Franklin Becker

Brooklyn-born celebrity chef Franklin Becker has repeatedly turned food challenges into opportunities to cook smarter and help other people. He is determined to change the way people think about their meals.

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His family's health issues inspired him to launch Little Beet, a healthier alternative to casual fast food. Today, Frankin focuses on Hungryroot, a vegetable-based food delivery service, and chairs Pop.Earth, a foundation helping families affected by autism. 

Let’s start at the beginning. How did you first get interested in cooking?

Oh my God, you’re really starting at the beginning! The truth of the matter is I started cooking when I was seven. Sadly, my mother had a stroke. When she was recovering, I was always her hand in the kitchen. At 14, I started doing prep work in the kitchen at Scarola’s in Brooklyn. I loved working there immediately. There’s a camaraderie…kitchens don’t function unless there’s a team. I played sports growing up as well so team-oriented, goal-oriented stuff is really what drives me.   

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Your career trajectory is fascinating. You’ve been a personal chef, worked at hotels, been on television…what was the most fun?

I would have to say I loved working for Bobby Flay at Mesa Grill. It was the early 90s and people really weren’t cooking that way, with the exception of Stephen Pyles, Mark Miller and a few others in the Southwest. The flavors were bold and the techniques were new at the time. As a cook, that was my favorite. 

Creating Little Beet [was the most rewarding] because at the time it was a fresh take on fast casual. It was gluten free which, ultimately, served a niche that was necessary to fill. My girlfriend had celiac so I was able to provide her directly with a spot she could go to safely.

I shifted the way I approached food. I started cooking healthier.
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And Little Beet was inspired by your own personal health battles too?  

I was diagnosed with diabetes at 27. My son was diagnosed with autism at 21 months. When my girlfriend was diagnosed with celiac, it was like here’s a 1-2-3 reason, I should make Little Beet healthier and gluten-free. It just fell into place.

What went through your mind when you received your diabetes diagnosis?

I obviously thought it was the end of my career.  I wouldn’t be able to cook the food that I love anymore. But you just have to modify your diet. I started looking at food that we eat across the world and realized the Mediterranean diet, for the most part, is a lifestyle where everything counts on good fat, fresh ingredients and a lot of vegetables. I shifted the way I approached food. It really was a transition, and an easy one at that. I started cooking healthier.

[Now,] my health is 1,000 times better than it was. I am thinner than I have been in years and I live a healthier lifestyle and feel good about it.  If you have diabetes, make sure to take it seriously.

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How old are your sons now?

Sean is going to be 18 in December and Rory is going to be 15. It’s crazy.

Did you love taking Sean and Rory out to restaurants when they were younger?

I wasn’t really able to take Sean out to restaurants when he was little. Unfortunately, he also had ulcerative colitis and small bowel disease and a million other things through autism, so it was always challenging. And I wish my younger son was a better eater but he’s not that experimental.

So did you try to do things differently at home to accommodate them?

We fed our children gluten-free at home forever.  My ex-wife had the idea of starting a company called Sean’s Food, which I guess was my first foray into pseudo-manufacturing. We created different pastries, cookies and cakes that were shipped from our home and satisfied different kids with autism. We would literally custom…If a kid was allergic to X,Y and Z, we’d take that out of the recipe. It was really challenging and difficult but the products were really good and packaged cute. Ultimately, I lost money.

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gluten is a major protagonist for kids with autism... it goes to their brain and takes on an opiate effect.

You learn more from every failure than success. What I learned the most was that there really is a need for healthier additive free products. We are what we eat. It’s really important to monitor what we put into our bodies.

Do you think it’s easier for Sean and kids like him to have better access to healthier food
now?

Absolutely! I think more and more people are experimenting in this area... what’s
going to end up happening is that... farmers are going to be forced to get rid of genetically modified treatments for their crops. They’re going to be able to get rid of all these things that are affecting our health. Unfortunately, I think a lot of damage has already been done. It’s going to take at least a lifetime to get back to real farming. I’m a big proponent of buying things that are grown responsibly and seasonally.

Any particular farm or product you want to give a shout-out to for the amazing work they’re doing on this matter?

The best work I’ve seen out there is at the Center for Discovery in the Catskills in upstate New York. It’s called Thanksgiving Farm and it’s run by chef Cesare Casella. It will come to a market near you but now its restricted. They have 1,000 acres and are pasture raising all their animals and growing everything organically.  The most amazing part of it is they’re using special needs young adults to work there.  It’s an unbelievable program that’s dear to my heart. I teach their chefs how to cook better using ingredients from the farm and I also do a fundraiser for them.

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Is it easier now for special needs kids to get to go to a restaurant with their family and feel comfortable and expect menu options they can eat?   

Yes and No. Look, people are critical of everything. They’re mean because you’re too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short. Just something different.  When a kid or adult with special needs is having a reaction, people stare.  As far as knowledge of special dietary restrictions, it’s so much better, but there’s still a lot of misunderstanding about cross-contamination.

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I think we’ve gotten a lot more knowledgable about special needs, but there is a long way to go.

How do you recommend people educate themselves better on the subject?

There are so many ways to educate yourself now. I’m not saying you have to be gluten free, if you don’t need to be, but try eating whole wheat breads instead of ones that are full of additives. You can eat whole grains and incorporate vegetables into your diet more.  

I also chair a special needs charity called Pop.Earth. We have a program called Eat-able and it’s going to expand more. We do a lot of alternative care. We have yoga and reiki. All the programs are free or next to free. We do classes for parents to educate them on how to cook healthier meals for their kids. We also have classes that involve the kids.

What lessons do you try to teach the kids?

A good example would be a chocolate chip cookie. We know they want to eat a cookie so we don’t want to deprive kids. They already have enough to be deprived of…so, instead of using sugar, which hops them up and affects their behavior, we might use an alternative sweetener that has a lower glycemic index or lower impact on their system.  Or little things like using an alternative flour in place of gluten or carob in place of chocolate.

