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 entrées 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 entrées: 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 sauté 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 gratinée. An onion soup topped with gryère 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 sautéed 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 purée 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 entrées. 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 café/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, sautéed 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: sautéed 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 entrée. 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 entrées.

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 entrées 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.

Lovin’ Latin at D’Canela, Amagansett

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D’Canela offers Mexican and Latin cuisine in a small restaurant on the Main Road in Amagansett. D’Canela is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and also brunch on the weekends. You’ll find it’s fairly quiet at most times during the week, making it a good place to meet a business partner or have a romantic interlude. On weekends the place fills up, but you can usually find a table, unless it’s in the summer, then larger parties generally will have to wait, so call ahead.

The owner, Luis, is usually in the building and keeping things running smoothly. His staff is bilingual in English and Spanish, and nothing is lost in translation. The staff is friendly, kind, and attentive. They’re unobtrusive, letting you enjoy your meal, but within range should you need anything. The only thing I’ve ever become impatient with is getting the check on occasion. On the flip side, they never make me feel rushed.

The breakfast menu offers typical breakfast fare such as eggs, meat, home fries and toast, as well as Eggs Benedict, various omelettes, French toast, granola, Irish oatmeal, pancakes, and a salmon platter. On the Latin side, you have a choice of several dishes from breakfast burritos to breakfast quesadillas, to tamales and one of my favorites, huevos rancheros, to name a few.

The lunch menu offers some more authentic Latin dishes. For example, the posole soup is one of my favorites with mote (big, soft corn kernels), pork, avocado, onion, cilantro and a variety of mildly spicy seasonings to make a delicious broth to tie it all together. There’s also a very good black bean soup. For appetizers there’s guacamole with chips, nachos, enchiladas, and two of my favorites: tostones (flattened and fried unripe plantain) with guacamole and chicharron (crispy pork), and torttle rolls made of napa cabbage, avocado, black bean purée and jack cheese, made and cut to resemble sushi. Delicious. On the lighter side for an entrée they have a variety of salads, those with grilled chicken, a Cesar salad, a warm spinach salad and more. There are sandwiches and burgers and sides. You’re sure to find something you like. You can also ask for their dinner menu at lunch time and if it’s ready to go in the kitchen, you’re in for a treat.

The dinner menu has similar appetizers, salads and soups to the lunch menu with some interesting and equally delicious additions. The entrées, which are too many to list, all have a unique flavor and stand on their own. They’re not simply four combinations of four ingredients. You’re offered a strip steak with is very flavorful with just enough fat, not too much. You have your typical Latin fare such as burritos, chalupas, enchiladas, gorditas, fajitas, quesadillas, tacos, and tamales. But there are also dishes from Columbia, Mexico and Ecuador, like the bendeja paisa, carne asada, and churrasco, respectively. You will not leave the table hungry. There are three kinds of steak, two kinds of seafood, and a very American children’s menu.

D’Canela will give you good food at a decent price and decent service. I usually go when I want to get away from the hustle and bustle of busier restaurants. They have dancing Saturday nights and great mojitos! Give it a try for lunch or dinner. Breakfast is nothing over the top. I almost forgot to mention, they make a mild chicken curry that’s very good. I’m not sure if it’s on the menu, but ask for it. It’s generally served with their sautéed spinach which is done beautifully with garlic and oil. The stuffed poblano pepper with jack cheese is one of my favorites. I can never finish the carne asada, but it’s worth a shot. Go with several people and eat family style to taste as many dishes as possible. You can’t go wrong. And if you care to, ask for the owner, Luis, he is affable and will remember you.

Best Breakfast Sandwich

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Good day, everyone.

Yesterday morning I went into Mary’s Marvelous in East Hampton for an iced cappuccino, a bacon, cheddar and chive scone, and a lemon, ginger, lime, agave drink.

Let me begin by putting it out there that Mary’s, as it’s known, is a bit on the pricey side, even by Hamptons standards. The iced coffee and delicious scone were within reason, but the lemon-lime drink was $9 which I thought was a bit ridiculous given the ingredients are so inexpensive. There was no fancy bottle or label or any kind of packaging that would up the price in my opinion. I was a bit dismayed to pay this price because I enjoy this drink, but $9? (I heard through the grapevine they had a pie on sale last year for $40!)

