Dan’s Harvest East End: Suffolk Theater Executive Chef Bernardo Menendez

Dan’s Harvest East End is fast approaching, and Riverhead’s Suffolk Theater will be on-hand to showcase some fabulous food. Suffolk Theater is the only theater on Long Island that also has a full restaurant and bar, and we spoke with Executive Chef Bernardo Menendez about the North Fork, what it means to be local and more.

What are you most looking forward to about being part of Dan’s Taste of Summer this year?
The ability to get together with many of the people on the East End. We have so many great vineyards and farms to choose from, both as chef or a person visiting the East End for vacation. It is always great when we can showcase both with great food prepared by some of the best chefs on the East End.

One food or dish that everyone should try at least once in life:
I am such a big fan of local duck. It can be made in so many ways but given that we are heading into the fall/winter I will go with beautifully roasted duck breast over white bean and duck confit cassoulet and roasted baby Bok Choi with red wine reduction.

What is the best pairing of food and Long Island beer? Long Island wine?
Roasted venison loin herb roasted new potatoes braised Swiss chard and topped with red wine Demi-glace served with McCall’s Pinot Noir…absolutely amazing.

If you were to eat at your restaurant as a guest, what would you order?
This would depend on the time of year. We have a fabulous Tataki-spiced tuna served with a Seaweed Soba noodle salad, asabi aioli for the light side of things, or if you are in the mood for something more hardy you could try the braised short rib over creamy polenta, one of our guests’ favorites.

Describe the adrenaline of working in an East End kitchen
I feel that they go hand and hand with each other. As such, our local wines continue to grow leaps and bounds; the flavors become more complex and lend themselves to our local produce, allowing us to create wonderful food for our guests.

The perfect drink for a summer night:
The perfect summer drink to me is the Mojito. It’s both light and refreshing on a hot summer day and can be in so many ways.

Food that defines summer on the East End:
I would have to go with local oysters on the half shell, followed by roasted Striped Bass with braised kale fingerling potatoes and a tarragon beurre blanc.

If you had two forks in your hands right now, what would you like to stick them in?
This is a hard one…I am not sure I can choose just one! We have so many great ingredients to choose from on the East End.

What is your favorite aspect of being part of the culinary culture on the East End?
Being able to go to the farm directly to choose the produce you want for the day, or heading to the dock to get the freshest fish that was just caught and being able to create amazing flavors using them.

When you hear the phrase “local,” what comes to mind?
To me, local means fresh, bright, vibrant and delicious.

Where do you find inspiration, inside and outside the kitchen?
I find inspiration in the kitchen by challenging my team to create wonderful food using the freshest ingredients and trying to make every guest feel like they just had the meal of a lifetime. At home, this comes from my wife, Kristine, and 1-year-old son Michael. Both my wife and I are big fans of going to the farmstands when we are out east, so we will stop and pick up some fresh produce and a bottle or two of wine from one of our favorite vineyards and make a great meal for the family.

A great meal always begins with…
A great meal will always start with a great glass of wine, be it red or white

The trio of Dan’s Taste of Summer Events wraps up with Dan’s Harvest East End, the food-and-wine classic, on August 22. Hosted by celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian, the event will showcase more than 40 East End winemakers, the dishes of 30-plus top regional chefs and purveyors. Tickets start at $125 for general admission and $275 for VIP admission. The event will be held at McCall Vineyard and Ranch in Cutchogue. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit DansTasteofSummer.com.

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