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We also make eating salad more fun for them. We’ll cut vegetables into different shapes. A lot of kids have textural problems. [But] If they see they can make a star or a circle from a vegetable, they’re much more inclined to try them.

Why do you believe an event like Tykesgiving is so important for the community?

It’s great because it is often difficult to go to a restaurant with a special needs kid. They have dietary restrictions, tactile challenges etc. and this gives them the opportunity in a judgment free zone. That’s awesome.

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Family time, especially nowadays, is so important. It’s about more than eating. You converse and get to know one another. I think that any chance you have to foster that relationship with your children is time well spent and really important.

Fall Harvest - Tips for Picking with the Pipsqueaks!

We could wax poetic about fall forever -- the crisp air, fiery foliage, and sweet bounty of the harvest . . .

Whether you're venturing to an apple orchard or pumpkin patch, we're here to help you maximize the outdoor adventures with the kids. What to bring (don't forget snacks!), what to wear (this is prime family photo opportunity, after all...), and how to go from field to feastBecause babies can't be basic.... let's have some old-fashioned, food-focused, family fun!

Dress for Success -- Let's face it, those sun-dappled, leaf-filled photos are a big part of the occasion! No need to super coordinate the fam', just a nod to fall with your fashion picks is great -- as long as it's still comfortable! Nothing cuts the occasion short like a too-chilly child with damp socks, so dress in layers to be prepared. As Scandinavian parents say, "there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes"

Be prepared -- The lovely thing about pick-your-own is that you don't need much to do the actual picking, but you will want to bring some supplies for a picnic in the field (colorful cloths, a child-friendly knife), and think about a way to get the produce back home.  Little arms will appreciate a cart that they can pull -- those apples are heavy! 

Farm to Table -- There's no better hands-on way to experience the harvest than in your own kitchen.  And you don't need to be a master chef -- or have more than a few minutes of prep time -- to whip up homemade applesauce (seriously, just throw chunked apples in a pot with a splash of water!), oven-dried apple rings, or toasted pumpkin seeds.  But if you want to go the extra mile, and, say, peel those apples to make pie, go for it!  We'll be too busy straight-up dipping wedges in goat's milk caramel...

Victorio Apple Peeler & Corer
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DIY Goat's Milk Caramel Apple Kit

It's in a Book -- Celebrate and learn together with some seasonal bedtime tales...

Looking for an idyllic scene near you? Here are some apple (and some pumpkin) -picking spot from our friends at Mommy Nearest to get you started: New York, in Washington D.C., in Philadelphia, in Boston, in Miami, in Houston, and Chicago and Los Angeles Looking in London, here's a list from Time Out UK to peruse.

Michael White on Pasta, Parenting and Kids in His Kitchens

Nibble+squeak loves to get to know the people behind a restaurant, so we’re putting the spotlight on an industry parent each month:

Michael White is a Midwestern-raised chef who can school most Italians on how to cook delicious pasta. As co-owner of the Altamarea Group, he has 15 restaurants around the globe, including Marea in Manhattan, which won best new restaurant at the 2010 James Beard Awards. 

Chef White took time from his busy schedule opening a second Marea (in Shanghai) to speak with N+S about the joy of having kids visit his upscale dining rooms and exploring NYC's culinary scene with his daughter, Francesca, 13.

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Interview by Liza Hamm

Did you cook a lot as a kid?

I certainly did. I'm of Norwegian descent and Norwegians are always eating good food. I grew up in Wisconsin making bread with my dad. Wisconsin was so cold so we started with bread and soups. My dad was an avid cook. He still is. That's how I got the bug.

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What’s the most important lesson you learned from your dad in the kitchen?

Make sure you make enough, right!? Especially when you’re cooking in the midwest. Just spending time with my father and watching his passion….whether it was refurbishing wooden boats or cooking...was so important.

Nibble+squeak focuses on kid-friendly dining experiences. What is your definition of a kid-friendly restaurant?

I always thank parents for bringing their son or daughter in because it’s such a cool experience. I love having them. From a business standpoint, it perpetuates your business. It also gets kids excited about cooking. I bring kids into the kitchen at Marea, Ai Fiori, Due Mari. People come to a restaurant like Marea for a birthday or other special occasion…..I want these kids to have their prom at Marea. 

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they send me notes saying ‘this pasta was so much better than Mr. Batali’s.’ I absolutely love that.

Do you take kids to the kitchen for special events or just regular nights?

Oh no, when I see them in the dining room, I ask if they want to see the kitchen. Then, they send me notes saying 'this pasta was so much better than Mr. Batali’s.' I absolutely love that. I get letters with designs and pictures of spaghetti. It's humbling.

Sounds like all your restaurants are kid-friendly but are there any you specifically recommend to families?

I’ll say Nicoletta and Osteria Morini the ones that hit home for casual fun pizza and pasta, all the things that young people like, but I also have kids come here and want to eat crudo and more. 

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I think many kid have more sophisticated palates than we give them credit for….do you agree?

Definitely. They taste nuances, especially when you start them out young. They have what I call taste memories. That’s so important. Each and everyone of us have taste memories. I love what I do and to be able to spread the good word about food. 

So tell me about taking Francesca out to dinner when she was younger. What are some of your favorite memories from then?

She has no idea how lucky she is. Whether it was being in a high-chair at a 3-star Michelin restaurant in the South of France or having a chef hat on in the kitchen at Ducasse, she was a lucky kid. She’s been to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Bali. She has had food experiences all over the world. So she’s very food savvy but my wife doesn’t want her to be a chef.

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Why not?

She knows the hours that I work. It’s a tough business. 

Do you and Francesca have favorite places to dine together?

