Almond: French Flair, Local Fare

Almond Bridgehampton
Almond in Bridgehampton

It’s a good year to be Almond.

Last summer, the team behind the Bridgehampton restaurant, Eric Lemonides and Jason Weiner, opened a market in the space next door. That market, L & W Market, has taken off. In March, it was featured (along with Lemonides himself) in an episode of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York.” Sag Harbor resident Luann de Lesseps and East Hampton resident Barbara Karovit used the market as the backdrop for a conversation about inviting (and disinviting) friends to an autumn clambake. In the background, Lemonides cast a long and important shadow, donned in a shirt that read “Friday Sweater.”

But to be longstanding in the Hamptons does not necessarily mean appearing on camera (though, by all accounts, the attention does not hurt). Almond has maintained a reputation during its long tenure out east because of the food, which has been executed with a vision cultivated by Chef Weiner.

In mid-April, Weiner will appear at the acclaimed James Beard House in New York City, where he will cook a multi-course dinner, described as the “Spring Seafood Splash,” featuring items like fried Long Island oysters with yellow sriracha mayonnaise, Long Island porgy tartare with cured Amber Waves Farm duck yolks, and deviled Quail Hill Farm eggs with swordfish bacon.

The ethos of Weiner — and of Almond itself — is, and has always been, a local one, with a heavy emphasis on Long Island-sourced goods. A steadily rotating dinner menu (the restaurant is not open for lunch, but that’s what L & W is for, after all) is expressly dedicated to calling out the names of the farmers. A recent menu item of “Marilee’s carrot salad” refers to Marilee Foster, the farmer and noted grower in Sagaponack, who recently created her own line of local vodka. Gibson’s pork ravioli? That’s Gibson Campbell, of the North Fork’s Macari Vineyards. Holly’s chicken liver pâté? Thank Holly Browder of Mattituck’s Browder’s Birds.

The menu acts as a character sketch, elevating dishes to set pieces. It’s not just a plate of carrots; they’re Marilee’s carrots. They belong to a person, to a place, to a specific moment in time. And they’re delicious.

It should not be surprising, to anyone familiar with Almond’s place in restaurant culture, that its menu assumes a form of storytelling. The restaurant is also the home of “Artists & Writers Night,” a monthly event which will feature Steven Gaines on Tuesday, April 9. (See the story elsewhere in this week’s issue.) The event features a three-course, family-style meal, served with a glass of wine or beer, for $45 (tax and tip are extra). Recent writer-artist hosts have included Bastienne Schmidt, Meghan Boody, and food writer and editor Brian Halweil. Almond Zigmund, the restaurant’s namesake — and Weiner’s wife — is also a regularly exhibiting fine artist and sculptor.

Of course, restaurants succeed — or don’t — based on the merits of their food, and, in that respect, Almond is a resounding success, rooting its menu in local parlance as well as traditional technique. Boundaries are pushed, new ingredients incorporated, yes, but one can also order a well-executed steak, or a plate of mussels and French fries. The story, when it comes to Almond, is a package deal: A restaurant that serves superlative food that is both inventive and comfortable; a hallowed space in which artists and writers can feel free to congregate; an upmarket take on the contemporary French bistro; and a nod to localism and the bounty that supplies eastern Long Island. Wear your Friday sweater — or don’t. Here, there are no rules.

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