Tips on Food Photography

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UPDATE: I just found an app called “Booster” that’s a camera app, similar to that on the iPhone, which allows you numerous editing options! I can’t wait to start using it! Now I won’t be posting such dark pics! LOL

So far, we’ve shared Foodspotting tips from restaurant professionals. All of their advice has been awesome, but we wanted to bring in a different kind of food-pro perspective for the third round of tips. Mee-Sun Yuk is the Senior Product Manager for iOS at OpenTable. When she isn’t working on the incredibly cool iOS 7 OpenTable app, Mee-Sun is cooking, eating and discovering all kinds of amazing dishes. Her passion for both technology & food shines through in her photography and in this set of tips.

1. Choose your seat wisely

You can improve the quality of your food photos even before the food comes out. The best food photos benefit from more natural light, so I always request a table by a window if possible. Also, try to make sure you’re not sitting in between the light and your table, or you’ll end up with some shadowy shots.

2. Find a new perspective

Remember that you’re not confined to your seat and your beeline view of the dish. Move your hand position with each photo you take to see what makes the food look the most delicious. It takes some practice with aim, but try raising your camera up and over dishes to get a birds’ eye view.

3. Get handsy

Sometimes your friends may be impatient to start eating, so use it to your advantage. Get an action shot of how people interact with the dish – especially for dishes that you can really play with, like noodles or meat grilled at the table.

4. Put together the perfect bite

A great way to get creative (and hungry!) is to grab your fork and dive in. Focusing the camera on a close up bite brings a great contrast with the rest of the photo. It can also help you show more detail about the dish than you would normally.

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I’ll keep looking for tips on food photography and pass them along.

By-the-way, I just installed the food spotting app on my phone and it’s pretty cool.

Crazy Curry

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I was cooking for a small dinner party last night and had two recipes in mind. We were having the get together at a friend’s house, so I had to cart all my ingredients over there. Needless to say, I forgot a couple of key ingredients which made me totally revamp the recipes.

I used a tagine for the first time and a beautiful, huge cast iron skillet I received for my birthday. Originally I was going to make Carrot and Potato Tagine with Peas. Well, I forgot both the carrots and the peas. Ugh! My second dish was to be a Three Cheese Curried Cauliflower au Gratin. Except my dear friend, who only has one pot and one pan as she doesn’t cook, had no flour to thicken the cream sauce. Really, my friend? No flour? Okay, time to think quick on my feet…and I only had an hour before company was to arrive.

First, I took out the butter. Double cream Devonshire butter, absolutely fantastic! I put the tagine on the fire, the large, cast iron skillet, the small pan my friend had, and her pot. Butter went into everything. (Not Paula Deen portions, mind you.) My friend washed off some small potatoes and chopped some shallots while I cut the cauliflower into florets and the butter began to melt. I chopped some garlic and gave it a couple of minutes in the butter. I added the cauliflower to the tagine and tossed it in the minimal butter and garlic. Then added a little organic chicken stock, just enough so there would be liquid in the tagine as the cauliflower steamed. What I noticed about the tagine, is the lid is perfect for capturing the steam and cooking whatever is in it without too much heat. I’m now in love with my tagine where I was once afraid to use it… I thought I’d crack it by putting it on direct flame, but that didn’t happen. With the cauliflower cooking, a added some more chopped garlic to a small pan, then after a few minutes, added shallots and let them caramelize which takes patience. Then I took the halved potatoes and covered them in cold water and added a vegetable bouillon. I let them boil until for tender, but not at all mushy as I wanted the potatoes and cauliflower to keep their shape so the dish didn’t look like mush. Next was the large skillet. After I melted a little butter, I added some Indian spices to the hot pan: cardamom seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin, and turmeric, about a tablespoon of each. I stirred to allow the flavors to develop. The smell was intoxicating. My friend found some frozen carrots, string beans, peas, and corn. Why not, I figured. And I added them to the skillet with some vegetable bouillon and chicken stock. There were a lot of vegetables, so the salt content wasn’t too much. I tossed the veggies and let them gently simmer in the seasoned juice.

