Nick & Toni’s Got Game

Eric Striffler

If you’re tired of the same restaurants and menus on the East End this offseason, local chefs are shaking things up to reinvigorate those who have succumbed to the mid-winter slump. On Thursday, February 6, East Hampton’s Nick & Toni’s will host a collaborative dinner highlighting the multi-faceted gourmet delights of game birds.

The event will feature chefs Michael Zukerman, Omar Baker, and Kelsey Roden of Nick & Toni’s; chef Michael Rozzi of East Hampton’s 1770 House; private chef Kevin Penner; chef Matt Birnstill of The Quogue Club; and chef Paul Del Favero of Harbor Market. Notably, Del Favero led the Nick & Toni’s kitchen in 1994. Culinary star Ruth Reichl took notice, and wrote The New York Times’s first non-Manhattan restaurant review.

For $95 — or $125, inclusive of a wine pairing — guests will enjoy four courses, all of which (aside from dessert) will feature game birds provided by luxury distributor D’Artagnan. The meal will begin in festive fashion, with seven passed canapés, all made from featured birds. These canapés will include boundary-pushing bites, like barbecued duck hearts, deviled quail eggs, and red-legged partridge terrine.

Other traditional delights will be the foie gras au torchon (a mousse made from a tightly wrapped cylinder of the fattened duck liver —torchon means dishtowel in French, and the liver is pressed in the towel in order to compress it), duck prosciutto, and ring neck pheasant rillettes.

The meal will crescendo from there. The first course, orchestrated by chef Penner, will be a wood-grilled quail, served with Stone’s Throw creamy polenta, charred Brussels sprouts, and roasted grapes. For the uninitiated, quail is a tiny game bird with dark-fleshed meat that is typically served with a pink center. Because the birds are small, they benefit from the grill, where, often butterflied, they can cook quickly and completely.

Chef Birnstill will prepare the second course, a Rohan duck breast over a parsnip spaetzli accompanied by a mushroom purée and a Morello cherry jus. Rohan is a proprietary duck variety carried by D’Artagnan. Raised exclusively in New York state, the bird is a bred hybrid of the Heritage Mallard and the Pekin, two ducks known for their flavor and succulence.

For the third course, chef Del Favero will offer his pan-roasted squab, served with a sweet potato purée from Balsam Farms’ sweet potatoes, chanterelle mushrooms, and a wild blueberry sauce. Squab is a type of pigeon, and one that benefits from complementary sweet flavors to offset its gaminess. In chef Del Favero’s capable hands, this dish is sure to stun the crowd.

Finally, for something sweet, and as a coda to an admittedly rich meal, chef Kelsey Rosen will present her malted chocolate pots de crème, essentially a rich chocolate pudding amplified by a chocolate crumble, hot fudge, fresh whipped cream, and a cocoa nib tuile.

Many of these items are luxury goods that we do not always see on local menus. It is a pleasure, then, to encounter them now, especially in February, when the landscape feels bleak and the season feels never-ending. Recently, local restaurants have stepped up their offerings for locals, who suffer through the dim months with fewer dining options.

This dinner is an example of the importance of local restaurants to the local economy, and an example, too, of outreach toward the people who live here year-round. It is refreshing to see dinners conducted with the locals in mind. This dinner promises to be a highlight of the month. Let’s hope there are more like it in the future.

Visit or call 631-324-3550 for details.

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