The Beekman Boys on Entertaining Advice and Heirloom Recipes

May 13, 2014

We're sitting down with our favorite writers and cooks to talk about their upcoming cookbooks, their best food memories, and just about anything else.

Today: The Beekman Boys talk farm life, entertaining advice, and their new book, the Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook. Bonus: We're giving away five copies!


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Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell would be fantastic dinner party guests. They ditched Manhattan to buy a farm in upstate New York, where they grow vegetables and raise goats; they've penned three cookbooks; and they won The Amazing Race (yes, the TV show); so they're likely to have a few good stories to share, and be willing to lend a hand in the kitchen. 

In their latest book, The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook, Brent and Josh have turned to their garden and recorded a year's worth of vegetable dishes, starting with the first days of spring -- abundant with ramps and radishes -- and ending with winter's roots and gratins. The recipes feel at once home-grown and slightly unexpected, the sorts of ideas you'd pick up when dining at a very hospitable friend's home. And as it turns out, when Brent and Josh have you over for dinner, you'll be foraging for your own salad, and likely eating a meal cooked from a very nice stove. Good company is a given.

Have you always been home cooks?
Yes. We both grew up in very rural areas (Josh in Wisconsin and Brent in North Carolina), which is where we each learned to garden and cook. We refined our taste buds a little living a decade in NYC and eating at some of the best restaurants in the world, but we like to focus on what we call "heirloom recipes." These are recipes that you make so many times that they have their own stories, narratives, and memories built into the dish. While there are many fantastic and elaborate recipes to try, very few actually become "heirlooms." We think that to reach this status, a recipe has to be easy to make, call for readily accessible ingredients, and, of course, be delicious. These are the recipes we try to create for our books. 

What are you doing with spring vegetables at the moment?
We grow or raise over 80% of the food that we personally consume. Our farm is pretty far north in upstate NY, so our growing season has not really started. But right now we are harvesting wild ramps (which have been abundant this year), and we eat something with ramps almost daily: ramps with eggs, sautéed ramps, ramp pesto...

What’s the best piece of entertaining advice you’ve ever gotten?
The best advice we can give is something we've learned from entertaining large and small groups over many years: Always give your guests something to do. No one feels comfortable just standing around while someone else is working away.

Our vegetable gardens are organic, and when we have dinner parties in the summer, they start out in the garden. We set up plates on the harvest table and give each guest a pair of garden scissors and a bowl. They walk around the garden and harvest their own salads. It gets them engaged with the food and gives people who may not know one another a natural way to strike up a conversation. Even if your "garden" is several pots sitting on your windowsill, it's still a fun thing for guests to do.

More: Put your guests to work on this Baby Arugula and Pea Shoot Salad.

Arugula Salad on Food52

You live in an old mansion, which you’ve admitted is a “bitch to maintain.” What’s your favorite part of your kitchen?
The favorite part of our kitchen is our Cornue Fe stove! It's where all of our recipes get their start. It's the most expensive thing we own, and worth every penny.

What advice do you have for city-dwellers who dream of moving to a farm?
Either have a trust fund, or do as we did: Lose everything and start over. Desperation really is the best motivator.

We're giving away five copies of the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook! To enter, tell us in the comments: What's the best piece of entertaining advice you've ever gotten? We'll choose five winners at random this Friday, May 16th!

Pasta photo by James Ransom; arugula photo by Merrill Stubbs; book photo + author photo courtesy of Beekman 1802.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • pretty_pathetic
  • JoyJoy
  • sapelo
  • LB
  • anntruelove
Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



pretty_pathetic May 16, 2014
Take people up on their offers to bring dessert or wine or bread or crackers or shrimp or whatever. Worst case, there's too much food and everyone gets to take some home.
JoyJoy May 15, 2014
Ina Garten repeatedly says in her shows to not make everything yourself. Use good local shops for the appetizer (cheese & charcuterie) or dessert (pick up a great ice cream to go with your pie), for example. I always try to remember this when I feel overwhelmed before entertaining.
sapelo May 15, 2014
Begin parties with a farm tour and a stop by the goat barn, following which everyone will be gleefully happy.
LB May 15, 2014
Prep as much as possible several days/hours in advance so you have plenty of time before guests to arrive to set the table , have a glass of wine, etc. Another piece of advice: have a "make your own cocktail bar" where you lay out the recipe and ingredients and you let the guests shake and stir to their choosing. It's fun and social!
anntruelove May 14, 2014
I'm not much of an entertainer although I'd like to do more of it. I've learned a lot by watching other hosts and have to say that genuinely caring about my guests and being grateful for their presence has resulted in very memorable and enjoyable get togethers.
Patty W. May 14, 2014
bring your own dish or drinks some need diet or no sugar so it helps on different likes wants or needs... have others bring cups plates etc.
Celeste May 14, 2014
Never apologize!
Adam V. May 14, 2014
Always have more food than you think you'll need, you never know when a lunch will run into a dinner, or a dinner will run into late-night snack time.
Irene [. May 14, 2014
From my late grandmother, a brilliant woman, talented cook, and the quintessential 1950's homemaker... "Never make more than one new dish for a dinner party." I don't always follow that rule, but when I don't, I enjoy myself less because I am stressed about the results of the new dishes.
Dennis May 14, 2014
People love "make your own" bars - like make your own chili, make your own taco, make your own burger. Put out all the cooked ingredients, assemble one for display, and let your guests do the work
barrie May 14, 2014
My mom told me to give guests a job- help setting the table, dressing a relaxes them and helps you!
Sipa May 14, 2014
Enjoy yourself. It's a party not a contest.
CarmellaCarter May 14, 2014
Keep it simple so you can spend more time with your guests and enjoy the food. Always have your guests bring a dish, they like to contribute! Make sure there's plenty of food, ice, drinks and great music and have FUN! Pour yourself a drink, turn up the music and clean once everyone has left. Most of all make sure your guests feel like they are at home. Smile and Laugh! Makes me want to plan a party! Looking forward to your new book!
missmertz May 14, 2014
If you want to serve a cocktail, make it a pitcher cocktail or punch. Or, put out recipe cards, so guests can mix their own and you don't have to stand there muddling all night.
cocos C. May 14, 2014
Don't worry about perfection. Guests prefer a relaxed host to one who is fussing over everything.
darcell May 14, 2014
Make sure to know if someone is glutan free or vegan ect:) And have something for them to eat.
JoAnna E. May 14, 2014
Don't sweat the cleanliness. Just treat guests like family.
Gigi May 14, 2014
Don't be afraid to let the guests bring something too. It makes them feel good and makes your life easier. Entertaining should be fun for all involved not just the company. :)
Antigoni S. May 14, 2014
Keep the food simple and comfortable. Don't try to pull out all of the stops when you have company, it takes away from enjoying your guests. And when they ask to help....let them!
jill L. May 14, 2014
Enjoy your guests and don't work too hard making it perfect