Jamesport, Long Island / August 21, 2010 / dinner

Winederlust Rating (details below): 8.0 out of 10 / Winederlust Worthy: Yes

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On our 11th anniversary weekend in Long Island’s North Fork, Jay and I wanted to try somewhere new for dinner. Luce & Hawkins, at the historic Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport, seemed like a promising choice. It just opened in May helmed by chef Keith Hawkins, who was a sous-chef in the White House under Clinton, was named one of Food & Wine’s Top 10 Chefs in 1997, won a James Beard award for Rising Star Chef in 1998, and, most recently, was chef at the Herbfarm restaurant outside of Seattle, known for its tasting menus using ingredients grown right outside of the restaurant.

Luce is trying to do something similar at his new restaurant, focusing on seasonal, local cuisine, with many herbs and some veggies coming straight from the gardens outside the inn. The inn itself is a grand and imposing Victorian structure from the 1860s that was recently restored. We first found the atmosphere inside the restaurant to be a bit funky – though the striped banquettes and frosted glass on the windows seemed really modern, the flowery curtains and thatched bamboo ceiling seemed like anachronisms.

But the food itself was thoroughly modern. We opted for the tasting menu at $85 per person, and started with a half carafe of the 2009 Gotham Project Riesling from the Finger Lakes, which ended up being sweeter and not quite as crisp as we’d hoped. The amuse-bouche was bass cheeks with zucchini, radishes, and snap peas from their garden served with a ginger sauce. The dish was light and lively, the fish cheeks well-seared and flavorful and the veggies a tasty summer treat.

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Bass cheeks with zucchini, radishes, and snap peas.

Next came the Montauk squid two ways – one fried and one grilled – with corn, tomatoes, and, in an unusual twist, popcorn, served with a shot glass of corn soup. This dish was delicious and deceptively simple. One thing we noticed, and continued to notice throughout the meal, was that the majority of the dishes weren’t overly sauced, letting the fresh, natural flavors of the ingredients shine through.

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Montauk squid two ways.

The third dish was the local scallops served in the shell with mashed fingerling potatoes, cauliflower, and potato almond gremolata (a chopped herb condiment) with currants. The scallops were the best ones we’d had in a while – sweet, soft, and meaty, and they combined nicely with the crunch of the cauliflower. While in the previous dishes we could really identify individual ingredients, this dish was more about the combination of the sweet, savory, and nutty components.

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Local scallops in the shell.

Our next dish was the least successful of the night – duck in ragu with ricotta gnocchi and basil. It just wasn’t very well balanced, with the acidic tomato sauce pretty much overpowering all the other ingredients and the amount of duck a bit stingy. Plus the ricotta gnocchi weren’t “gnocchi” at all, but actually just spoonfuls of ricotta that didn’t add much to the dish.

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Duck in ragu with ricotta gnocchi and basil.

Next I deviated from the tasting menu (since I told them I didn’t eat beef) with the seared Montauk yellowfin tuna with lima beans, gigante beans, purple carrots, and eggplants, while Jay had the Kobe beef with the same sides. Both dishes were excellent: The beef nicely seared on the outside with velvety smooth meat inside, and the tuna almost sashimi-style, very lightly seared, tender and not too fishy as some tuna tends to be. And the sides were very good – the eggplant smoky, the gigante beans served al dente, and a savory rosemary-blackberry reduction drizzled on the side.

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Seared Montauk yellowfin tuna.

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Kobe beef (which looked very similar to the tuna!).

We were pleasantly stuffed, so thankfully dessert was very light – compressed coconut with melon sorbet, chunks of melon, and tapioca with melon soup poured on top. The sweet coconut contrasted nicely with the slightly acidic melon soup, making a refreshing end to what we both agreed was the best meal we’ve enjoyed on the North Fork thus far.

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Compressed coconut with melon sorbet, chunks of melon, tapioca, and melon soup.

 

– by Liz Humphreys, Winederlust Eater in Chief

 

Winederlust Rating Details (out of 10):

Food7.5 (preparation, presentation & taste)
Wine: 7.0 (selection, recommendations, pairings & taste)
Service: 9.0 (helpfulness, attentiveness, knowledge & pacing)
Place: 8.0 (location, view, decor & vibe)

Price Range: $$$ (Expensive)

Essential Information:

Luce & Hawkins / Jedediah Hawkins Inn / 400 South Jamesport Ave., Jamesport, New York [map]

Direct Line: 631-722-2900

Website: http://www.jedediahhawkinsinn.com/#/luce_hawkins

 

 

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