Before she became the Barefoot Contessa — but after she left her former career in the Office of Management and Budget in the Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter presidential administrations — Ina Garten had a little hole-in-the-wall shop in Westhampton Beach, New York. It was so small she couldn't fit the oven in the kitchen, so she had to bake inside the shop. This did not prove to be an obstacle for Ina Garten, who ran the store successfully for three years before moving to a bigger location in East Hampton and finally publishing her first cookbook in 1999. Thus commenced her rise to culinary stardom.
All this to say that without the Hamptons, who knows where Ina Garten might be now? Perhaps toiling away at some desk in Washington, D.C. for all we know. That very thought is enough to illustrate how important her first store was for her culinary career, and why the Hamptons, and its food, may hold a special place in her heart. Although she has moved above and beyond her original foray into the food world, she certainly hasn't forgotten her roots, and she never misses a chance to tell her fans about all the wonderful dishes she samples and ingredients she picks up every time she heads to her favorite Hamptons restaurants and specialty food stores. So let us join in and take a look at which spots Ina Garten thinks we should hit up next time we're in the Hamptons.
When you're on an island or something that very closely resembles one, like a beachside destination such as Hampton Bays, the best food to seek out is fish. So if fish is what you're looking for, Canal Cafe is just the place to be, according to Ina Garten. As she told the New York Times in 2012, she and her husband Jeff love to "put the top down on the Mini Cooper" and head to Canal Cafe for lunch, where she typically has a lobster roll or a grilled fish dish. In fact, Canal Cafe's lobster roll was voted the best in the Hamptons by Dan's Papers, a local event guide, while the grilled mahi sandwich currently on the menu looks mouth-watering.
But Ina Garten's association with this restaurant didn't occur by chance. The owners, brothers Parker and Paul Hodges, previously worked at the Barefoot Contessa specialty foods store when it was at its East Hampton location. Ina Garten worked alongside them for years before she sold the business to Parker in 1999, just as she began her meteoric rise to the top of the culinary world. Even so, she continues to dine at Canal Cafe, which is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from her former stomping ground. She seems to enjoy the cooking of her former colleagues just as much as she did in the olden days.
When heading over Bridgehampton way, Ina Garten suggests stopping at the Candy Kitchen, a luncheonette where you can find traditional breakfasts like bacon and pancakes, delicious sandwiches like grilled cheeses, tasty ice cream flavors like coffee chip, and maybe even a little bit of actual candy. Walking into this cash-only establishment is like walking into the 1950s, and it even has the milkshakes, booths, and bar stools to show for it. And it immediately becomes clear why someone like Ina Garten might like this place. Aside from the nostalgic decor, the food is actually good, and there are plenty of enticing options for the whole family.
Beyond that, the place just exudes summer. A summer at the Hamptons will inevitably come with its fair share of pomp and circumstance, with plenty of fine dining options, glamorous parties, and high-end shopping. But sometimes all you want after a long morning soaking up the sun at the beach is a simple lunch with family, and definitely an ice cream for dessert. And yet, it seems to hold its own in winter, too, providing a welcome respite from the windlashing you sometimes get just by walking around a beach town in the colder months. This seasonal versatility is probably one of the reasons why the place has been there for more than 100 years and is still going strong.
Nick And Toni's
If you've picked the Hamptons for your vacation because of the luxury factor, then Nick and Toni's won't disappoint, especially if you're in the mood for Italian. Ina Garten loves this New York restaurant because it serves one of her top pasta dishes, penne alla vecchia bettola, which is made with a tasty combination of onions, tomatoes, garlic, crushed red peppers, oregano, heavy cream, vodka, and of course, penne pasta. It may sound like this list of ingredients yields a simple dish, but when done right, simplicity can deliver stunning culinary results, and this meal is the embodiment of that concept. But simplicity can also be deceiving because this recipe actually requires a few more steps than you might think in order to achieve that endearing depth of flavor. In fact, after sauteing the onions and garlic with the red pepper flakes and dried oregano, pouring in the vodka, reducing the mixture, and adding the canned tomatoes, the whole thing needs to bake in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 ½ hours. Only then can you puree the mixture, combine it with heavy cream, and add it to your al dente pasta.
