by katie lee
photography by eric striffler | December 19, 2011 | Food & Drink
The warm mushroom and chickpea salad at Robert’s
|One way to stay warm in the winter|
|The classic mussels preparation at Fresno|
Few communities are as dedicated to the locavore movement as the Hamptons. The local farmers’ crops and the character of the area’s villages have created a culinary culture so rich that it lasts well beyond the summer season.
Fresno, Robert’s, and Red Bar Brasserie are among those that serve seasonal foods throughout the autumn and winter. Now is the best time to meet the restaurateurs and chefs who are creating the most scrumptious meals that subtly celebrate the rich local bounty.
As Fresno (8 Fresno Pl., East Hampton, 324-8700) is tucked away on a quiet side street (its namesake) in East Hampton, it is among the best-kept secrets on the South Fork. The restaurant is intimate and inviting, and the food is as comforting and warm as the greeting you’ll receive from brother and sister management team, Michael and Lara. The Cornell oysters with cucumber mint mignonette and crispy calamari salad burst with the flavors of locally caught fresh seafood. The mussels, prepared with a classic white wine, shallots, thyme, and garlic reduction; the seasoned chicken breast, seared with a crispy skin and served with horseradish mashed potatoes and haricot verts; and the local cod roasted in a cazuela (clay pot) with baby bok choy, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, and coconut curry broth are absolutely perfect wintertime dishes to warm up those bone-chilling cold nights, particularly when served alongside a glass of Grapes of Roth Merlot from Fresno’s exceptional wine list.
Fresno also amends its menu with a few winter-specific selections: orrechiette with roast butternut squash, hot Italian sausage, and sage; sautéed local skate wing with Brussels sprouts, bacon, capers, and brown butter; Satur Farm mixed baby beet salad with upland cress, crumbled blue cheeses, and red wine vinaigrette; and several hearty soups—potato leek with goat cheese brioche, butternut squash soup with chestnut honey, and curried yellow lentil soup with peanuts and yogurt. “In the winter, we continue to shop locally for as long as we possibly can,” says executive chef Gretchen Menser. “At the moment, we are buying from Satur Farms on the North Fork. We buy their beautiful tricolor baby beets, butternut squash, micro arugula, frisée, fingerling potatoes, and anything else that is exciting for the weekly specials. We also try to use as much local seafood as possible, from Gosman’s in Montauk, such as striped bass and littleneck clams.”
The convivial atmosphere inside Red Bar Brasserie
|Red Bar’s truffled chicken breast with risotto|
|Fresno’s rustic dining room|
Arriving at Robert’s (755 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill, 726-7171) on a frigid winter’s night is akin to walking into a dear friend’s home. The worn hardwood floors and exposed beams give the dining room a charming ambience that is only enhanced by the glow of candlelight. Start the evening with the warm mushroom and chickpea salad, a rustic winter salad that comes finished with truffle oil. The majority of the pastas are handcrafted inhouse and prepared in traditional Italian style, including chef de cuisine Natalie Byrnes’s cappellini with local clams, garlic, and a hint of crushed red pepper—an absolute delight.
Robert’s also offers a hearty winter seafood menu. One particular standout is the salmon, served with grilled local vegetables and a balsamic reduction. Pair it with a filling side of creamy, warm polenta made with Gorgonzola. For dessert, the pistachio nougat or apple pie stuffed with locally picked apples end the meal on the perfect sweet note.
Red Bar Brasserie
For 14 years, Red Bar Brasserie (210 Hampton Road, Southampton, 283- 0704) has been serving locally sourced ingredients in a romantic, lively atmosphere. Just walking through the door into the dimly lit, aptly named bar area induces a craving for a martini. The menu offers internationally inspired dishes with French sauces made to perfection, including the bright and flavorful local striped bass ceviche. Another must-try is the Long Island duck breast, served with toasted almond-wild rice, baby bok choy, and mango-pekoe tea sauce, a standout entrée with Asian flair on what is otherwise a traditional French brasserie menu.
“Every chef has dishes that remind them of their childhood,” says Red Bar executive chef Erik Nodeland. “For me winter is time to relish in those memories of succulent and tender braised meats like my mom’s pot roast, sauerbraten, and venison rouladen. I like to play on those memories in my own kitchen.”
The beef bourguignon is outstanding, especially on a cold night with a glass of Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon from The Lenz Winery on the North Fork. Of exceptional note is the truffled chicken breast served with risotto—it is rich and hearty, the ideal winter dish. To complete the night, do not overlook the sinful white chocolate ganache cheesecake and the ever popular baked Alaska, an old-world classic.
photography by eric striffler (chicken); bob lorenz (mussels)