I was seduced by a bowl of turkey chili from Panera Bread recently. There, I said it. It can happen to the best of us—a bit of not spectacular comfort food comes along when we need it most. Dare I say that this experience inspired me?
When my husband and I headed into Lucharitos in Greenport for the first time I decided to order the most plebeian thing on the menu—a veggie Frida’s Salad. I’ve avoided Lucharitos for years despite many reports of favorable dining conditions. It looked like über trendy hipster bait and too-good-to-be-true with its whacky wresting-cartoons-meet-vintage-bathing-beauty art and anything-goes atmosphere. If they could make a veggie salad sing I could believe the hype. This mélange of mixed local greens, tomato, corn salsa, salsa fresca and guacamole was outstanding—despite the fact that so little is in season right now. I throw my doubt-drenched towel into the ring—Little Lucharitos in Aquebogue is next!
Speaking of Mexican comfort foods, the chicken tamales from Schiavoni’s Market in Sag Harbor really hit the spot, every spot, with their gobs of corn infused with laidback spice and tender, tender chicken. It’s no wonder that tamales made their way into the American South in the 1800s. They are the rare food that can stay warm in a lunch pail, and they’re so filling. It’s surprising that we don’t see more of them in the North, especially now that corn husks are easier to come by year-round. “Hot tamales, hot tamales, see ’em boilin’ in the pot! Hot tamales, hot tamales, get ’em while they’re good and hot!”
Potatoes may be the ultimate comfort food for Long Islanders. Local Yukon Gold potatoes cut into cubes are really something when prepared by Chef Arie Pavlou at Bistro Été in Water Mill—toasty on the outside, creamy on the inside—for dipping in his raclette fondue. But that’s a “fondon’t” when you’re watching your weight—or mine. I tried a sour cream and chives oven fries recipe from the interwebs as an alternative. It worked well when I substituted yogurt for the sour cream—just don’t believe the hype out there that they’ll ever turn out “super crispy.”
So I’m out on the town in Sag Harbor with friends on Saturday night, and so is everyone else. Sag Pizza is full, there’s a 45-minute wait for seats at Il Cap and no room at Lulu Kitchen & Bar. LT Burger it was, though I was not in the mood for a burger. Their Kale & Wheat Berry Salad hit the spot, though there were very few wheat berries involved, maybe a tablespoon were scattered among the baby kale leaves, avocado chunks, pink grapefruit sections and layer of quinoa. Dressed in a Champagne vinaigrette, the dish was well met with a sprinkling of dried cranberries—a rare occurrence indeed.
Little did I know when I started writing my Hamptons cookbook (due out from Countryman Press in 2020) that I’d be working to introduce the American home cook to the rich world of confit. This year’s heritage Thanksgiving turkey from Mecox Bay Dairy was better than ever because I had farmer Peter Ludlow cut the legs and wings off my bird for me. I covered those dark parts with seasoned duck fat and baked them all night long. Oh. Yeah.
You can follow Stacy’s informed and opinionated foodie adventures on Twitter @hamptonsepicure.