Back to the cauliflower. It had steamed perfectly and with so much flavor from the chicken stock. I took it off the flame. Soon the potatoes were done and I drained them. And the shallots were caramelized beautifully. The liquid was reducing from the pan of vegetable sauce, so I added the shallots and the cauliflower with it’s juice. I then added some curry powder for a bit of added taste and color. I turned off the heat. I added the drained potatoes back to the pot with more butter and a good amount of chopped flat leaf parsley and put it aside. Lastly, I made a cheese sauce with three kind of cheese: Cantal, Emmental, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. I added two pints of heavy cream, and more butter to help it thicken. When the cheese melted and the sauce came together, I added it to the spiced vegetable mixture. The vegetables maintained their integrity so it had a nice array of textures, and I served the parsley potatoes on the side. I probably would have added the potatoes to the skillet as well, but had no more room.

I don’t know what you would call this dish. To me, I made it in a whirlwind, so I dubbed it my “Crazy Curry”. Bottom line, it looked good, but smelled and tasted fabulous! Everyone went for seconds of both the curried vegetable mixture as well as the potatoes. It was a hit!

My suggestion to making your own variation of this dish would be to make sure you use enough stock &/or bouillon, and butter. The cauliflower and potatoes need to absorb some salt. Next time I would make a roux and thicken the cheese sauce a bit. And, had I more time, I would have liked to have added curry leaves and some other spices in my repertoire. I’m so sorry I didn’t take a picture. I was in a hurry to get dinner on the table and had served everyone right away while everything was still hot. (Another plus of both the tagine and cast iron, they both maintain their heat.) When we had all dug in, my friend reminded me we didn’t take a picture. So, I guess I’ll just have to make it again… With pleasure.

So, that’s my “Crazy Curry” experience. I hope you were somewhat entertained. 🙂

Food Photography in Restaurants

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I’m at a loss for how to take photos of food with my phone while dining in a limited lighting, fine dining establishment. I was using the flash on my phone, but the photos came out overexposed. I’ve tried it without the flash and the photos are too dark. I’m trying to be somewhat discreet and don’t want every course to look like a photo shoot. What shall I do? I take photos, write blogs, post to twitter and Facebook all via my phone. Is there a way to solve this dilemma? Or, do I need to make the adjustments on my laptop? Also, how do I upload a picture to twitter from my iPhone? Anybody?

Race Lane Restaurant, East Hampton

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What a wonderful way to end my birthday week. My party decided to go to Race Lane Restaurant on Race Lane in East Hampton. Terrific food, beautiful presentation, trained staff, thoughtful menu and wine list, and attention to detail were just some of the things that made this night a special experience.

The ambiance was chic, comfortable, and romantic. The fireplace in the dining room is surrounded by seats to sit and take in the atmosphere and enjoy your company. The expansive bar allows for mingling, as well as the banquettes that line the lounge area.

The host was attentive, personable, and on the ball. Some of us joined the rest of the party at the copper topped bar. We sat and had red wine all around before moving to our table. We were soon greeted by our waiter, Michael, who was very knowledgable about the menu. Without peeking at a note pad, as I often find waiters doing to remind them of the specials, Michael recited the specials in detail from memory, even answering intricate question about ingredients that comprised the specials. We ordered drinks and examined the versatile menu with raw bar.

As soon as I spotted the foie gras appetizer, I knew I had to try it. Though I had foie gras recently off the American Hotel dinner menu, I wanted to make a comparison. The portion of foie gras was comparable, but I have to say, the ginger-pear chutney with brioche and vanilla became the clear winner, and for $8 less, may I add. I ate the chutney until there was no more on my plate; I couldn’t get enough. It was sweet but not overly sugary, and it had smooth and chunky textures which gave it good mouth feel in contrast to the melt in your mouth foie gras. A friend tried the beet salad special. I can’t remember all the ingredients, but if you order it, know you’re in for a treat. There’s horseradish in the description, but I couldn’t detect the taste of horseradish. It was earthy with candied nuts and a touch of sweetness. The table wanted more. Another favorite appetizer was the octopus with tomato confit, kalamata olives, parsley and pickled red chili. The octopus was extremely tender, which made the dish. The combination of the confit, olives, and pickled chili played perfectly off each other to deliver a bit of a kick, but not to overpower the taste of the octopus. We all shared super fresh, local Montauk pearl oysters with cucumber mignonette and blood orange granita. Plump and simply delicious.

