Luce + Hawkins is one of my top three favorite restaurants. I don’t qualify that with “on Long Island.” I’m in good company – the Herbfarm Restaurant outside Seattle often tops best restaurant lists and the Herbfarm was where Chef Keith Luce used to hang his toque. Lucky for Long Islanders, Luce came home to the North Fork two years ago.
A lot has changed at Luce + Hawkins since I was last there in October. Happily their menu changes frequently so you can count on experiencing the very best local produce at its peak. The biggest change, though, is the addition of master sushi chef Minoru Suzuki. He deserves a feature article of his own – so you can read more about him and his art in an upcoming edition of Dan’s Papers.
Let’s review the glorious meal that my husband and I enjoyed at Luce + Hawkins last week.
Of course we started with cocktails from the “Prohibition Era,” as the menu describes them. Cocktails during the Volstead Act years (1919-1933) were designed to mask the taste of bad booze, not so with these modern versions. My husband’s Harvey Wallbanger was made with LiV Vodka. My Pink Lady was made with Fifty Pounds London Gin, housemade grenadine and an egg white secured from one of the Luce + Hawkins resident hens. I couldn’t quite tell if it came from a Silver-Backed Wyandotte or a Barred Plymouth Rock. My husband said I have a woefully underdeveloped palate.[expand]
I’d never indulged in a Pink Lady before. Pink Ladies are no lightweights. There’s a special treat at the bottom of your glass if you drink up this pretty, foamy pink drink.
Before we could start the meal proper, Chef Suzuki sent out a Fluke Carpaccio as an amuse bouche. Wow! were our bouches amused. There are so many lovely little savory notes surrounding this finely cut fish – carrot, radish, nori, with a bit of heat. Delicious. We demolished it. Then he sent out a Japanese seared duck. A Crescent Farms duck that, to an American palate, tastes a bit pickled – next to perfectly tender-crisp Wells Farms asparagus spears, served cold. Don’t miss experiencing the creamy, garlicky Japanese mayonnaise! It’s not like ranch dressing, it’s like ranch heaven!
So then we started with our appetizers – the soup of the night for me – Carrot-Leek, and Shrimp and Lobster “Meatballs” (quotes theirs) with Lemon Mayonnaise for the husband. Carrots plus Satur Farms leeks equals something wonderful. The meatballs were deemed “like little crab cakes” by my husband – but I found their texture much more jolly than crab (no pun intended). They are solid, but not overly dense. Spiracha lends a bit of tasty heat. For my entrée I ordered the Atlantic Cod. I remember commenting, “This is a lot of cod!” followed by a first, delight-filled bite. My next memory is of a puddle of miso broth at the bottom of my dish. Oh Mommy, umami – that was good too!
My husband’s entrée, the Friday Daily Special, was the Shepard’s Pie. It was also on the large size and gone in a flash. He declared it “the tastiest shepard’s pie ever” and “buttery and beefy.” High praise. My husband comes from a long line of Cornish eaters. The beef is a house-ground blend of chuck, brisket, short rib and sirloin.
For dessert my husband went for his standard heated cognac, expertly served by Luce + Hawkins Director Michael Kaminski. I ordered the Caramel Corn and Corn Cake with Peanut Butter Mousse. Wow! I’ve never before experienced such heights of peanut buttery peanut butterness. They’ve re-invented the wheel – and expertly filled it with peanut butter mousse! Did I mention the extreme peanut butteryness? You have to try it. If you’re worried about overeating – skip eating the caramel corn on the side of your dish …if you can.
The Luce + Hawkins Wine List has been simplified to a listing of “Us” and “Them.” I love it. Of course the “Us” is Long Island wineries including Lieb, Lenz, Peconic Bay and Sherwood House. The latest addition – Keith Luce Wines. My husband quite liked both Luce’s 2010 Chenin Blanc and his 2009 red blend. “Them” features some of the best wines from “abroad,” including some stellar Finger Lakes wines.
What remains unchanged at Luce + Hawkins is the overall sense of fun and adventure. The entire staff are serious foodies who clearly enjoy their work. Good service contributes so much to a fine dining experience. Our server, Nicole, put me in mind of a younger Amy Adams – with all the verve and none of the drama. Taylor and the other students who clear tables are quiet, efficient and sweet.
Look for an article about Chef Keith Luce’s work to preserve North Fork food culture outside of his kitchen in an upcoming edition of Dan’s Papers.
Check out all the best food that the East End has to offer including selections from Luce + Hawkins prepared by Chef Keith Luce himself at Dan’s Taste of Two Forks on July 16. Find ticket information and all the details on danstasteoftwoforks.com.
Luce + Hawkins at the Jedediah Hawkins Inn, 400 S. Jamesport Ave., Jamesport is open year round. 631-722-2900, jedediahhawkinsinn.com.