Shelter Island Restaurant Review: Vine Street Café

So many times I’ve passed by the Vine Street Café on Shelter Island and said, “Oh, that sweet little place, I keep hearing good things about it, hmmm.” It’s on the main drag between ferries, just before you get to the metropolis of Shelter Island, coming from the south and it’s known for its Chateaubriand

Last Sunday I finally darkened their door. It was Presidents Day weekend and it was BUSY. A very good sign indeed. A white interior with a rustic wood ceiling and wall sconces encircled with twigs. There seemed to be more young people here than you find in most places in the Hamptons. We liked it immediately. Can’t wait to try the outdoor seating this season.

My husband and I settled in at a cozy table and ordered cocktails—an “Absinthe Minded” for him and a Blood Orange Rita for moi. Husband found his drink of pernod, absinthe, ginger, cardamom and water, “Very licorice-y. I like it and the very chewy licorice stick that came with it!” My “Rita” of blanco tequila, blood orange juice and lime came in a cocktail glass with a salted rim. Yum, it was nice and clean…Husband wished they’d salted his rim.

We quite enjoyed chatting with our server Ferod, a Jersey boy like Husband. We loved it when he came around to ask, “How’s everything tasting?” A good question to which we consistently had a good answer.

The well-edited wine list includes wines from France, Italy and California as well as local wines from Sparkling Pointe, Lenz, Lieb, Macari and Wölffer. Husband indulged in a glass of Lieb’s 2010 Pinot Blanc. So dry, nicely yeasty on the nose.

Husband started with the Warm Heirloom Bean Salad of frisée, red peppers, fennel, basil, parsley and organic extra virgin olive oil. He gave it his highest praise, “Mmm. Mmm. Oh wow, mmm. It’s really nice and very subtle. It’s different kinds of beans…” He did allow me a sample. I was surprised at how much I liked the fresh red pepper in it, a great foil for the luscious beans.

I dug into a Pickled New York State Beet Salad of red and yellow beets, walnuts and goat cheese. It arrived resplendent in a bright green crown of maché, the beets deeply pickled. Thank you, Chef Terry Harwood for pickling it “old school!” The high quality of ingredients throughout the meal was striking. Herein it was demonstrated by very fresh maché, big, tender walnuts and goat cheese of just the right, soft-but-not-runny consistency.

We’d made such short work of our appetizers we shared an Arugula & Blood Orange Salad. The fresh baby arugula, gorgonzola, red onion and bits of peppered pecan brittle really hit the spots.

My entrée of Garganelli Funghi was generous indeed, it had to be shared with Husband. He was willing to help devour this rich dish of fresh, al dente pasta, truffled organic mushrooms, chopped artichoke and ricotta salata. An undercurrent of sage and lemon and a “snowing” of cheese on top made it the perfect winter repast.

Husband also quite liked his Grilled Miso Glazed Organic Salmon with bok choy, mushrooms, jasmine rice and sesame vinaigrette. In fact, he didn’t ask for any help at all in eating it. He found the fish “salty-good.”

He ordered up some cognac to go with his Raspberry Shortbread dessert, a special that night. For a change of pace, he didn’t have his Hennessy heated. (He’s so unpredictable.) Shortbread served rather like little crepes around layers of raspberry and cream? Oh my, he lapped them up.

Hmmm, Profiteroles, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Apple Tart Tatin? I went with a light dessert, the Homemade Prickly Pear Sorbet. I’m told that sorbets, ice creams, cookies and other delights are available from Vine Street’s market “around back.” Fascinating. My sorbet was the best prickly pear dish I’ve ever had. The mini pistachio biscotti that accompanied it were gone faster than a ferry ride…

Vine Street Café, 41 South Ferry Road, Shelter Island, 631-749-3210, vinestreetcafe.com

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