But if you're not in the mood for pasta, Nick and Toni's has plenty of other delicious options on the menu. The grilled mushroom steak with corn and quinoa salad is an ideal vegetarian option, while the seared scallops with arugula bring your tastebuds straight to the Italian seaside.
East Hampton Grill
The Hamptons are a popular summer destination, and as the hoards start to arrive, pop-up restaurants and seasonal ventures start opening their doors to cater to the influx of people. But the destination is also not so shabby in the winter, with windswept beaches and access to many attractions without the need for reservations or long waits. The problem is, many of the popular summer eateries tend to disappear along with the crowds, so it can sometimes be a challenge to find a good place to dine in the Hamptons in the off-season.
Luckily there's Ina Garten, who knows the Hamptons and its food offerings like the back of her hand. She suggests checking out the East Hampton Grill in East Hampton, which is open year-round, and just as tasty in the winter as it is in the summer. And lucky for us, because it's one of the good ones. This upscale locale serves typical but elevated grill fare, including a cheeseburger that can hold its own against some of the best, and a pan-fried fluke that's ideal for sampling the local seafood offerings. The cocktail list is traditional, but with a twist, as in the grapefruit Aperol spritz, made with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. In fact, through both menu and decor, this place exudes the sophistication the Hamptons are known for, and if you're looking to dive into that type of environment, the East Hampton Grill is a safe bet.
Ina Garten makes no secret about the fact that she's a creature of habit, and one of the ways in which this shows is her frequent patronage of her favorite Hamptons restaurants. The Palm, for one, is among her regulars, and it's not hard to see why. This East Hampton restaurant has a star-studded menu, with the likes of jumbo crab cakes, chargrilled octopus, and broiled Nova Scotia Lobster. In other words, this place goes all out when it comes to high-end dining, and we'd expect nothing less from an Ina Garten pick.
Another reason why this place might be on Garten's list is that it feels a bit like one of those places you go to in order to see and be seen. Don't be surprised to be seated next to a celebrity or politician, especially during the summer months. But at the same time, stuffiness has no place here. Although the restaurant is a chain with locations across the U.S., it was a family restaurant when the first location opened in New York City in 1926, and it remains one today, with staff making it a point to foster a friendly atmosphere and treat guests like family.
Ina Garten frequents this Hamptons restaurant so often that she told Bon Appetit in 2014 that she "almost [has] a corner table there." If this isn't high praise, we don't know what is, so it's probably safe to say that this historical restaurant established in, you guessed it, 1770, is worth a visit. It has been around since before these United States were even united, or states, or a country at all, and it shows. The decor may not be original, as the initial structure was built in the 1600s, but the restaurant's current owners have gone to great lengths to keep the original charm as intact as possible through thoughtful decor and regular renovations. Staying at the Inn within which this restaurant is located is also a magical experience.
Meanwhile, the food holds up its end of the hospitality bargain. To be clear, there are two restaurants here: one is the tavern, downstairs, and is not the dining experience Ina Garten is talking about, though it is certainly nothing to scoff at. The main dining room upstairs is where you want to be, or on the patio, and where you'll find a sophisticated menu packed with local seafood and high-end offerings such as seared Hudson Valley foie gras. This is the ideal place to throw caution to the wind and dive into the prix fixe menu, but not before ordering a dozen oysters on the half-shell. This is the Hamptons, after all.
Cove Hollow Tavern
East Hampton is already flush with great restaurants, including a slew of Ina Garten favorites, but we would be remiss not to mention Cove Hollow Tavern, which Ina Garten also recommends on her website. Drop in for a weekend dinner, but don't expect a super casual tavern with just a few burgers and salads. This establishment serves an elevated menu, including a three-course prix fixe served every day from 5-6 p.m., aside from Tuesdays and Wednesdays when the restaurant is closed. The interior is tasteful and modern, and the low lighting and intimate setting make it an ideal place to bring a date or enjoy a quiet meal.
In fact, the setting is a great complement to the food, which is considered and sophisticated. The menu includes tavern staple pork cracklins, but these are topped with Maldon salt, lime, and BBQ seasoning, which instantly upgrades the classic bar snack. Other notable items include the grilled miso salmon bowl and the grilled swordfish piccata, a fishy take on the traditional chicken dish. And don't forget to check out the cocktail menu, because any restaurant with an Ina Garten stamp of approval is unlikely to serve bad cocktails. In particular, you won't want to miss the Canon Cobbler, made with sherry, cherry, apricot, and seasonal fruits.
