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2011: 11 best bites of Long Island

Luce and Hawkins in Jamesport serves duck wings

Luce and Hawkins in Jamesport serves duck wings prepared by chef Keith Luce. (June 21, 2010) Credit: Randee Daddona

East End, Gold Coast, South Shore, central Nassau -- I ate my way all over Long Island in 2011. Here are the year's highlights: 

1. NoFo duck wings at Luce's Landing

Keith Luce's ultra-locavore restaurant / cafe / hangout just keeps getting better. Particularly addiction worthy: the NoFo duck wings, Crescent duck drumettes (the upper, plumper half of the wing) that allude to their Buffalo-chicken cousins with a spicy North Africa-meets-China marinade and cooling cucumber-feta raita. Usually $14 for six, during "Monday Night Football," they're only $1 apiece at the bar. Luce's Landing, 400 S. Jamesport Ave., Jamesport, 631-722-2900.


2. Peconic Bay scallops at Hunan Taste

Days after the opening of the Peconic Bay scallop season in November, I found myself at Hunan Taste where I was blown away by as good a scallop dish as I've ever had. The just-caught scallops were lightly dusted in cornstarch, stir-fried just enough to put a little color on them and then showered with shredded snow pea leaves. Hunan Taste, 3 Northern Blvd., Greenvale, 516-621-6616.


3. Mixed-vegetable uthappam at House of Dosas

I've been nursing a dosa jones for more than a year now. Made from a rice batter, dosas are thin, crisp and can approach the diameter of a manhole cover. Uthappams, made from rice and lentil, more closely approximate the size of a dinner plate. In May I consumed this "mixed-vegetable uthappam," featuring red onion, tomato, sliced chilis, coriander and peas. A perfectly harmonious blend of savory and spicy, fresh and toasty. House of Dosas, 416 S. Broadway, Hicksville, 516-938-7517.


4. Dark cherry pie at Youngs Farm

In October I did a roundup of Long Island pies and, frankly, had to eat far and wide for examples that compared favorably with homemade. For Best Pies on LI, I'd have to give the nod to Youngs Farm in Old Brookville. All varieties were excellent, but the undisputed star was a dark-cherry pie, made from Washington state Bing cherries and topped with lattice. Youngs Farm, Hegemans Lane, Old Brookville, 516-626-3955. (Youngs' pies also are sold at Sweetie Pies on Main in Cold Spring Harbor.)


5. Sweet sopressata at Scotto's

Long Island has no shortage of fine pork stores, but in July I wandered into Scotto's and got one of the best sopressatas of my life. It wasn't too salty, and it wasn't too tough -- just a lush, tender missile of porky pleasure. Scotto's Pork Store, 25 W. Montauk Hwy., Hampton Bays, 631-728-5677.


6. St. Honoré cake at St. Honoré

Jacques Le Guelaff is one of a very few Frenchmen cooking on Long Island, and his bakery's eponymous confection, named in honor of the patron saint of bakers, brings together many aspects of his artistry: a puff pastry circle topped with whipped cream and pâte à choux balls (aka cream puffs) filled with custard and dipped in caramel. Saint Honoré Pastry Shop, 993 Port Washington Blvd., Port Washington, 516-767-2555.


7. Chicken salad at Kyle's

A highlight of a July sojourn to Shelter Island, this elegant dish was made with freshly poached poultry, mayo and snipped herbs. Garnished with a zesting of lemon rind and sitting atop well-dressed greens, it made for a perfect lunch -- even more perfect thanks to Kyle's sun-dappled porch. Kyle's, 27 N. Ferry Rd., Shelter Island, 631-749-0579.


8. Chocolate ice cream soda at Coyle's

The soda is the most refreshing of ice-cream creations and, perhaps, my favorite. However, I rarely order one because I can't stand the stress of watching it made incorrectly. That doesn't happen at Coyle's, because Marty Coyle posts clear instructions behind the counter at his two ice-cream parlors so that even new hires can create a textbook specimen. Coyle's, 75 Howells Rd., Bay Shore, 631-666-2229 and 509 Main St., Islip, 631-617-5014.


9. Whitefish salad at Brendel's Bagels

The three branches of Brendel's serve an unusually diverse range of comestibles, but to my mind nothing approaches the incomparable whitefish salad made with nothing but smoked fish and mayo. The salad is mixed with a very light hand, which means there are big chunks of whitefish in every bite. Good on a bagel, I suppose, but I've often eaten this with a fork, in my car. Brendel's Bagels, 1075 Old Country Rd., Westbury, 516-338-4994; 133 Walt Whitman Rd., Huntington, 631-923-0559; Wheeler Rd. (Atrium Plaza), Hauppauge, 631-656-6828.


10. Rosemary biscuits at East Hampton Grill

East Hampton isn't a hotbed of dining bargains, but at the resolutely non-bargain priced East Hampton Grill, two delicious, buttery, flaky, rosemary-flecked, fist-sized biscuits cost $2. (Order more and the price drops: 4 for $3, 6 for $4.) I've seen stale "soft" pretzels selling on the streets of Manhattan for $2. Did I mention how delicious these biscuits were? East Hampton Grill, 99 North Main St. East Hampton, 631-329-6666.


11. Goat-brain masala at Southern Spice

OK, maybe it wasn't the 11th-best thing I ate this year. But how could I resist including goat-brain masala? Goat brains, it turns out, have a soft, creamy texture and a subtle, tofu-like flavor. I ate these on a self-imposed dare in November, and thoroughly enjoyed them. Southern Spice Chettinad Indian Cuisine, 1635 Hillside Ave., New Hyde Park, 516-216-5448.

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