The entrĂ©es that shined through as sure bets were the braised short ribs with baby carrots, beets, horseradish gremolata and potato; the grilled Berkshire pork chop with a bacon scallion pancake, zucchini, and cherry mustardo; and the special 14 ounce NY strip steak with caramelized cippolini with burgundy reduction and truffle butter, which we had prepared medium-rare. Some notes on the entrĂ©es: the short ribs were a bit too fatty for one of the diners and it was commented that the portion was small, two small short ribs. I agree it did look insufficient. In stark contrast, the Berkshire pork chop was huge, juicy, and very tasty. The best liked out of the three was the generously thick NY strip. It was agreed it wasn’t overly fatty, it was very tender, and through the sauce that adorned it, you could really taste that it was a good tasting cut of beef.

For dessert we tried a little of everything. The strawberry shortcake was the standout winner. It looked so inviting, we all dug in without taking a picture first, so, I apologize for that. The strawberries were naturally sweet and fresh. The pound cake was light and airy. Each bite was savored by all. Thank goodness it was a good sized portion so everyone could have some.

Overall, a well-paced, very tasty and versatile meal. No one was disappointed by any aspect of their culinary experience, save a couple of comments, and expectations going in were high. I highly recommend Race Lane for a special occasion or romantic evening for two. It’s trendy without being ostentatious, and the staff is very accommodating and pleasant. Some items are a bit pricey. But, with everything taken into account, the dining experience as a whole made it well worth the cost.

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PS Sorry the pics are so dark. Was trying not to make more of a spectacle out of our table by using the flash than we already had. LOL

The American Hotel, Sag Harbor

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This may be my most challenging, yet rewarding, posts I’ve written. The American Hotel is one of the finest restaurants on the east end of Long Island. It’s won numerous awards for their extensive wine list and many mentions as being the cream of the crop of high-end restaurants in the Hamptons.

Most consider Sag Harbor part of the Hamptons, while a few stick to the notion that if it doesn’t have “Hampton” in the name, it’s an un-Hampton. From my experience, Sag Harbor is a bit more artsy, laid back, and less expensive in some respects compared to, say, East Hampton. But, it’s still a Hampton to me. What makes Sag Harbor especially appealing is it’s waterfront. You can dine from several restaurants and look at the yachts and sailboats in the harbor. It’s truly a beautiful place.

That said, let’s move from once whaling town to present day Sag Harbor. There’s a great number of terrific restaurants worth naming in this town and, little by little, I hope to tell you about each one. But my favorite, hands down, is the American Hotel. For years, the American Hotel has been a south fork favorite.

I could write page after page as to why this is such a terrific dining experience. But, I’ll try to curb my enthusiasm and keep it down to a few paragraphs. But please, check out the various links in this blog to learn more about this establishment and it’s chef, Jonathan Parker.

The American Hotel was my choice of restaurant for my birthday dinner last night. We had an attentive staff of four, and our waiter was Dennis. Service was tops. Unobtrusive, yet always available and very knowledgable. We were kindly greeted, seated, and attended to right away. We sat in the garden room, slightly away from the bustling bar crowd. It was beautifully decorated with exposed brick, greenhouse roof, plants galore and lighting reminiscent of Christmas. It’s definitely cozy and inviting with white linen table cloths, polished silver, candles and fresh roses on each table.

The dinner menu is a pleasure to read. Additionally, our waiter told us of five specials in great detail. The funny part was when my seven year old opened the backlit menu and was amazed by the light. None of us had seen a menu like this before. The waiter, Dennis, laughed stating that someday the menus will be interactive and there will be no more need for waiters. It reminded me of something out of Harry Potter.

Anyway, from our beautiful menus we ordered the foie gras sautĂ© potro blanca, $28. It was a good portion of foie gras as I try it whenever it’s on the menu. It was a large piece on toasted points in a grape reduction. The flavors blended perfectly. I think my eyes closed in pure bliss after I savored every bite that just melted in my mouth. I was tempted to get the soupe a l’oignon gratinĂ©e. An onion soup topped with gryĂšre cheese and, I believe, sage croutons. Yum! But, I had to go with the foie gras. My husband had the colossal shrimp cocktail. They don’t call it colossal, but five-count jumbo shrimp cocktail served with cocktail sauce and a citrus mayonnaise, $19. Our seven year old son ordered the penne pasta with butter from the children’s menu, $18, which was an adult portion size. He ate well and there was still another meal left over. We all enjoyed the warm Tuscan-like bread, salted breadsticks, and spreadable butter.