Having said that, let me tell you why I keep going back to Mary’s. Simply put, the food is always fresh, homemade, and delicious. One of my favorite items is their breakfast sandwich. Take a look at their breakfast menu. My favorite breakfast sandwich is egg, ham and Swiss on a roll. It’s not a typical roll, it’s a seedless, soft, oblong roll. They cook it on what looks like a panini press to get the outside of the bread crispy and warm the inside so the cheese melts. I’m not exactly sure what kind of magic they use to create this deliciousness, but it’s a must have if you like breakfast sandwiches. They offer organic ingredients, turkey bacon, gluten-free bread, and so many more choices to suit most any palate.

Now, let’s take a look at their lunch menu. What I enjoy about their lunch menu is their choice of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options that are full of flavor. I always lean toward their paninis, but take a good look at the menu before making a decision as each item I’ve ever tried is just as delicious as the next. They also offer mini sandwiches if you care for a little less sandwich, or perhaps want to pair it with one of their soups. You’ll need to go back more than once to try their array of sandwiches of mouth watering combinations.

Mary’s also has freshly made juice and smoothies. Yum! My favorite, that’s not on the menu, is a combination of berries and ice with just a touch of apple juice to lend some sweetness. It’s cold and refreshing. Their green drinks are all described in detail on the board behind the counter and can contain everything from flax seeds to whey protein. You can choose soy milk if you don’t care for cow’s milk. And you can add or take away ingredients to create your own. However, I wouldn’t try that when it’s busy.

Mary’s also serves terrific, homemade baked goods. At the top of my list are the scones. My favorites being the scones that seem to have been left off of their online menu. My two favorites are the bacon, cheddar, chive scone and the gruyère, black pepper scone. Delicate, sometimes more dry than others, but bursting with flavor. I’m big on consistency and the scones aren’t always made exactly like the time before. Yet, oddly, it’s not disappointing. They’re always good. I’m not a huge fan of sweets, but word of mouth is Mary’s assortment of baked goods are tasty and, again, all homemade.

Also visit Mary’s Marvelous on Main Street in Amagansett.

So, Mary, even though I sometimes find your prices to be high, I’m still a loyal customer because your food shines through each and every time. One small complaint is that service can be on the slow side, even when it’s not busy. And the little East Hampton store fills up quickly. I’ve watched the workers behind the counter to see why I sometimes feel I’m waiting too long. I’ll say this, the staff is obviously trained to be methodical. Everything they take out goes back in it’s place. The milk containers for frothing milk are cleaned before the next drink is made, the espresso machine is wiped down, and it stays clean. So, again, to have to wait a couple extra minutes knowing my food and drink is being served in a clean environment is well worth the wait.

Where they get ya. When you stand in line to pay, you’ll normally be standing by their cold case where they offer beverages, cold soups and salads, and pre-made sandwiches. A quart of soup is $10. A beverage can be close to $10. So, there’s another $20 you’ve spent just by being tempted while you’re standing in line. Good strategic marketing, I suppose.

On parking at the East Hampton store, ugh. There are only three parking spots out front, then several across the road or down the street. This can be challenging in the summer. But overall, you should go. Be prepared to pay a little more than usual, but know it will be worth it!

Best Seafood Shop

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Good day, everyone. As promised, I want to let you know about three seafood shops all worth a mention: the Seafood Shop in Wainscott, Stuart’s Seafood Market in Amagansett, and the new Amagansett Seafood Store.

The Seafood Shop on the Main Road in Wainscott is a favorite if I’m in the area. Because there are seafood markets just as good and closer to home, I don’t make the Seafood Shop my first choice for fresh seafood. It’s simply a matter of convenience. However, I look at their daily menu which you can find online to see their daily specials. I have gone out of my way for their soups and bisques. They don’t skimp on the amount of seafood in their soups. Their fresh seafood selection in on par with most seafood shops. There’s a good selection of prepared seafood dishes along with meals you can have cooked to order. I plan on trying a lobster to go soon to compare it to many lobsters I’ve had in the area. If you’re in Wainscott, check it out. It’s across the street from the post office.

