Another year, another bevy of delicious dishes consumed. When you’re in the mood for food, you can’t go wrong with the items below. And here’s a plug for a can’t-miss local specialty: bay scallops. They’re in season now and sweeter than ever. I know because my dining partner, “Husband,” has been ordering them everywhere we go and he has allowed me to sample a few. Most recently we tried them at the American Hotel and at Il Capuccino Ristorante, both in Sag Harbor. Two different takes, equally luscious in their execution.
#10 The McCobby Chopped Salad at the Service Station Restaurant in East Hampton hit the spot, all the spots. A bed of dressed Romaine on a platter, under distinct sections of bite-sized goodies—cherry tomatoes, thick-cut bacon, avocado, grilled chicken, blue cheese, hard-boiled egg. Lunchtastic.
#9 I’m not a lavender fan, as a rule, but the fresh sprig of lavender atop the “Gin and Juice” at Bisto Été in Water Mill made for the perfect balance of the interesting boozy sweetness of The Botanist Scottish gin and rosé grape juice from Channing Daughters in Bridgehampton. This was just one of Arie “Sexy Chef” Pavlou’s “chef’s cocktails” on offer. And it was the only one I drank that night, hence I remember it vividly. I don’t know any other East End chefs who are successfully talking winemakers out of their juices.
#8 The Crispy Crescent Farm Duck Legs Confit at Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport is pretty darn transcendent. Duck confit done right typically leans toward the transcendent, but this one—served with sriracha for a kick and Greek yogurt to cooly blend all together—really hits the mark. They used to do Asian-style duck wings, so this newer iteration offers even more to quack about. Deep. Umami. Magic.
#7 The potato “scales” of the Potato-Crusted Flounder at Estia’s Little Kitchen outside Sag Harbor are not neatly carved. Better, they are shatteringly crisp shreds strewn over the local, moist fish. This dish is salty in the good way, like an ocean creature should be. The fish rests on a bed of perfectly cooked mixed vegetables. Bonus tip: Never say no to a slice of Estia’s Banana Flan soused in Kahlua.
#6 Shishito peppers in bonito flakes at Lulu Kitchen & Bar in Sag Harbor caught me by surprise. I order shishito peppers for the table every chance I get, but these are special. The
bonito flakes take these simple peppers to a whole other level with deep umami flavor and a touch of sweetness that renders them irresistible.
#5 The white sweet potatoes from Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett are sublime. I scored a few at the Sag Harbor Farmers Market in October. I always think I’m going to do something fancy with them, and then I just slice them and oven fry them with olive oil and black and red pepper and devour them all.
#4 My own cabbage-carrots-radish-apple-onion oven slaw, which will appear in my upcoming cookbook. It bakes up in no time. (The not-so-secret “secret:” It cooks under a slab of pork.)
#3 The Beacon’s Tuna Tartare. It’s the truly “rare” tuna tartare that doesn’t go Japanese in its flavor profile. Chef Sam McCleland mixes mustard with red curry paste to achieve something sublimely all its own. I adore gulping this treat down on little toasts at the bar. (Sadly, this Sag Harbor hotspot is closed until next season.)
#2 Buffalo Style Chicken of the Woods in “housed funked” sriracha at Almond in Bridgehampton. This was the appetizer on Chef Jason Weiner’s “Foraged Things, Fermented Things and Trash Fish” menu, which made for a very memorable September evening. Being from Buffalo, I’m very particular about “Buffalo-ing.” These delish mushrooms were in the true Buffalo style but (forgive me, Mother) even better than the original. I don’t know what Weiner did to “house funk”-up that sriracha in Almond’s basement, but it was very right. The texture, the heat, the lack of gross chicken grease—I could make a meal of these babies, daily!
#1 Housemade mint ice cream with freshly grated white truffles at Bistro Été in Water Mill. It’s always a pleasure to do happy hour, or to dine, at this French Mediterranean bistro, but this treat came my way on what turned out to be a very lucky night. Chef Arie Pavlou was prepping for a seven-course truffle dinner for a private client and he invited me to give this new creation of his a try. It just could not be improved upon. (Bistro Été is going to take a winter break from mid-January to mid-March, but, at press time, there were still some seats left for their special New Years Eve dinner…)
Honorable Mention: I ate half of a Jobs Lane Gastro Pub Chicken Sandwich for lunch one October day in Southampton, along with its garlic-y fried potato slices. Then I ate the other half of this monster about an hour later at my desk in the Dan’s Papers offices. The chicken isn’t super special, but it is moist. The whole is more than the sum of its parts and the sum total is HUGE. There’s something about the housemade relish that elevates the cheese and tomato slices, iceberg lettuce and bun to somewhere near Nirvana.
You may not see Stacy out enjoying our local restaurants’ offerings quite so often in 2018 as she is at work on a Hamptons-centric cookbook with co-author Hillary Davis. You can follow Stacy’s informed and opinionated foodie adventures on twitter @hamptonsepicure.