Phyllis Quinn

Many years ago I became so ill that I could not get off the sofa for several weeks, and this is when Phyllis Quinn, personal chef, swooped in to rescue us from starvation. Yet I did not know then what I know now. The day that Phyllis landed at my door with open arms ready to feed and nurture our family, I made a dear friend I would treasure for 25 years.

Eventually, in 2014, Phyllis brought her “Ask Chef Phyllis” cooking Q&A from her social media pages to our Selene River Press blog. The SRP blog hosts a community of health practitioners, foodies, and authors. Each with their own unique voice, our writers represent a wide range of knowledge and speak to a wide range of people. Yet Phyllis stands out, just as she did in life. Her voice—full of joie de vivre and a larger-than-life ability to love—captures you into a hug of acceptance and comfort. In her way, Phyllis was a healer, and food was her medicine.

We were thrilled to publish two little books by Phyllis that she originally planned to use as material for her Udderly Cultured cheese-making classes. When life took her in a different direction, she discontinued the classes, but her audience still had questions. One reader asked, “Can you find the recipe for veal piccata that was served at the Italian Pavilion during the 1939 World’s Fair?” Phyllis not only found the recipe but somehow brought the fair to life with her storytelling. “My husband is gluten intolerant. What cake can I make for him on Valentine’s Day?” asked another. To which Phyllis answered with a Gluten-Free Chocolate Flourless Cake that would make anyone’s Valentine’s day sweeter.

As the word got out about her writing, even more people discovered Phyllis’s homey, kitchen-tested recipes and the fundamental cooking skills she wrote about in her books.

Until her last days, Phyllis remained young. She giggled like a girl, her smile big and full-hearted even in her 80th year. Still dating after widowhood, still hanging out with girlfriends, still hiking in the rough terrain of her mountain home. She shared herself fearlessly with everyone she met. You can see all of this in her wonderful blog posts, where you’ll find at least one delicious recipe waiting for you at the end.

We will miss her spirit, her force of love, her stories, and—if I leave this out she will never forgive me—her scrumptious cannolis.

We love you, Phyllis.

– Stephanie Selene Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of Selene River Press

Our Favorite Phyllis Quinn Posts

Authentic Veal Piccata from the 1939 World’s Fair

Ask Chef Phyllis: My parents attended the New York World’s Fair in 1939. It might [...]

The Best Colcannon Recipe

I married an Irishman whose mother was from County Kerry and whose father was from [...]

Foods That Tell a Story

One late August afternoon, with a chilly 60-degree breeze whizzing by me, I sat still, [...]

This Is That Other Story:
Connie’s Famous Grilled Cheese

A few years back, I wrote about a throw down I had with the resident [...]

I only knew Phyllis through her words. So many stories. So many memories. And so many wonderful meals.

The one with the “big, ugly heirloom tomatoes” from her Poppa’s New York City garden. “Even the leaves impart a scent on your hands when you pick them, and the aroma is almost sensuous. My New York childhood is loaded with such sweet memories.”

The one with the Tapioca Pudding from the Horn and Hardart Automat in New York, a place where a “a twist of a wrist delivered a culinary treasure.”

The one with the Broccoli and Chicken Divan, “popular at ladies luncheons in the 1960s.” (I always smiled when Phyllis wrote of “ladies luncheons.”)

The one with the Funeral Potatoes, an aching story of loss and loneliness written after the death of her husband. “In the Bronx, many years ago, there was an old widow woman who lived across the street. Now that old widow woman is me.”

The one with the Sauce Garibaldi, written after a vacation to Italy: “Should you ever be invited to a soiree by a stranger in a foreign land, I can only hope that your experience will be as magical as our near-midnight adventure—aboard a luxury yacht.”

And the one with the Coconut Custard Pie, written when she began dating again: “For me, being in love means being all in. Do you feel the same way?”

For Phyllis, we feel the same way.

