Fresh Hamptons, Bridgehampton

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Fresh Hamptons, simply known as “Fresh” is off of Main Street in Bridgehampon. I’ve heard of this restaurant throughout the summer, but never got around to going. Well, I didn’t know what I was missing. Now I do and I’m sure to be back. There were some bumps in the road with the staff along the way, but overall, it was an enjoyable dinner experience.

The food, oh my gosh! The food is local when possible, in season, organic, and “fresh”. The menu is to salivate over if you like raw, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free choices. Brilliantly, the chef, Todd Jacobs, has incorporated a wide array of seafood, a chicken dish, braised short ribs, steak, and duck into the menu. So, there’s something for everyone.

Let’s start with the decor. I would call it rustic. It has a comfortable feel with an open floor plan arrangement. There are tables to accommodate larger parties at the ready, tables in the middle and across the side wall, and generously sized booths along the back wall. There’s enough space between the tables that you don’t feel you’re on top of the table next to you. I noticed there were no children throughout our three hour meal, but they do provide a children’s menu. The bar is inviting, though I think they overdid it with the Halloween decorations. We were greeted by a nice enough hostess and led to our booth.

The first thing I noticed beyond decor was there seemed to be more staff than diners. A lot of staff was wondering around, seemingly, with not much to do. We sat, we waited… We waited. Then our waiter appeared. A young man from Mexico who shall remain nameless as not to embarrass him. He took our drink order. I was the designated driver, so I ordered a large bottle of Pellegrino with lemon and lime. My friend ordered a specialty margarita called “the smashing pumpkin”, then my other friend ordered a glass of wine. Our drinks took a while to make it to the table. A lovely young woman brought them over and the waiter followed with a bottle of wine. He had removed the foil from the bottle before asking if this was the bottle we ordered. Rookie mistake. When he approached, my friend reminded him she had ordered a glass of wine, not a bottle. His face dropped. Apparently my friend had ordered a glass of wine off the bottles only side of the wine list. She wasn’t about to drink the bottle of wine herself, so asked he take it back and bring her a glass. We took another look at the wine list and saw the bottle the waiter partially opened was $135. We felt terrible, but from the waiter’s face, not as badly as he felt. My other dining partner made up for it somewhat with the $15 specialty margaritas.

We were given printed out menus on clipboards, something different. There were several pages to study, and the menu has been cut down from the in season menu according to Chef Todd. I’m glad we were occupied with the menu as it took a good twenty minutes before another young woman came over with piping hot rolls. But, as with the rest of the meal, the quality and goodness of the food compensated for the slow service. The rolls must have come right out of the oven. They were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. You had your choice of plain or multi-grain. No butter was served. So, we used the rosemary infused olive oil that was on the table for dipping. They also keep balsamic vinegar on the table, but no other condiments or salt or pepper. We were told the specials and continued to peruse the lengthy menu, with joy, may I add.

We finally decided on some small plates to be able to try as many things as possible. Unfortunately, I wasn’t with a party of ten or so. There was so much on the menu I wanted to try I could hardly contain my excitement. We ordered a Thai dish: Thai green curry summer vegetables with basil, zucchini, eggplant, string beans, peppers, onions, tomatoes, spinach, green chili, coconut milk, and Thai basil. The first thing that awakens the senses is the smell. A spicy broth, as Thai curries are known for. The flavor was simple and well balanced. Again, it was spicy. But, the spice didn’t detract from the individual flavors of the vegetables. Next we tried the local, organic, Yukon potatoes roasted with duck cracklings, shallots and dill. The potatoes were very good, and they came with plenty of cracklings which was a treat. I believe a hit of salt would have been helpful. Next was the organic, whole grain red quinoa with local, organic tomatoes and fresh sage. A clean flavor with the tomatoes and sage, lending a burst of fresh flavor to the earthy red quinoa. This was followed by the oven roasted, local, organic butternut squash with Indian madras curry, caramelized onions and fennel pollen. This was my favorite. The squash was served in chunks that were fork tender, seasoned with the madras curry which is simply a spice and not a sauce as people often associate with curry. The squash was sweet and savory at the same time. It was not spicy. The onions were caramelized which added to the depth of flavor. We also ordered the crisp, baked, organic kale chips with olive oil and sea salt. My only complaint, they weren’t evenly seasoned. My first kale chip was super salty, yet I went back for more. Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods fame on the Travel Channel suggests always trying things twice, two bites, whether you like it or not. So, I went back for another chip. No salt. Hmmm. I suppose I had enough of a lingering salt taste in my mouth to carry over to my second piece. They were nice and crispy, however. Thin and nearly melted in our mouths. Unfortunately, that was the only dish remaining with food on it when we were finished. The main meal, from order to finish, took about two hours. We had a lot of laughs, so, it was well paced for us. But, if I were in a hurry, I would have been frustrated.