If you’re with a party of four or more, I’d suggest getting the plateau deluxe with caviars for $150. This spread of seafood and caviar is one of my favorites. If they’re still serving it the way they did the last time I had it, the food was served on tiers and made quite the optical impression, in addition to tantalizing one’s taste buds.

I was tempted to get the sautĂ©ed sea scallops with fall squash and truffle risotto, $38, as I’m a sucker for good risotto. But I’d just had a similar squash risotto at The North Fork Table and Inn the night before. So, I went with the outstanding double cut rack of Australian lamb, $44. You receive two double rib portions along with mashed potatoes that were well seasoned, broccoli rabe, and a purĂ©e of root vegetables. The lamb was herb crusted with what tasted like salt, pepper, rosemary, and perhaps a touch of horseradish. My husband had the savory breast of organic, free-range chicken done in a mushroom and bacon drizzle with the same sides, $31. It was moist and full of flavor. There was also a tempting two-pound lobster on the menu and a vegetarian risotto. For dessert I ended with a perfectly made decaf cappuccino. My husband ordered the warm apple tart in puff pastry with homemade vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, $15, and my son had vanilla ice cream as well, $13. Had I an appetite, I would have ordered one of my favorites, the bananas foster!

As you can see, the prices aren’t outlandish. You get plenty culinary delights for a fair Hamptons price for a restaurant of this caliber. I don’t know if what I’m about to write is either good or bad, but the award winning wine list begs you to order a bottle of wine, which can easily set you back $60 plus dollars. Then there are the after dinner drinks. A single snifter of cognac, of superior quality of course, could cost you $80. Depending on the size of your party, your beverage bill can far surpass your food bill. My motto in this wonderful environment, go big or go home. It’s well worth every penny.

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Bobby Van’s, Bridgehampton

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Bobby Van’s Steakhouse in Bridgehampton is a real winner. Today, for my birthday, my lunch companion and I chose Bobby Van’s for their consistently good food, inviting atmosphere, professional staff, and reasonable prices.

Being a beautiful autumn day in the Hamptons, we decided to dine outside. Service was at the ready. As we were short on time, we skipped over appetizers and went right to the entrĂ©es. I had the Shepherd’s Pie. Beautiful to look at and a hearty portion. It was a simple combination of meat and peas covered with mashed potatoes and sprinkled with cheese and scallions. It was piping hot when it came to the table. As I unveiled what lie under the potatoes, I discovered a meaty, juicy, tasty mixture. Peas and carrots were obvious, but I can’t be sure if there were onions in it or not. I saw a touch of celery which I enjoy. If there were onions, they enhanced the flavor and weren’t at all readily noticeable. I thought I saw a piece of corn, but saw no other evidence of corn. It was pure comfort food, of which I maybe ate a third.

My lunch date had a colossal lobster salad that was fresh and sweet and not overdressed with mayonnaise. It was served with greens on a hot dog-like roll, but longer and definitely tastier. Again, a good portion of food prepared well. The shoestring French fries were crispy and nicely salted.

There’s so much more to say about Bobby Van’s. Their menu is well thought out and prepared to perfection. I’ve never had a bad meal nor bad service there. I just love the straight forward food that makes you feel you’re getting a good bang for your buck. The next time I go to Bobby Van’s, I’ll be sure to go over the menu for you. In the meantime, take a look at their menu and, if you’d like, leave me a suggestion of what you’d like me to sample as I believe I’ll be going back with friends next week. A great steakhouse and rival of The Palm.

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Babette’s Restaurant, East Hampton

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Babette’s is a small cafĂ©/restaurant with mostly healthy, organic foods plus juice and smoothie bar. It’s nothing special as far as decor, save a few pieces of artwork. But, the food is delicious. One warning before I begin to explore their gastronomic goodness, it’s pricey. They’re open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner during the season. Days and hours vary during the off season, so call ahead. They don’t accept reservations for breakfast or lunch, so you may very well end up waiting for a table. But, it’s a unique sit down, basically organic restaurant in the Hamptons and worth the wait. But, you should go and be the judge.

