Monday, June 29, 2009

Can Pele, Gwyneth, Maria and Billy Joel be wrong? Mark and Lynn try Lunch/Lobster Roll in Amagansett...

Lobster Roll (or LUNCH as it is sometimes known due to the large sign saying the same) in Amagansett is a kind of folk restaraunt that has all the lure for Long Islander that the Algonquin Room might have for a Manhattanite. In other words, it is the embodiment of a certain kind of regional character and attitude. Indeed, some of the placemats have reviews written by an eclectic array of celebs including Pele, Marah Carey and the like.

With Lobster Roll/LUNCH that is an adherence to some of the cultural aspects of being a Long Islander including a folksy approach to seafood, a boisterous atmosphere and a salute to the lore of sportfishing. Lobster Roll certainly represents all of these Long Island ideals and traits in spades.

The Lobster Roll is of course the main attraction and it overshadows most of the cuisine for obvious reasons. It is very delicious, but I prefer the fried oysters which are more like a light tempura than the heavy handed type you might see in most diners and lesser informal eateries on LI.

The worst thing about LR/LUNCH is the price. Lunch at LUNCH can be an expensive proposition without anything more than a couple of entrees and a couple of glasses of wine. In other words, it is overpriced. The effect of this is deflating and curtails a wonderful experience into a merely good one...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Surf Lodge in Montauk looks like a place Mark and Lynn might Like (in the future)...

Surf Lodge in Montauk is one of the hipper, new places on the South Fork of the East End. With a restaraunt helmed by Top Chef alumn Sam Talbot and with 32 rooms on Fort Pond, this is one of the places to watch on the East End. The place has evidence of being achingly hip (surf movies run 24/7 in the lobby, there is a Tracy Feith store selling vintage stuff next door).

The staff is very sweet, but we came at an odd time (around 3:30) so there was some confusion about whether the place was serving food or not (they were not). We, who had not eaten, thought it better not to have a cocktail, so we left and hoped to try out the place later.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Need a $130.00 Used T-Shirt? Have we got a place for you in Montauk...(called Melet Mercantile)

If you read the newspapers and check the interweb it seems that we are in a bit of an economic recession. I guess some of the folks in Montauk didn't get the news because when Lynn and I went out there on Father's Day we found a place called Melet Mercantile which is a kind of art gallery/retail space/salvation army.

This branch in Montauk (the other is located in Soho) is housed in an old garage near a taxi stand. The space is filled with old surfboards, used t-shirts and old magazines. The layout is achingly hip and artful and for the time we were there a local guy was working hard hitting on two of the women working there (explaining his take on the suddenly controversial Montauk Shark tournaments).

I will say that it the place was unique for Lynn and me in that everything was overpriced, really overpriced. Old OP t shirts that I used to buy for ten dollars at Surf City in Wrightsville Beach were upwards of $130.00. Beat to death library books with subject matter on skin diving or deep sea fishing were $100.00. Even in the Hamptons this is a bit much; and with the economy in such a lurch (which the East End has especially felt) it seemed a little in bad taste.

The place has been billed as a bit of an art gallery, but there was no real evidence of art except for a few framed Polaroids. The owner Bob Melet had been quoted as saying the place was supposed to be fun and a place to "gather and hang out." Apparently, the staff there that day did not get Mr. Melet's message as we were completely ignored during our short time in MM...

102 Industrial Rd.
Montauk, NY
T: 631/668-9080

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Interview: Author Mark Caro reports from the Front Lines of the Foie Gras Wars

When hard boiled Chicago Tribune newspaperman Mark Caro reported that Charlie Trotter thought a rival chef's liver should be eaten because he was critical of Trotter's decision to stop serving Foie Gras a firestorm was set off that landed on the front pages of the great Chicago newspaper (and made national news to boot).

The story evolved into a book The Foie Gras Wars: How a 5,000 Year-Old Delicacy Inspired by the World's Fiercest Food Fight (Simon and Schuster) in which author Caro chronicles the history, lore, politics and players in this particular culinary controversy. Mr. Caro was nice enough to talk to Mark and Lynn about the book, the characters and why Ducks are a little different than other animals...

