Award-winning chefs have developed a taste for this low-key stretch of Long Island and its local culinary scene.
—by Lauren Parker
Move over glitzy Hamptons. On the North Fork, it’s the soil that’s rich. Each season, the North Fork’s fields, farm stands, vineyards, and fish markets overflow with homegrown bounty, while restaurant dishes reflect the rhythms of the land. It’s this proximity to local squash and apples in fall, Peconic Bay scallops in winter, fresh greens in spring, and sumptuous fruit in summer that gets chefs—and foodies—so excited. Even food experts like New York Times food editor Sam Sifton and Bon Appétit editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport have joined New York chefs Andrew Carmellini and Tom Colicchio, who’ve claimed the region with second homes, biking to farm stands, and cooking for guests.
“I’m in restaurants all the time, so the North Fork is my year-round retreat where I spend a lot of time cooking at home and entertaining,” says James Beard Award–winning chef and restaurateur Andrew Carmellini, owner of The Dutch and Locanda Verde among other restaurants, who has been coming to the North Fork for about 12 years. “I love the access to organic produce at Sang Lee Farms, the goat cheese and yogurt at Catapano Dairy Farm, plus 8 Hands Farm’s heritage pigs, chickens, and Icelandic sheep. It’s like being in France. That’s the huge attraction.”
That, and plenty of room for a chef’s kitchen. “I can cook for 30 people indoors, no problem,” says Carmellini about his Cutchogue home. “We do a lot of live-fire cooking outside, but the next phase of the renovation will be a beautiful outdoor kitchen.”
Chefs also enjoy the range of cooking approaches open to them on the North Fork. James Beard Award–winning chef Claudia Fleming came to the area 15 years ago (following in the footsteps of former boss Tom Colicchio) and opened North Fork Table & Inn with her late husband, chef Gerry Hayden. Her pioneering restaurant might have elegant white tablecloths, but it also has a food truck that will park at McCall Wines and serve up burgers from the vineyard’s grass-fed cattle. “The restaurant community is so nurturing, and that is fostering a lot of collaboration,” says Fleming, noting everything from Dinner in the Vines tasting events with wineries, to cooking private dinners in homes. She cites Wickham’s Fruit Farm as the “first and last stop for fruit” coming and going, not to mention their cider doughnuts in season.
Small dishes also let consumers sample the bounty. The Merchant’s Wife just opened in Greenport’s The Menhaden hotel, specializing in small plates, while Noah’s has been showcasing small plates of fresh local foods since it opened 10 years ago, taking care to explain the provenance of its dishes. “Our customers have become more knowledgeable about the food they’re eating and more interested in where we source our ingredients from,” says chef Noah Schwartz.
The Halyard entices diners with unrivaled sunsets on the Long Island Sound, but the seasonal food is equally Instagram worthy. “I love nurturing relationships with our growers,” says Halyard executive chef and North Fork–born Stephan Bogardus, who has the phrase “Culinaire Classique” tattooed on his chest and gives the North Fork exposure with TV stints on such shows as Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay and CBS Sunday Morning. “I feel really strongly about lettuces and food that makes us feel connected to where we are. In a shout-out to KK’s The Farm’s Ira Haspel, our new ‘Ira’s Biodynamic Salad’ features all vegetables from his farm.”
Knowing your farmer is a definite North Fork draw. The annual North Fork Foodie Tour wrapped its 13th edition in September, taking visitors behind the scenes to 20 farms and vineyards for tastings, talks, and demonstrations. And at the newly opened Barrow Food House restaurant, chefs Kyle Romeo and Amanda Falcone literally invite you into their home (they live upstairs) to dine on true home-cooked food from Amanda’s dad’s farm around the corner.
With farm-to-table as the common denominator, chefs are using collaborations, creativity, and experimentation to stand out, and food isn’t always the only thing on the menu.
Brooklyn artist Peter Treiber opened Treiber Farms with his father in 2018 and now hosts foraging tours, cooking classes, experiential dinners (such as woodfired Uruguayan BBQ), film screenings, and barn discos with artisanal liquor from local Matchbook Distilling Co., which, incidentally, holds make-your-own-spirits classes at their distillery.
The North Fork Art Collective teams up with area chefs for its Palette to Palate events—intimate dinner parties held at Greenport’s Bruce & Son—where each course is inspired by a work of art. The art is on the wall for guests to see and purchase, and the chef and art curator discuss each interpretation as it’s served. “Introducing 300 people a day to fresh takes on traditional food concepts is where we see the scene expanding, and that path continues with our dinner events,” says Bruce & Son co-owner Scott Bollman. Bruce & Son also hosts the PAWPAW Pop-Ups—highly experimental and always sold-out dinners that have included dishes like Tomatoes and The Whole Sunflower with Smoked Snail Caviar. (Chef Taylor Knapp is a USDA-certified snail farmer and the owner of Peconic Escargot.)
Speaking of mollusks, Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market and its Southold outpost Station 1946 might just be one of the hippest places around. More gritty than fancy (think converted bait-and-tackle shack, Thursday night Vinyl Nights, and vintage, working waterfront photos), they let guests shuck their own oysters with knives and protective gloves. The increasing ranks of local oyster farmers are also invited in for educational chats to teach customers the difference between Peconic Golds and Oysterponds.
Of course, getting the food yourself is the ultimate North Fork foodie experience. “I’m using local oysters in a couple of my restaurants,” says Carmellini, “and I was out on a boat recently with the guys from Peeko Oysters, picking up oysters from the bottom of the bay.”