The restaurant at the Ram’s Head Inn is up and running for the season, and manning the kitchen is a new executive chef, Matt Murphy, who owned Antares Café in Greenport from 2000 to 2010.
Murphy is a born chef. At the age of 14, he got his first restaurant job and by 19, he was running a restaurant in Syosset. But as a chef, Murphy notes he really cut his teeth, so to speak, while working at La Colombe d’Or in New York City. He also spent time learning technique in Europe where he cooked both in Paris and in Tuscany.
These days, he’s happy to settle into the pastoral environment at the Ram’s Head Inn where he knows he has access to the freshest ingredients available. In a recent interview, Murphy reflected on how both the business of food — and the customers who eat it — have changed over the decades he’s been in the business.
“I think people have an enormous amount of knowledge compared to previous times,” says Murphy. “With so many TV shows about food, unfortunately, people think they’re experts. But the good thing is, they get it.”
“I think in some ways we’re evolving into a country that looks at food as part of our cultural heritage, like they always have in Europe, but we never have here before,” he said.
From a practical point of view, in terms of supplying his kitchen with ingredients, a great deal has changed for the better on that score as well.
“There are so many more purveyors of fine food now,” said Murphy. “I came out in 2000 and I couldn’t get bread on the North Fork. We finally got Tom Cat Bakery to come out.”
“Now, 17 years later there are specialty purveyor trucks you wouldn’t have ever seen out here then,” he said. “D’Artagnan, Wild Edibles — these are high-end purveyors.”
In months to come, diners can expect much of what grows and lives around us will find its way onto the menu at the Ram’s Head Inn.
“This season, I’m trying to grab as much local as I can,” he said. “Tonight, I’ve got local fluke, black sea bass, oysters from Orient, the herbs from the garden, some vegetables from the hot house guys on the North Fork.”
“As we get a little warmer, I’ll have one section of the menu where I’m going to a farm stand in the morning and that’s what we’ll have for the day,” he added. “We’ll have lots of fish, and now there are the snail guys. People are also doing honey and we’re getting ducks from Crescent Duck Farm in Aquebogue.”
For visitors to Shelter Island, Murphy believes its important that people traveling to a destination have an opportunity to eat what’s local.
“It’s interesting and more healthy — and it takes people to a higher standard as opposed to getting something off a truck,” he said.
Some of the offerings on the new Ram’s Head menu include starters such as spiced foie gras terrine with local honey, brioche croutons and jellies and oysters and caviar. For entrées, the choices include duck confit with polenta, assorted chutneys and green beans, as well as an herb and mustard crusted rack of lamb served with gratin potatoes and braised carrots.
While dinner sounds divine, don’t overlook the Sunday brunch options on the Ram’s Head menu.
“The brunch menu is really cool,” says Murphy. “We kind of went the other direction with a fried burrata — it’s the whole ball — on Serrano ham, with acorn squash and candied walnuts.”
“It’s a little more sophisticated than mozzarella sticks,” he grinned.
We should think so!
The Ram’s Head Inn restaurant is open Thursday to Monday with brunch served every Sunday. On June 12, the Ram’s Head will begin serving lunch and dinner seven days a week. Guests are also invited to the weekly Sunday Jazz Night at the Ram’s Head Inn. In addition to small bites, guests can relax in the cool cocktail lounge, Harbor Hall, or watch the sunset on the great lawn while listening to the sounds of live jazz courtesy of Jane Hastay, piano, Steve Shaughnessy, bass, John Ludlow, sax, Baron Lewis, trumpet, John Cataletto, drums, and a guest vocalist every Sunday from Memorial Day through Columbus Day. The music begins at 6 p.m.
For menus, hours of operation, and other event information about the Ram’s Head Inn, visit www.theramsheadinn.com.