M & L: If Charlie Trotter had not made the infamous remark about eating Rick Tramonto's liver do you think you would have authored this book? And, do you think Charlie Trotter has ever regretted making that remark?

MC: "That's an interesting question. If Trotter hadn't made that comment, I still would've written an in-depth Tribune story on the subject, but it probably wouldn't have run on the front page, and there's a chance Chicago Ald. Joe Moore might not have read it and/or proposed the city's ban. Then again, Trotter's stance might have gotten national and local attention regardless, and the actual issues would have been the same, and that's what Moore said he was reacting to. At any rate, I had the idea for the book well before Chicago passed its ban; I'd been interested in doing something exploring our collective deniability regarding where our food comes from, and this seemed like an interesting--and simultaneously amusing and serious--way to get into that. Whether SImon & Schuster or anyone else would've bought the book if I didn't have the hook of Chicago's ban...I'lll never know."

"As for whether Chef Trotter ever regretted making that remark, he said afterward that he felt bad for expressing himself that way but added that one must "open a can of whup-ass" every once in a while. So that wasn't the most self-flagellating apology ever issued. I assume he was aware that he'd stir up some attention. I think he may regret having been associated with this controversy for quite so long as he has a lot more going on than his non-service of foie gras."

M & L: There are all kinds of rough/inhumane treatment of animals that are bred to end up as food-Is there something in particular that strikes a cord with people with this issue involving ducks?

MC "I think several factors contribute to people having an especially visceral reaction to foie gras production. For one, we like ducks and anthropomorphize them far more than, say, chickens; hence the existence of Daffy, Donald and the Aflac duck. We also encounter them more in nature; even in cities, we see them in ponds. So we have a problem hearing that these cute, funny little quackers are having metal tubes dropped down their throats. We imagine what it would feel like if we were the ducks--but we aren't ducks. Our throats are different (we don't swallow whole fish, for instance), our breathing is different (our air hole isn't under the center of our tongues, and we'd gag in a way that they don't), and we don't store fat in our livers and under our skin. Also, because people don't eat duck and especially foie gras so much, they're more willing to give it up for the sake of the animal. They haven't shown such an inclination to learn about how broiler chickens or layer hens are treated and to adjust their buying and eating habits accordingly."

M & L : Was there anything that struck you as odd in writing this book?

MC: "Aside from writing 300+ pages about people fighting over duck and goose livers? Where do I begin?"

M & L: I know it is a bit of an obvious question but has this book changed your eating habits?

MC: "It has, but in odd ways. I really was eating a lot of chicken and almost no red meat when I began my research--on the theory that eating mammals was somehow worse than eating birds--and I was surprised to learn from reading animal-rights guru Peter Singer ("Animal Liberation," "The Ethics of What We Eat") and talking to top PETA and Humane Society of the United States officials that they all consider cows to be better treated than the bulk of mass-produced food animals. I'm still not ordering Big Macs and Whoppers, but I'm no longer on principle saying no to beef, especially if I know it's from a smaller farm, and I do spend the extra money for the cage-free eggs and free-range chicken. So there you have it: Researching fat duck livers has made me a more diverse omnivore--though a more ethical one too, I hope."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tony's Sushi 2 improves it's attitude (the food was already great)

Mark and Lynn have had some ups and downs with Tony's Sushi in East Moriches (technically Tony's Sushi 2). . The lunch specials are great with almost 30 Sushi selections 2 for 9.99 and 3 for 12.99, however the service is shall we say somewhat brusque on occassion. Recently, we have had better. more friendly service lately which has made us more concious of stretching a point and driving the 25 minutes to have lunch there. Our favorites: The Hampton Dream Roll, the Oyster Tempura Roll and the Spicy Crunchy Tuna Roll...All have a great crunch and lovely architecture.

466 Main Street
E. Moriches, NY
T; 631/878-9575

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mark and Lynn Can Live with the Oriental Cuisine at Medford New York's Golden Star

The state of Chinese Restaurants on Long Island (especially Suffolk) is pretty dreary. There are plenty of serviceable places (especially if you want a quick, cheap, reasonably healthy fix for lunch), but for something a cut above basic take out fare?
Well, you are mostly out of luck...Mark and Lynn had reasonably lowered expectations when they tried out the Golden Star in Medford off busy, stressful Highway 112.

