Restaurant Review: Luce + Hawkins

I enjoy doing all the basic “research” for restaurant reviews – the eating – but sometimes when it comes time to write it all out it’s a drag. Then there’s Luce + Hawkins. I looked forward to reliving every delicious detail of my latest meal there.

When my family went to Luce + Hawkins two weeks ago the solarium dining area had just been re-opened for the season. From our vantage point we could watch Chef Keith Luce work his magic in the kitchen. We also saw him, through an outer wall of windows, pop out to the kitchen garden to snip some lavender flowers to accent my dessert. Now that’s “local!”

The soft-spoken chef made his way around to every table that night to chat. He told us that he was pretty tired because the high season had just kicked in at the restaurant and he’d just received 300 new laying hens at his farm. Busy, busy man.

Server Patrick Thomas delivered a dish of very hot, sunflower seed-studded rolls with a small jar of Goodale Farms’ house cultured butter. Delish.

I of course chose to follow the $45 “Eat Drink Local” four-course menu. Everyone at your table should either opt in or opt out of this chef-chosen nightly lineup. Either way Luce’s cooking will wow you. I bribed Chef – with a jar of homemade rhubarb jam – to let me do the Eat Drink Local menu while my husband and son ordered from the regular dinner menu.

That night’s Eat Drink Local was comprised of a first course of a delicately flavored and textured Roman Egg Drop & Spinach Soup.Chinese Egg Drop Soup” was one of the first dishes I learned to prepare as a child. Mine never tasted like this.

My second course was Goodale FarmsGoat Cheese Radish Tartines. Scrumptious! Yes, you can eat the tender radish greens.

My third course was Peconic Bay Porgy that was so tender it practically melted, the entire skin rolled off in one piece on my fork like magic. Served with smashed, red-skinned new potatoes, a savory tomato jam and a nicely zesty lemon-thyme tartar sauce.

My fourth course of Local Strawberries & Corn Shortcake with lavender cream didn’t excite me until it arrived. Did I really want corn in my cake and lavender in my cream? Turns out…yeah. The shortcake didn’t scream “corn” but the grain added a tender moistness. The fresh lavender blossoms and cream were a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the berries.

I was too full for a glass of wine after this culinary trek but I had actually started out on the right foot with a Warsaw Bison, a bright and very lively drink of Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka, ginger beer and lime served in a glass mug.

Husband got things rolling with a Gin Ricky, which he pronounced, “Not too sweet…tart…hmmm it’s good.”

Of course our son Teenage Boy went straight to the food, ordering Firecracker Scallops with wasabi, tempura and egg crumbs and smoked Steelhead caviar. He dubbed them “sort of spicy, really good,” as he inhaled them.

Husband thoroughly enjoyed one of his favorite menu items – Nofo Duck Wings. Served with Goodale Farms’ feta made into a raita and chili garlic sauce. He remarked, “Better even than I remember.”

Husband went on to Sausage Pierogi with sage leaves, brown butter and sweet red onion marmalade. Chef Luce’s wife is Polish so it’s only natural that dish is pretty classically prepared, the dough spot-on, neither over crispy nor soggy.

Teenage Boy ordered the Pork Belly & Tenderloin with local clam hush puppies, collards and BBQ broth. He said he could have been happy with a plate full of those hush puppies though he found the tenderloin “awesome.”

Teenage Boy finished with an Ice Cream Sundae that featured peanut brittle and banana caramel. Husband polished off an Italian roast coffee. We shall return!

 

You can meet Chef Keith Luce and sample some of the best that Luce + Hawkins has to offer at Dan’s Papers Taste of Two Forks on July 14, check out the many participating restaurants, wineries and food purveyors at www.tasteoftwoforks.com

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