27 March 2008

East End Long Island Spring Dining and Wine Tasting

Spring arrives late in the East End of Long Island. To stimulate dining interest, the Hamptons Restaurant Week that starts 30 March allows diners to select tasting menus at reduced prices. We reported on a number our East End favorites in January, and below we provide a few more excellent choices and one acceptable choice:

North Fork Table & Inn
57225 Main Road
Southold, NY 11971

Executive Chef Gerry Hayden, formerly of Aureole, and his wife, Claudia Fleming, formerly of Gramercy Tavern and their partners, Mike and Mary Mraz (also of Gramercy Tavern) have turned this Southold country inn into a fine dining destination.

The contemporary update of the inn provides an open dining area, which has traditional links in wood details and lighting, but provides a comfortable contemporary dining experience.

The menu is also contemporary American, composed of many local ingredients and all of the highest quality. Chef Hayden has taken lessons learned in earlier kitchens and transformed them into his own style which earns rave reviews from both diners and critics.

The relatively short wine list is excellent and composed of interesting domestic and international choices at all price points. Many local Long Island wines are featured and complement the local food products. We selected the Clovis Point Merlot, an excellent example of what can be accomplished in making a high quality wine from the local merlot varietal.

Overall the North Fork Table & Inn is a great choice and worth the drive to Southold regardless of the time of year.

North Fork Table & Inn - Highly Recommended

Stone Creek Inn
405 Montauk Highway
East Quogue, NY 11942

Located on a large lot on a relatively nondescript section of the Montauk Highway between East Quogue and Hampton Bays, this country inn provides exactly the right balance of comfort and style. The entertaining bar area greets diners before being seated in either the smaller front room/porch area or in the larger main dining room which is further along the entrance hallway. While quite different, both rooms have advantages, and both are perfect places to enjoy a wonderful meal.

Chef/Owner Christian Mir's menu is composed of both American and Mediterranean influenced cuisines, executed to nearly perfection by a talented kitchen. Choices include local seafood and Long Island duck, quality meats, as well as local produce when in season.

The wine list is comprehensive with excellent domestic choices and many Long Island winery top tier wines. We tend to go with the Wolffer Chardonnay or Merlot, both of which are quality wines made in the Long Island style (less oak) and both being very good values.

Service tends to change with the season, due to the changes in staff as well as the number of diners. Nonetheless, service is always professional and never really bad as some places unfortunately are on the East End.

We have never had a bad meal and/or bad service after many visits. Rather, we have many memorable meals and some outstanding service. We look forward to each return visit.

Stone Creek Inn - Highly Recommended

Olde Speonk Inn
190 Montauk Highway
Speonk, NY 11972

Just west of Westhampton is the hamlet of Speonk, one of the last locations that may be considered a part of the Hamptons. A roadside inn was renovated within the last two years and is now the Olde Speonk Inn. While the interior design is not nearly as stylish as either the North Fork Table & Inn or the Stone Creek Inn, nonetheless the interior is comfortable in a non-threatening way. Windows on two sides of the essentially one main dining room make it light and airy during the day and sparkling at night.

While the restaurant promotes itself as featuring classic American cuisine, it is only so if classic American cuisine consists of largely Italian and other European influenced dishes. The bigger problem is the chef/kitchen seem to have no focus on what is either on the menu or how it is prepared. While the food itself is made from high quality, fresh and frequently local ingredients, the execution is muddled. Stick to simple steaks, poultry or seafood, and avoid any special preparations as they are far from special.

The service by both waiters and runner/busboys is real amateurish and not even close to the better dining places on the East End. Further the managers, many from Tiderunners in Hampton Bays, seem to care less about the dining room than the bar, which appears to be the profit center.

The wine list is mostly composed of unknown Italian and other European wines and an odd collection of domestic and local wines. Selections of poor varietals, poor wineries and poor vintages are the hallmark of the wine list.

Olde Speonk Inn - Acceptable

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