To our mild surprise, we had a pretty good sit down experience. The place has a real commitment to Oriental decor and the roomy, near cavernous interior insulates it nicely from the angst of one of Long Island's most stressful roads. The service was good, but somewhat programmed. Lynn had a nice Mai Thai and I had some OK sake. The food was a bit of a mixed bag; Lynn's vegetable dish was served with far too much of a heavy, garlic sauce. My steamed vegetables were serviceable, but hardly anything different than what you might get at an anonymous Chinese take out joint.

I suspect that the Japanese food might be more satisfying. We had a nice seared tuna salad of the Japanese side of the menu which was much more along the lines of our taste in Oriental food.

Golden Star gets most of its points from its fun interior...Not a destination place, but if you are in the mood it would be fine. It also might have appeal for family dining or a place to go out with a large group with a variety of tastes and appetites...

2320 Rte. 112
Medford, NY 11763

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bellport, New York has Charlie Rose and Isabella Rossellini why can't it get a decent coffee shop?

Once upon a time, cranky Bellport had a coffee shop called Kitchen + Coffee which served decent breakfast, lunch and a kind of take out dinner set up. It was hardly perfect; a tad too rustic, cranky, somewhat unsociable regulars and a menu that was a tad overpriced (in other words a perfect reflection of Bellport). Despite these shortcomings, it was the heart of Bellport (too bad nobody seemed to notice at the time). In any event, circumstances that seemed murky caused Kitchen + Coffee to cease to be...Many months passed and the Sugar Loaf Cafe opened in 2006.

The place seemed an immediate improvement; a higher end menu, better lighting, better seating, a renovated dining room, a friendlier, possibly happier staff with a Brazilian chef (a Chef!) who it was said had worked in some of the finer places out East.

And then, nothing. The place simply didn't catch on. It might have been too slick for the locals (who seemed to gravitate to the Bellport deli about a 1/2 block down), possibly too expensive and the food might not have lived up to the hype that accompanies a sophisticated chef...

Flash forward to 2009 and the Sugar Loaf cafe is no more-Again, somewhat murky rumors (it was too expensive to keep open, it was losing money) surrounded its demise. For whatever reason, it has left a gaping hole on Main Street which seems to have genuinely hurt the morale of the town.

The solution? Let a big chain like Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks move into Bellport. These chains are in Patchogue, Sayville and Bayport just next door. I suspect that there is a whole world of red tape that might block this notion and the cranky old school Long Island pessimism might bemoan even the thought of this. Still, Bellport needs something that is a juggernaut and will simply bulldoze any personalities, grudges and agendas...A big chain is programmed to succeed and so far Bellport's coffee shops seem calibrated to implode...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Blue Point Diner has pretty good food that on occasion tastes pretty great...

The Blue Point Diner is the kind of eatery where if you go there a hundred times and order the same thing it will be exactly the same 100 times. Do not think this is any kind of criticism, on the South Shore of Long Island (especially in and around Brookhaven) consistency in some of the establishments is a rarity (ie, the Grey Horse Tavernn).

And, in this regard the Blue Point Diner more than delivers. The food is exceptional comfort food (an overused term at this point-but no other way to put it); Our favorites the Greek Omelet, the Greek Salad and the Corn Beef Hash. The place is very cozy and the portions are coma inducing (the Greek Salad is extremely filling) so, it is more fun to eat at in there in the winter. However, when you want an upgrade from the usual weekend jostle at Long Island delis on Sunday morning it is a nice, inexpensive way to get fuel for working in the yard, going to the gym or, (more likely) hitting the sack for a few hours...

(631) 363-0133
145 Montauk Hwy, Blue Point, NY 11715

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I (Mark) have written for The Christian Science Monitor, Clear Magazine, Picture Magazine, Film Score Monthly, Dan's Papers, Rue Morgue, In Flight USA and a lot more publications that I can't remember.... My wife Lynn was a model with the Ford Agency and her photography has been featured in most of the publications I have written for...


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