– Heather Wilkinson, Senior Editor of Selene River Press

“Phyllis had a knack for sharing holistic health techniques in a way that made them more approachable, not just with well-crafted recipes, but through her personal stories that brought the warmth of a homecooked meal through your book or web browser,”

– Nick Armstrong, Author of Men in Kitchens

A Few More Favorite Posts

Later-in-Life Relationships
(plus my Makes-Its-Own-Crust Coconut Custard Pie)

Fifty years ago, Katharine Hepburn said, “Men and women should live next door to each [...]

What Makes Someone Who Cooks a Good Cook?

Ask Chef Phyllis A friend and I were talking about this the other day. My [...]

“Though I never met Phyllis in person, I felt like I truly knew her, as would anyone who has delved into her spirited writings. Phyllis had a genuine goodness to her; she cared about everyone and everything. This world is a little dimmer without her sweet spirit in it, and she will be forever missed,”

– Danielle LeBaron, Managing Editor of Selene River Press

Phyllis' Bio: In Her Own Words

My passion is cooking. I collect and enjoy reading cookbooks as if they were intriguing, can’t-wait-to-turn-the-page mystery novels. How did this come to be? Back in the 1940s, multigenerational households were not unusual in the Bronx. In addition to my immediate family of Momma, Dad, and my sister, our three-story house was filled with my maternal grandparents, Nana and Poppa, and my paternal widowed grandmother from Italy, Grandma. Here my passion for cooking and making cheeses began.

In late spring, Nana, who was French and Iroquois, would return to the age-old craft of making her own cheese. I didn’t know then that the April rains brought new grasses to the mountains. By May and early June the cows were feasting on nutrient-dense food that only fast-growing green grasses can produce. I didn’t know it was those early grasses that made the creamiest cheese possible—but I do now.

So on Sunday mornings in spring, off we’d go to Verna Mae’s Farm in the Catskills. For a child in New York City, going “upstate” meant an adventure in the country. We picked strawberries, cherries, tomatoes, and whatever was in season from May through late October. After lunch at Verna Mae’s Farm, we’d make the two-hour journey home to begin processing the foods we’d gathered. Some of this abundanza we put up for the winter.

But Nana’s real goal at the farm was to buy raw cream and milk to make butter, cheese, and ricotta. The atmosphere in our Italian-French kitchen was one of reverence for fresh, natural, uncompromised good food. My earliest memories were of watching my grandmother turn raw milk into cheese, and heirloom produce into delicious meals. I remember that feeling, the excitement when you’re about to create. My love of cooking food—its preparation, my appreciation—all started here. And, ultimately, brought this book into being.

The rural Long Island enclave of Smithtown was another arduous three-hour ride. I’d spend the time counting the numerous potato farms all the way from the Bronx. It seemed an eternity before we reached Main Street and the huge bronze statue of Whisper, Smithtown’s legendary bull.

Smithtown was also home to Poppa’s cousin Joe, the town butcher. At his shop, I learned how to dress and clean fresh chickens and ducks. I also learned all about sausage making—stretching the intestine and holding it open for Poppa and Joe as they stuffed it with ground pork and spices. Cousin Joseph taught me the different cuts of pork, veal, and beef that filled my mom’s order.

With Dad stationed in Okinawa with the Air Force, Poppa was my only father figure during World War II. Since I was the oldest grandchild, he took me everywhere, even eeling off the peer at Pelham Bay. From him, I learned to fish as well as clean and gut whatever we caught.

But my best times were visits to Aunt Lena’s house in Rye, New York. Lena wasn’t really my aunt, but she was born in the same small Italian village as my grandfather. Her family owned Cerbone’s PastryShop, and I loved the stories she told of her childhood in the warm climate outside of Naples.

I often watched Lena and her brothers make Italian and French pastries, which is another art passed down generation to generation in my family. Many years later, Lena became my benefactor, funding two semesters of formal training at The Culinary Cooking School of America in Poughkeepsie. But when her husband passed away, my formal training ended abruptly.

When I left school, I got a job at National Cash Register at Rockefeller Center in New York City, where I operated semiautomated billing and bookkeeping machines. NCR, along with Burroughs and IBM, were pioneers in what later became the computer industry.

