FORKPLAY August 13, 2013
Hampton Eats. Let's Go Laotian. Accidental Bag Lady. Craft Cocktails. Raw Tomato Sauce.
Dear Friends and Family,
Weekends with my friends who live year-round on the far edge of East Hampton are uniquely peaceful. I save my do-good money for the rest of the year, though I loved tasting rounds with editor Stacy Dermont at Dan's Two Forks event a few weekends ago. Usually, my trend-phobic friends head toward some not-yet discovered shack in Montauk or sail the bay on two car ferries to the North Fork, avoiding traffic and the poison ivy of chic. The two of them were wary of getting caught in an undertow of narcissistic entitlement on a Friday night at The East
Hampton Grill. But I like the place, love the look of it, the life-size penguins at the entrance to the dining room, the American flag, the dramatic, dark lighting and those buttery biscuits. We'd go at the shabby hour of 7:30 and escape the full terror, I promised.
I'm already defanged by the menu note that says: "Sticky rice tastes better when you eat it with your hands." I think everything tastes better when you use your fingers. I'm about to go wash my hands, when the waiter brings wet napkins with a half lemon slice tucked inside.
Fran and I shared the house's excellent Caesar salad with its big square croutons and crunchy white leaves of wondrously fresh romaine, one marvelous biscuit, warmed with honey, and the ribs. Huge portions all. Howard mindfully orders fish, always, but didn't mind taking two or three ribs. (And still we didn't finish the pile.) I wish the shoe-strings were hot and the coleslaw didn't have an edge of sweetness. There was no point in denying one last indulgence after so many, so we shared the sundae with candied pecans and chocolate sauce in a pitcher alongside. 99 North Main Street. East Hampton.
Next day it rained, so we drove all the way to Hampton Bays to see "The Guns." But Sunday was the reward, sunny and cooler, not humid at all. We all had ideas about where we should go as we headed East toward Montauk. But Howard chose.
I was shocked to find Gosman's deck deserted at 1:30. Lunch on a Sunday in August -- it didn't seem possible. Maybe everyone was on the beach. Howard found a table with an umbrella that protected me from the sun and let him catch the rays. I started with six Littlenecks -- briny and fresh. I didn't expect the perfect lobster roll. I never do, though I was surprised by near-perfection at Lunch in May. I usually find my idea of mayonnaised nirvana at Pearl's Oyster Bar.
Sunday's pitiful, arid example was piled high with lobster, but it didn't taste fresh. The roll was untoasted. I asked for mayo, and the waiter, a charming young Irishman with movie star looks, brought it out in the big yellow plastic bottle. Not even a lashing of Hellman's helped. But I ate my coleslaw and watched the boats, one yacht bigger than another, a tug, a fishing boat with giant nets on the deck. Fran picked out the yacht she would like and Howard said he had already bought it. 500 West Lake Drive. Montauk.
As for FORKPLAY colors today, I love blue and green and why not together?
Let's Go Laotian I've been sipping my drink -- rum with young coconut and kaffir lime - straight up, pretty in pink.
As usual, our trio wants almost everything, but we've narrowed our order to half a dozen starters at Khe-Yo, Marc Forgione's new Laotian outpost with his decade-long right hand chef, Soulayphet Schwader, aka Phet. Born in Laos, Phet grew up in Wichita in a neighborhood of resettled Laotians. He's been cooking Forgione's food for more than a decade. Now, he's recreating memories of food his mother cooked.
Around us the crowd grows, claiming 70 hard-bottomed seats at tables with cheerful splashes of red and green and yellow paint on reclaimed teak. Excited shouts bounce off bare brick and dark wood walls, one sporting a stylized elephant sketch barely visible in our shadowy corner. Click here to read what you want to order. 142 West 10th Street between Greenwich Avenue and Waverly Place.
Accidental Bag Lady
In the late 70s and early 80s, in the carefree interlude between the pill and the plague, I was single and grown-up and the weekly magazine I reviewed restaurants for never gasped, never blinked when I submitted my expense accounts. Every night I went disco dancing after reviewing dinner and often I carried a vintage evening bag from my growing collection.
