Meet Long Island’s ‘Jewish Martha Stewart’

Anna Sequoia is the author of the 1982 pop culture bestseller, The Official J.A.P. Handbook, a book currently experiencing a stunning comeback.

Photo by Ray Ewing

To appreciate the creative mindset of longtime Glen Cove resident Anna Sequoia, imagine you are a bestselling author, and a dedicated antiques enthusiast, and an impressive green gardener, and a prolific home baker and cook.

“I love to entertain!” she exclaims.

Anna Sequoia, née Schneider, discovered Long Island in the early ’80s, and the world caught up with Anna then as well. Anna is the author of the 1982 pop culture bestseller, The Official J.A.P. Handbook, a book currently experiencing a stunning comeback. Future fiction and nonfiction writing projects are now in the works, and while navigating the energy and excitement of this moment, Anna strives to stay grounded, as she always has—via her love of cooking, baking, and entertaining in style. 

Anna’s devotion to all things kitchen and dining room table began when she was young, under the tutelage of her two aunts: Hajny, a diplomat’s wife, and Judy, an interior designer. Time spent with them was enchanting, cultivating in Anna an appreciation for both occasion and design, and thus began her lifelong passion for creating spirited yet discerning collections of her own. With these period tablecloths, linens, glass, crystal, china, and silver, Anna creates striking mix-and-match table settings, styled by era, for home, for friends, for her own enjoyment. 

Next on Anna’s creative trail was her foray into baking. A woman ever determined to turn lemons into lemon meringue pie, Anna discovered the classic Good Housekeeping’s Party Pie Book while waylaid by a fading post-collegiate romance. She spent months advancing her piecrust-making skills, and then experimented further with locally sourced blackberry and peach fillings. Before long, pies were flowing out of her kitchen and into her neighbors’ houses faster than they could be devoured. 

“Have mercy!” they begged. 

Her pie and piecrust prowess has expanded quite a bit since then—ultimately she perfects and prefers a butter crust—and she also indulges in savories, spiced with herbs from her own home garden: oregano, basil and thyme varieties, chives, curly parsley. Of course when her huge fig tree starts baring its fruits, Anna is game for that as well.

“I like to just stand under the tree and eat them,” she tells me over a dramatic lunch of a Sausage and Leek Pie, filling adapted from a Mary Ann Esposito recipe, and that butter piecrust developed over the years by Anna herself. The table setting boasted black-and-white patterned plates, which were 19th Century English Mulberry Ironstone, juxtaposed beside a 19th century wedding ring pattern water goblet and a Cambridge Rose Point stem wineglass, all of which lay atop a decorative red tablecloth from the 1860s. Her mix of contemporary and period greatly enhances the meal, and the moment.

Over white wine, and later vanilla ice cream, Anna takes me further on her life adventures: writing the The Official J.A.P. Handbook while living in Bridgehampton, in an apartment across the street from Bobby Van’s Steakhouse, and later moving to The Hildreth House on Madison Street in Sag Harbor, a perfectly fitting design of a residence. She relocated for a while to Greenwich Village, and also made the transition to Senior Creative Director for Multichannel Product Marketing for Publisher’s Clearinghouse. Throughout it all, she never stopped entertaining, or heightening the drama of her dinners with elegant table designs. In fact, it was her cohorts at Publisher’s Clearinghouse that dubbed her “The Jewish Martha Stewart.”

“I can’t say I disagree,” she admits. 

Though New York City living was romantic and exciting, she missed the beauty and calm of more laid-back living. She made the decision to return to Long Island for good in the early 2000s, and has never looked back.

For antiques, she combs her local environs for collectibles, hitting up estate sales, garage sales, and St. John’s of Lattingtown’s annual fall fair. She scours websites and newsletters, researches period ware, and volunteers at local antique events, including happenings at two local synagogues in Glen Cove. For baking and cooking, she turns to her own garden, and supplements in the springtime with produce from Rottkamp Farm Stand in Brookville. The rest of the year she shops at Gemelli Gourmet Market North in Glen Head, and North Shore Farms in Glen Cove. And for the pièce de résistance—her dinner parties—she includes her circle of friends from Long Island and beyond, a scintillating mix of writers, artists, bakers, and more. This in fact is how I’ve come to know Anna.

 “Plain and fancy—handsome and luscious,” is the subtitle of Good Housekeeping’s Party Pie Book. This dual nature of pies, as defined in Anna’s original baking bible, well describes her emotional and visual aesthetic. Anna looks to create her art, be it with words or food or design, in ways that are exactly that. 

Check out her website at annasequoia.com.

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