An evening out in Riverhead just got a whole lot tastier. What could make dinner and a show better when the show is a Barry White Valentine Tribute performed against the backdrop of the beautiful and historic Art Deco jewel, the Suffolk Theater? The answer, my friend, is on the plate.
Chef Noah Schwartz quietly took control of Suffolk’s kitchen last month, bringing a selection of dishes from his eponymous noah’s in Greenport, and some new ideas to freshen up Suffolk’s menu. Running a restaurant is never easy, but the Suffolk team is well on its way to hitting their stride. Offering a $33 all-inclusive chef’s menu prix fixe with no substitutions is genius—streamlining is key. Which is why you get a discounted rate of $30 if you reserve dinner a day in advance. My dining partner Chef Bunnii Buglione and I arrived when the doors opened at 6:30 p.m. and we had eaten our meal, except for the dessert, by the 8 p.m. show time. With our friendly and effervescent server Michelle on the job, it never felt rushed.
The “show before the show” is not to be missed. We started with the cheese plate. It took me three requests to learn from our young runner what the three cheeses were. (And the makers of Humboldt Fog cheese, made in Humboldt County, California, would be very surprised to have their work credited to Catapano Dairy Farm in Peconic.) In any event, these were three delicious and distinctive cheeses that included local favorite Catapano’s Peconic Bel.
The Roasted Satur Farms Winter Squash Bisque started the meal proper for moi—with the assurance that it was not a bowl of pumpkin pie. I don’t care for sweet squash bisques, so it was good that Chef Noah’s savory, curried take had just a hint of sweetness in the roasted pumpkin seed garnish. And to that deft touch I say, bravo. Bunnii’s Satur Farms Butter Lettuce Salad with aged cheddar, candied walnuts and julienned Granny Smith apples reminded us both of how underappreciated butter lettuce is.
I thought I’d ordered three courses all from my favorite food group—goo—in the bisque, the Wild Mushroom Risotto and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta, but Chef Noah proved me wrong again. In my nearly vegetarian dining habits I’d forgotten that select chefs on the East End prepare risotto to the proper consistency and texture—so it retains some body and shape. Chef Noah’s is fabu with shiitake and hedgehog mushrooms, pea purée, Parmesan and pea greens from Cutchogue’s Koppert Cress. Chef Bunnii declared her Herb Roasted Free Range Chicken and its smoked cheddar polenta “excellent.”
Following a break after the first two courses, dessert arrived during Jourdan “Big Daddy Boo Bear” Carroll’s rendition of the Billy Joel classic “Just the Way You Are.” The panna cotta with roasted huckleberry compote and sliced, toasted almonds was just the way it should be—a rich medley of textures, not too sweet. Bunnii pronounced the flourless chocolate cake “perfect,” high praise indeed from a pastry chef.
Next time I party at Suffolk, I’ll try The Class Act cocktail of Sparkling Pointe Brut and Elderflower Liqueur with a lemon twist. Of course, the Sparkling Pointe Brut is also available straight up and it might be my favorite. Though, as we say in Wine Country, their Topaz Impérial Brut Rosé “ain’t bad.”
Some outstanding shows coming to the Suffolk soon include: Randy Bachman, February 23; Blue Oyster Cult, March 2; Jorma Kaukonen, March 9; and Dave Davies, March 30. For more details and to order tickets, visit suffolktheater.com. You’ll see me at the Kaukonen show. Do say “hi,” just don’t get between me and Chef Noah’s food.