Dan’s Papers

Issue #29 – October 8, 2010

Restaurant Review:
Luce + Hawkins, Jamesport

By Stacy Dermont

The restaurantÕs kitchen garden

This is a Rave review. Yes, that’s “Rave” with a capital “R!” Sadly I don’t have enough space here to tell you in detail about all the great food and drink I had for dinner at Luce + Hawkins last week. Happily their menu changes frequently so you can count on experiencing the very best local produce at its peak.

Executive Chef Keith Luce is a local farm boy who made good – really good. A James Beard Award winner, he’s worked in New York, Chicago, California, France, Italy and most recently at the famed Herbfarm Restaurant outside Seattle. There he met wine expert Michael Kaminski who now serves as Director of Luce + Hawkins. What a pair and what pairings! A sense of fun and an acute attention to detail obtain in this establishment.

Luce and Kaminski offer a tasting menu with wine pairings that I highly recommend. My dining partner was particularly taken with his “Lemon Thyme Course” that featured Shinnecock scallops. A slight crunch on the outside, but all “butta” inside. A couple wines that stand out are Selene’s Chesler 2004, a Napa red that can only be described as “a monster” and Jamesport Vineyard’s Late Harvest Reisling 2007 which offers, among other attributes, a remarkable apricot finish. The Wine List is exceptional – it’s extensive but very discerning. It includes some of my favorite Fingers Lakes wines as well as outstanding “locals” including Water’s Crest rose and Lenz’ chardonnay.

Luce + Hawkins also offers a regular dinner menu rich with possibilities. I’ll just touch on the “golden moments of bliss” that I experienced. The Steamed Bao Dumplings with Montauk tuna were sent out as an amuse-bouche. Our “bouches” were very amused. We could have made a meal of these and left happy. The NoFo duck wings are a big hit. I didn’t indulge but my dining partner was enthusiastic about their tender stickiness. I tried a “Freestyle Shareable Side,” Satur Farms Beets and Catapano Chevre. No way was I going to share this! The beets were almost crunchy and slightly vinegar, the cheese as smooth and creamy as can be. Wow! For my entrée I ordered an artisan pizza which “changes daily.” This was my lucky day – pancetta, cauliflower and cheese! Salty-good, the small florettes were even better than cauliflower I’ve had on pannekoeken in the Netherlands. Monday’s Daily Special was chicken soup – big chunks of succulent white mean, tender-crisp celery, carrots and fennel, very flavorful.

My dining partner’s “Corn Shooter.” If butter is heaven, this thing is a cloud in a glass.

Ah dessert. Luce + Hawkins little, made-to-order donuts did not disappoint. In fact the rosemary ice cream that accompanied them was a revelation, the perfect end to the meal, not that I stopped there. I also ordered “Suzy Q’s Red Velvet Cake” with goat milk cream cheese. Hold on to your hats red velvet purists, this is better than the original. I swear. I am not a frosting person but I would lick this cake’s filling off of any surface. My dining partner had the melon and the coconut tapioca. When we asked Assistant Director Tom Conner about the prepartion of the melon he matter-of-factly told us that it was compressed in a vaccuum seal – as if everyone does that with melon. They should – it was delicious.

Luce + Hawkins’ staff is highly professional but they are equally “over-the-top foodies,” in my opinion. To wit, their whole roasted chicken comes with a whole roasted butternut squash, their Sheperd’s Pie contains three different house beefs, their ribs are boneless. They quote Dorothy Parker in the wine list and hang local artist Max Moran’s glorious landscapes on the walls. Ah, perfection is a happy exhaustion for all involved.

Our server, Dina, was genuinely and infectuously enthusiastic about the menu. She knows the food well because the staff eats a family style dinner together before their shift begins. (I asked for a job application on the spot.)

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that a restaurant of this calibre is kid friendly. A father himself, Luce is happy to prepare burgers, pizza or buttered pasta as needed.

Luce + Hawkins at the Jedediah Hawkins Inn, 400 S. Jamespoert Ave., Jamesport is open year round, closed on Tue. and Wed. 631-722-2900, jedediahhawkinsinn.com.

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