The acclaimed restaurateur and head Top Chef judge tells T+L why there’s nothing tastier than an easy summer weekend on Long Island’s North Fork.
“I love to go fishing, and that’s how I first discovered the North Fork—I was looking for stripers and tuna. Then, five years ago, my wife and I bought an old farmhouse in Mattituck, which we’re now renovating. It was built in the 1850’s and looks out over a vineyard. There’s an old barn on the property that I’m still figuring out what to do with.
At the end of a busy week when I’ve been cooking nonstop, I need a break, and going out there is just absolute relaxation. It seems like all of New York moves to the Hamptons on Memorial Day, but the North Fork is really rural and quiet. There’s no traffic, no obligations, no feeling that I have to go to this party or that party. Even though it’s becoming more popular, the North Fork isn’t getting built up. The Peconic Land Trust works with property owners and the local government to protect the area. We may not have the ocean, but we do have Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound—and that works for me. I fish, we cook. If we want to do something, we troll the yard sales. That’s pretty much it. I make simple dishes, like fresh clams or fish stew, paired with local produce. We have friends come visit, and then they stay for a meal. Our days there really revolve around lunch and dinner.”
Tom Colicchio’s Craft restaurant group has outposts around the country (craftrestaurant.com). His latest cookbook, ’wichcraft (Clarkson Potter), is out now.
“The North Fork Table & Inn (57225 Main Rd., Southold; 631/765-0177; northforktableandinn.com; dinner for two $120; doubles from $275) is owned by Gerry Hayden, who was the chef at Aureole in New York, and his wife, Claudia Fleming, who worked with me at the Gramercy Tavern restaurant.”
“Preorder the fried chicken at Salamander’s General Store (414 First St., Greenport; 631/477-3711). And try the Village Cheese Shop, in Mattituck (105 Love Lane; 631/298-8556).”
“Sang Lee Farms (25180 County Rd. 48; 631/734-7001; sangleefarms.com) carries high-quality organic produce.”
“At Hallock’s Bay, in Orient Beach State Park, the water is shallow and protected from the wind. You can rent a kayak or walk along the coast.”
“Shinn Estate Vineyards (2000 Oregon Rd., Mattituck; 631/804-0367; shinnestatevineyards.com) bottles some of the best North Fork Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot wines, and follows a strict sustainable-farming philosophy.”