January is the cruelest time for restaurants on the East End of Long Island. Be it the Hamptons on the South Fork, or the more rural and agricultural North Fork the few “open all year” places are rare with even many of them “closed for vacation” in January. The customers are even rarer, as locals surprisingly fail to take advantage of some really great dining places that have open bookings and special prix fixed winter menus. Unfortunately far too few weekenders and tourists come out to Eastern Long Island, as the tourist promotion people have failed to make it a winter destination location and therefore the few open restaurants are struggling to get customers.
We spend the last weekend in January at our Southampton house and took to advantage of great dining and some great wines.
47 Quogue St
Quogue, NY 11959
In its brief less than two years history Q Restaurant has become a destination place on the South Fork / Hamptons located in tiny conservative Quogue. In fact Q is the only restaurant in the village that is know for stately homes, wide tree lined streets, and an overly aggressive police traffic enforcement force (beware of the 25 mph speed limit, the zero tolerance drink drive, and even having your fog lights on if its not foggy because you WILL be pulled over).
Q has been developed and nurtured by experienced owner/chef Frank Tramontano and co-owner/ manger Sean Kehlenbeack. Set in a stately farmhouse/inn the very large restaurant and expansive bar that is usually packed to maximum throughout the summer season, becomes smaller and more relaxed in the off season when the restaurant is only open during the weekend. From the moment one enters through the hallway and is greeted by Maria the outstanding professional host, you know you are in for a wonderful dining experience.
The winter menu is a short one page of Q favorites: roasted chicken, lamb chops, various fish, pasta with the homemade Q sauces, etc. Each is prepared with savory herbs and/or sauces, presented in very large portions.
While the service during the season is always professional despite the crowds, in the off season the entire staff is at your service. Maria may bring your water, Sean may bring your wine, Maria may clear the table after a course is completed, and while Dave the head waiter moves from table to table ensuring everyone is served properly.
The wine list is extensive with many local Long Island wines, US regional wines and international wines. We had bottle of North Fork Martha Clara Chardonnay which was crisp and clean and balanced well with our dinner.
Q Restaurant – Highly Recommend
Estia’s Little Kitchen
1615 Sag Harbor Bridgehampton Turnpike
Sag harbor, NY 11963
We were fortunate to attend a Wolffer Estate wine dinner at Estia’s Little Kitchen on the road from Bridgehampton to Sag Harbor. Colin Ambrose, formerly of Charlie Palmer’s Aureole restaurant in Manhattan has owned Estia’s for nearly 15 years and turned this simple roadhouse with a minimalist interior into a fine dining spot.
Chef Ambrose’s wine dinner featured a German influenced five course dinner in honor of both Christian Wolffer the owner of the vineyards and winery and Roman Roth the Wolffer winemaker, both from Germany. The meal’s four main courses used winter ingredients; squashes and mushrooms, pork and scallops combined into wonderful courses.
Each was matched with a Wolffer white or red. Highlights were the Estate Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and a pre-release Chardonnay based “ice wine” which matched perfectly with the apple strudel like desert.
Estia’s Little Kitchen – Recommended
112 Riverhead Road
Westhampton Beach, NY 11978
Named for the Roman goddess of the harvest, Annona is located (actually hidden) on the second floor of the Coachworks/Manhattan Motorcars of the Hamptons showroom in Westhampton Beach. This chic and modern restaurant with Manhattan like interior design is a hidden gem of the Western Hamptons region.
Serving excellent Italian influenced contemporary cuisine highlighted by local produce; Annona is a year-round special place. A highly professional staff of host, sommelier, waiters, and busboys, and clearly a first class kitchen staff produce outstanding results.
The incredible $28 prix fixed menu served on many nights during the week is one of the best values on the entire East End. Each course is composed of three choices, each a winner including; Prosciutto with figs or pears to die for, outstanding salads, main course of grilled chicken, duck or pasta dishes and wonderful desserts.
The wine list is comprehensive with many fine Italian, international, domestic and Long Island wines. We selected a 2004 Wolffer Merlot which after it opened up, was a perfect accompaniment to our hearty winter meal.
Annona – Highly Recommended
75 Main Street
Southampton, NY 11968
Located on one of the two primary streets in Southampton Village, this storefront restaurant has gone through many recent owners, but has now seemed to have stabilized. With a rather large bar area and large dinning room, with summer crowds this can be a popular but somewhat disappointing place only in that the service can be painfully slow. In the winter off-season with no more than a handful of dinners, the service is professional and prompt.
The lunch menu is basic American fare, but a few items such as an ale beef stew served in a carved out bread boule is outstanding. And a veal meatloaf special was light, flavorful and satisfying.
The wine list is limited, but we enjoyed glasses of Pelligrini Merlot which had just the right about of chewiness to accompany our lunch.
75 Main – Acceptable
102 Main Street,
Greenport, New York 11944
Greenport which is located on the far southern part of the North Fork of Long Island has become a wonderful destination for day trippers, due to it being an authentic New England like old fishing and whaling port. With shops and galleries, it is crowed in the summer and lightly visited in the winter. The village has benefited by fine restaurants which make it also a dining destination. While the well recognized Fifth Season has closed permanently after the summer season due to inadequate seating to make the venture profitable, Greenport is still blessed with some top eateries.
Located at the far end of one of the two primary streets, directly on the pier extending out into the Peconic Bay, Scrimshaws is wonderful restaurant owned by top chef and author Rosa de Carvalho (Lo San) Ross. Rosa originally from Hong Kong, after years in Europe came to New York where she studied with James Beard, with Diana Kennedy and Jacques Pepin. She has also studied and worked with many leading chefs, including Bobby Flay, Daniel Boulud, Anne Rosensweig, Bradley Ogden, Jeremiah Tower, Jaspar White, Martin Yan. Rosa brings a wonderful Asian influence to American standards such as chowders and chili con carne, as well as to international dishes.
The long dinning room with opposing windows on the water is a minimalist traditional New England décor updated to modern sensibilities. In the summer an outdoor dinning area extends to the very tip of the wharf.
The lunch menu is a real value, featuring dim sum dumplings, local Greenport oysters that are crisp and refreshing as served with Rosa’s Asian mignonette. The chili con carne feature more Southeast Asian spice that southwest seasoning, and the pork and pancakes with hossein became a modern interpretation of the classic Chinese dish.
A rather small wine lists features Long Island wines as well as international wines. We had a simple Wolffer La Ferme Chardonnay which was perfect for lunch.
During the winter, Rosa is trying hard to get customers to travel to the far end of Preston Wharf. There is a multi-course Chinese New Year Duck dinner on 9 February and a Bedell/Corey Creek wine tasting dinner on Friday 15 February, which is an excellent alternative to overpriced Valentines’ Day dinners.
Scrimshaw – Recommended
One of the finest restaurants on the South fork, F.O.O.D. in Hampton Bays appears to have closed permanently, at least at the Montauk Highway location which is boarded up and for sale. A great loss for the area, and we can only hope it will relocate and reopen in the late spring.