Chef Billy Strynkowski enters the kitchen and dumps a platter of heirloom tomatoes on the center island. "Ladies, let's chop these with some basil," he announces.
The women raise their knives and begin preparing what will be Summer Tomato Chopped Salad amid a chorus of questions.
"Grace, do you have any sea salt?"
"Where's the measuring cup?"
"Where's the bowl?"
"Where's the wine?"
As the women laugh, Strynkowski produces a box of live lobsters. He holds them aloft, one in each hand, and explains how you can tell the gender by the extra legs the female has on her torso. "For multitasking," someone jokes.
Wright pours Russell a glass of Bordeaux, then sits down. "I really love this," she says, surveying her kitchen and her new friends, who are busily dicing, stirring, and washing dishes. "I had my little social cocoon before. I like breaking out from that. I like the girls so much. We share everything, from how we make mashed potatoes to where to buy great shoes."
Another benefit for Wright and the group has been learning to cook more healthfully. "My mother made these amazing Mexican pancakes, but they were so fatty," Wright says. "I'm trying out ways to make them leaner."
"It's not like we've been meeting for years and we're all these great chefs," Russell adds. "The outcome of the club is that we are getting better. We try new recipes out on each other. It's a comfortable environment for experimenting."
Across the kitchen, Strynkowski is teaching the women how to extract the custard for the Lemon-Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce from its cup: "You allow a little air to get in, pop it, then it falls right out." He wipes his brow, pats down his shirt, then turns his attention to some thyme that has gone to seed. "When it has flowered, it's too late. It's bitter," he explains. The women nod and pluck the spoiled thyme from the bunch.
"My son is taking the sat tomorrow," Diamond announces.
"Oh, yuck," Poma says.
"Where do all parties end up?" shouts Strynkowski above the din of a running faucet, the boiling stockpot, and the affectionate small talk.
"The kitchen!" the women answer in unison.
"To the kitchen!" says Strynkowski, raising his glass.
"To the kitchen!"
As the day progresses, the women decide they like cooking together. They determine that next time they meet they'll choose one dish to prepare together in addition to the courses they bring. Nothing to make the night too busy, but enough to collaborate. Their supper club is evolving, as are their friendships.
"It's like a cooking community," Wright says.
"It's something I do just for me," Diamond says. "I'm surprised by how much I enjoy it. Maybe we wouldn't all be friends if we met at a party, but because cooking was the focus, we eased into getting to know each other. It just flows."
The meal ready, the women gather around the table to eat. But first, a toast: "To a tremendous amount of fun!" For a minute, the room falls quiet. Everyone is eating. Praise follows-"terrific," "wonderful," "delicious." Another toast, this time to Chef Billy.
"What is the name of your supper club?" he asks.
The women confer. And then, "How about The Original Long Island Supper Club?" Russell suggests.
"Why 'original'?" Strynkowski asks.
"Because," Diamond says, "there are bound to be more."