Here’s the inexperienced staff part, again. The waiter never asked anyone if they wanted a second drink. We waited patiently and ended up flagging him down. The bartender finally brought the drinks over. We finished the bottle of sparkling water, but was never asked if we’d like another. Flagging down the staff for missing items was a theme to the evening. And, the young woman with the rolls never asked if we wanted another while we were looking over the menu for close to a half hour. We had to ask. After finishing our meal, the food runner, who looked no older that 15-years old, offered us duck and another plate. Wrong table, we told him gently. The one thing we didn’t have to ask for was the dessert menu. The desserts were just as interesting and appetizing as the main menu. We had to order the crème brûlée. Cool, smooth custard with a warm, sugary, semi-burnt top which was, as my friend put it, the best crème brûlée she’s ever had. Then we shared the chocolate crépes with white chocolate mousse filling in a chocolate sauce garnished with fresh mint. For lack of a better expression, OMG! Velvety, thin crépes made of chocolate was genius. The white chocolate filling was slightly cool and refreshing against the chocolate sauce. Unlike my counterparts, I enjoy a little mint with each bite. It made the dessert. I haven’t had a dessert this delicious and well executed since I can remember. It was worth waiting for. Oh yes, the waiter forgot to put in the order for the crépes, but apologized and brought them out fairly quickly. I’m including a picture of the chocolate crépes, but the picture doesn’t express the play on textures and flavors. It’s a sure winner.

There was so much on the menu we were too full to try. So, I’ll go back to try the more hearty dishes like the whole roasted fish and many more. Please look over the menu as it would take forever to describe each dish. The braised short ribs with five spice and merlot wine will likely be on the next order, as well as the Long Island duck. I’m bringing more people next time.

The restaurant offers themed week night specials. Family Night Sundays is a $59 per family dinner package. Serves 2-4 adults or 2 adults and 2 kids. Manly Mondays from 8-10pm at the bar offers a grass fed beef burger or grilled veggie burger and Blue Point draught beer for $10. Taco Tuesdays is served family style and priced at $19 per adult, $10 for children under 12. Wine Down Wednesdays offers any bottle of wine under $100 for half price. World Cuisine Thursdays offers a three course authentic dinner from different parts of the world for $34 per person. I think I may try a Thursday night sometime. Chef Todd is so creative, I look forward to what surprises he has in store.

When we were through with everything, Chef Todd appeared in the dining room and made his way to some of the tables to assess our experience. We expressed our happiness with the meal and menu. He has a humble demeanor and thanked us for our feedback. We decided not to mention the front of the house issues. We didn’t want to take away from what was, overall, a wonderful culinary experience. Shortly after, we were approached by a white-haired woman, dressed in nothing special, who asked us how our dinner was without introducing herself. We couldn’t express our disappointment with the front of the house as we had no idea who she was and left before we could ask her. If she’s the front of the house manager, she has some work to do and she wasn’t present in the dining room until closing. The next time I go, I’ll be sure to seek her out.

We flagged down the waiter for the bill. It was reasonable, save the $15 specialty drinks which I thought was a few dollars overpriced. But, I suppose, that’s where they make a good part of their money. The waiter just needs to learn to build up the check with drinks.

I can definitely see myself going back for more. I recommend this restaurant if you have patience, and don’t mind looking like you’re trying to land a plane on the runway with your arm flailing in the air for the better part of your meal. The food far supersedes the inexperienced staff. Kudos to Chef Todd for bringing his talent, experience, and mouth watering fare to another, hopefully, successful restaurant.

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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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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.

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! 🙂