Entries in Gerry Hayden (2)


North Fork Table & Inn


The North Fork Table & Inn is a charming bed & breakfast on the North Fork of Long Island, with a restaurant that has food addicts buzzing. It opened two years ago, after four Manhattan restaurant veterans decided they were sick of the big city.


Their credentials are impressive. Gerry Hayden (Aureole, Amuse) is executive chef. His wife, Claudia Fleming (Gramercy Tavern and numerous others), is pastry chef. Their partners, Mike and Mary Mraz (Hearth, Gramercy Tavern), run the front-of-house.

The upstairs had been a B&B under a succession of owners, while various French restaurants had occupied the dining room. The old building needed a gut renovation. The kitchen was too large, the bathrooms inconveniently located. One of the support beams was sagging.

As of 2006, it has all been redone in an understated post-colonial austerity. Both the dining room and the guest rooms are dominated by whites and light tans, with the walls mostly bare. The dining room is elegant and upscale, if you don’t mind floorboards that creak a little bit. There’s a handsome bar which can also accommodate walk-ins for dinner.

The four guest rooms are large, comfortable, and recently renovated. There’s Wi-Fi access and a flat-screen TV. Each room has its own bathroom, also renovated.

The house actually has rooms on two levels, but alas, those on the third floor aren’t available to guests. Had they been renovated too, the North Fork Table & Inn would have been considered a hotel under the zoning laws, rather than a B&B, and a different set of building codes would have applied. The owners considered it, but the cost was prohibitive.

The restaurant garnered plenty of attention, including positive reviews from Andrea Strong, Gael Greene and Newsday. Dining there was the main reason for our trip, though we also took in wineries, visits with my girlfriend’s family, and dinner at another, equally compelling restaurant, The Frisky Oyster.

“Northforkopoly” (click to expand)

We chose to visit in late winter, mainly because we wouldn’t have had a prayer of getting in during the summer. Had we been bored, we could’ve settled in for a game of Northforkopoly, the local version of Monopoly (board and pieces supplied) though we’d need to have our heads examined if we could find nothing better to do.


We arrived to find bucket with a bottle of water on ice, but there’s no mini-bar or coffee maker. For that you have to go downstairs. Breakfast is served from 8:00–9:30 a.m., though when we wandered down much later than that, coffee and plenty of Fleming’s breakfast pastries were still available.

Dinner is served Wednesdays through Mondays, lunch Saturdays and Sundays. The lunch menu is similar to the dinner menu, though a bit less expensive and with smaller portions. At dinner, appetizers are mostly $12–18, though the foie gras starter is $25. Mains are $32–38. The five-course tasting menu is a bargain at $75, and though we didn’t order it, we noted that the portion sizes were generous. These prices are quite expensive by Long Island standards, and the restaurant is dependent on being regarded as a “destination” for out-of-town visitors.

northforktable01a.jpg northforktable01b.jpg
Raw Hamachi and Seared Foie Gras (left); Potato Gnocchi in a Braised Veal-Tomato Ragout (right)

The menu relies on locally sourced ingredients wherever possible, though in the winter practically everything came from elsewhere. Chef Gerry Hayden paired Raw Hamachi with Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras ($25), accented with glazed daikon, radish syrup, mustard cress and fleur de sel. I’m not sure if it was a mistake or a considered decision, but the foie gras was more crisped than seared, but its warm, crunchy texture was a terrific foil for the hamachi.

My girlfriend had the Potato Gnocchi in a Braised Veal-Tomato Ragout ($15), which was rich and hearty, but made with a heavier hand than some of the better gnocchi we’d had in the city recently.

northforktable02a.jpg northforktable02b.jpg
Long Island Duck Breast (left); Shinn Estate Vinyards “Wild Boar Doe” 2005 (right)

You can’t get any more local than Long Island Duck Breast ($34), which we both chose as our main course. It was painted with a wonderful soy-honey glaze, and the duck slices had a hefty rim of wonderful fat, but I didn’t see the point of the accompanying crisp jasmin rice roll, which was too dull to share the plate with such assertive company.

The wine list is brief and fairly priced. Keeping with our determination to drink only local wines, we chose the wonderful and wittily-named Shinn Estates “Wild Boar Doe” ($55), a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Once again, we found that blends are dependable choices on Long Island, especially when you’re ordering a wine you’ve never heard of.

northforktable03a.jpg northforktable03b.jpg
Cheese Plate (left): Coconut Tapioca (right)

We finished with the Cheese Plate ($12), which offered three American cheeses: a firm, raw sheep’s milk cheese from California, a crumbly raw cow’s milk cheese from Oregon, and a soft sheep and cow’s milk cheese from the Hudson Valley. The kitchen also sent out servings of the Coconut Tapioca with Passion Fruit Sorbet (normally $11), a terrific end to our meal.

I can’t close without commenting on a remarkable coincidence. A short while after we sat down, the table next to us opened up, and the next couple to arrive was the same couple that had been seated next to us at the Frisky Oyster. It’s not quite as improbable as if it had happened in Manhattan, but the chances of it happening are still awfully low.