Babette, herself, is often on the premises and overseeing the often chaotic operation when it’s busy. They try to be as accommodating as possible when it’s hectic. They have indoor and limited, choice outdoor seating. Sitting outdoors, weather permitting, is fun so you can people watch. Located on Newtown Lane, there’s often a lot of traffic, but it’s often at a crawl and not too disruptive. So, lets get to the food.

I love going here for breakfast. The breakfast menu consists of organic eggs (ask for egg whites if you wish) and many omelettes to choose from, such as one of my favorites, the Champignon: mushrooms and herbs de Provence. There are many combinations to suit most any palate. The sides are wonderful in that you can have turkey bacon, tempeh bacon, turkey pastrami, and turkey sausage, plus fresh vegetables. Another favorite, especially if you can’t make up your mind as to what to order, is the “Jo Mama”. The Jo Mama is one pancake, on piece of French toast, one egg, fruit, steel-cut oatmeal, and roasted herb potatoes. You’ll need a hearty appetite to finish this, or share with a friend. There’s cinnamon swirl French toast and whole grain pancakes. The Woodstock French toast is eight-grain bread dipped in a vanilla soy batter and served with fresh fruit, tahini custard, and granola. There’s a Tuscan Quinoa Bowl with Tuscan kale, butternut squash, and two sunny side up eggs over quinoa. The last time I was at Babatte’s I had the Eggs Romano: poached eggs, crisp polenta, and broccoli rabe in a tomato broth. Scrumptious! There wasn’t so much tomato broth that it overpowered the other ingredients or made the crispy polenta too soggy. It was just enough broth for the bottom of the polenta to soak it up, leaving the tops crispy. It works well when the yolks of the poached eggs flows over the polenta and broccoli rabe. One of my friends tried the New Foo Young: pan seared, herbed scrambled tofu with mushrooms, brown rice, gingered carrot, spinach, cashews, and teriyaki sauce over udon noodles. This was a hit. It showed the chef really understands the balance of ingredients. Try this for something different. There’s steamed asparagus on seven-grain toast with poached eggs, shaved parmesan, and a truffle vinaigrette. A table favorite. There’s a smoked salmon Benedict which is delicious, as well as a nova platter. There’s huevos rancheros deluxe, organic almond maple granola, and steel-cut organic oatmeal.

The lunch menu is a plethora of dishes that are wonderfully delicious, but far too many to list. I’ll tell you of a few favorites on mine and friends. Vietnamese Spring Rolls are crispy and light, made of spicy shrimp, papaya, and minted organic greens in a rice wrap with a piquant dipping sauce. Vagabond salad with free-range grilled chicken breast with blood orange and balsamic glaze over herb dressed penne and greens topped with Gorgonzola and candied pecans. A real winner with the Gorgonzola and candied pecans with a moist chicken breast with a touch of sweetness from the orange and balsamic glaze. Salad of Crisp Goat Cheese Dumplings: roasted beets, haricot verts, baby arugula, almonds, with a preserved lemon vinaigrette. The creaminess of the goat cheese complements it’s crispy exterior and the lemon vinaigrette brightens each bite. The beets are fresh and earthy, and the haricot verts are snap fresh. There are also wraps, sandwiches, burgers and bowls. There’s a free-range turkey burger and a meat and dairy-free lentil burger. Try the Proud Dragon Bowls: steamed seasonal vegetables simmered in Thai peanut sauce, served over organic greens and your choice of brown rice or udon noodles. Top with your choice of grilled, marinated tofu, grilled tempeh, grilled chicken, grilled shrimp or tuna. Sides include BBQ tofu, hummus with pita, grilled tempeh, grilled tofu, sweet potato fries and organic beans. Order several items and try a little of each with family and friends as the choices are all so good it can seem overwhelming.

