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Thought For Food

Featured Brunch: Luce & Hawkins (Jamesport, Long Island)

Arthur Bovino — September 03, 2010

House-made Fettuccini with Meat and Sausage Ragu, and the chef’s garden at Luce & Hawkins in Jamesport, Long Island.

Restaurant: Luce & Hawkins
Address: Jedediah Hawkins Inn, 400 South Jamesport Ave., PO Box 634, Jamesport, New York
Contact: (631)722-2900
Hours: Lunch, Mon, Fri & Sat, 11:00am-2:30pm; Dinner, Wed-Mon, 5:30pm-10:00pm; Sunday Brunch, 11:00am-2:30pm.
Grade: A-
Recommended Dishes: Burger, Pasta

 If you’ve spent time in the Hamptons, Jedediah Hawkins Inn is a name you’re probably familiar with courtesy well-known Long Island chef, Tom Schaudel circa 2006. But you may have heard more buzz about it over the past few months— after all, it’s not everyday a former White House sous chef lands in the Hamptons. After recently eating there by invitation, it’s clear that Chef Keith Luce brings more than buzz to the inn’s new restaurant, Luce & Hawkins— there’s good food in a relaxing, open setting.

The restored sea captain’s mansion is centrally located—not far from the end of the LIE. At the end of a long gravel driveway where the trees clear there’s a trickling fountain and a pretty yellow house (built in 1863) under what suddenly feels like big sky country. There’s a chef’s herb garden, a chicken coop, and water served in milk bottles. Most notable is the glass-enclosed, temperature-controlled ‘outdoor’ seating— you get terrific light and a great view, and no discomfort.

Sunday at Luce & Hawkins means a three-course brunch prix-fixe for $38 (instituted in July) with plenty of options. But the more interesting move is the Saturday lunch, which they’ve only been doing since August (also served on Friday and Monday).

The wine list is fun, done tongue in cheek, book report style with “Good work, Jed!” on the cover in faux red teacher’s ink circling a ‘mistake.’ They seem into grower champagnes and there’s a mix of Long Island, New Mexico and Virginia sparklings. The list’s most expensive bottle seemed to be an Amarone.

From left: The Dude and “The 9:45.”

Luce & Hawkins’ cocktails aren’t the same old boring brunch affairs. There’s an homage to The Big Lebowski (“Hey, careful, man, there’s a beverage here!”), and how can you not abide? Vodka, Coffee Liqueur, and milk. Cold, cold milk with seven beautiful ice cubes whose cracks resemble transparent chipped paint. Do you cradle and sip, or shake? There’s also a Dark and Stormy, and “The 9:15,” Blanc de Blanc, Elderflower, and lime, which when spiked with tequila becomes “The 9:45.”

What’s with the times? The inn’s director, Michael Kaminski: “The call time for morning shift is 9am. When we created the cocktail it was so easy to drink we thought that the staff would have too many and subsequently be late for work: 9:15. The addition of tequila makes you extra-late: 9:45!”

Pastrami Cured Bluefish.

NoFo Duck Wings.

You like the idea of the mini, open-faced pastrami-cured Bluefish Reubens more than the dish. It’s a bit fishy, cheesy, tangy and brown. Better order the excellent NoFo Duck Wings instead. The chef does a duck confit, then fries the legs. The result is meat that almost comes off the bone in one piece. There’s something Chinese spare rib to the texture— in a good way. One confusing element is the little dish of cucumber-feta raita, perhaps for those who can’t handle the accompanying chili-garlic sauce.

Artisan Pizza with Manchego, Serrano Ham, Heirloom Tomato and Bush Basil.

The Artisan Pizza changes daily. Don’t think Kesté— this is fairly thin at the center with an oil-crisp crust, and it’s very nice. It comes, amusingly, with a Mr T stamp-card. Buy five, get a ¼ litre of wine free. “That’s the chef’s favorite stamp,” explained the server. There’s a whimsy here that you can jive with. You can jive with the pizza too, though it’s more Terroir small plate than ‘Second.’ Small, crunchy bites ideal to eat more of with wine later in the day to complete the stamp card.

Lobster Roll.

Homemade milkbread has more take than a typical top-loading bun— toasted bread with a slight poundcake exterior texture. The lobster is cooked to the point where you can’t cook it any less. Potato chips look like they’re going to be too oily. They’re not. You could break one in half and naan-style pick up any stray lobster bits. Satisfying.

Then there’s the dish you know you will like: House-made Fettuccini with Meat and Sausage Ragu and Bush Basil (top). It’s not saucy, there are big pieces of clumped meat scattered with lavender florets, a thin film of oil at the bottom of the bowl. You want to eat it in the fall perhaps just with a glass of the Barbera D’Alba Bricco Boschis Cuculo Cavallotto.

The Burger with house-ground grass-fed beef.

Some burgers look good, but don’t follow through— the buns are often deceitful. This one is soft, buttery and absorbs the char flavor. The salty-juice drippy patty benefited from homemade Velveeta; pretty peels of Boston lettuce; red, red tomato; and the best Thousand Island dressing.

Donuts with Milk Chocolate Sauce and Rosemary Ice Cream.

“Please allow 15 minutes,” the menu requests. The very rosemary ice cream and warm puffy donut holes are worth the wait with a cup of coffee.

Chocolate Flower Pot Brownie.

A little kitschy, but this small fudgy brownie with bacon-walnut caramel sauce is well integrated. The salty small bits accent, but don’t overwhelm.

From left, Iced Coffee and Iced Tea.

As a place to stay, Luce & Hawkins lacks that awkward bed and breakfast feeling. The food is beautiful, the setting’s great, there’s a big couch for lazy brunch snoozing between tasty bites and boozy sips, and it also serves as the perfect food jump-off for a day spent at the vineyards on either Fork.

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