Food Seen: Calissa Chef Bob Abrams, Fall Dining & More

Bob Abrams of Calissa
Bob Abrams of Calissa
Courtesy Calissa

Get to know chef Bob Abrams of Calissa in Water Mill, check out fall dining in the Hamptons and North Fork, fun tidbits and more from the East End “Food Seen.”

Chef Highlight: Bob Abrams, Executive Chef of Calissa

Bob Abrams, executive chef of Calissa restaurant in Water Mill, knew from an early age that he was destined to be a chef. Watching his Italian mother cook family meals helped pique his interest and showed how good food brings people together. As a teenager he worked in pizzerias and delis observing chefs and learning techniques which drove his passion and lead him to start culinary school at New York Tech. He spent his subsequent summers in school interning at 75 Main in Southampton. After graduating and spending time working in Florida and New York City, he moved out east permanently. He was the sous chef at Oasis restaurant in Noyac for 10 years before moving on to executive chef of Little Red in Southampton for eight years.

In spring of 2019, Abrams was approached by James Mallios to head the kitchen at Calissa. Mallios and his partners wanted a local chef to help them advance from being simply a successful summer spot, to a year-round restaurant and multi-use event space. He has used his love of local produce and fish to influence the Greek/Mediterranean menu Calissa has today.

Even now at Calissa, he remembers falling in love with the atmosphere of restaurant kitchens. “The quick pace, timing and how independent processes come together to make or break a dining experience” is what Abrams loves most about the kitchen environment.

The “anti-chef” in many ways, Abrams focuses on “food first.” His kitchen has no space for egos or raised voices. In the silence, he hears the hum of the refrigerator compressor, the sizzle from the pans, doors on the lowboys opening and closing, and he knows he is home. Abrams lives in Southampton with his wife Dara — who is also a manager at Calissa — and his 10-year-old daughter Anabelle who loves his branzino and tacos.

Main Street Tavern’s nachos
Main Street Tavern’s nachosEric Striffler

Start spreading the news — the fall version of Long Island Restaurant Week will happen November 7–14! Close to 100 restaurants across Long Island will be offering $25 or $42 three-course prix fixe menus. There’s also a $20 two-course lunch special. Check out longislandrestaurantweek.com for an up-to-the-minute roster of which restaurants are participating and what they are offering. Everyone loves a deal, and this is a chance to visit a restaurant you’ve been dying to try! Such East End stalwarts as the Cooperage Inn in Baiting Hollow, On the Docks in Aquebogue and Page at 63 Main in Sag Harbor have signed up. You can be sure there will be others from these parts. For more information, or if you’re a restaurant that wants to sign up, call 631-329-2111.

Marilee’s Farmstand in Sagaponack offers a weekly community supported agriculture program that runs through the middle of January for $500. Pick up your produce on Fridays between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. How does one sign up? Just check out their website: marileesfarmstand.com.

A new tasting menu was introduced at The Hampton Maid in Hampton Bays this season. It is called “R.AIRE” and is the brainchild of Chef Alex Bujoreanu. The menu combines international cuisine with fresh, local ingredients. Bujoreanu’s unique background — he’s of Spanish and Romanian heritage — as well as his culinary creativity allow him to use foods and styles that patrons might not be accustomed to. For example, a previous week’s R.AIRE menu featured the Jumping Carpaccio, a classic dish except for the exotic kangaroo meat thrown in, and the Cigalas dish, which highlighted Norwegian prawns, fermented black beans and lemon air. The Hampton Maid provides a small, intimate gathering space, only seating 25. The chef regularly converses with diners to explain the dishes and wine choices. The season ends on November 21. R.AIRE will return next season due to popular demand. The dinner is available by reservation Thursday through Saturday and changes its courses and wine pairings weekly. The special menus cost $95 or $160 per person.  Check it out!

Rita Cantina in Springs has added glazed North Fork cauliflower carnitas to their fall menu. This seasonal dish is fresh and locally sourced from nearby North Fork farms. The cauliflower carnitas comprise nutrient-rich cauliflower, crisp and tender soft tacos, and butter lettuce wraps garnished with homemade guacamole and salsa. Bonus: It’s vegan! The restaurant is closed Monday and Tuesday.

Main Street Tavern in Amagansett has some Sunday football specials. Look for nachos specials with vegetarian or chicken options, tavern wings and $20 pitchers of beer. And on Monday nights, their chicken pot pie special is back. Heads up, the restaurant is closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Bits & Bites: Rumor has it that Sant Ambroeus in Southampton will soon have an outpost in East Hampton on Newtown Lane. … Farewell to Bridgehampton’s World Pie — they had a nice 22-year run! … Congrats to Sagaponack Distillery for nabbing several awards at the annual Finger Lakes International Wine & Spirits Competition. The big winners, which require a unanimous vote, were their cucumber vodka and their aquavit!

Did You Know: October 14 is National Dessert Day; October 15 is National Red Wine Day and October 17 is National Pasta Day?

Food Quote: “Since we must eat to live, we might as well do it with both grace and gusto.” ~ author, M.F.K Fisher

Got a restaurant news item or tip? Email us at [email protected]!

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