Archive for the ‘Amagansett’ Category

Another Roadside Distraction: Amagansett’s Lobster Roll (Lunch)

July 27, 2009

The oyster pan roast and the lobster roll are two dishes that need to die.  Both used to be poor men’s suppers; both are now willful and wasteful anachronisms.  Luxury ingredients need to be showcased not hidden.  And luxury ingredients gone bad or borderline need to be discarded not disguised.

Such is the case with Grand Central Oyster Bar’s overhyped oleaginous oyster stew.  Their version is all cream, potato, paprika and bivalves on the edge of e.coli overload.  It tastes less of the sea than the sewer, as do the restaurant’s raw offerings on the bookends to the workweek.

For its part, Lobster Roll’s (1980 Montauk Highway E.) version of its namesake dish is undeniably safe and inoffensive but also inexcusably bland.  First do no harm, sure, but then don’t bore me either.  In any case, neither restaurant is more than a road or rail side distraction in its current form, and neither dish merits the time or money.

If you are going to stake your name on a single dish at least do what you do right, as Rebecca Charles does at the West Village’s Pearl Oyster Bar.  Unfortunately, rather than putting me in mind of the superior bread, texture and flavor intensity of her lobster roll, or her oysters for that matter, this Amagansett offering had me reminiscing about the Rt. 9 Westborough McDonald’s seasonal lobster roll. A lesser road and a lesser restaurant on paper but not on the plate.

In both places, the lobster tasted of nothing, the celery in the salad hid what little flavor was in the meat, and the roll was unbuttered and uninteresting.   That said, McDonald’s has much better fries and much lower prices, coupled with much better managed customer expectations.

Yes, Lobster Roll does offer a sense of place.  Blond servers of surprisingly diverse ages—prom queens past and present—speak to a long history in a single locale, and Capt. Jack kitsch décor is a pleasant reminder of old seafood shacks everywhere from Ann Arbor to Anna Maria.  Also, the celebrity endorsement page of the menu is endearingly outdated: “newlyweds Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin” and seventies heavy—Cheryl Tiegs to Peter Boyle.  And that’s about as good as it gets.

Conclusions: Next time you’re on the Montauk Highway, engage in some Emersonian self-reliance, and hit a roadside fish shop for whatever’s fresh.  Grill it up at your rental, house, or one of the nearby parks (Hither Hills, for instance) and call it a day.  There’s no reason to get off the road for this one.


Another Roadside Attraction: Amagansett’s La Fondita

July 23, 2009

La Fondita (74 Montauk Highway, Amagansett) is a sprawling taco stand dressed up and priced up for the Hamptons but well within the area’s expectations of restrained excess.

Every weekend its picnic benches fill with local surfers on the way back from Montauk and sundry Manhattanite families loading up before the journey back to the City.  Beers are sipped not slammed, even by the sun and wave addled day trippers and summer renters.

This is not a Cabo Wabo Sammy Hagar tequila shot crowd.  Rather, it’s more veteran seventies Saturday Night Live.  In fact, when I was last there, G.E. Smith stood waiting patiently for his order.  For the record, his leonine hair and Dick Tracy rock star chin are still in full effect.

That said, the attraction here isn’t bold-faces, but the authentic and informal food and feel.  Open kitchen doors and the attendant flies—locally raised and mainly organic—help maintain a refreshing rusticity, as do the coarse corn flour tortillas and quality meat fillings in the tacos.

Among the standouts, the pork in the carnitas tacos had delightfully crusty fatty crisped edges.  Some of the best fat I’ve eaten since I polished off a plate of Hill Country’s brisket and burnt ends.

La Fondita’s chorizo taco, however, was an unmitigated disaster, as was the torta made with the same base ingredient.  The so-called sausage resembled nothing so much as roseate baby pap.  Put another way, it looked like sausage flavored soft serve.  In a word, repulsive.  Fortunately, Baja style fish tacos were excellent and redemptive.

Given the inevitable wait for made to order food—this isn’t Chipotle Grill factory Mexican—it’s a good idea to pick up some chips and salsa to pass the time.  However, don’t even think about freshening up in a bathroom.  There’s none in sight.  Or rather, there is one in sight but not in a traditional form.  A few toddlers make pit stops in the “enchanted bamboo forest” that rings the property and obscures the view of the garden center next door.  Most adults show a bit more restraint…most.

As far as Mexican food goes, La Fondita is the best in the area for now, but given the burgeoning Latin American community on Long Island, it’s ripe for some competition, perhaps a more regionally specific restaurant with indoor seating…and plumbing.  I’d drink to that.

Getting Fried in the Hamptons: The Doughnuts of Scoop du Jour

July 23, 2009

Other than providing a conduit to Amagansett, there are few justifications for the continued existence of East Hampton.  Chief among them is the doughnut selection at Scoop du Jour.

The doughnut variety at Scoop du Jour is limited, which makes picking easy: get them all.  Three options are presented: plain, powdered and cinnamon sugar.  The latter two are made by extracting doughnuts from the fryer and applying confectioner’s sugar or granulated sugar mixed with cinnamon, the first by leaving the hot rings of batter in their birthday suits.  In any case, doughnuts and doughnut varietals are generally made to order.  Even if the doughnut comes from the countertop, chances are it’s merely resting from its oil bath rather than going stale from the night before.

Order a dozen–four of each should work–but don’t expect any extras.  No baker’s bonus comes with the twelve-pack.  That said, twelve should be enough for two good eaters.    The doughnuts are relatively small—about the average of a present day mini-bagel and an old-school water bagel—and of the cake variety.  They have a pleasant tooth tickling outer crust crunch and a soft core, not magma soft but definitely inner mantel soft.  The plain doughnuts should have the color, though not the exterior feel of a middle-aged sun worshiper, somewhere in the oaky tan range with a few cracks from the heat.

Don’t restrict yourself to breakfast consumption.  These guys work equally well with morning hot coffee as a wakeup or with mid afternoon iced coffee as a restorative post-siesta treat.   Finally, don’t forget to try the ultimate mash-up by ordering two scoops of vanilla—thus the name of the shop—and a trio of hot plains.  It’ll make for the best park bench dessert you’ve had in quite a while.  Enjoy the view of the Ferraris out front, then get back on the road.  These doughnuts make for a delicious detour, not a destination.