A Public Quest for Interesting Food Finds in Huntington

Join me on a journey for the best food finds in Huntington. Whether in restaurants, a deli-packed picnic
or a neighbor's back yard barbeque - we'll discover the best spots, secret recipes and where to find
those hard to find ingredients. Foodies... follow me!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

LAVENDER – who knew?

There’s nothing like a serious event, when you really need your friends, to define who they are… Several years ago I sustained an injury that left me helpless for months. Anne and I had always been friends on the fringe, enjoying each other’s company from time to time. When I hurt myself she stepped up out of nowhere – bringing meals, keeping me company and taking me for drives to change the scene. Now we are very good friends and somewhere along the way we developed a lavender challenge.

Challenge isn’t the right word, exactly. We started out treating each other to bunches of fresh lavender when we came across them. Last week she brought me a fresh lavender plant, a cookbook on how to cook with lavender, and because she was worried the plant wouldn’t yield enough, she went to Penzey’s Spices and bought me not one, but two jars of dried lavender (and some lavender napkins).

Lavender? So I’ve been flipping through the cookbook, intrigued. Okay, I accept the challenge. Last night I made a pappardelle with a lavender cream sauce with shiitake mushrooms, slow cooked tomatoes and grapes – served with grilled lamb sausage and steamed sugar snap peas, so sweet they practically caramelized themselves.

I was excited about the meal so I stopped by Seaholm Wines & Liquors to ask for a recommendation of wine that would accompany lavender. (I’ll bet they don’t get asked that very often.) With little hesitation, John Reilly pointed me toward a Grenache, Atteca Old Vines 2007, with deep blackberry tones. John was right on target, the wine complimented the sweetness of the meal beautifully.

We finished up with some sheep’s cheese and sliced fruit I had bought at the Union Square Farmer’s Market earlier that day. My mother-in-law and I scooted in to load up on interesting vegetables, artisan breads and cheeses, lamb sausage and a smoked duck that I’d been craving.

Tomorrow night… leftover pasta with the lavender cream sauce, but I’m planning to shred in a handful of smoked duck and add asparagus to the mix. I’ll have to stop back at Seaholm and ask what wine goes with lavender AND smoked duck…

One point for me in the lavender challenge. You reading this Anne?

Monday, June 7, 2010

GETAWAY - Block Island, RI

There should be no blame. It was probably both our faults…stopping for gas, stopping for coffee… but privately I believed it was more Nat’s fault than my own. As we passed through Amagansett, heading toward Montauk for the Block Island ferry, we both realized we were likely going to miss the one trip of the day. We got snippier with each passing mile when suddenly the phone rang. There’s a benefit to making reservations – they realized we hadn’t arrived. When I told them our coordinates they said they couldn’t wait… then I pulled the sympathy card, “but it’s our 20th anniversary and we’re celebrating on Block Island – we got engaged on Block Island and this is very meaningful to us”. They waited. They even announced our plight to the waiting passengers over the loudspeaker – who all cheered on our arrival. That was the start of Memorial Day weekend.

There are some very good restaurants on Block Island. The wait staff can be amusing on this first weekend of the season… they’re all green, young and beautiful, many from other countries. Patience is a must. Within fifteen minutes of docking I had our dinner reservations made at the Manisses. Having been to the island many times before, I had a hit list. The entire weekend was such a ridiculous and shameful exercise in self indulgence, it’s worth sharing.

Day One:

  • Lunch at the National Hotel (anyone who’s been there, that’s the one with the big outdoor porch). We each had a bowl of their famous clam chowder and shared a grilled salmon sandwich with basil pesto. And of course, a few vacation cocktails to get started.
  • After a bit of shopping we felt parched and stopped at Ballard’s outdoor bar overlooking the water.
  • The Spring House, (toward the lighthouse) with the red roof and sprawling lawn was our home for the weekend. Apparently they serve drinks on the lawn.
  • Dinner at the Manisses, a three minute walk from our inn, began with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon called an Educated Guess. Naturally, we selected it for the name alone. My asparagus soup was silky smooth with a little truffle oil I’m sure. I had lamb stuffed ravioli and Nat had Man-loaf, a hearty meat loaf with a rich brown gravy and appropriate sides. For dessert we shared a goat cheese cheesecake. By far, Manisses is my favorite restaurant on the island.