My new find is the Amagansett Seafood Store on Montauk Highway, in the Amagansett IGA plaza. I believe it’s going to stick around for a while. Their selection of fresh seafood is, again, on par with most seafood markets. But, they’ve added some items to their menu that have been winners with me and friends. Let me say that a couple of my closest friends are avid fishermen and were excited to try the assortment of dips and seafood salads I brought to a recent gathering. I wish they had a website because I can’t possibly remember all they have to offer, but their dips are out of this world! They also offer a wide variety of cooked to order seafood dishes that are listed on the huge chalk board behind the counter. I’m going to go in there today to refresh my memory because this is an inadequate description of what they have to offer. Then I’ll refresh this post. What’s also convenient is there’s a liquor store next store and a supermarket next door to that. You can make one stop for your seafood dinner. Parking can be a bit difficult, but worth it.

My favorite seafood market is Stuart’s Seafood Market on Oak Lane, off the Main Road, in Amagansett. Stuart’s offers an impressive assortment of fresh seafood. I’ve never wanted anything they don’t carry. The only problem is, for popular items, you may want to go earlier in the day rather than later as they may be sold out. They have the highest quality seafood around, such as sushi grade tuna. They offer delicious, fresh local seafood as well as a wide variety of global seafood. It makes me want to spread my culinary wings and try new things. Additionally, they offer an impressive assortment of homemade salads and prepared foods such as:

Sliced Scottish Smoked Salmon
Lobster Salad
Shrimp Salad w/ Dill
Yellow Fin Tuna Salad
Smoked Crabmeat Salad
Cole Slaw w/ or w/out Mayo
Red Bliss Potato Salad
Sugar Snap Pea Salad
Basmati & Wild Rice Salad
Orzo Salad w/ Tomato & Feta
Hungarian Cucumber Salad
Sesame Seaweed Salad
Hijiki Salad w/ Edamame
Baked Stuffed Clams
Fish Cakes, Lobster Cakes, or Crab Cakes
Poached Salmon w/ Dill Sauce
Cedar Planked Salmon
Sesame Seared Tuna
Teriyaki Tuna Burgers
(New!) Lobster Summer Rolls
Lobster Bisque
Manhattan Clam Chowder
New England Clam Chowder
Gazpacho
Fish Stock
Smoked Whitefish Pate
Homemade Cocktail Sauce
Homemade Tartar Sauce
Homemade Guacamole
Homemade Ginger
Key Lime Marinade
Homemade Key Lime Pies

Homemade Soups

Manhattan Clam Chowder
New England Clam Chowder
Lobster Bisque
Mediterranean Fish Soup
Conch Chowder
Mussel Chowder
Downeast Fish Chowder
Crab Asparagus Bisque
Oyster & Artichoke Bisque
Low Fat Oyster & Corn Chowder

Lobster Dinners
1 1/4 LB. Lobster
Steamers or Little Neck Clams
Mussels
Corn on the Cob
Cole Slaw
Melted Butter & Lemon

Cooked & Ready to Serve!
Larger Lobsters Also Available

On more than one occasion I’ve hired Stuart’s to do a clambake, both for home and on the beach. You bring the drinks, they’ll do the rest. Clambakes include the following and is priced based on the number of people:

1 1/4 LB. Lobster
Steamers or Little Neck Clams
Mussels
Corn on the Cob
Red Potatoes
Layered in a disposable kettle.
Ready for stovetop, grill or beach fire

Going down to one of the Hamptons many local beaches and having Stuart’s bring their truck down onto the beach is a great time for all. Take advantage of the bon fire and toast marshmallows and make s’mores after a delicious seafood extravaganza. Feel free to order more from their catering menu. Also, for the true foodie enthusiast, check out their pig roast. There’s a $400 additional charge for the pig to be roasted on site, but I feel the excitement is worth the price. An aside: I have a dear friend who has a homemade, coal fired slow cooking grill he keeps in his yard. He’s treated guests to 250 lb. pigs and lamb on this grill. It’s a long process to watch over it and cook it to perfection. For those who comment, I’ll let you know where you can get fresh pigs, lambs, chickens and more for a reasonable price. If you’re not familiar with what a reasonable price is for, say, a 150lb. hog, you’re looking in the ballpark of $400. This is comparable to Stuart’s price and you needn’t do all the work.

