A Taster's Journey is a newsletter on food, wine and travel. After 15 years of studying, tasting, teaching, and selling wine, I created this newsletter to not only share my passion about wine, but of food and travel as well. Each month I hope to share wines that I am drinking, food that is in season, restaurants that I have enjoyed, and places I have traveled. Enjoy!"

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The Hamptons…where to eat now

June 30th, 2004

The Hamptons, a group of beach towns on Eastern Long Island, is a popular escape from NYC during the summer months, and although the beaches are consistently beautiful, the restaurant scene is ever changing. You don’t need to be a historian to remember restaurants that disappeared: 95 School Street, The Independent, Karen Lee’s, and American Bistro to name just a few in Bridgehampton. The truth is that the best place to eat is your own backyard, but occasionally it is fun to go out. To help navigate the restaurant scene between Southampton and Easthampton this season, here is an update…

With all the money in the Hamptons, you would think that there were dozens of restaurants rivaling the top crop from NYC. Actually that is far from true. Fortunately there are a few very good restaurants. My favorites are Robert’s, Della Femina’s, and Nick & Toni’s. Robert Durkin, the former chef of Karen Lee’s, opened Robert’s a few years back in Water Mill. He utilizes the freshest local ingredients to produce consistent, high quality dishes. The cuisine is a mix of Tuscan and contemporary American. Robert has spent many winters traveling through Italy which has resulted in a constantly changing menu, and a well selected Italian wine list. Della Femina’s of East Hampton is a big open airy room that is buzzing by 7 o’clock. Thetall white walls are adorned with caricatures of some of its customers, giving the sleek restaurant a fun, lively ambiance. The food is contemporary American, and it’s complemented by an extensive wine list of over 250 bottles. Nick & Toni’s, also in East Hampton, is a great restaurant offering a cross between Long Island and Mediterranean cuisine. They have a small garden behind the restaurant to grow herbs and vegetables, and strive to utilize the freshest local ingredients. They are know for their wood burning oven, and they always offer a fabulous pizza. But the best dishes from the oven are the chicken and a special fish dish, usually branzino or dorade. The one downside is that it can get very crowded. Celebs are seated promptly, others….hmmm, would like a drink at the bar?

Alison's Restaurant

Alison's Restaurant

Alison’s is a new restaurant located in Bridgehampton that has promise. Alison Hurt closed her successful restaurant Alison’s by the Beach of Sagaponak this past winter and reopened in the location of the former 95 School Street. Although it is very new, open only a couple of weeks, Alison has a knack for running quality restaurants, and my guess is that it will be above average. Initial feedback is that the food is very good, and the service is young and inexperienced.

There are two other excellent restaurants, but I classify them a little differently because they can be stuffy. The American Hotel in Sag Harbor serves outstanding American cuisine and has the best wine list in the Hamptons. There are several dinning rooms, but they are all rather dated and sleepy. The best bet is to ask for a table in the bar, which is lively and has a good ambiance. Mirko’s of Water Mill is another fine restaurant that suffers from that stuffy, formal ambiance. Although the food is above average, the experience falls short.

As you think of heading to the Hamptons, you fantasize of the beach, the ocean, and all that fresh seafood. The odd part is that great seafood restaurants are nowhere to be seen. The best bets are Pierre’s in Bridgehampton, Jeff & Eddy’s in Sag Harbor and East Hampton Point in Three Mile Harbor. Unfortunately consistency is an issue.

Since none of the restaurants in the Hamptons are going to be winning 4 stars, it is important to have some fun. A lively, happening restaurant can be a great way to escape the pressure cooker of New York City. Red Bar Brasserie in Southampton is a fun spot with good food and great cocktails. Almond in Bridgehampton has a similar feel, and their food is also causal French bistro fare. Beacon in Sag Harbor has an added plus in that it overlooks the harbor, giving you the perfect seat to watch the sunset. The Laundry of East Hampton has also been a perennial favorite for years. The long bar is always packed, and the red brick walls add a warmth to the lively ambiance. My favorite place, however, is Sunset Beach on Shelter Island. It looks like a two story wooden deck with colorful awnings. It is a casual French bistro that overlooks Crescent Beach. For lunch, you can dine on mussels and French fries, sip a Sancerre, and watch the surf…and you can wear your bathing suit. As the day progresses, it becomes a very lively nightspot.

Low key and casual is a great way to go in the Hamptons, and there are many possibilities. Rowdy Hall and The Driver’s Seat are two top spots for burgers. For pizza try Sam’s or World Pie. And for a basket of fried shrimp or a flounder sandwich try Nichols or The Dockside Bar & Grill. Also, let’s not forget breakfast, the Candy Kitchen has been a favorite for many, many years. Isn’t that Roy Sheider sipping his coffee?

The Seafood Shop

The Seafood Shop

If you forgot to make dinner reservations, or don’t feel like leaving the pool, don’t despair there are plenty of options. The Seafood Shop in Wainscott is excellent. They have the freshest seafood, a wide selection of live lobsters, and many prepared dishes. Citarella of both Water Mill and East Hampton prides itself on fabulous seafood, although their meat and cheese selections are also very good. For bread, Levian is my favorite, their ciabatta is pure perfection.

Loaves & Fishes

Loaves & Fishes

Loaves & Fishes is a tiny shop in Sagaponak, but they have everything you need to serve a meal. There is a wide selection of frozen appetizers, cheese, or pate to get you started. For side dishes, there are several salads, a half dozen vegetable choices, and their coleslaw is the best in the Hamptons. Entrées are superb: chicken roasted on the rotisserie, filet mignon with a horseradish sauce, and poached salmon steaks to name a few. Their food is all prepared, and it is excellent…and very expensive. The best retailers, however, are the farm stands with fresh picked corn, heirloom tomatoes and bushels of lettuce. My favorite is Pike’s farm stand on Sag Main St. in Sagaponak.

Hey, summer is here – Buon Appetito!

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