You bet. We love to eat ethnic food, whether we go to eat at Won Jo in Korea Town or Thai food in Queens. We’re very adventuresome. Or it could just be grabbing cheeseburgers at Joe Juniors. My restaurants aren't as fun for her anymore. It’s cooler to go to different restaurants. 

I assume she has VIP status at your restaurants?

Listen, she better behave herself when she brings her friends. 

Does she have a favorite dish you make?

Like all kids, it’s pasta. The fusilli with octopus and bone marrow here at Marea or the Epaulettes (rabbit and cheese ravioli, with black truffle jus) at Vaucluse. She loves pasta. 

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Are you teaching her to cook?

Just by osmosis, I would say. If [my wife] Giovanna and I aren’t at home, she can fend for herself.

Why do you think it’s important for her to know how to cook, even if she doesn’t pursue it professionally?

We want her to know that you take time out to sit, eat and talk about what transpired during the day. It can also set the tone for the rest of kids' lives. They can take the initiative to eat healthy, to eat in moderation. 

I’ve read about your regular Sunday family dinners in the press before. How often do you try and get the family together for a meal with everyone’s busy schedules? 

We always sit down on Sundays but I also try to get home at least once a week for a meal. There is too much stuff going on...tutoring and tennis for her...the rest of the time. 

What does Francesca cook for you? What are her specific strengths in the kitchen?

She's very resourceful. She can do a plate of pasta if she has to. She loves making omelettes and oatmeal.

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What is your favorite dish she makes?

She makes a really good mortadella sandwich nowadays. On whole wheat with arugula. 

So if she doesn’t follow in your culinary footsteps, what would you like to see Francesca do?

Whatever makes her happy. I want her to feel fulfilled. If that’s with food, that’s awesome. If not, I’ll be happy to see her do something else.

 

(Ai Fiori will HOst Nibble+squeak's "Tykesgiving" this November)

Back to School: Food-Inspired Finds

we've always liked stocking up on school supplies...

to herald new beginningS, WE SELECT a few FUN transitional items FOR YOUR LUNCH-OBSESSED LITTLES.  HERE aRE some stylish and eco-minded picks for the start of the season:

First Day Excitement -- start the year off on the right foot, and quell any first day jitters, with a few extra-special accessories like a classic denim backpack (purchase this gorgeous one from FEED and provide 75 meals for children in need), a fun and functional lunch tote, or a brown "paper" bag built to last:

Packed Lunch -- For us, "what's for lunch" is always top of mind, but for many people the process of planning and producing meals is a chore.  Brighten up the task with some practical and *plastic-free* containers, and fill them with colorful produce to bring variety to their little lunch break: 

Don't forget the flatware!  We often overlook how the food is going to reach their mouths, but whether they're eating with their fingers, figuring out a fork and spoon, or are chopstick pros, it makes sense to pack the tools along too:

 

First-Day (Foodie) Fashion -- Wear your stomach on your sleeve with these food-inspired fashion items:

 

Patrick Connolly of RIDER on How He Rocks the Parent-Chef Life

Nibble + Squeak loves to get to know the people behind a restaurant, so we’ve decided to put the spotlight on an industry parent each month:

Our first featured chef is Patrick Connolly, owner of RIDER, a hip, Michelin-approved eatery, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Patrick is a James Beard Award-winner known for whipping up delectable vegetable dishes, but like many parents, he caves to his three-year-old daughter’s culinary whims time and time again.

Interview by Liza Hamm

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We chatted with Patrick and learned about the food his family loves, the importance of living near your own restaurant, and why his daughter Sadie is the kid with the ultimate VIP status at RIDER. 

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Tell us about your specific goals with RIDER

My goal with RIDER is to let the menu react to the season. I also wanted to set us apart with the service, not so much the technical side, but to really connect with people and give them a good time. My front of the house does an awesome job creating a comfortable atmosphere, where people aren't intimidated by the menu. They can relax and try dishes they haven't tried before. 

Do you live in Williamsburg?

I live a block away from the restaurant.  Living so close is 100% necessary. We've created an excellent situation where I can literally pop home to put Sadie to bed or cook her dinner then I am back on the line in the restaurant. Or I can take a full day off from the restaurant but know that if something serious does down, I can be there in a minute.

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Do you do most of the cooking at home?

My wife [Suzanne, a sales and customer service consultant for the kids’ fashion line Egg by Susan Lazar] has probably surpassed me in the last six months. She has taken the initiative to learn a few dinners that she, Sadie and I like. 

What does Sadie love to eat?

Suzanne makes stir fry for her pretty often—and baby corn is her favorite. And strangely enough, broccoli. Those are her two vegetables. 

 Congrats!  Not every parent can say their child likes veggies.

That’s true. I don’t want to pretend that just because she’s a chef’s daughter she doesn’t eat crap, because she does. We fall for the cake pop at the coffee shop all the time. I just took her to soccer and picked her up a mint chocolate macaroon—the breakfast of champions. But she’s pretty good. If food gets too fussy, she loses interest. It has to be straightforward. My quick meal [for her] now is roasted carrots and pan-roasted chicken. It takes 15 minutes. 

You sound very laid-back….what is your philosophy about kids and eating?

The most important thing is that it’s just real food. Everything she eats has simple ingredients and is more or less organic.  

What is your favorite ritual with Sadie at this time?

Just getting a glimpse into that brain of hers. She's making points and some of them are totally ridiculous but some are very insightful. 

I can literally pop home to put Sadie to bed or cook her dinner then I am back on the line in the restaurant.

Does Sadie help in the kitchen?

She loves it. She’s made meatloaf with me and turkey burgers with Suzanne. I’ll have her pick herbs and she thinks it fun to put salt on everything

Do you agree that it’s great to get kids in the kitchen at an early age because it makes them more comfortable there?

