When my dear friend Gael Greene comes out East I happily clear my schedule. Gael is a living legend. She’s been a professional restaurant reviewer longer than anyone else. Mimi Sheraton is older, yes, and she reviewed for The New York Times from 1975 until 1983, but Gael has been going nonstop for decades, since 1968, for various publications. She has a unique and enduring enthusiasm for reviewing and for aristology. The New York Times’ Craig Claiborne coined the term “Siberia” to describe the least desirable seating in a high-end restaurant but Gael explained the concept in “delicious” detail in her 1971 book Bite.
At age 81 Gael still dines out, mainly in New York, six nights a week! When I asked her if she ever gets food poisoning, she thought about it and said, “maybe twice in 40 years.” Bowels. Of. Steel.
So with Gael as my beacon, and I as her local guide, we headed out into the summer sea of Hamptons restaurants to indulge. This is the best of what my research revealed:
Osteria Salina’s (in Wainscott) house-made pasta with pistachio pesto. It was a special there last Friday. I’m going to try making it at home, though the utterly balanced umami/basil of their rendition is intimidating.
The Free Spirit at Wölffer Kitchen in Sag Harbor. Finally someone has created a refreshing drink, using verjus, so good that you don’t want for any alcohol in it.
The veggie burger with everything at Bay Burger in Sag Harbor. This is a black bean burger and your choices of cheese include, among others, cheddar or bleu. Get one of these cheeses in the mix of “everything” and you won’t miss having a meat patty at all. Gael pointed out that “everything” might best include bacon—but, really, I think that might be over-the-top.
A fresh-picked cucumber from my Sag Harbor garden stolen between meals. People rave about carrots and peas fresh from the garden and they’re right to do so. There’s a world of difference between “fresh” and “fresh-picked.” Consuming a cucumber that has just been picked, rinsed off and peeled in a matter of minutes is an otherworldly experience.
The Croque Croissant for brunch at LT Burger in Sag Harbor. This is not for the animal lover. Loads of ham with scrambled eggs and Swiss cheese inside a croissant. The pastry’s slight sweetness with that Black Forest ham—oh my!
The jerk spiced Long Island duck tacos at 75 Main in Southampton. New chef Brian Cheewing has really done it with this blend of duck, Caribbean fruit, corn salsa and chipotle aioli.
The green gazpacho at First and South in Greenport. Cool and mild, a great introduction to a sumptuous summer meal.
The arugula pizza at Harbor Market and Kitchen in Sag Harbor. So simple, so perfect.
The coconut cake and the lemon-thyme panna cotta at Bell & Anchor in Noyac. This place is known for its oysters and other seafood, and for its Home Port Chowder, and rightly so. But wow—do save room for their desserts. The solid, but not heavy, coconut cake is a cool, textural delight. The coconut filaments are cut to just exactly the best size. The lemon-thyme panna cotta screams of lemon, then hints of thyme but is all creamy wonder.
A Grand Marnier chocolate truffle prepared by Topping Rose House (Bridgehampton) Pastry Chef Cassandra Shupp. It’s all kinds of naughty and oh-so-smooth.
You can now follow Stacy’s wacky adventures on Twitter, @HamptonsEpicure