Also impressive at Stuart’s are their pantry items, small cheese selection, and desserts. Grab your Old Bay Seasoning from the pantry, perhaps some freshly homemade cocktail sauce from the frig, some fresh lemons, cheese, crackers, and pies. My son particularly enjoys the buttery shortbread.

You can’t go wrong at Stuart’s. I suggest going in and looking around. Their prepared foods section alone is worth the trip. When on Oak Lane, look for the big flag, then turn down the driveway and you’ll find Stuart’s tucked away in the back.

Please revisit this post later today as I will be adding much more detail about the Seafood Shop and the Amagansett Seafood Store. But, Stuart’s is hands down the most popular seafood market around and well worth the price in my opinion.

More On Take Out

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Just had lunch from Breadzilla in Wainscott. I had the shrimp salad on a homemade squishy roll, and my lunch partner had the hippy-dippy, a sandwich with cheddar, avocado, tomato, carrots, alfalfa sprouts and mustard mayo on honey wheat bread. The shrimp salad was fresh and looked like chopped medium sized shrimp, mixed with mayo and celery, topped with shredded lettuce, and seasoned with pepper on a seedless roll. Very good but could have used a pinch of salt, in my opinion. They consistently use what I consider to be the right amount of mayonnaise. Just enough to bind the ingredients without a lingering mayonnaise taste. The hippy-dippy was super fresh and delicious. The mustard mayo doesn’t overpower the delicate fresh vegetables. The carrots are shredded and raw, in case you were wondering. My non-meat eating friend enjoys this option on a regular basis. But don’t be fooled by their menu. They have much more to offer, such as freshly baked breads, bagels, and pastries. I personally enjoy their scones. They have a simple but impressive cheese collection in the cold case as you walk in. They offer an array of already prepared foods made on the premises, such as individual meatloaf (could really serve two), pizza with various toppings, and cold soups and salads among other items made fresh and changed daily. Look in the cold case for yesterday’s bread and buy it at a discount. The cinnamon swirl bread is incredible! It consistently has a good sized streak of cinnamon-sugary goodness running through it. Day old cinnamon bread is perfect for French toast. They post their menu each day with the specials for that day. They usually offer three types of soup, most often at least one will be vegan, and sandwiches and platters. If you are cutting carbs, ask for your choice of sandwich on a bed of fresh greens instead. I have always been accommodated when I’ve asked for a substitution of greens for bread.

Breadzilla is busy at lunchtime, so I recommend calling ahead. I also recommend knowing what you want before you call. I once called and asked what the soups of the day were and was told, “It’s on our website”. I don’t think the young lady meant to be rude, I think she was just really busy. I’ve always had straight forward, good service. They have never messed up my order, which is saying a lot considering how busy they can be, especially in the summer. Oh, there’s a clear cell phone policy: get off your phone if you want to be served.

There are several take out places in this little area in Wainscott. In front of Breadzilla you have Twice Upon A Bagel, and the Seafood Shop right next door. I’ll discuss the Seafood Shop in my next review. For now, know it’s always fresh!

Twice Upon A Bagel, obviously, sells bagels. But, it’s more of a bagel store/bakery/deli combo. They don’t have a website, but you can read reviews on yelp.com. Unlike most of the reviews that call the staff unfriendly and the food wildly overpriced, let me say I’ve only had pleasant and efficient service. Having said that, I have noticed the staff to be a bit frantic in the summer, so I don’t doubt service could be compromised at times. As far as price, I think there’s a bit of “it’s the Hamptons” you have to swallow when you get here to not be pissed off at the overall high prices virtually everywhere. High compared to what? Say, compared to a good Jewish deli in the city. It’s not my first choice of bagel joints in the Hamptons, but it’s not the worst either. I’d like to mention Goldberg’s Famous Bagels at this time. Located off Pantigo Road in East Hampton. This is where I go for my bagels on the south fork.