That’s a luxury I had. My parents both worked so my brothers and I used to prepare dinner for the family, I’ve been comfortable there since I was a kid. It does shock me when I meet adults who have no idea where to start in the kitchen. 

What does Sadie like to do at the restaurant?

She comes in for brunch or an early dinner and goes straight to the kitchen to say hi to everybody. Then she likes to go fix herself a sparkling water. 

Sadie as "guest expediter" at RIDER

Sadie as "guest expediter" at RIDER

Does Sadie have a fave dish at the menu at RIDER?

It’s definitely pancakes and chicken sausage for brunch. Recently, at dinner she's loved the spicy pork and broccoli rabe strangely enough. She might avoid the pork in it though.

Do you like to take her to other restaurants in the neighborhood?

Of course, There was a time between 2-3 years old when we didn’t take her out because she would throw glass or food, She just turned 3 in May and we’re back to being able to take her to a restaurant for an hour. We like to go to Esquina diner because they have an outdoor area where she can run around in and not do too much damage. We also take her to Sunday in Brooklyn for brunch.

Parents don’t make a huge ordeal about having their kids at the restaurant, and the kids are chill and know their way around a restaurant table. 

What’s your policy about kids in the restaurant?

We’re completely kid-friendly. We try to be creative and find ways to occupy children so their parents can have a meal. It helps that I have a child. Parents don’t make a huge ordeal about having their kids at the restaurant, and the kids are chill and know their way around a restaurant table. They know how to order. It’s awesome to see. 

Why is that a positive thing?

[It's about] laying the ground work for being polite. Manners are huge. It’s also about the urban idea of the family table. Families of all sizes and ages are pulled in several different directions every day, especially in New York. Sometimes it’s just more efficient to have everyone meet at one of their favorite restaurants. You maximize the time spent at the table, and not in the kitchen or on that last leg of the commute. Plus, there’s no clean up.

 

Being a Dad certainly inspires Patrick to make RIDER very kid-friendly, and that’s no surprise to N+S since he hosted one of our first events! Families should also visit the restaurant in conjunction with Puppetsburg, which performs there every Wednesday, and definitely check out the performances at National Sawdust, a very cool concert venue attached to RIDER.

Nibble+squeak's Top Hamptons Restaurants 2017

The summer season is in full swing and we already have some new favorite restaurants to add to your rotation in the Hamptons... Food that's more than worth a detour, fab people- and boat- and sunset watching opportunities, and arguably the most well-trained hospitality staffs ever to grace the East End!

To help "Parents with Pipsqueaks" navigate their lunch and dinner planning, Nibble+squeak got the *low down* straight from the restaurants about what they do to welcome families at the table.

And DON'T MISS our two Nibble+squeak Hamptons events this summer: Saturday, July 29th at Jean-Georges at Topping Rose and Saturday, August 19th at EMP Summer House!

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Calissa, Water Mill: Simply prepared Greek dishes are a perfect match for the Hamptons bounty.  Chef Dominic Rice (ex-Narcissa) is happy to make kid-friendly versions of his tasty Mediterranean dishes, although the bucatini and chicken are two items that are popular just the way they are. The restaurant's bocce court is also a crowd-pleaser.

The Clam Bar, Napeague: On the highway between Montauk and Amagansett is the quintessential roadside shack, serving what is in our opinion, the best lobster roll in the East End.  They've also got local beers by the can, super soups, and daily specials that often include oysters and steamers and a local grilled fish sandwich.

Elaia Estiatorio, Bridgehampton:  The newest kid on the block, the doors just opened two days ago, and they are ready to welcome families!  Come for authentic, fresh Greek dishes like grilled shrimp and succulent chicken.  Kids will love the gigantes beans (they're huge!) and fava (split pea) dip, and we can't pass up a homemade spanakopita at any time of day (they're open for breakfast!)

Sometimes this is all you want, poached lobster with tomatoes and corn #makeitnice #empsummerhouse

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EMP Summer House, East Hampton:  While Eleven Madison Park (recently named the Best Restaurant in the World) is undergoing renovations, they decided to decamp the entire staff to a Hamptons pop-up... (and we're hosting a SqueakUp there on Aug 19th!)  The front dining room is relaxed-formal, with pretty platings and luxe ingredients like summer truffles and lobster, while the back patio is a different scene altogether, with a bar, swings, and piles of fried chicken with tomato salad.  No matter where you dine, the whole family can enjoy the enormous backyard after the meal -- bocce, ping pong, picnic tables and lots of space!

Hampton Chutney Co., Amagansett:  This lively take-out spot serving delicious dosas -- both authentic and irreverently not -- celebrates it's 20th anniversary this summer.  Get your thali or dosa to-go (with plenty of dipping sauce) so that you can enjoy it on the perfectly plush grass of Amagansett Square. Obviously, the pipsqueaks don't need permission to run around in circles here, but they'll gladly park themselves for a picnic like this. 

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Harbor East, East Hampton: A must-visit destination on the way home from Main Beach at the end of the day. The locally-sourced cuisine, makes both the adult crowd and the children happy -- everyone's raving about the Branzino with artichokes. Cushy, colorful banquette seating is perfect for the little ones, and they can keep busy drawing with the available crayons and paper, or bust a move to the music. 

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Harvest on Fort Pond, Montauk:  This is the place to go with a big crew!  Family-style pastas and platters get passed around the table, and if the kids get restless, you can always go feed the baby swans from the dock. Perfect sunset spot, with *plenty* of high chairs too. 

Jean-Georges at Topping Rose House, Bridgehampton: Our first Hamptons event venue (tix available for July 29th!), the beautiful hotel/restaurant/event spot gets the food right, with a vegetable-centric farm-to-table menu in a classic setting.

