The Front Burner by David Mazujian: Need a Fork? We Have Two!

Written by David Mazujian

On July 4th, 1980, Chicago held its inaugural Taste of Chicago, an ambitious food festival represented by local restaurants offering select tastings along Chicago’s famed Michigan Avenue.  Attracting over 250,000 patrons and grossing hundreds of thousands of dollars in its first year, several “Taste of” offshoots have since spawned around the country.  This weekend we had our own “Taste of Two Forks” in Bridgehampton on the Sayre Park grounds behind Bridgehampton Commons. 

This was the weekend of white tented crowds, snaking traffic, lots of white slacks, form fitting dresses and wine filled goblets.   Thursday brought us the first (VIP) night of “ArtHampton” also in Bridgehampton at Nova’s Ark on Millstone.  The main parking filled so early, leaving the rest of us to park blocks away!  “GrillHampton” preceded Taste of Two Forks on Friday, also on the Sayre Park grounds.  Arriving on Saturday at the Taste shortly after 7:30, the main parking was also already full.  Lined up cars were motioned to park near Marders!  Thank you Hampton Jitney for providing kind, courteous and efficient shuttle service from secondary overflow parking to the Taste.

Haven’t people eaten recently?  The natives were ravenously hungry and ready to indulge.  For most, the Taste afforded delicious restaurant grazings and wine samplings.  For a few others, the Taste ticket granted a food license for overindulgence.  Dare I say near gluttony?  One taste per station please (lobster stations excluded)!  There’s no rush.   Food will not run out.  This is America!   Competitive eaters should chow down further west at Nathan’s Coney Island! 

This year’s Taste of Two Forks attracted nearly 50 restaurant stations and over a dozen wine stations, not to mention beer and other purveyors.   Upon arrival, armed with a clean glass wine goblet, the first food offering was duck liver éclairs, topped with chocolate ganache and salt shavings.  At first bite, I immediately knew this was not going to be a low brow beer and brat food fest.  First and South’s chef Taylor Knapp piped savory duck liver into a familiar pate choux pastry, crossing over from dessert to appetizer. 

Both the North and South Forks were well represented.  Restaurant tables circled the circus-like tent inside perimeter with wineries and other beverages clustered in the center, along with a few very expensive, shiny new BMW’s on display.  The high energy band played on all evening to a dancing crowd working off freshly consumed calories.  This was the taste of the good life, the epic Hamptons food party of the season.

With so many tasty offerings, it’s impossible to mention them all here.  That said, several food themes emerged along the “Two Forks” food trail, with some wonderful discoveries.  Ask for a fork, and the response was often “we have two!”  Meatballs (Italian, duck, chicken, turkey, and beef), local salad greens and freshly citrused ceviches with locally caught fish dominated food affairs under the big top.  Then there was the lobster…

The evenings top picks?  Grab a thick absorbent napkin and prepare to salivate.

Soups – Harbor Bistro’s Spicy Gazpacho with Lobster and Avocado and Fresno’s Chilled Heirloom Tomato Soup with Lobster and Corn Salsa.  Fresno Chef Gretchen Menser’s fresh and icy cold tomato soup could be confused with the most flavorful, fresh summer beverage.

Meatballs – Stone Creek Inn’s Duck Meatball with Verjus Reduction, Citarella’s Mini Meatball Trio, and Pelligrino’s awesomely large Meatballs with San Marzano Tomato, Pecorino, Olive Oil and Basil were winners.  All meatballs were perfectly moist and delicious.

Fish, Ceviche – The new Seawater Grill at Gurney’s Resort’s Montauk Fluke Crudo with Watermelon Radish, Crystallized Fennel, Micro Cilantro, Grapefruit-Infused Oil and Navy Beach’s Local Catch Ceviche registered high on the palate.

Salads – Georgica’s sweet pink and yellow Watermelon Salad.  Watermelon salad has grown up and calls for different varieties.   Crumbled feta would further elevate and balance the wonderful sweetness.  Can’t find yellow watermelon?  Try the local farmers’ market.

Lobster – Lobster must have its own category.  In the former B. Smith’s location this year, Harlow East’s Lobster Sliders with Montauk Lobster, Pan Seared Bao Bun, Kewpie (extremely popular smooth Japanese mayo) and Shucker’s Lobster and Clam Bar’s Lobster BLT with Basil Aioli were outstanding.  It is difficult to ruin well-cooked lobster paired with crispy bacon on an adorably shiny honey-colored round slider bun.

Dessert – Joe and Liza’s Toasted Coconut Ice Cream in a sugar cone; they make this in Sag Harbor!, and Topping Rose’s sophisticated, delectable and not too sweet Petit Fours of German Chocolate Macarons and Garden Strawberry Lemon Cake.

Not surprisingly, the North Fork trumped the South Fork with winery offerings.  Be sure to try Borghese’s  2009 Rose of Pinot Noir this season.

 The Taste may be over, but the restaurants are open.  With healthy North and South Fork representation, there were still some conspicuous absences.  Perhaps 2015 will bring even more restaurants and wineries to The Taste.  Try these top picks and find your own this summer.   With a little overindulgence, many (including the writer) walked back to their cars, bypassing the Hampton Jitney shuttle.  It would take a lot more than the walk back to burn off all those calories! 

"The Front Burner" by David Mazujian is a culinary detective's journey to discover and share food, wine, spirits and their related events, trends and lifestyles on Long Island's East End and beyond.


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