Now for the dinner menu. Many of the dinner items are similar to what you can have for lunch. Then there are exceptions, such as the halibut, salmon, scallops and tuna. There’s pecan crusted tofu, grilled, smoked tempeh, The Rustic Vegan: blue corn dusted tofu, sautĂ©ed vegetables, brown rice and a Korean dipping sauce. (Check for availability in the off season.) The Creole Casbah is a favorite. It’s garlic mashed potatoes layered with bayou style kale, succotash, roasted garlic pecans, BBQ tofu, salsa, sour cream, and baked on Cabot’s cheddar or soy cheddar cheese. Offered regular or vegan. There are a lot of flavors going on here, but they work. For a pasta dish they offer Buccatini Primavera: sautĂ©ed broccoli rabe, cherry tomatoes, feta, olives, bell pepper, and basil with your choice of panko crusted tofu or chicken or shrimp. This is only one of two pasta dishes on the menu. I’d like to see more.

Don’t forget about the juice bar which offers both fresh juice and smoothies. They also have a wide assortment of organic hot and cold tea, coffees, and other not so ordinary beverages, such as hot mulled apple cider.

It can get noisy. So, if you’re looking for a quiet dining spot, this isn’t it. However, if you don’t mind raising your voice a little, you should be fine. If you’re especially sensitive to loud noises, don’t sit by the juice bar in the back of the restaurant as that’s pretty loud and runs, seemingly, all the time. The staff is more often than not knowledgable and efficient. There’s a lot of good food to choose from. I go often because I can’t get enough. Or feel free to stop in for just a fresh juice. You’re sure to be pleasantly surprised that this somewhat small restaurant can push out such tasty food in a timely manner. The thing I like best is the combination of ingredients and the many choices. Remember, most everything is organic and healthy. If you’re not sure of something, feel free to ask. The portion sizes are sufficient. The tables are on the small side to accommodate all the dishes and glasses. But, if you can handle some hustle and bustle and, at times, feeling a little cramped, you’ll find this a refreshing treat.

The Harbor Grill, East Hampton

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Okay, let me first start off by saying this isn’t the easiest blog to write. It’s about a restaurant I used to frequent in the summer that was pretty good, save the dull atmosphere. But last night I had dinner there with some friends and it was basically disappointing. The restaurant is the Harbor Grill on Three Mile Harbor Road in East Hampton.

I walked in to a full bar. Good, I thought. A little liveliness. I asked for our table and had my choice of any table in the empty restaurant, and it was 7:30pm. I chose a window seat which looks out onto the parking lot. It looked nice enough with a candle lighting the table. The waitress, not introducing herself as such, came over with the menus. I asked if she was my waitress so I could order a drink. She then identified herself and I received my drink.

When my friends arrived, they were nicely greeted and shortly after they sat down they were able to place their drink order. There was slight confusion with one of the drinks. Even though they offer an array of flavored vodkas and such, it didn’t seem the waitress was all that familiar with, dare I say, old fashioned drinks not listed on the mixology menu. One mojito came to the table not very cold. I was wondering if we were in for a bumpy ride. But soon the specials board was brought over and we were feeling optimistic.

The specials included a mushroom soup as the soup of the day, and, oddly, some items very similar to the items on the menu. For instance, Mongolian chicken wings were offered as an appetizer and Mongolian ribs were a special entrĂ©e. Another special was steak and shrimp scampi, perhaps the most appealing on the specials menu. The menu special was a 1-1/2 lb. lobster with sides for $29. Not a bad deal, I thought. But, I wasn’t in the mood for lobster and, honestly, 1-1/2 lbs. seems like more shell than lobster to me. But, still a good deal.

The menu was basically American fare, offering buffalo wings, nachos, french onion soup, shrimp cocktail, mussels, a large variety of burgers, and an assortment of poultry, fish and meat. I’ve had the Mongolian wings in the past and they were decent, but I was looking for something lighter, so I ordered the mussels to start. The white wine and garlic sauce was watery and lacking flavor. The mussels themselves weren’t that flavorful, but would have benefitted from a good sauce. The garlic bread that came with it was delicious, it was just too bad the sauce wasn’t dip-worthy. My friends ordered salads to start which I can imagine being prepared ahead of time. I could be wrong. But, they weren’t impressed. We also ordered baked stuffed clams for the table. The clam stuffing came in individual aluminum, clam shaped serving “things”, for lack of a better word. It was an immediate turn off. I like when I get a real clam shell, not this aluminum thing. Surprisingly, the baked clams weren’t bad. You could taste the clams and it wasn’t overly breaded. Feeling hopeful, we went onto the entrĂ©es.

