of those recipes, arranged by seasons and by what’s available.