980 Montauk Highway. 631 267 3740
We stopped at Main Beach in East Hampton on the way to dinner. The faded grey-shingled, century old Pavilion at the top of the dunes was untouched by Sandy. The storm-torn deck boards had been repaired. I stood at the edge of the parking lot, my feet in the sand, remembering the last time we were here with Steven. He loved to walk above the tide line in the late afternoon. We are trying to capture the blue sky and teal-blue ocean in FORKPLAY colors today.
"Fresh" Isn't Enough for Me
I loved South Fork Kitchen (click here and scroll down) on the Sag Harbor Turnpike but it didn't win enough of a following. So now the virtuous and fiercely wholesome Fresh has replaced it. Too bad they didn't alert us to bring our own wine when we reserved. Like the SFKitchen, Fresh strives to be local, organic, hormone-free and sustainable. Indeed, Executive Chef Todd Jacobs has moved the marker to saintliness. The 5-page menu scrolls on and on, offering endless options: vegan, anti-gluten and anti-glutton, as well as entrees in small, medium and large size portions and a do-it-yourself salad.
There are 18 sides, small for $5, family size for $8 (check out the multicolored carrots that lacked only flavor). I was encouraged by the smart zing of the ginger mocktail and by the zest of my generous Greek salad. My companion's toss of goat cheese with arugula and pear came alive too, after he asked for more cheese.
The daily vegan soup had too much pow -- was that the chard or the spinach? But most everything else was bland and listless. The wasabi skate was not bad at all, just pallid. The duck was utterly insipid.
"I can't promise anything. We don't have a broiler," the manager said when I sent back my $5 portion of macaroni to be browned. Amazingly the macaroni came back crusted and crisp. I focused on that and abandoned the duck. Neither the white chocolate Napoleon nor the S'mores was worth the calories. My hosts didn't mind. They're on a health kick. And Fresh's gentle prices are good for the blood pressure.
203 Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike. 631 537 4700.
Saturday was glorious, sunny and fresh, almost cool in the shade. That's where I stand, holding my red hat to keep it from blowing away. We're on a spontaneous mission to the North Fork for $16.50 lobster rolls at the North Fork Table's Lunch Truck.
I love watching the sailboats dodging us, love imagining the two swift crossings are delivering us to a far-off, exotic fishing village, escaping tempting cocktail promotions, benefits, lunch parties we weren't invited to.
My friends who come here often for a late lunch during the week had never seen a line at the truck before. It creeped. That's because the menu offers seven options to accessorize its artisan hot dog (from $5 to $7.5 0 for the works). The bright sea-blue backyard canteen also features house-made chili, chicken posole, a "grownup" grilled cheese (goat and cheddar with balsamic red onions and arugula on rye) and grilled eggplant with hummus on home-baked focaccia. Impatient and suddenly ravenous, we decide to get lunch inside the restaurant. As we took this photo, a waitress was offering lemonade as a balm to the patient attendees.
Pastry legend Claudia Fleming, one half of the cooking owners -- there are four partners -- came out of the kitchen to say hello. I hadn't seen her in almost a decade. I was shocked. She'd become grey while I am blonder than ever. Funny how that happens. Claudia said the truck would be bringing lunch to the South Fork probably in August, announcing its location each day on Facebook. Then she went back to the kitchen and four desserts arrived along with the luscious strawberry shortcake we'd ordered. The intense cocoa and caramel taste of Claudia's tart - simple and perfect -- struck me as seductive and regal, all at once.
57225 Main Rd./Rte. 25 between Boisseau and Laurel Avenues. Southold. 631 765 0177
Blanca: Counter Indicated
I was in a major sulk all day. Who eats dinner at 6 pm? I don't care if it is Blanca, the supposedly brilliant $180 counter experience at Roberta's in Bushwick. What is this 6 pm seating? Have we been bad? I haven't eaten at six since I was in a high chair. That means leaving my house in a hired car at 4:45 and if we're lucky -- if it's not raining, if Obama is not raising money somewhere below 42nd Street -- maybe we'll be on time.
Granted, the four of us were eager to crash Blanca and our pal Brandon said he would get the rez. Six weeks later Brandon reports that it didn't matter that he sort of knew someone. He still had to call repeatedly, a month ahead, and be abused over the phone. It better be good. He's still smarting.
Swiveling in my cushy leather stool, I watch the cooks across the vast, wide open kitchen-theater. They are definitely under pressure. But occasionally I see a friendly glance, even a smile. A glass of Dutch cider arrives, and then a little ant hill of caviar on parsnip cream in a crystal saucer with a mother-of-pearl spoon. Classy opening. If you're curious to know more and master the humiliating reservation drill, click here.
261 Moore Street near Bogart Street. 646 703-2715
Costata: Anyway You Slice It
It did occur to me that maybe Costata, Michael White's sleek new showcase for his obsessive take on meat, might not be the best choice for a "girls night out." Sorry about the "girls" thing. That was my friend Pamela talking. I immediately tried calling it "our women's night out" not to offend Gloria Steinem. But let me not be accused of gender profiling either. Of course women eat steak.
But these three particular dames -- unlike the vegan, gluten-intolerant and calorie-counting size 0's I count among my friends -- were ripe for the challenge. All three of them are two-fisted martini drinkers, approving the $16 tariff here compared to $21 elsewhere around town, specifying labels: "Chopin. Not too dirty." "Grey Goose. No vegetables." I ask for my Passione Tequila Arrabiata "not too sweet." Tangy with citrus and passion fruit, it's perfect.
I notice I am the only one actually eating the soft, almost sweet focaccia swathed with a pesto-like slick of lardo, rosemary and sage. Maybe they are saving themselves, contemplating demolishing that 44 oz 50-day aged Tomahawk rib eye. Click here so you'll know what to eat while you're waiting for the sacred cow.
206 Spring Street between Sixth Avenue and Sullivan Street. 212 334 3320.
Passover, Easter, Daylight Savings, thaw and shiver, asparagus that tastes like asparagus: It's spring in New York. In the religious rituals of chef Daniel Boulud, that means baby lamb, ramps and morels, sweet peas and just-hatched favas. Not one but three species of asparagus. Thick white stalks from Utah that get dished up before our eyes with a flowing cummerbund of chive hollandaise. Amazing. Utah. (The fatter ones from France are still ripening.)
Our little ménage à trois is honoring the season alone in the cozy lounge at Daniel, tended by a parade of well-drilled myrmidons. There are muted voices in the adjacent bar, folks peeking in as they wander toward the dining room and the throaty insinuation of Louis Armstrong judiciously modulated as if for our ears only. The jazz buff among us is impressed. "Louis Armstrong," he marvels. Want to read more? Click here for my April, 1996, review, "Daniel: Double Your Pleasure."