I married Bill in October 1962, and we raised two children, Annemarie and Billy. For nearly ten years, I was a happy wife, stay-at-home mom, and homemaker. Bill went to night school, earned his engineering degree, and got hired by the Seagram building. As a good investment opportunity, we bought a bar and grill in College Point, New York. We named it Quinn’s Inn.

The inn gave us some diversified income, and eventually the business bought the building—a good thing, because even back then rents were high in New York City. For the most part, it was a self-sufficient enterprise with personnel in place. That is, until the cook broke her arm. That’s when I got my feet wet as a professional cook! I pitched in cooking and running the kitchen, making plain but wholesome food with a pleasing, homey touch. One day, our accountant Ben asked us what had changed in the kitchen. For the first time, food sales had risen above liquor sales. The twenty gallons of East Coast Chile con Carne that I cooked each and every Wednesday had put our food sales over the top!

A few years later we moved upstate, to Saratoga Springs, where I managed a dinner house in the Lake Lucerne area of the Adirondacks for almost four years. Eventually the owners divorced and sold the business. Life was changing once again. I applied for the general manager position at Chi-Chi’s, an upcoming chain of restaurants out West. I got the job, and in 1982 we moved to Denver.

One year later, I made a lateral move with Chi-Chi’s to Fort Collins. I met Dr. Barbara Mendrey and her husband, Pastor Bob. When she asked me to cook for her family, so began my next career as a personal chef.

Upon retiring to Red Feather Lakes, Colorado, in 2004, I joined a women’s group called the Mountain Gals. When I brought them my fresh mozzarella, they loved it so much that they asked for lessons. That’s how my Udderly Cultured cheese classes took off. I taught the basics of milk and cream fermentation to eager students of all ages who want to learn a sustainable skill. Lunch was included, and of course we ate from our own creations.

But why stop there?! From the classes came calls for help. One young woman wanted to know why her mayonnaise failed. Sometimes I went to their homes to remedy whatever was wrong. Other times I answered by email.

And so began my career as a food writer. Which, eventually, inspired me to write my books.

More From Phyllis' Blog

Summertime Sauerbraten:
Sweet and Sour Pot Roast, Swabian Style

It’s summertime, and the living is easy. Well, that is, for some of us. In [...]

Later-in-Life Relationships
(plus my Makes-Its-Own-Crust Coconut Custard Pie)

Fifty years ago, Katharine Hepburn said, “Men and women should live next door to each [...]

Irish Coddle (Dublin Pork Stew)

Many years ago, I asked my Ireland-born mother-in-law why she didn’t make an Irish beef [...]

Corn Casserole:
My Adventure on South Padre Island

It’s winter up in the Rocky Mountain highlands where I make my home. And those [...]

The Tale of a Woman with a Fractured Fibula, and Slow-Cooker Tips for Getting Through It

On a warmish, balmy Thanksgiving afternoon, I took a long hike while the turkey roasted [...]

Gourmet Cheese Board:
A New Tradition for Christmas Giving

It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas…I can almost hear those soft children’s voices singing “Christmas time [...]

It’s Autumn Again

I love this time of year, when Halloween is over but before we really start [...]

Food from the Bountiful Garden:
Corn on the Cob

In my mother’s kitchen, we would put the water on the stove to cook the [...]

Foods That Tell a Story

One late August afternoon, with a chilly 60-degree breeze whizzing by me, I sat still, [...]

Stuffed and Fried Squash Flowers

The last recorded song by John Prine is a beautiful ballad called “I Remember Everything,” [...]

Nana’s Sunday Tomato Sauce

Sauces define French cuisine. Although there is some debate, most sources credit Auguste Escoffier as [...]

The Best Colcannon Recipe

I married an Irishman whose mother was from County Kerry and whose father was from [...]

This Is That Other Story:
Connie’s Famous Grilled Cheese

A few years back, I wrote about a throw down I had with the resident [...]

Soup Is Hot!

The ultimate comfort food, soup is in the news! Whether it’s an old favorite that’s [...]

Christmas Chestnuts

Christmas chestnuts roasting on an open fire…or right in your oven. Here’s to bringing this [...]