Goldberg’s, as it’s simply known, is more of a true bagel store. There’s a counter just for ordering bagels, and a separate deli counter for ordering everything else. They have terrific sandwiches, with combinations of freshly made chopped liver with brisket, pastrami, corned beef, turkey…you name it. There are many sandwich combinations already laid out for you on their menu, or feel free to choose your own ingredients. We’re not talking Carnegie Deli big, but you get a good serving of meat on each sandwich. Enjoy one of their homemade soups. (I once ordered their matzo ball soup. Excellent. Not salty, and the matzo balls were light and airy. But, I accidentally ordered a large portion which is a quart of soup, just FYI.) A small soup and half of a sandwich will fill most. For breakfast, they offer various egg sandwiches as you’d see in most deli’s. Goldberg’s takes the breakfast sandwich a step further and will add a delicious hash brown on your egg sandwich along with your choice of cheese and meat. There’s even an egg sandwich with roast beef, cheese, and a hash brown which I’ve found sinfully delicious. I believe this combination is aptly called the “Not So Healthy” breakfast sandwich.

Aside from the numerous sandwich combinations on bread, bagel, roll or flagel (basically a flattened bagel), Goldberg’s offers many other good eats behind the deli counter. There’s falafel, herring, kasha varnishkas, pickles, knishes, smoked fish, and most deli salads you can imagine. At times they sell noodle pudding. And there’s always freshly squeezed orange juice.

Reviews I’ve read online, more often than not, give Goldberg’s a positive rating in every category. I do, however, have one small complaint. I asked for a smoked fish platter, ordered it ahead of time, and for around $18 I felt their portion and selection of smoked fish was insufficient. I had more garnish than smoked fish it seemed: cole slaw, pickle, lettuce, tomato, onion. Outside of that one time, I’ve never had a complaint.

Most people order to go while some take advantage of the few, perhaps four or five, cafeteria style tables to enjoy their meal. There’s a flat screen TV if you care to catch up on the news, and the story of Goldberg’s on the wall. They also have a small outdoor seating area.

Caution: like most good places to eat, it gets busy and you will have to wait in line. You can call ahead if you’d like, but I’ve often found it takes a few tries before someone answers the phone during a rush. I, personally, don’t mind standing in line because it usually takes me ten minutes to figure out what to order. By the time I get to place my order, I’ve often only just decided. It’s virtually painless.

If you’re feeling naughty, try their deep fried French toast. Oh my goodness! The bread is thick, soft on the inside, crispy on the outside. Served with butter and syrup, a small portion will most likely fill the average person as it’s so rich. I haven’t had this in a while. But I guarantee, one of these cold mornings I’ll get a hankering for this fried French toast and I’ll be sure to take a picture.

Now that I’ve discussed two local bagel stores, I feel it would be remiss not to mention Hampton Bagels on North Main Street in East Hampton. I admit, because this is the most convenient bagel store near my home, I do frequent the place. However, the parking on the side is ridiculous, I will only stop if I can park in front. Your order may need to be repeated several times, and even though your order is written down, you may not always get what you asked for. The line quickly gets long and, because it serves little more than bagels and sandwiches, I get bored. The coffee is mediocre and service is not normally with a smile. The staff looks harried when it’s busy. Yet, if you find you’d like to be a regular here, I’d get to know someone behind the counter. Your chances of receiving the right order and a smile are greatly improved with a little banter. Hampton Bagels has an interesting “text in your order” feature that I’ve been too afraid to try. The next time you stop in, grab a card on the counter and try texting in your order. The card promises it will save you time.

The bagels, flagels, bialys, and salt sticks are pretty good and there’s a wide assortment, as well as a vast array of types of cream cheese. You can see them making the bagels right in front of you in the ovens when it’s busy, as well as the freshly made orange juice. To be clear, Hampton Bagels is a decent bagel store, but there are some staff and parking issues when it gets busy.

If you’d like more information about any of the aforementioned, please feel free to leave a comment and I will answer.

Thank you!