While bringing people together and showing them a good time sounds pretty simple, the perception of effortlessness is itself an impressive act of conjuring. From the light in the air to the chosen abundance on the plate to the heartbeat hum of *just* the right music, there is a specific kind of mystical alchemy to "entertaining"—just swap in the smoking cauldron of a successful incantation for the electric good-times feeling that rises, like bubbles in a champagne glass, to the top of the well-appointed room. As with most magic, it's not hard, per se, but you have to know the makings of the spell, have the words, power, and energy to set the intention, and be a very good witch.

The enchanting Sara Mae Zandi has been brewing just this sort of mystical alchemy at the constellation of charmed upstate establishments she, her chef-partner Sohail, and their young daughter Violet are building together in Bovina, NY. Anchored by their beloved restaurant, Brushland Eating House, and expanding into a patchwork inn and ordinary, a general store and sandwich shop, and, most recently, a newly-launched apron company, her world is a sacred space of lingering memories made, of traditions celebrated and created anew, and of the abiding magic of humans sharing an experience, a meal, a life. We borrowed Sara for a moment on a gilded afternoon to chat about imagining and reimagining what it means to be together and apart, cultivating new reverence for simplicity, and the common thread of a lifetime of "best" meals.


Sara wears the Keaton Jumpsuit in Putty





For you, more than many, life and livelihood is deeply interconnected with shared spaces and experiences and the transformative power of communal humanity. Has this past season shifted what you value about being together or being apart?

Yes, in a big way. It has taught us how to be more intentional in gathering and being social. Man, I love hosting people, we love feeding friends, but once you've been forced to stop the everyday interactions, you realize how exhausting it can be when it's hollow. During quarantine, we isolated as a family and hardly saw friends, even when we ventured out for a walk. It was so restorative to turn off the charm, the thoughtful question-asking, and just exist as three people. In terms of work, we restructured our hours and service, so that we are open for one seating, three nights a week, and those nights feel like the most fun, delicious and debaucherous dinner party you've ever been to. And then we close for the week, we really retreat—it's just us, at home for the most part, enjoying each other. That distinction—and not letting work or the social aspects of it—bleed into personal life, is a really tremendous revelation and all thanks to the forced downtime. Community is very important to us, and even more so maybe in a rural mountain town with so few people and resources, but bleeding it dry by oversaturating ourselves or overpacking our calendar, feels counterproductive. Being together now in this amended way, as in with friends or patrons, feels really special and our attention is undivided. And being apart is just deeply rejuvenating, how it should be.


Food is so deeply tied to the power of memory—both the sensual and tactile and that of tradition and ritual. What are your favorite memories to conjure?

Food is such a powerful vehicle for storytelling, and I find that even a simple breakfast spent eating at our kitchen island can elicit some intense feelings—I definitely process emotions and memories at and through meals, that's for sure. The ritual of gathering at mealtime was really sacred as I was growing up and my mom spent a lot of time and energy making dishes that she thought were exciting, as good food and feeding us well was so important to her. Pork and Sauerkraut, which was a P.A. Dutch New Years Eve tradition, and the chocolate cake with peanut butter icing she'd make for all of our birthdays, are dishes that even now, when I eat, I can't help but cry a little. I'm instantly 8 and I can picture my holiday dress and velvet scrunchie and all of the people that were there and I feel like my mom is in the room, suddenly. And lately, remaking meals with my husband that we cooked early on in our relationship - linguine clams when we lived on Martha's Vineyard - or ate while traveling - laarb in Bangkok - is a nice way to access the not-so-distant but tender memories of falling in love. It's amazing how memories bind to food, you take a bite years later and you're down this rabbit hole—for better or for worse.


How would you describe your personal style? Has there been any evolution (or revolution) with the transitions away from the city/in this past wild season/into motherhood?

I've always sought out comfort and utility in my clothing, preferring hardworking denim or a jumpsuit, before they were even cut in a beautiful fabric or tailored to be flattering (like yours!) but I counter those uniform basics with interesting old t-shirts of my dads or a sweater with a lot of texture. I also really do love a hat—a baseball cap or something woven in the summer, a good chunky beanie in the winter. Thankfully that translates well to country living and also motherhood, where precious doesn't quite jive. Don't get me wrong, I'm always down to put on a stacked heel boot or a great pair of silver hoops, but day to day I'm trying to be free of restrictive or fragile, because I'm in and out of the restaurant or playing outside with a toddler. I don't feel like I lost much in the way of style while moving upstate or becoming a mom, since I've always been drawn to durable fabrics and timeless shapes—which has helped so much with feeling like 'me' through so much change.




Sara wears the Sloan Cardi and Utility Pant in Ceramic



Sara wears the Ballet Top and 1930's Bandana in Walnut 






How do you maintain your connection to the natural world?

Well, we live in a place where the natural world just creeps up into our house and onto our bodies pretty much constantly—the Catskills, and even more so where we are perched—just force you to be involved. A deliberate choice on our part, leaving the city to stretch out here in a place where even a drive to the grocery store means interacting with deer and fox and snow storms and technicolor leaves, like they are now in the fall. Even though you don't have to try hard, we still do, because we love exploring. Walking with the dogs and picking wild apples, foraging for mushrooms and swimming in the Delaware in summer, after a sweaty hot day without AC (it's just not a thing here.) Planting a garden, which we pick flowers and eat veggies from, feels like a great way to get to know a place, also. This crazy microclimate we live in won't give us tomatoes until August but we get Dahlias all the way through to the first snow, making it the sweetest, brightest and most abundant harvest.


What are you most excited about for the near future? For the distant future? For the present moment?

I'm excited about carrying on in a way that feels sustainable—all of those points about remaining present and shedding excess—I want to keep those top of mind, not shoving them away as we get farther from the darkness of 2020. It's easy to do, learn lessons and then slack a bit when the sun shines and momentum picks up. It's been so transformative for our family, to spend more time together, real quality time, and I don't want to lose that reverence for keeping things simple. I'm excited for the future of our apron company, Pigeon, as we work with some very fun, new restaurants, I'm so excited to watch Violet evolve and become more and more of her own person, and I'm excited to continue collaborating with inspiring women making beautiful, heirloom textiles. There's a lot to be excited about, just recognizing that is pretty awesome.


Find Sara on Instagram here, and her restaurant Brushland Eating house here. Photos by Chloe Horseman.






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