Naturally we got to talking, and comparing notes about our meals on consecutive evenings. Which was better, the Frisky Oyster or the North Fork Table & Inn? The North Fork is fancier, more romantic, and more elegant. But what about the food? It’s awfully close, but several of us thought the Frisky Oyster had the North Fork beaten by a nose. Even between the four of us, we tasted only a fraction of the menus at both places, so it’s not a definitive judgment, by any means. You can have—check that, you will have—a terrific meal at either restaurant.

We loved our visit to the North Fork Table & Inn. The owners are outgoing and accessible. This is their passion, and they will do everything they can to make your visit a happy experience. Service is attentive and flawless, as you’d expect in a restaurant with so many Gramercy Tavern alumni in its midst.

We certainly hope to be back.

North Fork Table & Inn (57225 Main Road, Southold, Long Island)

Food: **
Service: **½
Ambiance: **½
Overall: **


Amuse (the restaurant)

Note: Amuse has since closed—I believe in 2007. The restaurant with more lives than a cat finally ran out of them. Some of the Amuse team has since landed at the North Fork Table & Inn.


Amuse has had as many lives as a cat. It was once Harvey’s Chelsea, and then it was The Tonic, and last year it became Amuse after Garry Heyden (formerly of Aureole) took over as chef. William Grimes of the New York Times reaffirmed its two-star status, while observing how improbable it was that a restaurant so often re-invented has managed to maintain its culinary standards.

It’s been about a year since Grimes’s review appeared, and Amuse has evidently changed its concept again. On May 21, 2003, Grimes wrote:

Amuse is short for amuse-bouche, the French term for the bite-size preappetizers intended to titillate the palate. They serve multiple functions. They help keep hunger at bay, but they also inspire the chef to create an eye-catching bit of whimsy that can serve as a preview of coming attractions. Mr. Hayden has elevated the status of the amuse-bouche and designed an entire menu around small tastes, doing away with the appetizer-entree dichotomy.

His menu offers a half dozen choices in four price categories, $5, $10, $15, and $20. With each increase in price, the preparations become more complex and the ingredients more expensive. The portion size increases, too, so the more expensive dishes look like abbreviated entrees. Five dollars buys a silver julep cup filled with herbed French fries. Twenty dollars earns an upgrade to peppered duck breast with endive marmalade and a sweet, syrupy reduction of black mission figs.

Other reviews I found on the web seemed to be based on the same menu Grimes saw, which you can still read on menupages.com. That menu is no more. Although many of the same dishes are still there, the menu is now organized in the more conventional appetizer-entee format. Amuse is no longer trying to be a tapas bar. It does retain some hints of the original idea — the appetizer section is labeled “Tastes for Sampling and Sharing.” One who didn’t know what the former menu looked like would simply conclude that this is a longer name for “appetizers,” and that indeed is how my friend and I took it.

Some of the dishes cry out to be shared. I ordered Crisp Cod and Yukon Gold Potato Cakes with Truffle Tartar Sauce to start. Out came four thick half-dollar sized fish cakes - a dish perfectly suited for sharing. Heyden’s preparation gave a crispy and spicy excitement to a dish that could otherwise seem an upscale version of Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks. My friend ordered Atlantic Salmon Two Ways (house smoked & tartare, with a chive potato cake). This dish was not quite as easy to divide, although I had a taste.

Every review has mentioned with approval the Five Hour Braised Short Rib of Beef with Carmelized Sea Scallops, so I had decided well in advance that this would be my main course if it was still available - which it was. The short rib was so tender that one hardly needed a knife, and it tasted like home-cooked brisket. The scallops were a hearty size, with a crisp exterior that led to a tender, beefy center.

My friend ordered the Grilled New York Strip Steak, which arrived pre-sliced. Some restaurants serve porterhouse this way, but I’ve never seen it done to a New York Strip. This, too, could be a vestige of the restaurant’s earlier tapas-style menu. The steak had a crispy charred exterior and and a wonderful tender flavor. I’m usually skeptical of ordering a NY Strip anywhere that doesn’t specialize in steak, but this dish is worth a try.

In sum, Amuse offers an inventive and eclectic menu, beautifully presented, and fairly priced given the overall standard in the city for fine dining restaurants. There are 28 appetizers (priced from $4-18) and 8 mains (priced from $20-30). We sampled but two of each, so your mileage may vary, but everything coming out of the kitchen certainly looked good. There is also a chef’s tasting menu (obligatory these days at any restaurant claiming to be serious about food): amuse bouche, four courses, and dessert for $55, or paired with wine $75. This looks to me to be a bargain.

I reserved Amuse on opentable.com. The restaurant called me twice to confirm I was coming, which led me to think, “Wow, they really must have heavy demand for tables.” To the contrary, it was nearly empty when we arrived at 7:00pm, and only about half-full by the time we left at 8:30. The space is comfortable and the contemporary décor pleasant on the eye, with rooms called the apartment, the lounge, the salon, and the library. Both the bar and dining area are amply proportioned, and there appear to be private rooms upstairs, which we didn’t investigate.

Amuse (108-110 West 18th Street, between Sixth & Seventh Avenues, Chelsea)

Food: **
Service: **
Ambiance: **
Overall: **