Around the Island

Library cooks up a delicious discussion with Ina Garten

The popular Book and Author Luncheon fundraiser was hosted virtually by the Shelter Island Public Library on Wednesday, Sept. 29, continuing the efforts of library director Terry Lucas to adapt activities to COVID safety precautions. TV host Willie Geist filled a role he has played for this event before, this time interviewing cookbook author and owner of the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. If viewers felt a sense of familiarity in their conversation, it’s because Ms. Garten had appeared in an edition of Mr. Geist’s Sunday Sitdown feature on the Sunday Today Show.

Ms. Garten related how she came to purchase the Barefoot Contessa shop — the name was already in place — and over the years realized she would enjoy the challenge of writing cookbooks. They quickly became popular among readers and cooks who admired her approach to cooking and to a relaxed lifestyle.

She said an important part of her approach is to test recipes, to make sure home cooks of varying experience levels can enjoy success when trying to replicate her dishes. Mr. Geist professed that his specialty was barbecuing ­— “I’m a grill man” — and although the summer season was coming to an end, “I’ve been known to go out in knee-deep snow” to get the perfect sizzle on his steaks.

Ms. Garten turned the tables on Mr. Geist, asking how he’d enjoyed living on Shelter Island. His parents, Bill and Jody Geist, had bought a summer house on the Island around the time he graduated from college, and it quickly became a favorite place for the family to gather. His sister had her wedding on the Island, and his wife and children came for long summer vacations. He spoke of the unmistakable feeling “from the moment you pull on the ferry and feel the breeze, and think ‘I’m here.’”

Ms. Garten shared that one of her favorite excursions when the pandemic had severely limited activities was to take a ferry ride from the Hamptons to Shelter Island and shop for groceries at the IGA. Both related that they had a favorite restaurant, Vine Street Cafe, on the Island.

Viewers who found that their conversation whetted their appetite can look forward to a new show Ms. Garten is developing, where she will interview guests while preparing and sharing a meal. One of her first guests: Willie Geist.