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BY GARY WALTHER | June 18, 2013 | Food & Drink
Chef de cuisine Ty Kotz focuses on local ingredients for fresh fare at Topping Rose House.
Tables at either end of the long, narrow dining room offer the best vantage point for people-watching.
Blue potato crisps are made fresh daily.
Ingredients for all menu items are sourced locally; eggs from Holly Browder on the North Fork.
Howard Stern and Christie Brinkley have already stopped by Topping Rose House.
Seasonal dish of ragout of spring peas, baby leeks, fava beans, and fiddlehead ferns with egg.
Let’s not talk locavore when it comes to Topping Rose House restaurant; let’s talk locovore. Let’s talk about getting crazy—and really spending some dough—on things that grow, swim, and peck “just down the road.”
Ty Kotz, chef de cuisine at the Topping Rose House restaurant, one facet of the new Topping Rose House compound (a house, four cottages, restaurant, spa, two event spaces, and a one-acre farm) in Bridgehampton, plucks a razor clam from a custom-made fish cooler and says, “These come from two guys who know the local spots.”
The eggs are from Holly Browder on the North Fork and rumored to cost the restaurant $10 a dozen, which may be why Kotz calls them “the golden eggs.” One of these eggs is used in the ragout of spring peas, baby leeks, fava beans, and fiddlehead ferns, which is probably why it costs $21.
The monkfish from Montauk is as fresh as possible. The pancetta is from a whole pig purchased from Deep Roots Farm in Orient Point, and the pasta is made in-house—the flour for the pappardelle is even smoked in the kitchen. Then there are the organic microgreens, which earlier in the year come from “Brendan, right up on 114,” meaning Brendan Davison at Good Water Farms; they’re 100 percent certified organic (even the seed!). But astonishing to a kitchen-tour jade like me, throughout spring these infants—greens fewer than 14 days old—were still in their playpens, the little soil containers in which they’re raised in a greenhouse. But now that summer is here, the microgreens come from across the driveway, Topping Rose’s one-acre farm. “Here,” says Kotz, pinching off a small bouquet. “Eat it.” This is a microgreen epiphany: They are piquant like radishes and sharp like celery, and I have just chosen my appetizer.
Kotz is passionate about farm-to-table food, just like Tom Colicchio, who is making his management debut at Topping Rose House—in the hotel as well as the restaurant. The two clearly mean to take dining to a new level in the Hamptons, and they have certainly taken it to a new price point, with some dinner entrées breaking the $40 ceiling. It’s the Golden Egg Syndrome, and I’d say if you choose correctly, you get what you pay for.
Back upstairs—the kitchen is one-story underground— we’re drawn into the bar by the original fireplaces, throwing off sheets of warmth on a chilly spring night and making the dusky atmosphere palpable. The restaurant occupies the ground floor of the 1842 Topping Rose House, which has guest rooms located on the second and third floors, with 15 additional spaces in the cottages and studio. The bar takes up one side, the 50-seat restaurant the other. And what’s striking here is that the back bar, which could have been all masculine and dark wood, is painted a vibrant shade of blue.
“It was just an inspiration,” says Alexandra Champalimaud, who designed the hotel’s rooms and public spaces. “I call it petrol blue,” she adds, telling me to think of water with a bit of oil on it. That’s it precisely—though I don’t want to take the slick image too far given the fish on the menu.
But therein lies a message: The restaurant, like Topping Rose House itself, has a period feel, but it is not a period piece. Champalimaud’s forte is juxtaposition—“ it’s all about the layers,” she says of how she conjured the space. So the long, narrow dining room has Windsor chairs, but also plump Cognac-colored leather banquettes. The designed beautifully proportioned panels on the walls with molding (a nod to the past), which Champalimaud used as a frame for works of art, creating a room that is both chic and chaste (period appropriate, too).
The menu makes good use of the kitchen garden and local produce—11 vegetables in three different salads on the appetizer side—but there’s also a fragrant scent of the good old beach shack in the fried oysters served atop Wagyu beef carpaccio. What’s interesting on the entrée side is the marquee position given to vegetables. The asparagus and ramps are supporting roles in the chilled lobster salad that also includes pickles and orange purée. And pickled leeks, cucumber, and borage stand out in the scallop crudo. This menu is also for people who like their tucker: smoked pappardelle with a slow poached egg and chickpea fries, and roast chicken with potato gnocchi, and Anson Mills cheddar grits as a side dish (a foodie’s Monday night football meal). Same goes for dessert: brioche doughnuts, chocolate crémeux tart, apple tarte tatin.
When those microgreens are slid in front of me, they leave an aroma wake, a piquant, green, peppery perfume. As we left the kitchen, Kotz said, “Have the spring garlic risotto,” with the look of man who knows the winning horse. And indeed, it’s al dente perfettamente, and the small chunks of those razor clams are indescribably sweet and tender.
The calamari stuffed with spinach and Linguiça sausage sits on a reduction of garlic, squid ink, red wine vinegar, and chili flakes, which is then run through a food mill. That yields a sauce with the consistency of, say, magma, and flavors that are a world without end.
Amen. 1 Bridgehampton–Sag Harbor Tpk., Bridgehampton, 537-0870
PHOTOGRAPHY BY EVAN SUNG, Jeff Schear/Getty Images (stern), Jerritt Clark/WireImage (Brinkley)