Day Two:

  • The Spring House offers a lovely Continental Breakfast selection. Open access to food is always difficult for me - there’s no off switch. My husband often tempts his fate to delicately let me know it's time to finish eating. He’s a good man.
  • For lunch I enjoyed every morsel of my Lobster and Avacado salad with a Pinot Grigio at the Harborview, another big porch venue. Nat offered me a bite of his hummus wrap… “uh, no thanks”.
  • The rest of the afternoon was even more indulgent. While Nat went for a two hour bike ride to work off his hummus; I had a massage and some spa services. We had already made our dinner reservations so I was able to relax.
  • Dinner was an attempt to recreate the moment. Twenty one years prior, on the day we became engaged, we had dinner at a lovely, out of the way restaurant called the Highview. It has since become the flop house for island workers. The restaurant served us and one other couple the whole evening and still the service was painfully slow. I had Prime Rib, Nat had Striper caught that day and we finished up with a shared warm apple pie a la mode. Simple, good food that filled our bellies for the 20-minute walk back to our hotel.

Day Three:

  • Continental Breakfast with slightly more restraint (the banana bread was excellent).
  • After yesterday’s massage I felt up for some exercise – we spent the day biking, hiking and kayaking. Somewhere in between we had another stop at Ballard’s for a lunch not worth mentioning.
  • And before dinner we stopped at The OAR, a very hopping restaurant/bar with outdoor picnic tables for families and a very good rum punch on the drink specials.
  • Dinner at the Spring House was undoubtedly the most indulgent dinner. I had seen people eating these interesting flatbread pizzas during the afternoon and had to try one… so I ordered a whole pizza as an appetizer. Arugula, pancetta, chicken… very similar to the pizza I tried at Porto Vivo not long ago in Huntington. We each had two small slices and saved the rest. The gnocci we shared melted into a rich, velvety puddle of flavor and I finished up with a course of pan seared duck medallions over an arugula salad. Thankfully we skipped dessert.

Day Four:

  • Leftover pizza for breakfast…

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

REVIEW - Ariana Cafe

Since I've started writing on the foods about town, where to eat dinner has taken a new twist. My husband, always supportive and ready for anything, comes home and asks “Where do you want to write about next?”

It’s rare that he and I find ourselves out to dinner alone, usually with friends or with our teenage son. Last Friday night we begged and cajoled our son to join us and he was having none of it. “You two go out and have a date” he insisted.

Off we went to Ariana, to answer my husband’s question. I had been there before and enjoyed the unfamiliar flavors of Afghan cuisine. The spices are unlike anything else, subtle and dominant at the same time. Many of the dishes are served with basmati rice – the most delicate I’ve ever come across.

The irony of eating out without our son is that we spend much of the evening talking about him; his academics, sports achievements, friends and summer plans. I eye the menu as if he were there, deciding which dishes I’ll recommend when I bring him next time. His palette was more adventurous when he was nine – teenagers seem to collectively crave greasy fried anything smothered in cheese. It’s a phase, it will pass.

This time I ordered Mantoo – a plate full of steamed dumplings stuffed with ground lamb and veal, topped with a light tomato and meat sauce, topped again with homemade yogurt and mint. Is that cardamom I taste?

My appetizer was a simple chopped salad, an Afghan salad, made special with Ariana’s dressing. Our server/owner recommended we save half of the salad to eat with our entrĂ©e. She knew what she was talking about.

Nazifa and Ali Rahimi, always in the food business, have owned and operated Ariana for fifteen years. As we watch so many restaurants in our village try and fail, we can appreciate the accomplishment. All the items on the menu, Nazifa tells me, are hers and her husband’s. The kitchen staff is trained to follow their techniques and recipes.

When asked which dishes are the most popular, she said I was looking at them. The entire menu has been pared down to the favorites. If they were to offer the entire repertoire of Afghan meals, the menu would be pages longer – they’ve slimmed it down to suit our palettes with kabobs, soups, salads and an interesting array of Afghan meals, for instance Pumpkin Ravioli. The menu offers the best of it all.

Ariana also has much to offer to the strictest vegan. They have a section on the menu just for you. Having been a vegetarian myself for several years, finding a restaurant that’s both interesting and accommodating is hitting pay dirt.

Each month Ariana offers various specials to entice the new customer and reward the loyal. For May they touted 50% off the dinner cost for new customers, a FREE bottle of Chardonnay just for making your reservations online and a generous Early Bird temptation. I’m curious to see what they come up with for June – to commemorate the 15 year anniversary of Ariana.

Looking for something a little different? The atmosphere, the music and food whisk you away from Huntington when you step through the doors of Ariana – it’s a lovely dining experience.