Lulu Kitchen and Bar, Sag Harbor: Lulu’s is a lesson in flames: fire makes everything taste better. Whether it's grilled cauliflower or whole black bass, almost every dish at Lulu has been cooked using Chef Corbet’s wood burning technique. The best part? The open kitchen layout lets you watch the massive wood fired grill and oven at work, and the horseshoe-shaped booths are perfect for corralling the kiddos.

Lunch (Lobster Roll): The iconic “Lunch” sign draws the crowds -- so try to get there slightly off-peak -- but the simple, homey seaside fare will hit the spot.  Plus, this is one of the few places where you can still get a so-naff-it's-chic lobster bib to enjoy your steamed specimen in style.  With its red, white, and blue decor, it's pretty for pics, and the kids get crayons and an underwater scene to color.

Navy Beach, Montauk  Eating your meal with pebbles underfoot and a stunning view of the sunset will make it taste even better. The kids in your group will happily intersperse their meal with skipping stones (and we won’t tell if you do too).

Wölffer Kitchen Amagansett:  Our new favorite go-to for a laid-back family dinner, this place nails the relaxed and happy vibe of the Hamptons -- with indoor or outdoor seating, you can happily share some apps and mains and sides for the family (with a bottle of their much-lauded, easy-drinking rosé for the adults of course!)  

This post brought to you by the Alyssa Brody Team at Compass.

Stars and Stripes and Sparkle

A few tips to make the most of the happy summer vibes this holiday weekend and all season long!

A sweet celebration: Use those sweet berries from the farm stand to their best effect in flag-adorned desserts, and don't underestimate the magic that a set of star cookie cutters can create! 

Frozen Fun:  Make a patriotic ice pop -- in an appropriately rocket-shaped mold, with a healthy and delicious recipe; let the kids don some popsicle-inspired (temporary) body art; or kick around a ball that doubles as an ice cream maker and put all that youthful energy towards a reward for everyone!

From Picnic to Pool to PJs: Summery styles in red, white and blue!

Things that sparkle or pop!  Fireworks are pretty awesome, but here are some fun and festive alternatives to bring the excitement down to ground level and light up the occasion! (Plus, if you're worried about loud noises for baby, a pair of effective earmuffs they'll love!)

Celebrating Pride!

(photo credit: Oh Happy Day)

(photo credit: Oh Happy Day)

We're teaching our children to show their true colors, and support diversity, dignity and equality.  Here are some fun ways to celebrate Pride together!

Bring the rainbow to the table -- and make a healthy meal too -- with a full spectrum of vegetables or fruit in your meal!  Babies will go ga-ga for the smoothie ice cubes this summer, and our toddlers will eat anything on a stick. All of these recipes are simple and natural -- no food coloring needed!

Wear your pride proud -- whether your little one is feeling twirly, just experimenting with footwear, or managed to get a little booboo, there's a colorful way to accessorize for everyone, even if the sun isn't shining on your parade!

Plan a Pride picnic -- dish out some of those colorful recipes on a quality picnic blanket, and get the games out!

Six Tips for Kids in the Hamptons: Summer 2017

Nibble+squeak is headed to the beach!! We've just announced not one, but TWO amazing experiences out in the Hamptons this summer: July 29th at Jean-Georges at Topping Rose House, and August 19th at EMP Summer House!  

Main Beach, East Hampton

Main Beach, East Hampton

In honor of the first two Hamptons events, our local Host and expert, Mia Ljundberg Nevado, is excited to share her tips for families heading to the East End this summer:

There is no place quite like the Hamptons in the summertime. I cannot imagine a better playground for kids (and adults!) to build memories that will last a lifetime. There are pristine beaches, authentic farmers’ markets, gorgeous sunsets plus so many wonderful activities for children of all ages.
JohnJohn and BoBo at Madoo Garden

JohnJohn and BoBo at Madoo Garden

Sunset Sag Harbor

Sunset Sag Harbor

1. Storytelling at Madoo Garden:  

The Madoo Conservancy is a magical oasis in the heart of Sagaponack, a garden full of hidden paths and many cozy smaller gardens with sculptures, flowers and plants. It is also the former private home of Robert Dash, a noted painter and writer and one of the world´s most visited gardens for garden lovers. My sons love Monday mornings at Madoo. The local library offers storytelling at Madoo every Monday all summer at 10 am. Bring a picnic and blanket and disappear into the story while surrounded by the songs of the birds and smells of the flowers.  

Mondays 10 am. Free of charge. Contact Hampton Library to confirm dates and times if weather is questionable: 6315370015 www.madoo.org

2. LongHouse Reserve:

Another favorite place to experience with my boys in the summer is the LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton. It is a place of tranquility and peace and it is one of the most visited gardens in the world. A sixteen-acre sculpture and art installation garden featuring pieces from Yoko Ono to de Kooning. There are really no words to fully describe this place, it is a must-visit.

This summer LongHouse Reserve offers a very interesting Nature´s Music Program for children for children from age 16 months to four years. A six weeks program that celebrates music and nature where the kids will explore singing, dancing, imaginative storytelling surrounded by beautiful nature. Guided tours are offered all summer, check website for schedules and other fun activities.

LongHouse Reserve is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 2-5pm in May, June and September.  In July and August open Wednesdays through Saturday. Admission is $10 per person (Children under 12 accompanied by an adult are free of charge) www.longhouse.org

LongHouse Reserve

LongHouse Reserve

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3. Sunset Fridays and Saturdays at Wölffer Wine Stand

The whole family loves to spend Friday or Saturday afternoons at Wölffer Estate Vineyard´s wine stand in Sagaponack. This is where stylish families of the Hamptons get together. Kids can run safely around and play or dance to the live music while parents can enjoy a glass of wine and local cheese. Healthy snacks for children are also sold. Bring a blanket and just sit back and listen to the music while the sun sets over the vineyard.