Carissa's Bakery, Ina Garten's favorite Hamptons bakery, is so much more than just a bakery. Sure, it serves delicious fresh baked bread and pastries and beautifully decorated cakes straight out of a fairy tale, many of which are gluten-free, to boot, but several of its locations in the Hamptons also provide take-out meals and high-end sandwiches. Head to the Pantigo Road location in East Hampton if you want to dine in, otherwise take-out menus are available on Newton Lane and in Sag Harbor.
Whichever option you go for, you won't be disappointed. The avocado toast, for one, is a cut above any other you may have had, with the addition of pickle shallots and purple daikon, not to mention the expertly baked house sourdough. And you'll probably never want to even look at another lobster roll again after sampling the one at Carissa's Bakery, dressed with celery greens and a scrumptious brioche bun. Not because it's bad, but because it's so good you'll be smitten for life. In fact, if it's true that you eat with your eyes as well as your stomach, Carissa's Bakery delivers in spades. Everything you order will be a feast for the eyes first before it even reaches your taste buds. Not only that, but this women-owned and women-run establishment is committed to reducing waste and the use of plastic items, while as many ingredients as possible are sourced from local farmers.
Jean-Georges At Topping Rose
Topping Rose House, run by world-renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten of the eponymous restaurant in New York City, is another Ina Garten haunt, particularly the outdoor patio area decked out in farm tables and surrounded by greenery. This section is best enjoyed in the summer, but the restaurant is open year-round for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the food is good enough to keep you coming back even when the season takes outdoor dining off the table.
The menu, a casual but sophisticated affair, is rife with locally sourced ingredients, including vegetables from the property's own farm. It changes with the seasons, but examples of offerings include the fresh and summery watermelon and goat's cheese salad, the Montauk fluke fish and chips, and the grilled lamb chops with pickled chilis. These highlight the more casual side of this restaurant, but if you're up for it, you can also go all out and start your meal off with Petrossian caviar on a warm blini or the "Royal Plateau," complete with oysters, sashimi, shrimp cocktail, lobster lettuce cups, and caviar. All to be washed down with a glass of Champagne, of course. Ina Garten treats herself well, and so should you.
Duryea's Lobster Deck
When in the mood for lobster, there are many places one can go in the Hamptons to scratch the itch in a satisfactory way. But one of Ina Garten's favorites is Duryea's Lobster Deck in Montauk. In an interview with the Food Network, she said that her husband, Jeffrey, "has to come here at least once a week," so it's likely that she's somewhat of a fixture there. And when you go to a lobster restaurant at least once a week, it's okay to try something off the menu that's not lobster every once in a while. The dish Ina Garten goes for in those instances is the grilled fish, which comes fresh from the fishmonger's and is beautifully seasoned, according to Garten. Other worthwhile dishes are any of the seafood platters, the New England clam chowder, and Duryea's famous lobster salad. Basically anything with fish.
This restaurant also has a great beach vibe you won't want to miss before the summer is officially over. The location is right on the coast, overlooking Fort Pond Bay, and pretty much all tables provide a direct view of the water. And if you want something even more beachy, check Duryea's at Orient Point, with tables placed directly on the sand, where you can put in your order at a spruced-up camper van.
Tutto Il Giorno
"Tutto il giorno" means "all day long" in Italian, and that's exactly how much time you should be spending at this laid-back Italian eatery with locations in Sag Harbor and Southampton. And regardless of which restaurant you pick, the decor and surroundings are as pretty as can be, so sticking around shouldn't be any trouble at all.
Meanwhile, Ina Garten has made no secret of the fact that she doesn't cook meals at home very often, and instead prefers to dine out with her husband Jeffrey. And it just so happens that one of her regular dinner options is Tutto il Giorno, where one can find some of the finest dishes Italy has to offer, including chicken Milanese, Tiramisu, and pasta dishes made with Gragnano pasta imported directly from the old world. Sit and enjoy it all in this friendly restaurant or order it to go, take it home to your dinner party, and pretend you cooked it yourself from scratch!
Read the original article on Tasting Table.