— by Leslie Long, RFT Contributor
Instead of being a country inn with a restaurant attached to it, The North Fork Table & Inn is the other way around. While the rooms are lovely, the real magic happens downstairs in the simple, elegant dining room.
Perhaps it’s because two of the Inn’s four managing partners are famed pastry master Claudia Fleming and her husband, executive chef Gerry Hayden. Looking for a different pace of life, they left their days at New York City restaurants like Gramercy Tavern (Claudia) and Aureole (Gerry) and set up shop in Southold on Long Island’s North Fork.
Unlike the crowded, overbuilt and overly glitzy South Fork that encompasses the Hamptons, the North Fork area has remained au natural, thanks in part to more than 35 wineries that help preserve the area’s open space. The rocky beaches feel more like European ones, the residences tend more toward farmhouses and beach shacks — and the copious farm stands still sell produce grown out back. Yet, as nice as it all is, the North Fork has long been lacking in places to stay that rise above the level of dingy motels. Great places to eat have been few and far between. With the addition of The North Fork Table & Inn, that problem no longer exists.
Mike and Mary Mraz, the two other managing partners, welcome guests to the Inn and restaurant housed in big white house. Upstairs there are four comfortable rooms with private baths, Frette linens, locally produced bath amenities and flat panel TVs. Best of all, these rooms put you just a staircase away from the most memorable meals in the area.
Paumanok Vineyards Wine Dinner
The Inn works closely with both local wine and food producers and we recently attended a wine dinner held in conjunction with the Inn’s neighbor, Paumanok Vineyards. (www.paumanok.com]
Before we even entered the dining room, a drink at the bar was made more memorable with the most delicious irregularly shaped breadsticks. Crunchy, salty and long, they were totally irresistible.
Kicking off with a Peconic Bay Scallop Crudo, paired with Paumanok’s fresh, bright Chenin Blanc, the dinner made the most of local ingredients. The main course was Long Island Duck Breast with an unusual Duck Confit Streudel and Apple Cider Jus. The Paumanok Assemblage, 2005 — a blend of merlot, cabernet and petit verdot — made a rich, hearty accomplice to the duck preparations.
The dinner was perfect, yes, but Claudia Fleming’s dessert awaited. The excellent Upside-down Caramelized Pineapple Tart with Ginger Ice Cream was served with Late Harvest Riesling, 2009, a dessert wine reminiscent of glistening peach nectar.
The bar, the breakfast, the menu — and The Lunch Truck.
Later, at the bar with some friends we’d made at the dinner, we sampled more of Paumanok’s dessert wines — and luckily a few of those slender breadsticks remained. We slept well and left early for a look around the wintry waters, but not before our breakfast of homemade crumb muffins and blueberry scones — plus poached pears and a flaky, delicious quiche, thanks to Claudia Fleming. It’s not often that a casual country breakfast is prepared by one of the country’s leading pastry chefs and we savored every bite.
The restaurant’s regular menu is full of selections just as appealing as those we had at the wine dinner. The winter entrees include Black Pepper Dusted Pineland Grass-fed Striploin of Beef, Potato Crusted Chatham Cod Fillet and Smoked Bacon Wrapped Berkshire Pork Tenderloin. Coffee-Toffee Ice Cream Sandwich with Roasted Bananas and Salty Peanuts is the perfect melding of salty, sticky and sweet. Dream on — or plan a trip there now.
North Fork Table & Inn also has a cool Lunch Truck with a fabulously painted facade that serves the most perfect comfort food year round. Hartmann’s Artisan All Beef Hot Dogs top the menu and they’re available with an array of innovative add-ons, including Chorizo Chili and Apple Cider Vinegar Glazed Cippolini Onion. Berkshire Pulled Pork Rolls, Black Bean-Chorizo Chili and Wild Caught Lobster Rolls round out the offerings — plus Claudia’s Oatmeal Raisin or Chocolate Chip Cookies.
North Fork Table & Inn is open for long weekends during winter and adds more days as the season warms. Whether you’re looking for a nice place to stay or a meal that will live in your mind long after it’s over, it’s pretty close to perfect.
North Fork Table & Inn
57225 Main Road
Southold, NY 11971