Wölffer Wine Stand, 3312 Montauk Highway, Sagaponack. Every Friday and Saturday from May to end of September. 5pm until sunset. No cover charge.  www.wolffer.com

Farmers Market

Farmers Market

At Sunset Jazz at Wölffer Estate Wine Stand

At Sunset Jazz at Wölffer Estate Wine Stand

4. Outdoor Movie Nights for Kids at the Green School:

Imagine an outdoor movie theater surrounded by horses, sheep and guinea hens! There is nothing like a warm summer eve in the Hamptons and what better way to end a day at the beach than with an outdoor movie night at the idyllic Green School in Sagaponack. My sons LOVE this school. It is a small piece of heaven for small children.The kids gets to choose their very own box cars made of recycled paper boxes, that they then sit in during the movie.

Bring a blanket and a picnic and relax in the beautiful garden while the kids watch a great movie. The Green School also offers farm feeding of all its animals in the weekends. Check their website for the full summer schedule. The Green School. Thursdays 6-8pm in July and August. Suggested donation for the movie: $10 per child. Popcorn is served. To check Outdoor movie schedule visit www.the-green-school.org

Movie Night at The Green School - Box Cars

Movie Night at The Green School - Box Cars

Sunset Main Beach, East Hampton

Sunset Main Beach, East Hampton

5. Fun at The Children's Museum of the East End

Another favorite spot my sons love is the Children´s Museum of the East End in BridgeHampton, also known as CMEE. The sun is strong during the summer and it is nice to have an alternative to the beach on the few rainy days.

CMEE has a beautiful outdoor playground and a lovely outdoor mini-golf course too. CMEE is a big indoor and outdoor dream playground for children of all ages where they can use all their senses and skills and have fun. CMEE also offers a very impressive summer program with classes on LEGO, music, gardening to cooking and much more. Visit their website to see the full program. Don't miss their Family Fair Fundraiser Saturday, July 22 at CMEE from 10.30 am - 1.30pm. CMEE Family membership is $110. Admission $12 per child and adult. Open Sunday – Monday 9am-5pm. Closed Tuesdays www.cmee.org

6. Artsy Summer in the Hamptons

My sons love the Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner house in East Hampton and this summer famous children's book author Joyce Raimondo is offering Art Classes for kids at the iconic Pollock-Krasner house. A must for creative kids to explore this summer. Let the dripping begin! Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner House. Saturdays 10-11.30am. June 24, July1,8,15,22,29 and August 5,12,19,26 , September 2,9 and October 7. Register at www.imaginearted.com

Jackson Pollock and

Jackson Pollock and

Lee Krasner House

Lee Krasner House

Plus, three great shops for shopping with kids in the Hamptons:

SHAN: Beach wear for stylish moms and dads and sons – SHAN East Hampton, 3 N Main St, East Hampton

Relax: Beach wear for stylish moms and daughters – RELAX in Sag Harbor, 150 Main Street, Sag Harbor

Stella & Ruby: Cute toy and clothing store for babies and toddlers – Stella & Ruby in Sag Harbor, 144 Main Street, Sag Harbor

Best Toy Stores in the Hamptons:

The Wharf Shop: 69 Main Street, Sag Harbor

Steph´s Stuff: 62 The Circle, East Hampton

Stevenson´s Toys and Games: 69 Jobs Lane, South Hampton

This is just a glimpse of what is happening in the Hamptons in the summertime.

Mia and JohnJohn and BoBo

Mia and JohnJohn and BoBo

Mia and family

Mia and family

Mia Ljundberg Nevado is a true connoisseur when it comes to entertaining kids, especially in the Hamptons. Mia was born in Denmark, has lived in Sweden and Ecuador as well as jetted all over the world as a travel writer. Her work has appeared in Condé Nast Traveller, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, About.com and more. A few years ago, she settled down in the Hamptons with her husband Johnson and sons JohnJohn and BoBo. Mia loves to explore the area and knows the best inside tips for visiting the Hamptons. Follow her on Instagram @LittleValet where she will be posting all summer.

JohnJohn & BoBo at Georgica Beach, East Hampton

JohnJohn & BoBo at Georgica Beach, East Hampton

It's Pancake Day!!

Happy Pancake Day!!  Fat Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday -- whatever you want to call it, we don't have to be told twice to EAT PANCAKES!  Whether you have them for breakfast, lunch, dinner or all day long, here are some fun ways to celebrate:

Think outside the stack...  Not all pancakes are sweet and syrup-y.  Try a pancake of another kind from lots of different cultures, a crêpe or galette, a dosa, a bing, a cachapa, a Bánh xèo, injera, some blini!

Read up!  It's always fun to mark an occasion with a special book.  Here are some perfect ones for Pancake Day:

Pancake play --  Making pancakes, whether real or pretend is also lots of fun!

A Sweet, but not Saccharine, Valentine's Day

We love all things pink and sparkly, so we'll indulge that whimsical side of Valentine's Day for the children, but sometimes romance isn't all about sugar... Keep things spicy with some savory treats too, some of which can and should be enjoyed after the kiddos go to bed!

In Lieu of Flowers.... We'll take a sexy sushi dinner over a sugared heart any day!  So for those magical *moments* between their bedtime and your own, put on your most festive pjs and order in a special treat!

Order from our friends at Caviar, use our code SQUEAK and get $15 off your first order!  We found some of the sultriest dishes available for delivery -- shellfish, uni, duck, sushi, steak tartare...