Life was simpler then and eating dinner more refined - that is before the internet, blogs, food porn, the need to carry a camera, and the impossibility of reserving a table between 7 and 8 without being a bold-faced name or revealing yourself as a restaurant critic. I had summer bags in pastel prints and art deco white mesh that I wore and kept in a narrow armoire. There is still a collection there of wild little evening bags by Christina Yu, a clever Hong Kong lawyer brought to Hanoi by her husband's job. I had to have that bag, all four colors with what I took to be Chinese lettering on the back. One day someone pointed out to me that it said "F*** You." Was that you? Garrison Rousseau?
I have recovered from the shock of actually posting some of my vintage bags for sale on Etsy. Some are useable. Several are so fragile they can only be appreciated hanging on the wall. I had certain favorites that were sturdy enough to hold a credit card, enough cash for taxis and coat checks, lipstick, a comb, keys, and the small notebook I used to write on under the tablecloth. I kept my compact in my coat pocket along with a lace teddy from Trashy Lingerie that I carried in case I didn't get home to sleep in my own bed. There were so many dancing boys in their 20's, the perfect age for a 40-year-old woman.
There are other pleasures as you get older, I suppose. At the moment they seem to be mostly macaroni and cheese. Click here to see my vintage evening bags on Etsy. "Be good to yourself," as the wise and beloved Mildred Newman used to say. Or start early with your Christmas shopping.
It's All About the Details
Brian Van Flandern came by last week to bring me a copy of his new "Craft Cocktails," an unusually sumptuous book, even for the publisher Assouline. He signed it with a drawing and the notation: "1st Edition."
Brian is as sure and flashy as his name. Hired in 2004 for the new Per Se, he learned how to pair wines with food and was encouraged by Thomas Keller to experiment with the cocktail program. Frank Bruni mentioned Van Flandern's house-made Tonic with Gin in the Times four-star review and the virtuoso of spirits has been racing around the world promoting mixology ever since.
We met on a cruise ship where we were each doing gigs and I joined a group of passengers in one of his cocktail classes. He told me he was working on a new book and asked what was my favorite spirit. I confessed my weakness for dark Meyers Rum. Here from the new book is "Insatiable Gael," instructions written with a marking pen in his own handwriting. It features mandarin orange juice and passion fruit purée, and is finished with Pierre Gimonnet champagne. I'm waiting for him to alight long enough to mix one for me.
Raw Tomato Sauce for Pasta
On our honeymoon in 1961, the beloved Kultur Maven and I were excited to discover pasta with an uncooked tomato sauce dished up in a restaurant shack on the beach in Ischia. At home, I reproduced it, when the great summer tomatoes arrived. One August I described the dish to Craig Claiborne. When I asked, he said he'd tried it, and it was awful, but I noticed he ran a very similar recipe in the Times some weeks later. As I said, only the best summer tomatoes will do. Now is the moment.
4 large beefsteak tomatoes
4 very large cloves of garlic
9 large basil leaves
1 tsp. salt
6 grindings of black pepper
2/3 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. bucatini or perciatelli
Core and chop tomatoes coarsely, between 1/4 and 1/2 inch. (I never bother to peel them, but you can.) Put the tomato and all its juices into a large bowl. Peel garlic and smash with a chef's knife if you want to remove it before serving, or mince two of the cloves if you want to leave it in for a more intense garlic taste. Add garlic to tomatoes.
Cut 6 of the basil leaves into fine ribbons and add to tomatoes. Add salt and pepper. Stir in olive oil. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 10 hours, stirring occasionally.
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 12 minutes until just al dente. Drain in a colander, reserving a third of a cup of pasta cooking water in the pot. Return pasta to pot and toss with reserved liquid. Ladle into soup bowls. Remove smashed garlic from tomatoes and ladle over pasta. Sliver remaining basil and scatter on top. Some will want a flurry of fresh grated Parmesan; purists will not. Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a first course.
Photographs of the ribs at East Hampton Grill, Gosman's mayonnaise on the deck, the prawns and crunchy rice at Khe-Yo, and the Insatiable Passion cocktail may not be used without permission from Gael Greene. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.