The first star of the new season is an old favorite.
Chef Lia Fallon continues the remarkable revival of the Jedediah Hawkins Inn with a delightful, distinctive restaurant.
Fallon, who earned high ratings for Amarelle, the former New American spot in Wading River, is even better here, brightening spring and summer with food of the moment and the East End.
She closed Amarelle earlier this year. Fallon was seriously injured in a car accident in September. But she has come back reinvigorated, making Jedediah Hawkins a destination once more.
The Inn, which opened in 2006, remains one of the handsomest places to eat on Long Island, a reborn Italianate-Victorian beauty that dates to 1863. The charming dining rooms evoke the past in their design and the present in their artwork.
And Fallon's fare lets you know the time of year as readily as the calendar, the location as clearly as a GPS.
She welcomed spring with delicious diver sea scallops on creamed ramps; jumbo shrimp and pea risotto; addictive asparagus-ricotta-and olive flatbread; and a still life of just-harvested vegetables, spring onion to ramps and more perfect peas.
On the cusp of summer, the chef sends out flawlessly fried soft-shell crab with avocado mousse, a refined lemon parfait with strawberry-rhubarb compote, ripe berries in a buttery buckle or crumble.
Year-round, Fallon should continue making sweet lobster-and-shrimp fritters with green Tabasco aioli; duck spring rolls with cabbage-and-pineapple slaw and a dollop of spicy apricot puree; littlenecks stuffed with bread crumbs, bacon and Parmesan; and the subtly hot pulled-pork flatbread.
You may enjoy much of the menu as a series of small plates, or take a more traditional appetizer-main course route. The advice is to taste as many dishes as you can. Fallon extracts the most from every ingredient, concentrating the flavor and spurring your appetite.
An asparagus flan, tomatoes and tarragon butter accent the lush, rare cuts of ahi tuna; coconut-cilantro couscous and harissa-lime beurre blanc did the same for cod. Tomato-bourbon baked beans and skillet cornbread support a rack of slightly chewy baby back ribs. Seared figs, red wine and quinoa spur the tender, sliced duck breast.
The chocolate marquise is an all-seasons winner, with pistachio ice cream. Vanilla ice cream complements the apricot spin on tarte Tatin. Ricotta mousse blooms in a flowerlike quartered fig, a brush stroke of balsamic glaze away from a fresh fig lacquered with the sweet-tart vinegar.
And it's only June.