Ok, so we said we don't have much of a sweet tooth, but sometimes special occasions call for a few exceptions... we'd be happy to share any of these with our sweetheart: Gruyere Cheese Caramels, Champagne Gummy Bears, make your own amaro-flavored treats, or the gift of a golden marshmallow.  If you're going the chocolate route, go all the way, with 100% cacao:

Lunar New Year for the Littles

We're all about celebrating different holidays and different cultures with our kids -- especially anytime that food is involved!  And this year, we're especially looking forward to welcoming the Year of the Rooster with the start of the Chinese New Year celebrations this weekend.  Check out some great ways to celebrate the season (and Chinese culture) with your little one: 

Read a book about traditional lunar new year celebrations (which always include food):

Or ring in the Year of the Rooster with some zodiac-appropriate items:

Celebrate Chinese culture year-round with a set of Chinese character blocks, or a series about a Brooklyn/Beijing BFF pair, or if you're sick of Baa Baa Black Sheep, mix it up with a mix of Chinese Children's songs:

P.S. If you are in NY and haven't had a chance to visit The Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD Lab) yet, now is a great time to check it out!  The current exhibition, named "CHOW," celebrates the birth and evolution of Chinese American restaurants, tracing their nearly 170-year history and sparking conversation around immigration, cultural identity, and what it means to be American. Check out live demos of cooking techniques (and tastings!), a fortune cookie machine, and a fascinating collection of artifacts. This week, they are hosting TWO Chinese New Year Celebrations: one for the adults on Wed Jan 25, and then one for children of all ages featuring author/illustrator Kam Mak, on Saturday 28th!

Per Se Perfection

We're still floating on a magical cloud filled with food and wine and super-cute smiles after our recent Nibble and Squeak lunch at Thomas Keller's 3-Michelin-Starred Per Se... 

The official pics aren't in yet (stay tuned for portraits from talented and energetic Emily Burke), but some of you have been sharing your experience online and we couldn't resist giving the rest of our followers a sneak peek:

photo by: Lucille Tung

photo by: Lucille Tung

photo by: Per Se

photo by: Per Se

photo by: Julie Chung

photo by: Julie Chung

photo by: Julie Chung

photo by: Julie Chung

photo by: Betty Kang

photo by: Betty Kang

There were some really special touches throughout: juice and water with colorful straws (alongside champagne!); an inspirational quote from Dr. Seuss; kitchen tours; our Ubbi-outfitted changing station in the elegant men's AND women's restrooms; snacks to take home from Plum Organics for the pipsqueaks; and Fawen drinkable soup for the adults; plus sweet treats from Call Me Caramel and from the Per Se team; and gorgeous views and freedom to roam in the elegant dining room!

Fun was had by all ages -- from infants to grandparents and everyone in between! 

Many thanks to the Per Se kitchen, their exemplary and enthusiastic staff, our NS team -- and the brands who made everything possible!

Pizza, Baby, Pizza

So apparently last week was National Pizza Week in the US and we missed it! But not to worry, because, really, isn't every week pizza week??  Here are some ways to celebrate slice spirit everyday!

For the adults:  Now, we don't know any pizzaiolo who slices their pie into 7 (?) slices, but in case you and your six best friends need a way to show the world your love, the pizza friendship necklace has you covered!  // Or, decorate the most-used item in your daily life to show your pizza love --with a phone case to make you smile. // Sneak pizza into your wardrobe with a not-so-subtle pair of socks... 

For the little ones: Let the kiddos impress with their favorite food too!  We're not a fan of the photorealistic tees out there (too real!), but here are some cheery (not cheesy) pizza items for little feet, hands, bedroom walls and necks:  

As home decor: Give pizza the pride of place it deserves in your living room:  Isn't the coffee table more accurately the pizza table, anyway? Treat it that way with a glorious tome by aficionado Daniel Young// Get graphic with artwork that shows off pizza's best side //  Or go festive at any time of the year with a string of pizza lights!

Fun for Everyone: And a few more pizza-themed things for family play together!

NYE with Pipsqueaks-in-tow

New Year's Eve can be a tough one to celebrate with the littles, BUT it is possible!  Whether you're ready to strap an infant on for a night on the town or would prefer an early evening in your pajamas, there's a way to make a family-friendly midnight work -- even if it means cheating the countdown clock a little...  Besides, marking the successful survival of a calendar year together is certainly cause enough for a celebration!

Cheating the Clock

The best trick in the book: countdown doesn't HAVE to take place exactly at midnight.... in fact, it could take place at any time!!  An after-dinner appointed hour is fine for kiddos.  Netflix declared that "9PM is the New Midnight" and we couldn't agree more!

 Celebrating in Solidarity -- with Someplace Else!

This is one of our favorite ideas because unless you live in Samoa, somewhere in the world is turning over to the new year before you!  If you live in London, UK, why not celebrate with an Indian-flavored feast when Mumbai's midnight hits (around 6:30pm GMT!)  Or if you're in New York or elsewhere on the US east coast, try joining the European's with a Greek (5pm EST) or an Italian (6pm EST) or even a British-themed (7pm) repast!  Chicagoans, go Brazilian with Rio de Janeiro (at 8pm Central), and Californians, you have your pick, including Buenos Aires (at 7pm Pacific) or much of the Caribbean (8pm).  Take a cue from another culture this year!

Festive Foods

Another fun way to mark the moment is with the food itself!  Here are some easy ways to take part in a globally-minded way:

  • Spain and Portugal famously down 12 grapes -- one on each stroke of the midnight bell.
  • Turkey and Greece smash a pomegranate on the floor and count the scattered pieces for good luck.
  • In lots of places -- Italy, India, Brazil among others -- lentils or other legumes like black-eyed peas are considered good luck foods.
  • Long noodles symbolize longevity and make many new years appearances across Asia
  • Savor a Scandianvian-style new year's treat with pickled herring
  • Don't mis any excuse to include donuts as a festive dessert, their round shape is good luck too!

Fun for All!

Lastly, fireworks or not, make sure you've got something to set a sparkly scene...

-- and don't forget to take some special pics to remember the occasion!

Hit the town, TOGETHER!