Shrimp de Jonghe for the Holidays

Many years ago, at a Christmas party, the hostess served a dish called Shrimp Dijon. [...]

Solutions for Your Turkey Leftovers

Ask Chef Phyllis I have this problem every year so I decided to call the [...]

Fire-Roasted Salsa

I never could have guessed that one day I’d be writing a post while taking [...]

Tomato Abbondanza? Make Cosmo Salad!

Tomatoes love the heat, and right now it seems like hundreds of small, homegrown cherry [...]

The Cold-Storage Vegetable that Lasts Forever

The most forgettable vegetable is currently having its day in the limelight (or day in [...]

Liver and Onions Country Style

When I moved to Aurora, Colorado, in the early 1980s my first job was at [...]

Beef Steak in the French Style

Ask Chef Phyllis While traveling in Germany and France many years ago, we had the [...]

Penne Puttanesca with Shrimp

It’s summertime, and some of us are still in self-quarantine. On a happy note, this [...]

Vegetarian Moussaka:
A Classic Casserole from Greece

When I receive more than three emails from readers on the same subject—especially when they’re [...]

Traditional Finnish Cardamom Bread:
Breads of the World #6

It’s been ages since I’ve even thought of making Christmas breads. But now, with our [...]

Chicken and Broccoli Divan from Leftovers

When it comes to leftovers, it often seems that the husbands rather than the children [...]

Summer Meatloaf:
Classic and New Ideas

I will be the first to admit it. Before this pandemic, I hadn’t made a [...]

Chicken Cacciatore:
One Dish, No Fuss Cooking, Huntress-Style

Ask Chef Phyllis My family loves a good chicken dish. They demand chicken breasts, although [...]

Reflections on Baking:
How to Make a Dessert Out of Nothing at All

Here’s a novel idea: a sumptuous dessert from your already depleted pantry. And it’s easier [...]

Food in a Troubled World:
New England Clam or Fish Chowder from the Pantry or Freezer

Practice is “the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed [...]

Whipping Cream That’s Getting Old

Ask Chef Phyllis What can you tell me about whipping cream that I’ve already opened [...]

Pandemic Reflections and Quick Meals for
Canned Vegetables and Leftovers

I woke up Wednesday morning with the notion that all was well. But then in [...]

Turning Pantry Staples into Delicious Meals

This year of 2020 is a particularly difficult time in the world. Indeed, it’s a [...]

A Simple Guide to the Art and Preparation of Paella

In a post from about six years ago, I wrote about feasting (and I do [...]

The Mediterranean Lifestyle:
Salsa al Pomodoro

This post is about a treasured recipe: the best pomodoro sauce ever! Pomodoro translates to [...]

American Goulash for the Slow Cooker

Ask Chef Phyllis It seems like just yesterday it was New Year’s Day, but as [...]

It’s About Time (for Carol Anne’s Warm Artichoke Dip)

Now that we’re already into the second month of 2020, perhaps it’s about time that [...]

Halibut and Other Seafood of the Pacific Northwest

Ask Chef Phyllis It’s the time of year that my husband goes fishing in British [...]

Sauce Garibaldi:
The Tricolored Sauce of Italy’s Unification

I could have just as easily titled this blog post “Why No One Turns Down [...]

Leftover Solutions:
White Meat Turkey

Ask Chef Phyllis This is the time of year I start thinking about turkey. I [...]

Chickpeas and Their Uses

Ask Check Phyllis It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything with chickpeas. But [...]

The Lowdown on Tree Nuts and an Exceptional Pesto from Genoa

Ask Chef Phyllis I was gifted a tin with all kinds of nuts in it. [...]

Gluten-Free Pate a Choux for Cream Puffs

Ask Chef Phyllis No sooner had I finished my post on gluten-free pastry cream than [...]

Pastry Cream (English, French and Italian)

Ask Chef Phyllis I need a recipe for a good, no-fail pastry cream for the [...]

The Most Famous Sandwich at Quinn’s Inn

Once upon a time in New York City (which will always be my town), there [...]

