The East End's Best Gourmet on the Go
by michael braverman
Pepalajefa’s tarte tatin à la tomate
The Barefoot Contessa, now an internationally renowned name, was once a food store on Newtown Lane in East Hampton. But when asked if the long-gone and deeply missed store was the matriarch of gourmet takeout on the East End, proprietor Ina Garten points to an older lineage. “We all descended from Bert Greene at The Store in Amagansett,” says Garten. “From him we learned to buy good local ingredients and cook them the way you would at home. It’s fresh and simple so you can entertain without turning on the stove.”
Planning for the summer, three notable culinary descendants are keeping life delicious in the Hamptons. The newest contender, just opening in Sag Harbor, is Pepalajefa, a food shop with a modern slant on European classics. Mary’s Marvelous, the gastronome go-to spot in Amagansett, is celebrating its 10th anniversary by opening a new takeout and packaged-food shop in East Hampton. And Loaves & Fishes in Sagaponack, a contemporary of the original Barefoot Contessa, continues to thrive while producing traditional Hamptons favorites, like chicken potpie, and imaginative new offerings such as an original barbecued brisket. (A new entry into the fray: Whole Foods Market, which will run a “pop-up” farm stand in the former Ford dealership building in Wainscott.)
All three shops use local produce in season. Many vegetable ingredients at Loaves & Fishes originate just down Sagg Main Street, at Jim Pike’s farm; Mary Schoenlein, namesake of Mary’s Marvelous, contracts with two local farms; and Livia Hegner of Pepalajefa intends to source locally. If you’re looking for a vegetable trend this summer, the nominee is that nutritionpacked marvel kale. Schoenlein will have kale salads, and Anna Pump, the culinary savant behind Loaves & Fishes, is planning several kale side dishes, including a Scandinavian-influenced kale, leek, and potato combination.
“We make everything fresh, every day,” says Pump. “We start with the best raw materials I can find, plain and natural ingredients.” The resulting dishes can be quite inspired and luxurious, but they still manage to reflect the innate virtues of their superb ingredients. Pump’s flavors include the sumptuous—lobster and caviar and fresh tuna salads—but she also loves more homey dishes, like quinoa with chickpeas (use lots of lemon with quinoa, she comments), couscous, or gigante beans.
Swiss restaurateur and epicurean entrepreneur Hegner is reaching across the Alps and Atlantic to open Pepalajefa, a shop with a European disposition—or, as she puts it, “foods going back to their roots, but with contemporary flair or a little kick. The spirit is classic European; my approach is fun and fresh.”
Hegner, a seasoned traveler and a worldly type who has been visiting the Hamptons for years, realized how much our lives might be enhanced by a good rösti, one of those humble, elusive, and irresistible potato dishes that can soar in the hands of the right chef. Hegner’s philosophy of using familiar ingredients in different ways will no doubt take plenty of skill, and the proof, as they say, will be in the pudding—or in this case, an updated, still-upsidedown bistro favorite, tarte tatin.
When Schoenlein describes seeing her first professional kitchen, you can practically see the lightbulb above her head. After training upstate and then working in prominent New York restaurants, she realized a dream by opening her small Amagansett shop 10 years ago. The response in the community was immediate and enthusiastic, and she has gradually expanded the base from morning pastries and coffee to sandwiches and “grab and go” lunch and dinner dishes, such as apricot ginger chicken or South American–style arepas.
Today Schoenlein is in the process of opening a second shop, this one on Newtown Lane in East Hampton where, with additional space and a juice bar, she is increasing the selection. But she insists she will keep the focus on the quality and originality for which she is known. “Bigger,” she says, “is by itself not better.”
photography by Eric Striffler (Pepalajefa); evan sung (rotator)