If staying out until midnight doesn't suit, there are earlier options for all ages in lots of cities.  Check out some fun ideas:

 

Books: A Food-focused Reading List -- Part 1

Everyone loves food -- at least everyone we know! -- so here's a group of food-related books about food culture, lives, history, etc. (just not cook-books) that we're excited about this season.  Some are brand-new, some have become classics, but all of them are thoroughly satisfying reads.

(The links are all affiliate links to Amazon -- so you can choose your fave edition or just download to Kindle.)

We love a good sweeping culinary history:

And our chef-worshiping side can't resist a gripping memoir:

Or maybe a novel with a nod to the culinary world:

Try something quirky for the coffee table:

For short-on-alone-time new parents, an anthology can be a great way to fit a read into brief quiet moments:

We already selected some books for the kids in our Holiday Gift Guide, but here are a few more, for all those nieces and nephews and cousins on your list:

Gift-worthy Charities We Love

This holiday season, consider donating to a cause that's meaningful to you.  Here are some worthy food-related options.

Feeding those in need: Here are some amazing organizations that address hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity, either nationally or globally -- (from left to right: Action Against Hunger, No Kid Hungry, Feed America, Feed the Children, and the UN's World Food Program)

If you like to see exactly what your money buys for those in need, there are some much-needed items you can donate through these charities -- (from L to R: a goat from Heifer International, a cooking stove from Oxfam, a beehive from Send a Cow, a fishing kit from World Vision)

Support great causes when seasonal gift-giving -- with some edible gifts that give back too: (from L to R: Hot Bread Kitchen, Olivera, FEED + Mouth, One Hope Wines, Jcoco Chocolates, The Bee Cause Project)

And lend your support -- or just check out! -- these food-related education and cultural institutions: (Slow Food, Farm Aid, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, James Beard Foundation, MOFAD)

Nibble+squeak's Holiday Gift Guide 2016

We would prefer to spend our holiday prep time eating rather than shopping, But still... it's fun to look. We thought we would share the items we're *drooling* over right now! some links below are affiliate links.  And coming up next, our list of worthy charities to donate to this season...

Even the littlest babies can get a grown-up food fix -- a pretzel teether, ABC food onesies, donut slippers, or a pair of "appealing" toothbrushes:

If you've been to one of our events, you've probably seen the phil&teds' Lobster in action (full disclosure: they provided a lot of highchairs)  Use our exclusive discount code "NIBBLE+SQUEAK" for 20% off your purchase!

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For the fashion-forward foodie -- a pizza purse, vegetable tattoos (I'm partial to the corn, toddler wants broccoli), some spiffy socks, and a statement tee:

We are big readers, so naturally we gravitate toward children's books that pique our other interests too:

And some random cheer-me-up food-related fun -- pickles that make everything better, an ice-cream truck toy, re-useable stickers, and a special treat for your Saturday morning:

But the item that is saving our life this season is the Echo Dot -- from reordering toothpaste and diapers, to turning off lights while there is a toddler on our lap, the Dot allows us that hand-free access to the internet that we wished for when we were nursing/napping our infant.  It (she?) can read books aloud, play music, even tell jokes or set reminders about what we put in the freezer and when. Techie and futuristic, but cheap ($39.99) and user-friendly enough to use every day, constantly. Thanks, Alexa.

Wishing everyone a warm and happy, content and full holiday season from Nibble+squeak.

"New" Nordic Cuisine, Toddler Style

In honor of all those end-of-year accolades going to Agern, here's a guest post from one of the dads who attended our NYC Nibble+squeak lunch with his daughter!

Oranges are not what you typically expect out of New Nordic cuisine, but that’s what my 20-month old daughter wanted. So while I dined on an exquisite three-course seasonal meal that Nibble+Squeak recently hosted at Agern, Baby S munched on orange wedges. But even she couldn’t resist the grated leek, celeriac and apple topping on my skate wing when it was served.

She kindly alternated between munching on the medley herself and sticking grated slivers in my mouth. Sitting with a friendly group of other parents and their young children at the table, nobody minded the fine dining faux pas.

Shortly after we first arrived, while we were getting to know our fellow diners next to us, the servers brought the toddlers each a small bowl of fresh Icelandic Skyr with big, beautiful blackberries and blueberries on top. This was a perfect start! Yogurt and blackberries are S’s favorite. But as she is wont to do, she was having none of it. The other kids tucked right in (and I caught a parent or two sneaking a bite), but S refused. Rest assured, I ate every bite so nothing went to waste.

But before our next course, we went for a little stroll to the bar. And that’s when she spied them, between the lemons and limes: oranges! She shouted and asked for one. The bartender needed some help in translation, but he kindly sliced a small wedge of orange and handed it to S on a small black napkin.

S smiled ear to ear and bit right in. Eyeing the one little slice, I was just counting down until she…”MORE!”  We kindly asked the bartender for a bit more oranges and this time he happily sliced up half an orange and put it on a plate that we took back to our table.

My bitter salad with blackberry, almonds and havgus had arrived. So while I enjoyed a taste of Nordic cuisine at its finest, S munched on oranges. Everyone was happy.

There may have been a couple more trips to the bar to refill our plate of oranges, but the bartender was happy to oblige.  Once the skate arrived, S was clearly starting to feel the menu.  Maybe it was her attempt at drawing a fish using the crayons provided on the table that inspired her. She didn’t eat much of the fish in the end, but she did enjoy the leek, celeriac and apple mélange.

When the chocolate cake arrived, it was a battle to eat fast enough before S devoured it. She was slowed down picking off the sour cherries and trying to throw them across the table. With my superior coordination to a toddler, I could eat with one hand and play cherry defense with the other.

It was a terrific meal with lovely company. Clearly S isn’t bothered ordering off-menu, and thankfully neither was the bartender at Agern.