Luce & Hawkins
400 S. Jamesport Ave. Jamesport, NY 631-722-2900
Excellent food prepared by an all-star chef and served in the restored Jedediah Hawkins Inn.Hours: Dinner, Thursday to Monday, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday brunch, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Ambience: Excellent Service: Excellent Reservations: Recommended Credit cards: Accepted
Keith Luce wanted to open a country inn on his native North Fork. At the Jedediah Hawkins Inn, he has done that and more.
Luce, whose resume includes Herbfarm outside Seattle, PlumpJack Cafe in San Francisco, and a stint in the Clinton White House, returned to Long Island's wine country this year.
The restored Jedediah Hawkins Inn dates to 1863. It was reborn in 2006 with a lively restaurant to go with the rooms. Several chefs and much refurbishing and streamlining later, Luce & Hawkins now resides at the inn. It's terrific.
Diners have their choice of two rooms, a beautifully appointed formal dining room, and a glassed-in patio with views of both the inn's grounds and the kitchen. Two menus are available as well, a five-course tasting menu for $85 (add $50 to pair the dishes with wine) that must be ordered by the whole table, or an affordable la carte menu of tweaked comfort favorites.
Luce's tasting menus are driven by his imagination and his herb garden. Recent items include Kobe strip steak with shelling beans and eggplant, seasoned with rosemary; Crescent Farm duckling raguo with ricotta gnocchi, accented with basil; and a union of Shinnecock scallops with cauliflower, potato and almond, spurred by lemon thyme. He has enriched poached lobster with lovage and tarragon; and presented sushi-grade tuna with shiso-leaf tempura with rounds of water gel flavored with borage leaves. The tasting menu must be ordered by the entire table.
From the a la carte menu come vivid appetizers such as pastrami-cured bluefish in mini, open-faced Reubens; thoroughly addictive North Fork duck wings with cucumber-feta raita and chili-garlic sauce; steamed bao dumplings with pork belly and Montauk tuna; and a lobster roll on housemade milk bread.
Main dishes include striped bass with caponata; whole, crisp black bass Thai-style; king salmon with red-lentil curry; fried chicken with North Carolina barbecue sauce; rib-eye steaks; and, yes, a hamburger made with house-ground, grass-fed beef.
Luce's daily specials range from local oyster po'boys to whole roast chicken, tacos to steak frites.
His sweets are led by doughnuts with milk chocolate sauce and rosemary ice cream, a carrot cupcake with goat-cheese icing; and the "chocolate flower pot" brownie.
Sassafras doesn't improve rice pudding. Chorizo, smoked mussels, spreads: respectable.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Yes, you can go home again.