Thai Beef Stir Fry Made Easy

Ask Chef Phyllis: I like Thai food and eat out at my favorite restaurant when [...]

Pate de Foie Gras in the Sky:
An Elegant, Bygone Time in Air Travel

After sitting for four-plus hours in a plane as it taxied from one runway to [...]

Slow Cooker Summer:
Italian Beef in the Slow Cooker

Ask Chef Phyllis: It’s come to my attention after some reader emails that most of [...]

Safe Summertime Salads

Ask Chef Phyllis: Summer is nearly here, and I love cold, creamy, mayonnaise-based potato and [...]

What Can I Do with Asparagus?

Ask Chef Phyllis I have a field of wild asparagus—at least I think it’s wild). [...]

What Makes Someone Who Cooks a Good Cook?

Ask Chef Phyllis A friend and I were talking about this the other day. My [...]

Easy Ideas for Your Mother’s Day Brunch

Ask Chef Phyllis Mother’s Day only comes once a year every year, but I’m at [...]

The Long and Short on Noodles

Ask Chef Phyllis I’m confused about noodles—egg noodles, no-yolk noodles, soba noodles, udon, ramen, rice [...]

Chapter Two: A Widow’s Time of Adjustment (and a Quiche Lorraine)

This may sound cliched, but there are some journeys you have to go on alone. [...]

Baking with Less Sugar—and More Vegetables

Ask Chef Phyllis: All I’ve been reading about—and hearing about on food TV shows—is that [...]

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Cauliflower That Kids Will Eat

Ask Chef Phyllis: It’s popular today to make pizza crust out of cauliflower rice, and [...]

It’s All About the Frittata

Ask Chef Phyllis Our neighbors stopped by recently around lunchtime, and all I had in [...]

Deviled Pork Chops with Simply Delicious Spicy Greens

Ask Chef Phyllis: Many years ago, my grandmother and great-aunt Theodora made a southern dish [...]

Chocolate Sea Salt Nut Squares or Clusters

Ask Chef Phyllis: It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and although this is supposed to be a [...]

January Is National Slow Cooker Month—Who Knew?

Crock Pots and slow cookers came to the table a long time ago. They have [...]

Any Time of Year Cheeseballs

Ask Chef Phyllis: You’d never guess that one of the most frequently asked holiday questions [...]

Gluten-Free Chicken Parmigiano for a Crowd

Ask Chef Phyllis: I was at a class (kind of a party) where you were [...]

Christmas Traditions and an Easy Gift Recipe

Ask Chef Phyllis: It’s been awhile since I made homemade gifts, such as scented pine [...]

Breads of the World: The Sally Lunn, an American Colonial Bread

Ask Chef Phyllis: It was interesting to see other bread recipes on your website. I [...]

Quick Spinach-Mushroom Lasagna: Alternatives for Vegetarians

Ask Chef Phyllis At Christmastime, I make a huge three-cheese, three-meat lasagna. I admit that [...]

Funeral Potatoes: The Next Chapter in My Life, Widowhood

The description of a new TV show says, “Friendship isn’t a big thing, it’s a [...]

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Thought You Didn’t Like Lentils? Try Savory Chicken and Lentils

How about a recipe for savory chicken and lentils in a mouthwatering wine-mushroom sauce? Did [...]

Adobo Pork: The Latin American Favorite

Before I begin this story, I should tell you that I wrote a previous blog [...]

Pollo alla Marengo: Napoleon and the Real Story of Chicken Marengo

Ask Chef Phyllis So many stories are told of the dish prepared for Napoleon in [...]

Fresh Mozzarella and Its Many Uses

Ask Chef Phyllis I know from your book, Udderly Cultured, that caprese salad and pizza [...]

Stuffed Cabbage: Slow Cooker Comfort Food

Ask Chef Phyllis I haven’t made stuffed cabbage in a long time, even though my [...]

The Lowdown on Truffles: How to Make Mock Truffles

Ask Chef Phyllis: I recently watched celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck stop by Late Night with [...]

A Mother’s Day Pancake Anyone Can Make

Ask Chef Phyllis: I need something special that kids (ages eight, ten, and twelve) can [...]