One of my friends had the broiled salmon. It was slightly over cooked for my taste as I prefer it medium rare, but flaky nonetheless. The seasoning was simple but good and didn’t overpower the taste of the fish. We put that in the winners category. I had the Gorgonzola crusted flank steak. It was cooked the way I liked it, it wasn’t tough, and the Gorgonzola crust was delicious. Another winner. We tried the black bean burger for my vegetarian friend. Not bad. We decided this would be considered a winner as well. But let me explain why I’m not giving it thumbs up. Having been a patron at this restaurant many times, I felt I could pick anything from the menu and it wild be up to par, if not better. Now, I feel like I have to make my choices carefully or I’ll be disappointed, which turned out to be the case. Stick with what’s good and familiar and you’ll be okay. Go outside the box of sure bets and you’ll likely be disappointed.

I wouldn’t recommend the Harbor Grill because the food isn’t consistently good, the atmosphere has a lot to be desired, the staff isn’t well trained, and it’s a bit pricey for the quality of food you get. I’d rather spend a little more and go to a much better restaurant. I can’t say I won’t revisit the Harbor Grill again, but I may wait for next summer to see if things have improved.

There’s my first not so flattering review. It feels uncomfortable, but it’s part of being a good food blogger and telling my unbiased opinion to the public. There will be more along the way, I’m sure. I’m a virgin critic. Well, not anymore I suppose. 😉

Their website has been down or you could take a look for yourself. yelp.com reviews have been mostly positive. But, there has definitely been a shift in the restaurant’s food, and not for the better. If you find yourself there, a sure bet is a burger and brew at the bar.

Mexican Food at La Fondita, Amagansett

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La Fondita is a great little find in Amagansett. It’s a Mexican restaurant, predominantly for take out, but with picnic tables outside, weather permitting. What sets this take out place apart from others is that it’s owned by the same people as Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton, hands down one of the best restaurants in all the Hamptons. You can be sure the ingredients are fresh and the cooks behind the line know what they’re doing. It may not look like much from the outside. But one doesn’t necessarily go there for the ambiance. You go for the food. Place your order at the counter, get a number, wait to be called, grab a Mexican beer or horchata (cinnamon rice milk) if you’d like, and dig in. No frills. Just good food.

La Fondita’s menu has a little something for everyone looking for authentic Mexican and Latin flavors. The old stand-bys are included of course: tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, etc. But what makes this place stand out is that they give you choices of meat or vegetarian style meals. There are also vegan entrĂ©es and the meat and poultry are all natural and antibiotic-free. The delicious corn is from Balsam Farms (one of my favorite farms locally). Each tortilla is made fresh daily.

At La Fondita, you don’t get one kind of taco, you get a choice of four, from your traditional meat tacos to fresh fish tacos. There are burritos with cod or shrimp when in season. There are soups (I love the pozole rojo: pork with white hominy topped with lettuce and radish), sandwiches, salads and sides, plus a children’s menu.

The prices at La Fondita are reasonable by Hamptons standards. For example, a fish taco is $4. Sandwiches are $9.50. And large, traditional plates such as chayote en salsa verde (squash in salsa verde) is $14.50. The portions are generally a good size, so order several items from the menu and share family style. Don’t forget their Mexican corn off the cob with red peppers, onion, cilantro, mayo, queso fresco, and chili powder when in season, $3.

Service is knowledgable, fast and friendly. The perfect place for super casual attire or take out. Call for off season hours or for catering your next fiesta: 631.324.6932.

Food Blogging

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Here’s a bit of an aside. I’m new at food blogging and, though having been a published writer, I’m admittedly struggling with food blogging. There are only so many times one can use the words delicious, scrumptious, fabulous, and so on down the list, you get the idea. It reminds me of writing advertising copy when in real estate. After a while, the phrase “quintessential Hamptons cottage” became terribly overused. I’m used to being able to write on the fly. Meaning, I had enough in my repertoire that writing came easy to me. But yet I’m finding I may need to slow down and perhaps better inform the reader. At the same time, I don’t want to come off as ostentatious, giving a history lesson, or being long winded. I know there’s a happy medium here, I just need to find it. So, please hang in there with me as I find my food blogging voice. You won’t be disappointed. Thank you! 🙂