It has been a phenomenal, gastronomic year for the East End. As I ate my way through, I discovered new bites, eateries and events, including the North Fork Foodie Tour and the newly debuted East End Mushroom Cook-Off. Each of the 10 foods on this list stand out not only for their bountiful, local ingredients, but for how they highlight the work of the talented chefs who take the utmost pleasure in serving their customers. These talented culinary experts often work nearly around the clock to deliver the best-tasting experience to their patrons.
My 10 favorite foods on the North Fork also entwine memorable experiences that could not happen exactly the same way anywhere else. It is also what has brought me back to each farmstand, restaurant or market again and again.
1. Wild mushroom pizza, Grana Trattoria Antica
1556 Main Road, Jamesport
This family-owned restaurant creates one of the best pizzas I have ever tasted. Their wild mushroom pizza is crafted by hand with East End Mushroom Co.’s organic mushrooms and a blend of fontina and pecorino tartufo, then drizzled with black truffle oil. The mushrooms are aromatic and bursting with earthy flavors and the cheese is a smart pairing. Grana Trattoria Antica is open year round with a few weeks “rest” in the winter.
2. Romanesco cauliflower, Helen’s Flower Farm
987 Union Ave., Riverhead
Also known as Roman cauliflower, this vegetable tastes very similar to broccoli and has a soft, spongy texture. I love having it as the centerpiece at my dinner table surrounded by smaller vegetables such as mushrooms and heirloom tomatoes. At only $3 a bundle, you may want to pick up more than one to bring as gifts for neighbors and co-workers.
3. Oysters Cuvee, Greenporter Hotel
326 Front Street, Greenport
One of the hotel and catering company’s most popular hors d’ouevres, their Oysters Cuvee is the seafood prize of Greenport. I don’t believe anyone can successfully emulate their gluten-free crispy oysters, which are made with a blend of cornflower and rice flower and usually served on a bed of sautéed baby spinach with truffled beurre blanc. Hints of truffle and corn intermingle in each bite.
Sadly, the attached restaurant, Cuvée, has since closed.
4. Minty moonpies, Browder’s Birds
4050 Soundview Ave., Mattituck
Made by Bridgehampton-based catering company The Hamptons Aristocrat, these super fresh-tasting meringue and chocolate “sandwiches” are made with Browder’s Birds egg whites. The finishing touch is a bit of sea salt that takes these minty, crunchy moonpies to a different dimension. Let a secret be known: I have never eaten just one at a sitting.
5. Alex’s Honey & Lavender and Pumpkin Cow Cheese, Goodale Farms
250 Main Road, Riverhead
One of of the main aspects of the North Fork I am most thankful for is the production of farm-fresh cow- and goat-milk cheeses. Goodale Farms produces two of my favorite local soft cheeses — Alex’s Honey and Lavender and Pumpkin Cow Cheese. I take these cheeses out of the fridge for 20 minutes or so and then spread them on whole-wheat crackers.
The pumpkin cheese blended with traditional spices was a lovely accompaniment while taking in the North’s Fork’s fall foliage.
6. Mushroom Bolognese, Vine Street Café
41 S. Ferry Road, Shelter Island
A hearty alterative to a classic meat Bolognese, this vegan pasta sauce is full of firm minced mushrooms. I recently ran out of my last jar after purchasing four less than a month ago and have every intention of picking up some more to stock up for the holidays. Buy a few at their market, located just behind the restaurant.
7. Sea salt caramel and goats milk truffles, North Fork Chocolate Company
740 Main Road, Aquebogue
Ever since opening their doors this past winter, this East End collective — in addition to its namesake — carries products from more than a dozen local artisans. Goods include teas, soaps, honey, pickles and cheeses and they continue to expand. At the Main Road shop, there are over two dozen varieties of handcrafted chocolates. They are so beautiful, you would think each piece belongs in its own museum. What brings me back, though, is their sea salt caramel and goats milk truffles enrobed in white chocolate.
8. Spring pea budino, Caci North Fork
56125 Main Road, Southold
Every element of this creamy Italian dish created by Chef Marco Pellegrini is exploding with rich flavors. Made with crunchy, dried pancetta, aged balsamic vinegar and garnished with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, I could not pass up the opportunity for a second taste of this vibrant appetizer when I first tried it at the Taste of Two Forks event in July.
9. Sweet + salty brownie sundae, Red Maple at The Chequit on
23 Grand Ave., Shelter Island
Fresh off its summer debut, Red Maple at The Chequit — located just below the lobby of the inn — offers the most scrumptious dessert list in town. The menu item I crave most is their brownie sundae served with a scoop of vanilla bean gelato and generously drizzled with a velvety, house-made salted caramel and chocolate sauce.
10. Flourless chocolate cake, Marie Eiffel Market
184 N. Ferry Road, Shelter Island
When you step inside Marie Eiffel’s eponymous market in the heart of Shelter Island, you will notice how every section is so well-organized and that it includes a curated grocery space created especially by the owner, who only sells what she has tasted and loves. All of her baked goods are made fresh daily on the premises, including her most adored flourless chocolate cake, which is so smooth and luxurious.