The Ultimate Waldorf Chicken Salad: A Great Memory

A lady friend came to my house for lunch last week. I was serving my [...]

For the Busy Family: Slow Cooker Chicken in Milk (Actually, I Use Cream!)

Ask Chef Phyllis: I’m not in the habit of using just chicken breasts or parts [...]

Portuguese Sweet Bread for Easter

Ask Chef Phyllis:  Back in the day, before the supermarket took over every mom-and-pop shop, [...]

Memphis Style Baby Back Pork Ribs

Ask Chef Phyllis: My family’s specialty for any get-together, wedding, or potluck is BBQ style [...]

Quick Weeknight Dinners: Pork Tenderloins

I’ve been trying to make dinners that are quick and tasty. With two teenage boys [...]

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Breads of the World: Limpa Bread for Lovers of Dark Rye and Pumpernickel

Ask Chef Phyllis: What do you know about Swedish breads? Limpa, pumpernickel, and other really [...]

No-Salt Bread (Pane Toscano)

Bread of Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche, Regions of Proud Traditions Ask Chef Phyllis: Is it [...]

Baccala (Salt Cod Stew)

Ask Chef Phyllis: I loved my mother’s baccala and have tried to make it myself. [...]

Magical Sauerkraut

Ask Chef Phyllis: Have you heard about the big fermented food craze? What should I [...]

Mardi Gras Feast in a Jiffy: Cajun Shrimp & Chicken Chowder

Ask Chef Phyllis: Lent is early this year, and since my family has Cajun roots, [...]

Coq Au Vin: Easier Chicken Braised in Red Wine

Ask Chef Phyllis: I don’t doubt that people write to you about what festive meals [...]

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Breads of the World: English Muffin Bread

Ask Chef Phyllis  Everyone knows that English muffins came to America with Samuel Thomas. Everyone [...]

A Lost Holiday Bread from the Old World

Ask Chef Phyllis: Pain d’Epices from France Have you ever heard of pain d’epices? French [...]

Cuban Oxtail Stew for New Year’s Eve

Ask Chef Phyllis: If my grandmother didn’t make Cuban pork for New Year’s Day, she [...]

Date and Nut Bread (Baked in a Can): Great for Christmas Presents

Ask Chef Phyllis: My daughter came over the other day and said, “Remember when you [...]

A Roast for All Seasons

My grandmother’s name was Ruth, but she was known as “Bubbie” for as long as [...]

The New Salt Fashions

When it comes to cooking, my friends think I’m a trend spotter (and they may [...]

A Glossary of Grains That’s Easy to Understand and Use

All my life, every Easter my family—guided by three generations of matriarchs—would make a traditional [...]

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French Goat Cheese Puffs (Gougères)

First, let’s shed a little light on goat milk and goat cheese. Growing in popularity [...]

The Lowly Radish: Harbinger of Spring

Ask Chef Phyllis: The first vegetable my husband brings in from his spring garden is [...]

What Is Cow’s Milk Paneer Cheese, and Can I Make It at Home?

Ask Chef Phyllis: I just discovered Indian cuisine, which I always thought was just curry. [...]

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“Oven Easy” Casserole Creations for Lent—Or Any Time of Year

Ask Chef Phyllis: Lent seems much longer than 40 days when I don’t have any [...]

Tuesday Is Fish Taco Night at the Covered Bridge Inn

Many years ago, this New York City girl got transplanted to the Adirondacks. As I [...]

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Valentine’s Day Cherry Almond Macaroons

Ask Chef Phyllis: Ever since I was a little girl, I remember having cherry macaroons [...]

1 Comment

Soup Making Made Easy

Ask Chef Phyllis: It’s winter, and I need to learn to make a good soup. [...]

1 Comment

Whatever Happened to Boston Baked Beans?

Ask Chef Phyllis: Many years ago, my mother and grandmother made what they called “Boston [...]

A Season That Shines…with Holiday Traditions

Ask Chef Phyllis: I want to have a holiday tradition that will make memories like [...]